Books on Social Problems and Services to Specific Groups


October 16, 2023

362. Books on social problems & services to groups

Further Reading:

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Nina Bernstein The Lost Children of Wilder: The Epic Struggle to Change Foster Care, 2001.

In this epic story, Nina Bernstein recounts how Shirley Wilder, a product of the New York City foster-care system, filed a class-action lawsuit against the system for inequities. For twenty-five years, the case went on in the courts and became a display of the race, religious, and political conflicts that affect America’s child-welfare system.

Virginia Eubanks Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, 2018.

Political science researcher Virginia Eubanks looks at how algorithms have replaced humans in making decisions in health care, food stamps, and housing for the nation’s poor and marginalized people. The results lead to a devastating lack of regard for the underserved. It also hides the disturbing results from the middle classes, leading to a lack of awareness and empathy.

Atul Gawande Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, 2007.

Surgeon Atul Gawande looks at the state of medicine in the early 21st century and concludes that, while we’ve made progress in some areas, we are missing the mark in others. Particularly when it comes to aging and death, the goals of safety and prolonging lives at all costs harm patients’ quality of living. He explores how to meet patients’ needs while health care professionals recognize their limits.

Cynthia Kim Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate: A User’s Guide to Asperger Life, 2014.

The blogger behind the popular Musings of an Aspie, Cynthia Kim, shares what it is like to grow up with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome and why it exists. She explains the impacts of the condition on everything from holding down a job to having close relationships with others. She shares practical advice on everything from managing everyday life to exploring hobbies. Her guide is sure to help others on the spectrum.

Sarah Hepola Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, 2015.

Sarah Hepola’s current account of alcoholism will help others understand what the illness looks like as she shares her harrowing tale from blackouts to sobriety.

Suzanne Kamata Squeaky Wheels: Travels with My Daughter by Train, Plane, Metro, Tuk-Tuk and Wheelchair, 2019.

Suzanne Kamata shares her travels all over the globe with her deaf, wheelchair-bound, artist, dual-citizen teenage daughter who also has cerebral palsy. Along with the adventures they share, Kamata also reports on the ways various cultures and languages treat those who have physical differences.

Jonathan Kozol Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years among the Poorest Children in America, 2012.

Author, educator, and activist Jonathan Kozol writes out the children he has taught and whose lives he has documented in his writing. These are real children who have been irreparable affected by poverty in a wealthy nation. He seeks to understand why some children succeed despite the odds, while other succumb.

Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, 2009.

While traveling the world to meet women struggling to support themselves and their families in the face of sex slavery, injuries from harsh treatment, and lack of education, Kristof and WuDunn uncover amazing stories of grit and resilience. These stories will inspire everyone to value women for who they are and what they can accomplish when obstacles are removed from their paths.

David Sheff Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey through His Son’s Addiction, 2007.

Journalist David Sheff shares the story of his eldest son, Nic’s descent into meth addiction. He traces Nic’s life from the promising young man he was before the addiction took hold and the increasingly horrific effects the drug had on his mental and physical health. Throughout the ordeal, Sheff questions what role his parenting may have played in the problem, as he desperately searches for treatment.

Carl Hart High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery that Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society, 2014.

Carl Hart comes from a background of urban poverty, street life, and drugs. And yet, he managed to overcome a youthful disdain of academics to become a scientist. As Columbia University’s first tenured African-American professor in the sciences, he has researched the relationship between drugs, pleasure, choice, and motivation that have led to new understandings of why social and political efforts to improve lives have largely failed.

For more information about the Further Reading section, see “Further Reading: Start Here.”

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