Sunday, January 3, 2016

Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do -- Claude Steele ---------------- 3.5 Stars

Although this book came out a few years ago, I just heard about it recently from a teacher at my school.  I really feel like I've missed some good info. the past few years having just gotten to it now.

Basic premise: there are TONS of stereotypes that go on each and every day throughout our lives and they have major repercussions and effects.  In addition, what our own identity is and how we perceive others identifies has significant affects on us as well.  Specifically, we often have to deal with something the authors deem stereotype threat and it happens all the time, everywhere. 

I'll leave the rest of the book to you to check out and read.  The positives: very important book that really makes one consider and reflect about a lot of things in our lives and society.  Having not all that often focused on various stereotypes of stereotype threat as a white man, this book made me really consider and think about things in a very different way.  Also, the book does a really nice job walking the reader through the author's objectives and breaking them down so they are clear and easy to understand.  I also liked the variety and breadth of experiments mentioned that help to explain many of the findings.  Also, on a positive, it's a pretty short book, and it's easy to skip through the specificity of the experiments if just looking to pull out the salient points being made. 

A few reasons that only kept it at 3.5: while a pretty important concept, it's kind of a downer (sorry, but my blog is based on how entertaining and things like embedded stereotypes that are subconscious and nearly impossible to change is not so uplifting).  The book also is kind of a boring read. While the author does a good job of writing in a less formal, non-academic tone, he is no Gladwell in the sense that it often lacks the flair of a more easily accessible book of its type.  I also found that many of the points he was trying to make ran together, without real significant differences between them.  Finally, the second part of the title ("and what we can do"), was less than desired.  The problem that they describe is certainly well founded and makes good sense to me but I did not find that that options of what to do was as clear or easy to understand (hence my attitude of it being a bit of a downer). 

To my last point, I think the absolute best way to solve the problem and know "what to do" is to have people read this book.  While not the most entertaining book written or that I've reviewed, one could make the case that it's the most important book to read of the books I've reviewed. So, again, do check it out!

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