posted on November 05, 2019 11:03
Nacoste, R. W. (2015). Taking on diversity: How we can move from anxiety to respect. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Book.
Review by Emily Liverman, Indiana University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Nacoste’s book can be a deceptively easy read. His narrative style flows and the use of personal and student anecdotes lend an informal and comfortableness to the book that can belie to topic of confronting diversity, bigotry, and ingrained prejudice, in others and in oneself.
It is enjoyable to listen to Dr. Nacoste as he relays his story and shares pieces of his classroom experience with the reader. He uses modified lyrics of “Train is A-Comin’” to signpost the book and group the thoughts and anecdotes. All of this makes the book one that the reader is able to step away from and come back to without getting lost, even though it would behoove one to read in as few sittings as possible.
Dr. Nacoste consistently refers back to the metaphor of the neo-diversity train, coming to the station. Tolerance is “an awful relationship goal” (p.18) because it assumes that one is superior to the other. It is démodé in twenty-first century America. People blindly riding on the Wrong-Line train are contented with tolerance and trained to avoid “frank discussions of racial matters” (p. 95). Dr. Nacoste’s train analogy and signposting helps the reader stay the course and remain engaged with the text.
Personal stories, from Dr. Nacoste, his students, and his correspondence, are prevalent throughout the book. These real stories illustrate everyday racism in the lives of students, and the reader is able to see how the students grow to recognize and confront this in their lives. Dr. Nacoste’s classroom is a safe space for students to openly and honestly share such stories, discuss their realities, and learn from each other. This safe space allows for honest confessional discourse between students and reflects the NACADA Core Values of respect, or recognizing the inherent value of each student; integrity, through valuing honesty; and inclusivity, through acceptance of and equity for all.
Students also confront how the history they learned in school has been heavily edited. In response to reading Blood Done Sign My Name, a historical memoir of a ten-year-old boy who witnessed racial events in 1970 Oxford, North Carolina, students are “shocked that [they] never learned about this in any of the schools” (p. 29) they attended. Dr. Nacoste draws heavily from North Carolina’s history, and this shock is repeated over and over again. It is here that the reader should remember that Dr. Nacoste teaches at North Carolina State University, whose student body is overwhelmingly from North Carolina (approximately 85% of the fall 2018 incoming class were from North Carolina).
Advising professionals can use this book for their own personal and professional growth, as a way to confront their own biases and racial events in their lives. If one has the opportunity to teach a class, this book can help inform course development and classroom dynamics. Dr. Nacoste’s book reflects many of NACADA’s core values, because he centers the student, equity, openness, and honesty.
I recommend this book as an accessible way to begin or continue one’s own journey through neo-diversity, “from anxiety to respect.”
First Year Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://admissions.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2018/09/UGA_08172018_fyf-2018_CB_006.pdf
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx