Non Fiction

Nonfiction November Week 3 – Become the Expert #NonficNov

Non Fiction November

Week 3: (November 16-20) – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert is hosted by Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction

There are three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Become the Expert

I am keenly interested in social justice issues, particularly those related to children, women, minorities and immigrants. At one time in my life I seriously considered pursuing a law degree specifically to work in this arena. These are some of the books I’ve chosen to immerse myself in the issues to learn more from first-hand experiences or through really great investigative reporting.

NBC News and MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff, winner of the 2019 Walter Cronkite Award for his reporting on the child separation crisis, delivers a profoundly personal and moving report from the border and beyond, revealing the wrenching human story behind one of the most disturbing passages of modern American history.

Donald Trump’s most infamous decision as president, to systematically separate thousands of migrant families at the border, was in effect for months before most Americans saw the living conditions of the children in custody at the epicenter of the policy. NBC News and MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff was among the first journalists to expose the truth of what their lives were like on the inside after seeing them firsthand. His widely shared reports in June 2018 ignited public scrutiny that contributed to the President reversing his own policy by Executive Order, and earned Soboroff the Cronkite Award for Excellence in Political Broadcast Journalism and the 2019 Hillman Prize for Broadcast Journalism.

In Separated, Soboroff weaves together his own experience unexpectedly covering this national issue with other key figures in the drama he met along the way, including feuding administration officials responsible for tearing apart and then reuniting families, and the parents and children who were caught in the middle. He reveals new and exclusive details of how the policy was carried out, and how its affects are still being felt.

Today, there is still not a full accounting of the total number of children the President ripped away from their parents. The exact number may never be known, only that it is in the thousands. Now the President is doubling down on draconian immigration policies, including threatening to hold migrant families indefinitely and making tens of thousands applying for asylum wait in some of Mexico’s most dangerous cities. Separated is required reading for anyone who wants to understand how Trump and his administration were able to carry out this inhumane policy, and how so many missed what was happening before it was too late. Soboroff lays out compassionately, yet in the starkest of terms, its human toll, and makes clear what is at stake in the 2020 presidential election.

I watched this correspondent when he first began covering these children. It grabbed him and never let go and he’s become the expert not only on the situation but the social justice issues related to the change in policy. I’ve also seen how he’s personally changed through the experience.

Before and After
The incredible, poignant true stories of victims of a notorious adoption scandal–some of whom learned the truth from Lisa Wingate’s bestselling novel Before We Were Yours and were reunited with birth family members as a result of its wide reach

From the 1920s to 1950, Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans tailored to the wish lists of eager parents–hiding the fact that many weren’t orphans at all, but stolen sons and daughters of poor families, desperate single mothers, and women told in maternity wards that their babies had died.

The publication of Lisa Wingate’s novel Before We Were Yours brought new awareness of Tann’s lucrative career in child trafficking. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories. Encouraged by their contact with Wingate and award-winning journalist Judy Christie, who documented the stories of fifteen adoptees in this book, many determined Tann survivors set out to trace their roots and find their birth families.

Before and After includes moving and sometimes shocking accounts of the ways in which adoptees were separated from their first families. Often raised as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives. In Before and After, Wingate and Christie tell of first meetings that are all the sweeter and more intense for time missed and of families from very different social backgrounds reaching out to embrace better-late-than-never brothers, sisters, and cousins. In a poignant culmination of art meeting life, long-silent victims of the tragically corrupt system return to Memphis with Wingate and Christie to reclaim their stories at a Tennessee Children’s Home Society reunion . . . with extraordinary results.

I listened to Before We Were Yours, which was the fictional book based on these adoptions. When I learned Georgia Tann was a real person who was never brought to justice for her crimes, I needed to learn more about the victims and how this could happen in daylight. 


The Moment of Lift
For the last twenty years, Melinda Gates has been on a mission to find solutions for people with the most urgent needs, wherever they live. Throughout this journey, one thing has become increasingly clear to her: If you want to lift a society up, you need to stop keeping women down.

In this moving and compelling book, Melinda shares lessons she’s learned from the inspiring people she’s met during her work and travels around the world. As she writes in the introduction, “That is why I had to write this book–to share the stories of people who have given focus and urgency to my life. I want all of us to see ways we can lift women up where we live.”

Melinda’s unforgettable narrative is backed by startling data as she presents the issues that most need our attention–from child marriage to lack of access to contraceptives to gender inequity in the workplace. And, for the first time, she writes about her personal life and the road to equality in her own marriage. Throughout, she shows how there has never been more opportunity to change the world–and ourselves.

