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December 26, 2023

HU 2023 Reading List

As we close out the year, we asked our staff to share the books or films that inspired them the most this past year.

As we close out the year here at Humanity United, we asked our staff to share the content that gave them inspiration this past year. The list we put together covers a myriad of genres from historical fiction to fantasy, memoir to mindfulness, poetry to golden retrievers, and even a documentary. We hope that these recommendations bring you as much inspiration in the new year as they have brought to our team.

Babel, or the Necessity of Violence by R. F. Kuang

“This novel, about a boy who travels from China to England in the 1800s with a strange white man to study linguistics at Oxford is an amazing mixture of both fantasy and historical fiction. In this world, silver bars can be etched with words in two different languages, and the nuanced meaning and difference of the two words creates magic. The boy, who abandons his Chinese name and adopts the name Robin Swift soon is faced with the reality of imperialism, labor rights and class struggle while grappling with his own questions of homeland, language, community and identity. I was fascinated by the magical way the novel explores complex social issues and the nuanced meaning of language – an intriguing and gripping read.”-Rachel Oyelola, Executive Associate, Operations

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire“Even if you don’t usually read poetry, I highly recommend Warsan Shire’s chapbook, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth. In a handful of poems written eloquently yet abrasively, soothing yet wounding, Warsan explores the themes of migration, belonging, war, and feminism. In the chapbook is a two-line poem that haunts me to this day: to my daughter I will say,‘when the men come, set yourself on fire.’ ’’-Joan Marshall-Missiye, Senior Manager, Program Learning & Impact, Peacebuilding

12 Notes: On Life and Creativity by Quincy Jones“I have been a long time fan of music composer and producer Quincy Jones and loved his latest book called 12 Notes. A powerful blend of reflections on creativity, curiosity, preparedness and relationships, illustrated by a rich life in jazz, pop music and hip hop.”-Philippe Sion, Managing Director, Forced Labor & Human Trafficking

Everything I learned, I learned in a Chinese Restaurant by Curtis Chin “The most recent book I read was Everything I learned, I learned in a Chinese Restaurant by Curtis Chin. It’s a memoir that takes the reader on quite a ride!”-Chris Fidel, DevOps Engineer

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach; The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh; and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo “Two books I ran across that I really like were Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach and The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. They each offer insights and practices to help maintain emotional well-being, particularly in emotional situations. Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up provides practical advice on simplifying and letting go of unnecessary possessions. I’m working hard on minimalism (though it’s hard now that the holiday season is upon us!).”-Deadra Henderson, Executive Associate, Forced Labor & Human Trafficking

Leadership with Compassion: Mandela Washington Fellows on the Frontline of Fighting COVID-19 in Zimbabwe by Dzikamai Bere, Samuel Wadzai, Unopa Makanyanga, Tapiwa Gwen Mushonga, Golden Maunganidze, Nkosana George Mazibisa, Deprose Muchena, and Mabel Sithole“In a world that is running low on empathy, this book on leadership with compassion is timely. The book, Leadership with Compassion is a collection of 6 stories from 6 emerging leaders from different sectors, brought together by one thing – the desire to help communities to wage a good fight against COVID-19 and emerge from it stronger. Their stories are not stories of heroes but students of compassion, learning how to serve their communities from a place of love.”– Maria Kisumbi, Director, Policy & Government Relations

The Purest Bond by Jen Golbeck and Stacey Colino (2023)“I am a huge dog lover and Goldens are my best and trusted friends in life. Each of my 4 Goldens have showed me no judgment for my bad days or mood swings, they only expect treats, attention, walks, breakfast and dinner, and room on the bed! In 2016 and thru 2020, I had a lot of loss in my life and The Golden Ratio, a social media sensation on various platforms, showed me how my relationship with my dog was almost as important as breathing. This book is a culmination of the author’s research and real-life stories with her own tribe of Goldens to show us how owning a dog makes us see and feel things for the better. To be honest, I am a better person because I own and love dogs!”-Shannon Hartnett, Office Manager, Washington, DC

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee“The writer approaches this book from an American economy POV, which gave me pause at first since the mystery of finance is my Achilles heel! But it’s engrossing and enlightening and even uplifting. Why does the economy fail citizens over and over and over? The book details the spider’s web of racism that’s rampant in our politics and policy-making. Racism is the common denominator in our most troubling public problems – and that’s certainly evident in our moral (I view this as the morality of human rights) erosion. The ‘solidarity dividend’ that the book references resonates so deeply with me and with our HU belief that when people come together across race they can accomplish what cannot be done alone.”-Beth Kim, Director, Strategic Communications

Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft, by Samantha Silva“Mary Wollstonecraft was an extraordinary author, thinker, and pioneering activist for the rights of women in the 1700s, and was also the mother of Mary Shelley (the author of Frankenstein). This lyrical and poignant novel, told in the voices of Mary Wollstonecraft, and the midwife who delivers her daughter, traces Mary’s unlikely rise during a time of revolution in the world, and her tragic death soon after childbirth.”-Melanie Greenberg, Managing Director, Peacebuilding

American Symphony (Documentary)“American Symphony follows Jon Batiste’s journey as he composes an original symphony + his road to the Grammys… all while his long time partner is diagnosed with cancer. It was one of the most moving documentaries I’ve watched in a long time and a beautiful testament to the human spirit and the power of music and love. There were many things that struck me thoughout the film, but I deeply reflected on this one particular scene: Even at the peak of his craft as a musician (He plays multiple instruments, sings, AND composes!), Jon still takes regular lessons from a piano teacher. Watching Jon receive and integrate feedback from his piano teacher was so fascinating! In a separate podcast with Dax Shepard, Jon unpacks why this is so important to him. He mentions that he feels like he doesn’t know anything about music and has a deep curiosity to better understand elements of different musical genres and styles. These pillars of feedback enable him to push edges of what he does know and transcend boundaries of what is considered possible.Jon Batiste inspired me to deepen my understanding of what it means to be a lifelong learner with genuine curiosity and joy.”-Twisha Mehta, Senior Manager, Program Learning & Impact

The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage and Justice by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon“The book follows a group of very young Syrian/Kurdish women in an all female militia who sought to free a set of small Kurdish towns in Northern Syria from the control of ISIS. The book itself follows these young fighters in a biography format from girls to military commanders who were instrumental in liberating ISIS controlled territory in Syria, and frames these women taking on the ‘traditional’ male role of fighting as part of their fight for equality with men after peace. I loved the book, as it not only highlights what young women can do when given the chance to lead and, finally tells the story of these fearless women.”-Mia Rabkin, Portfolio Coordinator, Forced Labor & Human Trafficking

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