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Social Welfare Summer Reading

Summer Reading List: Social Welfare


With the first day of summer just around the corner, it’s time to kick back and relax at the beach with a good book. The Dewey Library’s social welfare collection is chock-full of fascinating and thought-provoking books that are perfect for beach reading. Why not intersperse a few among the who-done-its, vampire romances and literary classics that make up your summer reading list? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Call to Social Work-1.jpgThe Call to Social Work: Life Stories by Craig Winston LeCroy. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, c2012. Dewey Library / HV 40 L38 2012.

This collection of stories by social workers working in various parts of the field offers a useful overview of the field as a whole and gives the reader insight into the issues and concerns that those working in the field face on a day to day basis. It can be a valuable resource in selecting a career path within the profession.


The Home: A Memoir of Growing Up in an Orphanage by Richard McKenzie. New York: Basic Books, c1996. Dewey Library / HV 990 N8 M35 1996.

Richard McKenzie was 10 years old when he and his brother were dropped off at an orphanage in North Carolina. Their mother had committed suicide and their alcoholic and abusive father could not care for them. The Home, as everyone called it, provided the children with the stability they needed to build character and self-respect. Some were orphans, but most were victims of poverty and neglect, and the home provided them with a safe shelter. McKenzie stayed until he finished high school and went on to college, as did most of the orphans. He is a professor of economics and the author of twenty-five books. Remarkably most of his friends at The Home have had similar successes. Today, our foster care system is strained beyond capacity; countless children languish in broken families with insufficient means. McKenzie shines a refreshing clear light on the ongoing debate about the proper fate of these children. His story reminds us that institutional care can be the best choice for children trapped in horrible circumstances.


Chasing the High.jpgChasing the High: A Firsthand Account of One Young Person’s Experience with Substance Abuse by Kyle Keegan, with Howard B. Moss. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, c2008. Dewey Library / HV 5805 K42 A3 2008.

This memoir traces Kyle Keegan’s descent from teenage experimentation with drugs and alcohol to an overpowering addiction to heroin that led him to homelessness and a life of crime. Drawing on these experiences, he offers guidance to other teens who may be struggling with addiction. Keegan, with help from psychiatrist Howard Moss, MD, goes on to discuss the neurobiology of addiction in teens, how to get help, treatment options and how to talk to friends and family members about addiction. Written specifically for young adults, this book is both moving memoir and how to manual for seeking help.

Hands to Work: Three Women Navigate the New World of Welfare Deadlines and Work Rules by LynNell Hancock. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2003. Dewey Library / HV 99 N59 H36 2002.

In this examination of national welfare policy, reporter and writer LynNell Hancock offers an intimate and heart-wrenching portrait of three women and their families as they struggle to find their way through the new rules and regulations of the public assistance system. Hands to Work takes the reader on a journey within the day-to-day struggles of these women, describing their hopes, regrets, and deepest dreams. Hancock demystifies contemporary misconceptions of poverty and illustrates how welfare policy and reform have been conceived, offering a thought-provoking look at the most divisive questions about America's neediest citizens.

Cover.Committed.PB-1.jpgCommitted: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert. New York: Viking, 2010. Dewey Library / HQ 834 G48 2010.

Having sworn off marriage in the wake of a painful divorce, author Elizabeth Gilbert is shocked to learn that the only way her Brazilian boyfriend can live with her in the States is for them to marry. In an effort to reconcile herself to this necessity, she embarks on a year-long examination of the history, meaning and cultural variations of marriage in the US and Southeast Asia.


Rachel and her Children: Homeless Families in America
by Jonathan Kozol. New York: Crown Publishers, 1988. Dewey Library / HV 4505 K69 1988.

Based on the months the author spent among America’s homeless, Rachel and Her Children is an unforgettable record of the desperate voices of men, women, and especially children caught up in a nightmarish situation that tears at the hearts of readers. With record numbers of homeless children and adults flooding the nation’s shelters, Rachel and Her Children offers a look at homelessness that resonates even louder today.

Eugene Knickle Jones-1.jpgEugene Kinckle Jones: The National Urban League and Black Social Work, 1910-1940 by Felix L. Armfield. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, c2012. Dewey Library / HN 64 A76 2012.

One of the leading African American intellectuals of the early 20th Century, Eugene Knickle Jones, as executive director of the National Urban League, was a tireless advocate against racial discrimination and was instrumental in professionalizing black social work in America. He campaigned for equal hiring practices, inclusion of African Americans in labor unions, vocational training for blacks and social workers from the black community. Drawing from the papers of Jones’ family, associates and the National Urban League, this book examines his legacy and its effects on the social welfare profession.

Myth of the Welfare Queen: A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist’s Portrait of Women on the Line by David Zucchino. New York: Scribner, c1997. Dewey Library / HV 91 Z85 1997.

