Lifelines Podcast Show Notes: Episode 4

Tackling Tough Issues: Jason Reynolds & A Conversation with Librarian Mary Linney

In today’s episode…

Saadia Faruqi focuses her segment on the brilliance of Jason Reynolds.

“Running from reality has never done anyone any good, this is the world these young people are living in, this is their world to shape, their world to change. Either you the teacher are going to be on the side of the world shapers, or on the side of  apathetic destruction.” – Jason Reynolds

You can find information about all of Jason Reynold’s amazing books at:


Then, Ann Braden shares her conversation with middle school librarian Mary Linney. For 19 years, Mary has worked at Brattleboro Area Middle School, where many students are struggling with difficult family situations. She shares some of the books that have resonated most deeply with her students.

“The neatest is when you have a student who comes in in the beginning of seventh grade who says, ‘I don’t read, I’m not going to read, you can’t make me read.’ And I did have a boy, actually he’s in 8th grade right now, and he said, ‘Oh my God. You got me to read.’” – Middle School Librarian Mary Linney

Finally, the episode concludes with Ann’s segment “Moving Beyond: Because Books Have No Boundaries.”

I’ve been sitting with the wisdom from Jason Reynolds that Saadia shared and thinking about the students that Mary Linney works with, and I have have to tell you that my 8-year-old son and I just finished listening to both GHOST and ORBITING JUPITER so my heart is having a hard time staying within the confines of my body right now. I can’t help thinking about the role that trauma plays in our society. Specifically about how we try to sweep bad things under the rug instead of facing them head-on – and how that happens at both the personal level and the societal level. At least one in four of us has experience some kind of trauma in our lives, and it’s pretty clear that trying to stuff that trauma deep down inside and pretend it never happened doesn’t work in the long run. I’m so glad that there is a movement toward more trauma-informed schools where people recognize that helping students feel safe is a necessary prerequisite to learning. These schools understand that it doesn’t help anyone to just label certain kids as disciplinary problems, but instead understand that the way we behave is based on our past life experiences. That means that when there is a concerning behavior, one of the first questions that needs to be asked is “what might have happened that explains this person’s behavior.” We must shift the conversation to be one that is based on trying to understand.

And at the societal level, we will never be able to make our way toward the ideal of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness if we don’t face the reality of trauma created by the systematic oppression that people of color have faced for the entirety of this country’s history, including today. Most people of color are forced to face this reality on a daily basis, but those of us who are white? We have the luxury of turning away. And we do , all the time. Because it’s uncomfortable, right? When I was getting my Master’s in Teaching I did my thesis on a critical analysis of social studies textbooks. One textbook after another would downplay bad things and remove any hints of the human experience (and don’t get me started about all the ones that made it sound like being enslaved wasn’t that bad of a deal and made no mention of the discrimination of Jim Crowe era. And of course NONE of them ever mention the redlining in the 1970’s that made it nearly impossible for African Americans to live in the neighborhoods with the quote-unquote good schools) By the time I had my own social studies classroom, I had pulled together an entire U.S. History textbook worth of first person accounts that laid out exactly how hard things were for the vast range of people who made up our history and how it all felt. Because the best way to understand an experience will never be through a textbook. It will always be through stories. Stories that are true. And stories that are emotionally true.

Because these stories help us understand.

They help us face that truth.

They connect us one human being to another.

So that the next time someone is given a label that tries to blame them for the life that they’ve been given, there will be a whole host of us ready to stand with them, a whole host of people who have their back.