Aug 09 2018

National Book Lovers Day: CASA’s Top Reads

Today is National Book Lovers Day! In honor of the holiday, we at CASA have decided to celebrate by recommending some of our favorite reads that we’ve torn through in this past year. From child psychology to coping with trauma, these books shed some light on the topics we repeatedly deal with at CASA of Travis County when we’re advocating for kids in the child welfare system.

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

“When an impoverished school district loses its accreditation and the affluent community of Crystal Ridge has no choice but to open their school doors, the lives of three very different women converge: Camille Gray--the wife of an executive, mother of three, long-standing PTA chairwoman and champion fundraiser--faced with a shocking discovery that threatens to tear her picture-perfect world apart at the seams. Jen Covington, the career nurse whose long, painful journey to motherhood finally resulted in adoption but she is struggling with a happily-ever-after so much harder than she anticipated. Twenty-two-year-old Anaya Jones--the first woman in her family to graduate college and a brand new teacher at Crystal Ridge's top elementary school, unprepared for the powder-keg situation she's stepped into. Tensions rise within and without, culminating in an unforeseen event that impacts them all. This story explores the implicit biases impacting American society, and asks the ultimate question: What does it mean to be human? Why are we so quick to put labels on each other and categorize people as "this" or "that", when such complexity exists in each person?” via Amazon

Recommended by Sara Blake, Community Engagement Coordinator

What does this book touch on that pertains to the work we do at CASA?

No One Ever Asked deals with biases that many of us don’t even know we have, and bridges gaps between people of different ethnicities and backgrounds to build a stronger community. This book puts you in the shoes of several women each with their own story, secrets and fears.”

Why do you recommend this book to CASA volunteers?

“I would recommend this book to CASA volunteers because it has helped to give me a new perspective about how I see the world and the people in it. It’s easy to make assumptions about people with different backgrounds, ethnicities or even personalities than yours - but those assumptions are almost always wrong! We’ll never know someone’s story if we don’t look them in the eyes and ask them.”

Dibs in Search of Self by Virginia M. Axline

“The classic of child therapy. Dibs will not talk. He will not play. He has locked himself in a very special prison. And he is alone. This is the true story of how he learned to reach out for the sunshine, for life . . . how he came to the breathless discovery of himself that brought him back to the world of other children.” via Amazon

Recommended by Diana McCue, Senior Child Advocacy Specialist

What does this book touch on that pertains to the work we do at CASA?

Dibs in Search of Self is required reading for most courses on play therapy.  It is a short case study of play therapy-based treatment of a child with emotional challenges. The majority of the children we work with will participate in therapy, and play therapy is one of the most popular and effective modalities for children. This case study shows the lay reader how play therapy works to provide children with connection and unconditional positive regard.”

Why do you recommend this book to CASA volunteers?

“I think it would be a particularly interesting read for CASA volunteers who don’t have first-hand experience with play therapy and would like to better understand how it can work to help the children they serve. It is an easy and engaging read. Readers should take into account the fact that it was written in 1964, so some perspectives and language of 2018 are not present in this book.”

The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz

“Child psychiatrist Bruce Perry has treated children faced with unimaginable horror: genocide survivors, witnesses, children raised in closets and cages, and victims of family violence. Here he tells their stories of trauma and transformation.” via Amazon

Recommended by Kayla Reese, Child Advocacy Specialist

What does this book touch on that pertains to the work we do at CASA?

“This book Is by a child psychologist who tells stories about different child clients he’s had, how they respond to trauma, and what he did to work with them.”

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

“Greenville County, South Carolina, is a wild, lush place that is home to the Boatwright family-a tight-knit clan of rough-hewn, hard- drinking men who shoot up each other's trucks, and indomitable women who get married young and age too quickly. At the heart of this story is Ruth Anne Boatwright, known simply as Bone, a bastard child who observes the world around her with a mercilessly keen perspective. When her stepfather Daddy Glen, "cold as death, mean as a snake," becomes increasingly more vicious toward her, Bone finds herself caught in a family triangle that tests the loyalty of her mother, Anney -and leads to a final, harrowing encounter from which there can be no turning back.” via Amazon

Recommended by Diana McCue, Senior Child Advocacy Specialist

What does this book touch on that pertains to the work we do at CASA?

Bastard Out of Carolina tells the story of Bone, a young girl living in the south who is caught in the middle of a cycle of violence perpetuated against her mother and herself. It is based on the author’s life and includes disturbing and unflinching portraits of sexual abuse, so CASA volunteers should proceed cautiously if this is a triggering subject for them.”

Why do you recommend this book to CASA volunteers?

“It’s a beautiful read and could help CASA volunteers better understand and empathize with the children they serve who have experienced severe abuse, particularly sexual abuse.”

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life follows four college classmates—broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition—as they move to New York in search of fame and fortune. While their relationships, which are tinged by addiction, success, and pride, deepen over the decades, the men are held together by their devotion to the brilliant, enigmatic Jude, a man scarred by an unspeakable childhood trauma. A hymn to brotherly bonds and a masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century, Hanya Yanagihara’s stunning novel is about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves.” via Amazon

Recommended by Callie Langford, Director of Communications

Why do you recommend this book to CASA volunteers?

“I recommend it because it’s an incredible read. You will fall in love with the characters and you will most likely cry for them as well. It’s the kind of book that’s hard to live up to once you’ve finished it, and it took me a few months to find my next book to read because this had such an impact. This book is all about the lifelong impacts of childhood trauma, and the power of positive connection and attachment to others. It also reminds us that no matter how old a child is, they’re never too old to need family or to be adopted. It is important to note that this is a worst-case scenario story, and it is very tough to read at times.”

*These books count for Continuing Education credit for our CASA volunteers.

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