This season on The Real WORD we read and discussed the following books:

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Tattooed Soldier by Hector Tobar
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Pleasantville by Attica Locke

From these books, we’ve considered questions about parental expectations and the sheltering and protection of family, the amount of power we have as individuals in shaping our lives, aspirations for the future, and how we deal with the inconsistencies of our world and how we can survive change.

I spoke with one of our program alumni, Jackie Amezcua, who’s on a Posse Scholarship (full tuition for all four years) at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. I asked her about how joining book club in her sophomore year of high school is helping her now.

We’ve seen our students take advantage of our programming because they are hungry for knowledge and hungry to experience a world outside of their communities. Some of them have dreams of being artists and writers, but these dreams sometimes become unattainable due to lack of resources available to them because of their race and socioeconomic situation.

The question then arises: are we running the risk of losing these unique voices?

We at Reading Opens Minds want to keep the voices of these young people and their cultures alive in this country. Extra-curricular reading, especially for schools in low-income areas, seems to have almost completely lost its importance and value. The more we turn our attention away from reading and critical thinking, the less vibrant and resilient we become. We want to continue to give attention, love, encouragement, and new books to the people in our programs because we know, especially in these times of disconnection, building supportive relationships in our communities is incredibly important.

The Real WORD podcast is produced by Reading Opens Minds and edited by Saul Black. You can find us on iTunes or the podcast app on your phone, or on the web at: lareviewofbooks.org/the-real-word. Thank you to the Los Angeles Review of Books staff and supporters for giving this podcast a home and some tender loving care. For more information about Reading Opens Minds go to readingopensminds.org, where you can subscribe to our newsletter and see what else we’re up to!

Special thanks for this episode goes to Jackie Amezcua for producing, and to all of the people who donated to our Indiegogo campaign last year to make this project happen. If you want another season of The Real WORD, you can donate at our website, or if your company wants to sponsor the next season, please contact: lauren@readingopensminds.org.

We hope to have the opportunity to produce Season Two of The Real WORD for you!