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Zucchino spent a year sharing the lives of Odessa Williams and Cheri Honkala -- two "welfare mothers" in Philadelphia -- to gain an intimate look at their day-to-day existence. Odessa, supporting an extended family, exhibits almost superhuman strength and resolve. Cheri, a single mother, is a tireless advocate for the homeless. Zucchino beautifully portrays them as figures of profound courage and quiet perseverance, systematically shattering all misconceptions and stereotypes about these women and so many others like them.


Jane Addams-1.jpg

Jane Addams: Spirit in Action by Louise W. Knight. New York: W.W. Norton, c2010. Dewey Library / HV 28 A35 K65 2010.

Jane Addams (1860-1935) was a leading statesperson in an era when few imagined such possibilities for women. In this fresh interpretation, Louise W. Knight shows Addams's boldness, creativity, and tenacity as she sought ways to put the ideals of democracy into action. Starting in Chicago as a co-founder of the nation's first settlement house, Hull House—a community center where people of all classes and ethnicities could gather—Addams became a grassroots organizer and a partner of trade unionists, women, immigrants, and African Americans seeking social justice. In time she emerged as a progressive political force; an advocate for women's suffrage; an advisor to presidents; a co-founder of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP; and a leader for international peace. Written as a fast-paced narrative, Jane Addams traces how one woman worked with others to make a difference in the world.


Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting by in America
by Barbara Ehrenreich. New York: Henry Holt & Co., c2008. University Library Reserves / HD 4918 E375 2008.

Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job - any job - can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors. Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity - a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival.

Lifting Our Voices.jpgLifting our Voices: The Journeys into Family Caregiving of Professional Social Workers edited by Joyce O. Beckett. New York: Columbia University Press, c2008. Dewey Library / HV 40.3 L49 2008.

Lifting Our Voices explores the dual roles of professional social workers who are also family caregivers. After discussing the relevant literature, Lifting Our Voices vividly and sensitively presents the caregiving experiences of ten professional social workers. Using professional and theoretical knowledge and skills, each contributor draws implications for various levels of social work and human service interventions. These poignant descriptions and analyses recount both the frustrations and barriers of negotiating social service agencies and other institutions and the joys and triumphs of family caregiving. Lifting Our Voices frankly discusses how a professional education either prepares or fails to equip an individual with the skills for successful intervention on behalf of a loved one. Contributors hail from rich and varied backgrounds, revealing the importance of age, ethnicity, gender, marital status, and gerontological expertise in the practice of family caregiving.

These essays explore situations rarely reported on in the literature, such as caregivers and care recipients who represent the lifespan from preschool to retirement. Lifting Our Voices graphically describes types of caregiving that are seldom discussed, including simultaneous caregiving to multiple family members and reciprocal and sequential caregiving, thus broadening and refining the very concepts of "caregiving" and "family."

Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope by Jonathan Kozol. New York: Crown Publishers, c2000. University Library / HQ 792 U5 K69 2000.

Education advocate Jonathan Kozol returns to the South Bronx neighborhood of Mott Haven, the subject of two previous books, to spend another four years with the children of one of the poorest sections of New York City. A fascinating narrative of daily urban life seen through the eyes of children, Ordinary Resurrections gives the human face to Northern segregation and provides a stirring testimony to the courage and resilience of the young.


Tender Mercies: Inside the World of a Child Abuse Investigator
by Keith N. Richards. Washington, D.C.: CWLA Press, c1998. Dewey Library / HV 40.32 R53 A3 1998.

This first-person, emotional account of a child protection service worker in New York State gives the reader an intimate look at all aspects of handling child abuse cases: interviewing parents who have been accused of abusing their children, talking to abused children removed from their parents' guardianship, working with an uncaring system ironically designed with the best of intentions, and keeping up with the mounds of paperwork each case generates. Lucid and disturbing, eloquent and passionate, Tender Mercies is a must-read for professionals and laypeople alike.

Unhitched: Love, Marriage, and Family Values from West Hollywood to Western China
by Judith Stacey. New York: New York University Press, c2011. Dewey Library / HQ 75.27 S73 2011.

Built on bracing original research that spans gay men’s intimacies and parenting in this country to plural and non-marital forms of family in South Africa and China, Unhitched decouples the taken for granted relationships between love, marriage, and parenthood. Countering the one-size-fits-all vision of family values, Stacey offers readers a lively, in-person introduction to these less familiar varieties of intimacy and family and to the social, political, and economic conditions that buttress and batter them. Through compelling stories of real families navigating inescapable personal and political trade-offs between desire and domesticity, the book undermines popular convictions about family, gender, and sexuality held on the left, right, and center.


Blog post created by Cary Gouldin