Writing with emotion, candor, and grace, she introduces us to remarkable women and shows the power of connecting with one another.

When we lift others up, they lift us up, too

Melinda Gates is someone I’ve admired over the years as she’s done philanthropy without ever seeking or being in the limelight. I was thrilled when her first major move into the public spotlight was on such a critical and timely topic. I got the audio version so I could hear the stories in her own voice.


Missoula, Montana, is a typical college town, with a highly regarded state university, bucolic surroundings, a lively social scene, and an excellent football team — the Grizzlies — with a rabid fan base.

The Department of Justice investigated 350 sexual assaults reported to the Missoula police between January 2008 and May 2012. Few of these assaults were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical.

A DOJ report released in December of 2014 estimates 110,000 women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four are raped each year. Krakauer’s devastating narrative of what happened in Missoula makes clear why rape is so prevalent on American campuses, and why rape victims are so reluctant to report assault.

Acquaintance rape is a crime like no other. Unlike burglary or embezzlement or any other felony, the victim often comes under more suspicion than the alleged perpetrator. This is especially true if the victim is sexually active; if she had been drinking prior to the assault — and if the man she accuses plays on a popular sports team. The vanishingly small but highly publicized incidents of false accusations are often used to dismiss her claims in the press. If the case goes to trial, the woman’s entire personal life becomes fair game for defense attorneys.

This brutal reality goes a long way towards explaining why acquaintance rape is the most underreported crime in America. In addition to physical trauma, its victims often suffer devastating psychological damage that leads to feelings of shame, emotional paralysis and stigmatization. PTSD rates for rape victims are estimated to be 50%, higher than soldiers returning from war.

In Missoula, Krakauer chronicles the searing experiences of several women in Missoula — the nights when they were raped; their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them.

Some of them went to the police. Some declined to go to the police, or to press charges, but sought redress from the university, which has its own, non-criminal judicial process when a student is accused of rape. In two cases the police agreed to press charges and the district attorney agreed to prosecute. One case led to a conviction; one to an acquittal. Those women courageous enough to press charges or to speak publicly about their experiences were attacked in the media, on Grizzly football fan sites, and/or to their faces. The university expelled three of the accused rapists, but one was reinstated by state officials in a secret proceeding. One district attorney testified for an alleged rapist at his university hearing. She later left the prosecutor’s office and successfully defended the Grizzlies’ star quarterback in his rape trial. The horror of being raped, in each woman’s case, was magnified by the mechanics of the justice system and the reaction of the community.

Krakauer’s dispassionate, carefully documented account of what these women endured cuts through the abstract ideological debate about campus rape. College-age women are not raped because they are promiscuous, or drunk, or send mixed signals, or feel guilty about casual sex, or seek attention. They are the victims of a terrible crime and deserving of compassion from society and fairness from a justice system that is clearly broken.

This book was written in 2016 and we haven’t made a tremendous amount of progress since, even in light of the Me, Too movement. This issue is one I’m most passionate about in making a difference and was looking to volunteer when the pandemic struck. I’m still committed.

Begin Again


We live, according to Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., in the after times, when the promise of Black Lives Matter and the attempt to achieve a new America was met with the election of Donald Trump, a racist president whose victory represents yet another failure of America to face the lies it tells itself about race.

We have been here before: For James Baldwin, the after times came in the wake of the Civil Rights movement, when a similar attempt to compel a national confrontation with the truth was answered with the murders of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. In these years, spanning from the publication of The Fire Next Time in 1963 to that of No Name in the Street in 1972, Baldwin was transformed into a more overtly political writer, a change that came at great professional and personal cost. But from that journey, Baldwin emerged with a sense of renewed purpose about the necessity of pushing forward in the face of disillusionment and despair.

In the story of Baldwin’s crucible, Glaude suggests, we can find hope and guidance through our own after times, this Trumpian era of shattered promises and white retrenchment. Mixing biography—drawn partially from newly uncovered interviews—with history, memoir, and trenchant analysis of our current moment, Begin Again is Glaude’s attempt, following Baldwin, to bear witness to the difficult truth of race in America today. It is at once a searing exploration that lays bare the tangled web of race, trauma, and memory, and a powerful interrogation of what we all must ask of ourselves in order to call forth a new America.

I’m really looking forward to listening to this book as I find Glaude to be brutally enlightening and insightful. And, I started reading Baldwin when I was just 14-years old.


My Own Words

My Own Words “showcases Ruth Ginsburg’s astonishing intellectual range” (The New Republic). In this collection Justice Ginsburg discusses gender equality, the workings of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond US shores when interpreting the US Constitution. Throughout her life Justice Ginsburg has been (and continues to be) a prolific writer and public speaker. This book’s sampling is selected by Justice Ginsburg and her authorized biographers Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, who introduce each chapter and provide biographical context and quotes gleaned from hundreds of interviews they have conducted.

