On My Bookshelf: Lecturer Timothy McCarthy
This spring, just after Reckoning with History: Unfinished Stories of American Freedom, co-edited by Lecturer Timothy McCarthy came out, McCarthy shared his favorite childhood stories, why he curled up with a book about a dog, and the practical reason there are no books on his nightstand.
What are you currently reading? You mean, aside from all the things I have assigned my students that I am re-reading? Jenna Blum’s Woodrow on the Bench: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog.
What drew you to a book about a dog? My husband, CJ Crowder, Ed.M.’02, a Teach For America alum, and I lost our beloved dog, Jeter, just before Christmas. It was sudden and unbearable. We adopted Jeter a month before we got married in May 2011. He’s always been our kid, but he became our rock during the pandemic. Jeter and Woodrow were black labs who brought all of us immeasurable joy. Jenna is a friend, and she sent us signed copies of her beautiful book to help get us through this terrible time, which we will always cherish.
What kind of reader were you as a kid and what book has continued to stick with you? I was (and am) a very slow reader and voracious lover of stories: Dr. Seuss, Winnie the Pooh, Sesame Street, and Star Wars were my childhood favorites. The book that most sticks with me is Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting. In fourth grade, I was selected to participate in a writing workshop with Ms. Babbitt, who was visiting our elementary school. She taught me a lesson I will never forget: readers and writers are related. I still have my signed copy of her book.
What’s the last interesting or useful thing you read in a book? The final line from Nikole Hannah-Jones’ essay, “Democracy,” in The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story: “We were told once, by virtue of our bondage, that we could never be American. But it was by virtue of our bondage that we became the most American of all.” I had read this before, but it resonated differently this time. Perhaps it’s more controversial now — and self-evident.
You’re forming a book group at your house. Name three people you’d want in the group and why. I would insist on four: my husband CJ, his mother Jean, and my parents Michelle and Coach Mac. They’re all brilliant educators, curious people, and kindred spirits. Come to think of it, this would be a wonderful thing for CJ and me to do with our folks right now — for so many reasons.
What book that you assigned to your students this spring should all educators read? All high schoolers? Every educator should read bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. I have assigned it in my HGSE classes this year — first as a way of acknowledging her influence on my/our thinking and teaching, then as a way of marking her passing and celebrating her life and work. Every high school student in the world should read James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. And when you do, let’s talk!
Favorite place to read? It used to be various libraries or my office. During the pandemic, it’s become a bed or couch. Eventually, I would love to read more with others, all of us together.
What books, in addition to Woodrow on the Bench, are currently on your nightstand? Nothing. We have just moved and are still waiting for our furniture! But here are the books I’ve recently started: Farah Jasmine Griffin, Read Until You Understand; Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking; Tiya Miles, All That She Carried; Thich Nhat Hanh, How We Fight; Mary Oliver, Upstream; Elizabeth Hinton, America on Fire; and Derecka Purnell, Becoming Abolitionists.