Great Books for Social Workers

I recently wrote this blog post about great movies for social workers.  Now that I have access to more libraries, I’m working on the book version.  I am only just getting started with this list, so any recommendations of what to read next would be appreciated!

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

The author of this book, a former neurosurgeon, describes the shock of being diagnosed with terminal cancer.  He wrote the book in the last year of his life, reflecting on his career and how the diagnosis changed his values and reason for living. This book is not for the faint of heart – Kalanithi spares no details, either of the surgeries he performed, or of what cancer did to him.  However, he writes very little about his family or the emotional side of things, so I found it less sad than I thought it would be.  I learned about this book because the author was married to the sister of a blogger I like, so you can read more about his wife’s experience at Cupofjo.com.

Evicted, by Matthew Desmond

This book is about poor renters in Milwaukee, and how their lives are affected by their landlords.  The author is a sociologist who spent about a year living in Milwaukee and following several families.  He describes their hopeless situations and how the families fall into deeper poverty with each eviction, which seem to come right after another.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave

This is a fictional account of the lives of several Londoners during World War II.  Cleave does an excellent job of describing trauma and loss; his descriptions of the psychological aspect of living through constant bombing made me feel like the characters were real.  I almost cried several times during the story!

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I’m still working on the list.  Any suggestions?!

Have you Ever Tried Tree Watching?

There is not a lot of difference between the culture in Boston and in Chicago, but New England does have a few unique traditions.  Because of the beautiful fall foliage all over the region, going on trips to look at trees is quite popular these days.  Tree Watching might not sound very exciting (though it is sometimes called Tree Peeping, which sounds a bit illicit), but it actually seems to be pretty popular.  I’ve already heard quite a few conversations that go something like this:

“What are you doing this weekend?”

“I’m going up to New Hampshire.  I’m going to look at trees!”

“Wow, have fun!  I heard they’re especially beautiful this year!”

At first, I was a bit skeptical of this tradition, but I did go on a hike last weekend up to an outlook where we saw a beautiful array of colorful trees.

dover

You can see a tiny little Boston in the background!

I also started taking pictures of the trees near the lake by my apartment to keep track of the change.  What’s more, I have started buying different kinds of squash each week, and put pumpkin spice in my coffee each morning.  I am glad to be enjoying fall again, even if I don’t think I’ll go all the way to New Hampshire to watch trees any time soon.

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The lake in October.  Luckily I walk by here and check almost every day, so I don’t have to just sit and watch the trees change.

It has been only two months since I arrived in Boston, but my classes are in full swing, with midterms due in the next two weeks.  Starting school in social work has been exciting, fun, stressful, busy, and sometimes confusing.  Since I’m taking all the intro classes, there are a lot of new things to learn.  Here are some things that have surprised me so far.

  • Social work is a much broader field than I thought.  Social workers can work in non-profits and social service agencies, but they can also open private practices as therapists, work in emergency rooms or elsewhere in hospitals, work in pastoral care, or get a PhD and do research.
  • Social workers are really nice.  This makes sense in a profession whose aim is to empower people, but I’ve still been surprised by how helpful everyone has been.
  • The program I am at is extremely liberal.  Social work as a profession is of course very inclusive and sensitive to diversity, but some of my professors have shocked me with what they assign.  In one class, we watched this video that explains why gender is a social construct: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRcPXtqdKjE      After watching this, I was expecting a debate, but everyone agreed.  I have just spent the last several years trying to wrap my head about why so many cultures have such clearly defined gender stereotypes, and now I’m told to forget that because it’s wrong.  Are there any other MSWs out there who have an opinion on this?
  • Boston has a big Caribbean population.  I knew there were a lot of immigrants in this city, but I did not realize how many were from the Dominican Republic or Haiti until starting my internship.  My husband and I are appreciative of this, because in one neighborhood we can get plantains 4 for $1.

    plantains

    We’re hoping to get through the winter on plantains and peanut butter.

 

He Made It!

My husband finally got his visa and made it to Boston.  I think you will be able to tell how happy we are about this from our photos.

matching1

We definitely will never lose each other in a crowd.

matching2We have a big challenge ahead of us because we have so many stylish matchy outfits, but they are all for warm climates.  Hopefully our love will keep us warm, because we’ve got a lot of Matching in Boston photos left to take!