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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

“Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.” – Susan Cain

In Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a Society That Can’t Stop Talking (Crown Publishers, 2012), Susan Cain writes a meticulously researched and well-argued plea for equality.  Not for women or for minorities, but for introverts.  In a society that values extroversion, she believes, we need to look closely at the value that introverts bring to the equation.  That value, according to Cain, is vast.   If invention is ninety nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration, then the introverts are responsible for the ninety nine percent, in essence.  The introverts are largely the ones who work on their own, hashing it all out, putting it together and taking it apart again until it works.  What they lack in flash and dazzle, they make up for in persistence.  Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gandhi:  all examples introverts who avoided the bright lights in order to pursue their true interests and beliefs, and we all benefitted from the results.

The true beauty of this book lies in the permission it grants:  Cain, an introvert herself, is resolute on the idea that introverts are much healthier and happier if they are allowed to remain introverts.  Cain demonstrates that introversion is much more accepted in the east then the west, and reassures fellow introverts that it is not only alright to stay home and read on a Friday night, it is a right.  It is necessary and productive and totally normal.

If you are not a closet (or overt) introvert, this book is just as valuable.  Cain speaks directly to parents, teachers, bosses, and spouses of introverts.  How do you best teach and parent introverts?  How do you make sure that introverts are heard and involved in decision making?  Cain makes a great argument for valuing introverts in the workplace, even suggesting that the recent economic market collapse in the U.S. could have been avoided if more “risk-averse” introverts had spoken up during board meetings.  Cain urges us to find a balance between the extroverts and introverts in our society, and within ourselves.

Like Cain, I believe that true progress will come when people are comfortable with who they are, not pretending they are someone they are not. Recognizing who we are is a great first step, and the insights offered in Quiet are a valuable addition to that process.  Respecting who we are is a lifelong practice.  What a timely, necessary book.

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Posted by on March 30, 2013 in Nonfiction

 

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Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed

All it took to get me hooked on the ‘Dear Sugar’ advice column on The Rumpus was reading one essay.  In that one essay ‘Sugar’ (a.k.a. Cheryl Strayed) ripped me apart and drained my wounds and licked them clean again.  I cried so hard I had to close my office door.  By the end of the column, I felt like something trapped had been released, some fear had been faced.  It sounds dramatic, but it really did go something like that.  After that first column, I found a quiet corner of my world (preferably not my office) in which to read my weekly dose of Sugar.   With the publication of Tiny Beautiful Things (Vintage Books) in July of 2012, you can now read the best of these columns (or essays, as I think of them) in your own happy place, preferably with a Kleenex handy.  They aren’t always sad, just profoundly powerful.

Not only is Strayed one of the best writers out there (see my review for Wild, July 2012), her life experiences have honed her sense of compassion to a fine point.  When she taps into those experiences, which she always does, it’s powerful stuff, indeed.   Sugar takes you to the heart of her own hometown, (or schoolyard, or office cubicle, or marriage) and says: ‘Look, this is what happened to me, here is how it broke me, and this is how I healed.  You can, too.’  She tends to take the scenic route to arrive at her point, but she does have a map and never lifts her foot from the gas.  When we arrive at the door of her distinct brand of deliverance we are shaken and a little woozy, but clear eyed and transformed.

We all know that there are no black and white answers to the toughest questions, those of love, sex, infidelity, jealousy, pain, loss, and addiction, that’s why they are so tough.  What Sugar is able to do so eloquently is to address the question behind the question, the question that muddies the water in the first place.  Tiny Beautiful Things is a call to consciousness for an emotionally numb society.  Sugar says, over and over and in many different ways:  ‘Wake up!  Take responsibility for your actions.  You can change this.  You can rise above your circumstances.’  This is a message that all of us who are trying to hold on to our humanity in this increasingly inhuman world need to hear again and again.

Cheryl Strayed knows what’s important.  Tiny Beautiful Things lays it out for those of us who need to be reminded.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in Memoir, Nonfiction

 

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