Witty, engaging, serious, and playful, My Own Words is a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of America’s most influential women and “a tonic to the current national discourse.”

The notorious RBG and my hero! Who better to instruct on this topic.

Know My Name
She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter. Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford’s campus. Her victim impact statement was posted on BuzzFeed, where it instantly went viral–viewed by eleven million people within four days, it was translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; it inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case. Thousands wrote to say that she had given them the courage to share their own experiences of assault for the first time.

Now she reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words. It was the perfect case, in many ways–there were eyewitnesses, Turner ran away, physical evidence was immediately secured. But her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial reveal the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios. Her story illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicts a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shines with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life.

Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing. It also introduces readers to an extraordinary writer, one whose words have already changed our world. Entwining pain, resilience, and humor, this memoir will stand as a modern classic.

I’ve picked this up several times to start and had to put it back for fear I’d get too angry for the the times. I’m committed to listening to this before the year ends.


Between the World and Me

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

I’ve had this on my shelf for such a long time but was afraid of its honesty. Now that the film version is debuting this Saturday night on HBO Max, I’m ready. I’ll listen to it before I watch the movie.

I’m excited about my upcoming journey through these books. This is my passion and I firmly believe before you can make a measurable difference, you have to gain insight on the issues. 

28 thoughts on “Nonfiction November Week 3 – Become the Expert #NonficNov”

  1. Wow, this is one very powerful post and a very timely reminder to all of us that there are things going on this world that are evil in carnet. Thanks for sharing these choices with us, Jo, most of which I’ve scribbled down to follow through on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you SO much, Alexandra💜 I was worried that my topic might be too heavy. But it is so very, very close to my heart. Once this pandemic eases, I plan to contact my state attorney general’s office to see how I can volunteer with their initiative to clear backlogged rape kits. It’s my place to start.


      1. I applaud and admire you, and there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to fighting for whats just and what’s right in this world. It’s commendable and volunteering is the least we can do. And if we all do one small thing, we can, between us, effect, I hope, real change.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You might also be interested in The Book of Rosy: A Mother’s Story of Separation at the Border by Rosayra Pablo Cruz. One of my favorites for this year. I really liked Between the World and Me, The Moment of Lift, and I’m currently reading My Own Words. Seems like we have similar tastes! I choose similar books for my #NonficNov post too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Marialyce💜 Before the pandemic, I was pursuing some way to volunteer with the state AG’s office to work on their project to clear the rape kit backlog. I’m still committed to volunteering in some way that tackles our pitiful record with sexual assaults. I’d already volunteered for a year as a teacher’s reading assistant in a class of second graders. I worked three days a week.

      I’m ready so I’ve got to get smarter.


  3. Very interested post! I like the topic of social injustice as well. Know My Name is very high on my tbr list and I actually heard of if not so long ago so I’m very excited to give it a go soon, hopefully!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am in awe of you and your interest in social justice issues. Well, I am interested as well, but I have never actively done anything about it and I know reading books like the above will make me feel extremely indignant and angry. They all sound like super important books and I am particularly interested in “Separated”; I mean, how could that actually happen?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Stargazer💜 My Mom taught us to put our anger into action. Don’t like things? Do something. She practiced what she preached. I’ve been heartsick from the moment I learned about those children. I’m very happy that help is on the way. I have no idea how this could be allowed to happen and so many able to ignore it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jonetta, this is such an incredible list and so many important titles! What an excellent idea for this. I’m not familiar with the reporter working on the child separation and I need to be. I’ll look for that one. Missoula is also on my list. Like you say, as much progress as we’ve made there’s still so far to go. And I’ve heard only glowing things about both Know My Name and Between the World and Me.

    Thanks for sharing this and taking part!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ren💜 I took a look at my TBR and noticed a pattern…they fit my own personal volunteer passion. Your opinion matters and I’m grateful for your comments.

      Jacob Soboroff is someone I’d recommend researching. I watched him transform from a light spirit and good investigative reporter to someone deeply impacted by what he was covering. He just happened to be the correspondent assigned by NBC to cover this breaking story at the time and is now considered to be the expert on the situation and surrounding issues. I was hoping he’d write a book so was thrilled when learning he did.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Awesome post Jo. I have added several of these to my TBR. I had the RBG book already on there. These issues are so important and yet, they are still be written about because we are so far from dealing with them in a proper and humane way. Thanks for introducing some of these books to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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