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Jul 24

Author Jamie Ford - Empathy, Part 1

Posted on July 24, 2020 at 7:56 AM by Bobbie Clark

Back in 2018, the Lewis and Clark Library Foundation brought Jamie Ford to Helena for his presentation: Racebending: Adventures in a Bi-Cultural World. If you were unable to attend this event, check it out on the Foundation’s YouTube channel. Mr. Ford is the author of three historical fiction novels, all set in Seattle, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetSongs of Willow Frost and Love and Other Consolation PrizesHis work often portrays heart-breaking injustices bravely endured by his Chinese- and Japanese- American characters. 

Recently, I asked Jamie Ford about empathy and reading books—a subject I find myself thinking about a lot lately: how can reading fiction increase the reader’s ability to feel empathy? Studies show that reading increases empathy in children, is this also true for adults? Can reading fiction increase our ability to understand and share the feelings of others? 

Jamie Ford suggests our culture is experiencing an empathy deficit right now and further explains, “For generations, people read books and listened to music that was a mirror. It reflected them. I think books really should be a window to see someone else’s experience, and when you do that, you exercise your empathy muscles and it makes the world a better place, makes communities healthier.” 

What do you think? Does reading allow you to more deeply understand a situation and empathize with other people, especially those who have had a much different life experience?  Check out the Jamie Ford’s book recommendations below. Take a look inside these ‘windows’ and see if they might strengthen your empathy muscles, too. 

Empathy 1 

The House of Broken Angels 

By Luis Alberto Urrea 

"All we do, mija, is love. Love is the answer. Nothing stops it. Not borders. Not death."  

 Available in the library catalog HERE 

Also available in digital format: 

Montana Library2Go Ebook 


Empathy 2 

Almost American Girl 

By Robin Ha 

“A powerful and moving teen graphic novel memoir about immigration, belonging, and how arts can save a life.” 

Available in the library catalog HERE 

Watch Robin Ha give an art lesson in “How to Draw a Comic” HERE 


Empathy 3 

Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison  

By Shaka Senghor 

During the author’s nineteen years in prison, seven of which were spent in solitary confinement, Mr. Senghor discovers the tools he needs to become an activist and mentor. 

Available in digital format: 

Montana Library2Go Ebook 


Empathy 4 

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You 

By Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi 

Read this highly-accessible book written for teens. It’s an adaptation of the original book by Ibram X. Kendi. 

Available in the library catalog HERE 

Also available in digital format: 

Montana Library2Go Ebook and Audiobook 


Empathy 5 

Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States 

By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz 

Native American scholar Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a radical rewrite of traditional U.S. history. 

Available in the library catalog HERE 

Also available in digital format: 

Montana Library2Go - Young People’s version Ebook 

Hoopla Audiobook 


Empathy 6 

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration 

By Isabel Wilkerson 

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. 

Available in the library catalog HERE 

Also available in digital format: 

Axis 360 Ebook 

Montana Library2Go Ebook 

Empathy 7 

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness 

By Michelle Alexander 

“Alarming, provocative and convincing.” Kirkus Reviews 

Available in digital format: 

Axis 360 Ebook 

Montana Library2Go Ebook and Audiobook 


 Empathy 8  

Check out books by author Pat Conroy, one of Jamie Ford’s favorite authors  

Available in the library catalog HERE 

Also available in digital format: 

Read more about Pat Conroy and his work HERE 


Do you have a book to recommend? Tell us about it in the comments. 




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