Monday, May 13, 2013

Girl Power is alive in these remarkable bestsellers!

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Kirkus Reviews –

Facebook COO Sandberg (ranked fifth in Forbes' 2011 list of the most powerful women in the world) reveals how gender discrimination still operates against her and other less-fortunate women. When she learned about the list, she reports, "I felt embarrassed and exposed." Even in her position, she still felt the pressure of social conditioning, the expectation that women should subordinate themselves to men. Taking examples from her own experience, Sandberg shows how expected gender roles work against women seeking top jobs, even though they now earn "63 percent of the master's degrees in the United States." Not only are women forced to juxtapose family and job responsibilities, but they face more subtle pressures. From early childhood, females are discouraged from being assertive. "Aggressive and hard-charging women violate unwritten rules about acceptable social conduct," writes the author. While it is assumed that men who are committed to their families can have successful careers, for women, the choices are more difficult due to the fact that they will usually be the primary caregivers. The failure of social provisions--extended family leave, flexible working hours, etc., which are the norm in many European countries--make life especially difficult for middle-income families (and single parents) due to the high cost of good child care. Women internalize this, frequently making career decisions to accommodate their expectation of the demands that will be imposed by having a family in the future. In Sandberg's case, this involved rejecting a desirable international fellowship. She argues the need for a redefinition of gender roles so that men expect to share primary responsibility for child care, parents receive social support to accommodate work and family responsibilities, and stereotyping of male and female behavior is recognized as pernicious. A compelling case for reforms that support family values in the continuing "march toward true equality."

Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court by Sandra Day O'Connor

Kirkus Reviews –

Here comes the judge--and she has stories to tell. O'Connor (The Majesty of the Law, 2003, etc.), the first woman to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court--though, she hastens to add, not the first woman to hold a post of importance in that highest judiciary in the land--has been retired for half a decade, but still she is asked what being a justice is like. And, of course, she's heavily involved in civic education, educating Americans about what being American is about. The result is this lightly told but deeply thought-through history of the court, part of "a government that develops and evolves, that grows and changes, over time." Her case studies are many, including Marbury v. Madison, which articulated some of that evolution and established the court's authority as the final arbiter of the constitutionality of legislation, and some of Daniel Webster's greatest hits--for, she reminds us, Webster argued some 200 cases before the court, "known for his ability to marshal precedents and historical evidence with skill." Apart from the most significant cases, such as Brown v. Board of Education, O'Connor examines just a few minor cases and then mostly to illustrate points about the humanity of the court--Scalia is a funny guy, Rehnquist was a card, etc. She is candid, opinionated and even entertaining throughout, though we wait breathlessly for the fly-on-the-wall story of how the Supreme Court decided to give George W. Bush the presidency. For the time being, a well-considered, lively survey of what the Supreme Court does, how it's constituted and, bonus round, how to argue before it.

Sum It Up: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective by Pat Summitt and Sally Jenkins

From Barnes & Noble –

In 2009, when the Sporting News named the 50 Greatest Coaches of All-Time, only one woman's name was on the list: Pat Summit. The honor came as no surprise. The longtime (1974-2009) Tennessee Vols women's basketball coach is, after all, the only NCAA coach to ever amass 1,000 victories and she does have eight national championships to her credit. All those achievements fell into perspective when, in 2011, when Summit was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. This inspiring autobiography recounts the career and the life of a woman who has always continued to fight until the final buzzer.

Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joy by Susan Spencer-Wendel

Publishers Weekly –

Journalist Spencer-Wendel discovered she was ill when her left hand suddenly became withered. As she struggles to come to terms with knowing something is wrong—not wanting to find out, then not fully believing the doctor's ALS diagnosis—she writes with courage and strength. When she gets the news, the 40-something author is in her prime, blessed with a great reporter job at the Palm Beach Post and loving family. Using benefits from an insurance policy, she quits her job and decides to take trips with her family and friends, so that she can have all of the amazing experiences she's put off and create lasting memories. She goes to the final space shuttle launch with her youngest son, having never been to Cape Canaveral, even though her home is only hours away. A few months later, joined by her best friend, she sees the aurora borealis in the Yukon. It's there that Spencer-Wendel's philosophy plays out, as it does many times more, as she briefly caught the lights before tripping and missing the rest. She is appreciative and grateful for those few seconds and banishes regrets. There are certainly moments of heartbreak that she doesn't shy away from, such as when she goes shopping for bridal dresses with her teenaged daughter, knowing she'll miss any future wedding. Spencer-Wendel's life will sadly be cut short, but in writing her story, she shows her family and friends how to go on, choosing happiness and love over fear.

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