Summer #AmReading for Fall Semester

Now that I’ve posted the final grades for my classes and sent many of my students off into the world at Penn State’s graduation, I’m settling into a summer full of reading. And this summer, there are a number of nonfiction books on my list that I want to read as a prep for my Fall semester classes. One of the exciting, but also challenging, aspects of being a developmental scientist is the fact that our field continues to evolve and change as research progresses. This means that many ideas I taught at the beginning of my career ten years ago are now out-of-date, or in need of modification to capture the new insights we’ve made.


I’m looking forward to a summer engrossed in these new findings and shifts in my field, and to a Fall semester filled with new and updated lectures to share with my students. Below are a few of the books I can’t wait to read and be informed by.

Have any suggestions for my #ToBeRead list? Please share with me on Twitter or Facebook. I’m always looking for the next great read, and extra points if it’s nonfiction and social science-related.

Happy Reading!

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by [Nutt, Amy Ellis]

Back of the Book Jacket: “When Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin boys, they thought their lives were complete. But it wasn’t long before they noticed a marked difference between Jonas and his brother, Wyatt. Jonas preferred sports and trucks and many of the things little boys were “supposed” to like; but Wyatt liked princess dolls and dress-up and playing Little Mermaid. By the time the twins were toddlers, confusion over Wyatt’s insistence that he was female began to tear the family apart. In the years that followed, the Maineses came to question their long-held views on gender and identity, to accept and embrace Wyatt’s transition to Nicole, and to undergo an emotionally wrenching transformation of their own that would change all their lives forever.

Becoming Nicole chronicles a journey that could have destroyed a family but instead brought it closer together. It’s the story of a mother whose instincts told her that her child needed love and acceptance, not ostracism and disapproval; of a Republican, Air Force veteran father who overcame his deepest fears to become a vocal advocate for trans rights; of a loving brother who bravely stuck up for his twin sister; and of a town forced to confront its prejudices, a school compelled to rewrite its rules, and a courageous community of transgender activists determined to make their voices heard. Ultimately, Becoming Nicole is the story of an extraordinary girl who fought for the right to be herself.

Granted wide-ranging access to personal diaries, home videos, clinical journals, legal documents, medical records, and the Maineses themselves, Amy Ellis Nutt spent almost four years reporting this immersive account of an American family confronting an issue that is at the center of today’s cultural debate. Becoming Nicole will resonate with anyone who’s ever raised a child, felt at odds with society’s conventions and norms, or had to embrace life when it plays out unexpectedly. It’s a story of standing up for your beliefs and yourself—and it will inspire all of us to do the same.”

The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by [Burke Harris, Nadine]

Back of the Book Jacket: “Dr. Nadine Burke Harris was already known as a crusading physician delivering targeted care to vulnerable children. But it was Diego—a boy who had stopped growing after a sexual trauma—who galvanized her to dig deeper into the connections between toxic stress and the lifelong illnesses she was tracking among so many of her patients and their families. A survey of more than 17,000 adult patients’ “adverse childhood experiences,” or ACEs, like divorce, substance abuse, or neglect, had proved that the higher a person’s ACE score the worse their health—and now led Burke Harris to an astonishing breakthrough. Childhood stress changes our neural systems and lasts a lifetime.

Through storytelling that delivers both scientific insight and moving stories of personal impact, Burke Harris illuminates her journey of discovery, from research labs nationwide to her own pediatric practice in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point. For anyone who has faced a difficult childhood, or who cares about the millions of children who do, the innovative and acclaimed health interventions outlined in The Deepest Well will represent vitally important hope for change.”


Back of the Book Jacket: “The New York Times bestselling author of Girls & Sex and Cinderella Ate My Daughter delivers her first ever collection of essays—funny, poignant, deeply personal and sharply observed pieces, drawn from three decades of writing, which trace girls’ and women’s progress (or lack thereof) in what Orenstein once called a “half-changed world.”

