Books for Holiday Gifts
AdaptAbility: How to Survive Change
You Didn’t Ask For
Author: M.J. Ryan
Publisher: Broadway Books, 2009
Every day, you deal with mandatory furloughs, bank accounts heading toward minus, homeowner woes and high prices against low paychecks. When it’s time to turn in for the night, you can’t shut your brain off. You didn’t ask for this stress, but you’ve got it and you can’t handle it anymore. For some smart coping advice, pick up a copy of AdaptAbility by M.J. Ryan.
Ryan once had everything she wanted. She was the owner of an up-and-coming book publishing company with a best-seller on its roster. She was happily married and life was good. Then, everything fell away and Ryan was faced with change she didn’t see coming and didn’t want. Between then and the time she built a flourishing new career as a consultant and coach, she says, she learned a lot about change and how to deal with it.
Change is perhaps the only thing you can count on in life. Nothing stays the same and it’s not “all about you.” When faced with monumental change, you’ll go through the classic stages of grief, but you also learn that you’re more resilient than you think you are. In fact, change is not your enemy, but fear is. In the end, your “youness” is what pulls you through.
One of the first things you’ll do when change hits you is worry yourself half to death. Ryan advises you to give yourself 15 minutes a day to worry. Knock yourself out wringing your hands during that time, then accept what’s happened, stop “milling” and move forward.
Still having trouble? Ryan says to find gratitude and look for good luck in your predicament. Try to see small gifts in your loss. Get your Three C’s (challenge, control, and commitment) in place. Stop being stoic and ask for help. Understand that temporarily taking an undesirable opportunity to “get by” is OK and won’t last forever.
Been to the self-help section of your library or bookstore lately? So many of the books there are happy-happy Pollyanna-ish tomes that wind up being of little help. Then, along comes a book like AdaptAbility. Ryan uses her own story and those of her clients to illustrate how changing a few mind-sets can help you deal with “change you didn’t ask for.” While some of the exercises seem simplistic and a few are downright goofy, even the most down-in-the-dumps reader can take a stab at what Ryan gently suggests doing to shake the badness that can come with unwelcome change.
If you’re drowning in worry, stop treading water and read AdaptAbility. It may just be the lifeline you need.
Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson
By Wil Haygood
Knopf, October 2009
Washington Post writer Wil Haygood distinguished himself as a detail-oriented biographer with his previous books on the lives of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Sammy Davis Jr. In his latest book, Haygood spotlights another icon — the stylish and impressive professional fighter Walker Smith Jr., who was better known as Sugar Ray Robinson. Aside from the highlights of Robinson’s boxing matches, Haygood does an outstanding job of portraying the inner man whose desires went beyond the boxing ring. Sweet Thunder blends in-depth research and elegant writing to capture the life of the charismatic and socially conscious athlete. Racism during Robinson’s heyday was intense, and the book includes significant moments and figures of the time that also present a vivid portrait of Black American culture.
On the Line
By Serena Williams with Daniel Paisner
Grand Central Publishing, September 2009
Serena Williams’s rise to become one of the world’s most renowned athletes was probably set in motion when she stepped onto the public tennis courts of Compton, Calif., at the age of the three. Richard Williams, a self-taught enthusiast, encouraged his entire family to learn the game and had some foresight of his daughter’s champion-in-the-making talents. In her memoir, On the Line, Serena, winner of Grand Slams and wearer of daring outfits on the courts, recalls her journey to the top of her game. There were five sisters, yet their father’s determination helped fuel Serena and her sister Venus to athletic stardom. Written in a convivial tone, Serena shares stories that “are the touchstone moments and the formative influences” on both her life and her career.
Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present
By Deborah Willis
In 2000, Deborah Willis published the groundbreaking Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present, a brilliant collection of images that represent more than 150 years of Black American life. Willis, a professor at New York University and chair of that school’s Photography Department, is the nation’s leading historian of African-American photography. In her latest book, Posing Beauty (W.W. Norton & Co., $49.95), she once again presents treasures from photography archives that illustrate Black culture.
Willis began the 10-year project with a list of questions, including: How is the notion of beauty idealized and exploited in the media, in hip-hop culture, in art? In her quest to find answers, she realized there was no one answer. Hence she says, “My aim is to consider the idea of Black beauty in photography — how it is posed, constructed, imagined, reviewed, critiqued and contested in art, the media, and everyday culture.” Some of the images have been explored before, but others may be new to readers. However, the thoughtful selection of expressive images, such as portraits of men and women dressed to the nines on Easter Sunday; Josephine Baker preparing for a performance in 1965; James Brown being interviewed after a 1968 concert offer a fresh context as to the way we look at ourselves and the ways we see each other; they also signal the manner in which the photographers and their subjects have challenged and informed the ways in which the ambiguous term “beauty” has been defined — and, more interestingly, defined by what standards.
Foreword by Peter Doig, with Contributions by Carol Becker, David Adjaye, Okwui Enwezor, Kara Walker, Thelma Golden and Cameron Shaw
In the art world, it’s not hard to forget the ruckus British painter Chris Ofili stirred in 1999 with a painting he exhibited in the “Sensation” show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The painting titled The Holy Virgin Mary, an image of a Black virgin accented with small cutouts from pornographic magazines and lacquered balls of elephant dung, was maligned in the press by then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
It is easy to believe that Ofili can be intentionally provocative. But beneath all that might seem irreverent is the work of a modern painter who clearly sets out to transform ideas about figurative painting. His use of cutouts, resins, decorative elements, and, yes, dung, are added players to the bold colors and abstract patterns that seem reflective of his Nigerian heritage. Looking at the full-page color images of paintings such as Black Flowerheads and Orgena and those from “The Upper Room” series, one can only imagine that the pieces are more visually absorbing as the much larger, real works. The essays offer interesting perspectives on Ofili’s ideals about his art. In an interview in the book, Ofili says, “I’ve got a deep interest in painting … it’s about trying to explore the possibilities of painting … and to push paint as a material and see what it can do and still be relevant or expressive.”
The Black Book: 35th
By Middleton A. Harris, with the Assistance of Morris Levitt, Roger Furman and Ernest Smith
There are some books that are culturally and historically valuable for the engrossing content they contain from beginning to end. Every time you flip through its pages, you will contemplate the text and images, as they are sure to stir feelings of anger and summon those of strength. The Black Book is such a book. When it was first published in 1974, author Toni Morrison and a team of Black memorabilia collectors compiled more than 500 archival newspaper articles, documents and photographs that chronicle the Black American experience, from the Africans’ arrival in the United States through periods of slavery, the Civil War and the Abolitionist Movement. As Bill Cosby so aptly described, “It’s a scrapbook.”
Now, 35 years later, The Black Book (Random House, $35) has been reissued and offers as much inspiration and deep reflection as it did back then. To study the images of slave artifacts, advertisements, posters, movie stills, and news clippings of African-American inventors and sports heroes is indeed a “rediscovering of Black history.” As Morrison writes in the new Foreword: “Its new life is more than a welcome gift; it is a requirement for our national health.”