School Back in Session: Improve Yourself by Learning Something New

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How Great Women Lead: A Mother-Daughter Adventure into the Lives of Women Shaping the World
Bonnie St. John and Darcy Deane
Center Street: Hachette Book Group, April 2012

With the Olympics just over, let us celebrate the past through reading a book written by the first African-American to win Olympic medals in ski racing, Bonnie St. John. She and her daughter, Darcy, have given us a gift that we can pass on to our daughters and grand-daughters that teaches them about the great women who have made a difference in our world.  The women range from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (president of Liberia), Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), Hillary Clinton (current U.S. Secretary of State), Dr. Condoleezza Rice (former U.S. Secretary of State) to Cathy Sarubbi (homemaker and mother of five). I love how each story provided insight into their lives, and as Darcy interviews them, they engage with curiosity as to what teenage Darcy is learning from each interaction. I enjoyed the conversations because you actually felt like you were sitting in the room with these remarkable women. I believe we can relate in some fashion to these women and we can encourage the future generations to also become great FEMALE leaders by educating through resources like this book.


She’s Got Issues:  Seriously Good News for Stressed-Out, Secretly Scared Control Freaks Like Us
By Nicole Unice
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., April 2012

This book will change you. Christian counselor Nicole Unice wants you to dive into your soul to help you develop into a more beautiful woman, because you are already awesome! She discusses what she considers the top five issues that keep you from living a full life — fear, insecurity, comparisons, anger and control — with great narratives and descriptions. How many times do we compare ourselves to our co-workers in regards to our work ethic? We always evaluate our beauty, weight, skin, hair, and, even, our height to other women. We feel insecure as if we are still 13 years old with pimples, braces, knobby knees and clumsiness. If you are single, you may have these issues come up in dating and the bad experiences take you back to those days when we did not have the confidence to talk to a boy. If you are married, you are concerned about your husband still finding you attractive. Nicole speaks to all women who struggle with these issues.

This book is wonderful God-driven therapy that assists you to learn about the perfectly-made woman that you are; helps you accept yourself including your shortcomings while realizing you can not change yourself without the power of God.  Prayer, journal entries, group discussions, and quizzes are fabulous tools of assessment that Nicole has created for you to use to open your spirit up for God to move, and I suggest you let Him do His thing.


Heart of a Champion: The Dominique Dawes Story
By Kim Washburn
Zondervan (Zonderkidz), May 2012

As one of the Magnificent Seven on the U.S. 1996 Olympic gymnastics team that won the gold medal, Dominique Dawes became famous around the world. What most people don’t know is what was going on inside Dominique’s mind throughout her gymnastics career.

The story, written for children and teens, takes you all the way from her early start in gymnastics, through her competitive and Olympic days, and ends with what she’s been doing since she retired. You learn about her faith in God and how it got her through not only competitions, but through other times in her life.  While Dawes always looked confident on the outside, she suffered from self-esteem issues. God doesn’t expect you to be perfect, but the judges and audience often do. Faith, and some kind words from another gymnast’s mom, got her to the other side where she is confident to the core.

She also leaned heavily on God after she retired from the sport. She did not know what to do next in her life and fell into a depression. Only through prayer, reflection, and quiet time listening to Him did she discover the next steps — motivating and empowering people through broadcasting and speaking engagements. She now serves on the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition and teaches both children and adults how important it is to be healthy.

This book may be written for a younger audience, but adults will also learn a lot about improving self-esteem and having stronger faith. I certainly felt more empowered after reading about Dominique’s journey. So get this book for your daughters, granddaughters, and nieces…and once they are done reading, ask to borrow it!

Marie Cauley

Five Miles South of Peculiar
By Angela Hunt
Howard Books, June 2012

Sisters are wonderful to have but they can be trying at times. With Hunt’s Sisters of Sycamores, you will feel the love in the air, especially when the long-lost sister returns. The Sycamores is a beautiful estate belonged to the Caldwells, a little way down from a small town called Peculiar. Soon-to-be 50-year-old twins, Darlene and Carlene, are different from day and night. Darlene lives at the Sycamores, has been a mother, wife and now is widow; Carlene has experienced divorce and pressures of the limelight to be successful. Darlene is the grounded, straight shooter who gets right down to business, even asking a pastor why he was forced out of a church. She speaks her mind, but  is also hard-working and disciplined. Meanwhile, Carlene pursued a career on Broadway. Unfortunately, she had to end her career due throat injury that resulted in unsuccessful surgery. Carlene had to make a tough decision to leave New York and return home.

The story does not end with the widow and the divorcee; for they have a younger sister named Magnolia (or Nolie for short), she is 40 years old with a care-free spirit who has never been married nor had any children; instead, she has two dogs: Lucy and Ricky. When a stranger comes to the Sycamores to find work and shelter, they show some Southern hospitality but Nolie becomes a little sweet on the man. I love this book due to the fact that the characters represent all women: divorced, married with children, widowed and single with no children. We can learn how they deal with heartache, disappointment, and forgiveness while we take a trip down South where the Sycamores grow.



1 Comment

  1. Camille

    October 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    It is OK for women to read serious books about science, history, and politics. “How Great Women Lead” looks like a good choice. Let’s turn off the TV, pick up a book, and continue to educate ourselves!

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