If You Want to Gain More Empathy for Human Behavior: Read This
By Caitlin Mobley
What is the What- Dave Eggers
What is the What opens with Valentino Achak Deng, a former Lost Boy of Sudan, living his new life in the United States after managing to flee the chaos and intense hardships he experienced in his native country. It would be easy for the average person to view Valentino as having a relatively carefree life after getting away from Sudan and being supported by caring individuals in his new home, however the reality is that Valentino experienced a tremendous amount of trauma in his life that affects the way he functions, even when away from the traumatic incident/environment. Oftentimes, a person isn’t conducting themselves in a certain negative way simply because they want to; that person may have experienced a life-altering traumatic event or have been continuously treated a particular way that shapes their interactions with the world. What is the What does a beautiful job of drawing awareness to how personal history relates to the reasons people succeed or struggle at times in life.
Middlesex- Jeffrey Eugenides
Gaining awareness of ways in which to navigate, understand, and support the transgender community is a discussion that was due LONG before the age of Transparent and Caitlyn Jenner. Middlesex, written in 2002, chronicles the emotions and intensely real human experience (family reactions, social stigmas, romantic relationships) that Calliope Stephanides undergoes in realizing her evolving gender identity and how who she is relates to the environment in which she was raised.
Lolita- Vladimir Nabokov
A huge stigma of domestic violence is: Why doesn’t the person being abused just leave the abuser? It is hard to listen to and support a friend or loved one who cannot separate himself or herself from a negative situation. It is also difficult to witness abused individuals who choose to go back to an abuser or who fall back into a cycle of abuse in a new relationship. By literally putting the reader in the mind of the predator, Lolita gives readers an understanding of the tactics that an abusive person can use to draw someone into an unhealthy relationship. Humbert Humbert is manipulative, charismatic, and preys on Lolita because she does not have support or protection. He threatens her of what he will do if she reveals the abuse and puts on a charming persona to win her back over when he feels he needs to. Supporting someone who is experiencing abuse is never easy, however having an informed sense of the complex emotions that the person is experiencing can assist the person in feeling understood and empowered to create a healthier and happier life for themselves.
Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx- Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
Random Family is an eleven-year long non-fiction sweeping saga based around a reporter following two young girls coming of age in the Bronx. LeBlanc gives painfully raw insight into the reality of class injustice and the measures that individuals who are not allowed the luxury of a supportive environment take to simply survive. Random Family depicts how specific life events lead to homelessness or selling drugs in a way that makes the reader want to reach out and hug the main characters. If you’re considering volunteering your time to help those in need or entering a human services based profession, read this book first; you’ll view those around you in a whole new, multidimensional light.
Caitlin is a social worker in Brooklyn, providing services in a supportive housing building, specifically in therapy and ADL support to at-risk populations (formerly homeless, those with HIV/AIDS, or individuals with severe mental health diagnoses). She previously worked in a domestic violence shelter supporting survivors in their transition to leading sustainable, independent lives.