Named one of the “40 women who changed the media business in the last 40 years” by Columbia Journalism Review, Peggy Orenstein is one of the most prominent, unflinching feminist voices of our time. Her writing has broken ground and broken silences on topics as wide-ranging as miscarriage, motherhood, breast cancer, princess culture and the importance of girls’ sexual pleasure. Her unique blend of investigative reporting, personal revelation and unexpected humor has made her books bestselling classics.

In Don’t Call Me Princess, Orenstein’s most resonant and important essays are available for the first time in collected form, updated with both an original introduction and personal reflections on each piece. Her takes on reproductive justice, the infertility industry, tensions between working and stay-at-home moms, pink ribbon fear-mongering and the complications of girl culture are not merely timeless—they have, like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, become more urgent in our contemporary political climate.

Don’t Call Me Princess offers a crucial evaluation of where we stand today as women—in our work lives, sex lives, as mothers, as partners—illuminating both how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.”


4 Best Things Online This Week

In this next edition of “What thrilled, engrossed, and overwhelmed Sarah during her web-browsing this week?” there is a distinct mixture of the frothy and the bitter. We don’t live in a world of pure confection, but at the same time sweetness remains for us to enjoy despite the cruelty. So, here goes:

Library 2.jpg

  1. Operation Mason Dixon has only just begun and already it deserves a bookmark for you to track Elise’s experiences as she pummels through her final year of Ph.D. studies as a Developmental Scientist. Being a Developmental Psychologist myself, I was thrilled to come across this blossoming blog via Christina & Kamille’s Twitter account. Being a suburban white woman charged with teaching courses that deal with risk, resilience, and intervention, I find myself in a constant struggle to provide my students with a whole and authentic perspective on these issues (including Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Ethnicity) given the fact that I am a privileged White woman. I am lucky to encounter students from diverse backgrounds and to have the opportunity to learn from them every day that I am in the classroom–teachers are indeed meant to be taught–but Elise’s most recent post observing how academia is at odds with the racial turmoil in our country and that our field of Developmental Science is failing people of color zeros in on the discomfort I regularly feel in my own classroom: our field is not doing justice to the scientific pursuit of eradicating injustice. And so teachers like myself are left to teach our students how to make the world better with fistfuls of studies offering caveats like “all upper middle class sample” or “only 20% of participants were African American, or Latino/a, or Asian” and only a few pieces of research that begin to approach a real representation of the developmental experiences of American infants, children, adolescents, and adults. When the teacher is privileged and White, like myself (for me to look at the trajectory of my life and say otherwise is to ignore the imbalance along racial and socioeconomic lines in our country), the inadequacy in addressing this injustice is only multiplied. I look forward to reading more of Elise’s work and about her path to earning her doctorate, which is a journey that I hope proves expeditious: Our field needs her.

NPR 100 Things

2. Sweet goodness, have you seen NPR’s 100 Things You Might Also Like? The media experts at our National Public Radio have offered their own recommendation flow charts to help you locate your next novel, film, or TV show based on media you’ve already determined you love.  It’s a rabbit hole worth your time–dive in!

Bellwether Friends

3. My love for librarians offering their views on popular media only continues to grow. Two Bossy Dames is like a gateway drug to an entire Twitterverse of fabulous, professionally trained connoisseurs of literature, film, and everything in between. Enter Bellwether Friends. Their weekly podcast offers four libraries from across the country discussing topics from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries to classic films, X-men, and book covers of yore. It is a veritable smorgasbord of pointed critical commentary, genuine fandom, and recommendations to add to your To-Be-Read and To-Be-Watched piles.  Follow them on Twitter to keep up with it all.
by Barry Deutsch c/o Jon Greenberg

4.  Speaking of Two Bossy Dames, thank you for their link to Jon Greenberg’s blog and his Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism–from Ferguson to Charleston.  Referring back to the first item in this post, myself and other (White) academics in the social sciences need to actively educate ourselves about the issues our country, and as a result our students, face. Greenberg offers a compendium of sources informing and energizing White Americans to take responsibility for the prejudices roiling under and above the surface of our country’s daily existence and, even more importantly, to become involved in putting an end to them. Many of us educators have time off in the summer–what better time to activate our own learning than now? #BeforeFallSemester