“The books we’ve chosen deal with forms of justice, with peoples’ experiences of oppression and the quest for liberation.” — Sean
“We read these books to learn from them, to learn how we can make the world a better place.” — Nicole
Sean Eversley Bradwell is currently the Director of Outreach and Programs at Ithaca College and is the Vice President of the Ithaca City Schools Board of Education.
Nicole Eversley Bradwell is the Director of Graduate and Undergraduate Admission and a member of the Sciencenter and the Community Foundation boards. Both are Tompkins County Heritage Ambassadors, volunteering at The History Center In Tompkins County.
The Bradwell’s Recommended Books:
Where Do We Go From Here by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Still Life With Rice by Helie Lee
Double Bind by Robin Romm
Ebony & Ivy by Craig Steven Wilder
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
For Nicole, books were important from the beginning. One of her earliest memories was of a book bus that would come to her school. “It came just a few times a year and I was really excited about it, I looked forward to it coming,” she says. Nicole’s mother would read her books before bed, and once she was able to read they would sit and read books together several times a week. Her mother and grandmother passed books down to her as she got older’ Pat the Bunny was one book that was passed from her grandmother, to her mom, before being passed on to her.
“It meant a lot,” Nicole says. “I certainly knew which books were my mother’s books and which books were my grandmother’s books, and that helped convey to me that this was important — and it was time that we shared together.”
“Books were intentional in your family,” Sean said of Nicole, recalling how her mother would bring her books that she wanted Nicole to read.
Sean’s household was different from Nicole’s. “I don’t remember a book beyond the bible [in our house],” Sean says. His first memory of having books in the house was when his father bought a set of encyclopedias from a travelling salesman. “I remember the feeling that I had, that now I could know things,” he said. “I remember being really excited and sitting down and reading that — starting with aardvark and going through and trying to learn some things. I had to be 14.”
“I always associated books with wealth and since we were not a family of wealth books did not seem like they were for me,” Sean says. He remembered buying a book about a boy playing basketball from the scholastic book pamphlets and being surprised that he could read about anything. “That was probably the only book I owned beyond books I got from school… I remember thinking people write books about basketball? I can read about a young boy the same age as me? I remember being really excited that I owned that book.”
The couple’s love of reading has led to an immense home library — and not enough space for their ever-growing collection. They’ve made it a point to share their love of reading with their daughter, ensuring she always has access to books.
When it comes to the books that matter to them, Sean and Nicole both picked books discussing race and justice. “It’s probably fair to say that the one thing that several of the books have in common is that [some of them] deal with race, ethnicity, and culture within the United States,” Nicole said.
“Another similarity is that in many ways they deal with forms of justice, with people's experience of oppression. But I don’t want to focus there — I want to focus on people's quest for liberation,” Sean said. “That’s a very key similarity.”
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks follows what happened with the cells of a poor, African American tobacco farmer. They were taken without her knowledge and permission and used to make many advances in medicine — all while her family still couldn’t afford basic health care. “Reading that is a hard thing to read, but there’s a part of me that then feels we can now learn from this, we can do better,” Nicole said. “How we can make the world a better place knowing that these things happened?”
Sean’s books tend to also center on the topic of education. The book Ebony and Ivy discusses the foundation of slavery that most ivy league colleges are founded on, and how those racist ideals are still fed on those campuses. “We live in an ivy league town without understanding the forms of oppression that helped build the very structures that many of these ivy league institutions sit on,” Sean says.
With the busy day to day tasks everyone has, the couple has some concerns how the community is reading. “I’m concerned that the type of reading we know will change in such a way that we can never get back,” Nicole says. Sean points out that we’re expected to consume more information on a daily basis than ever before, making reading more of a chore than a pleasure. “I read more, although it’s vastly different, and I don’t get nearly the same enjoyment or intellectual stimulation,” Sean says.
“There’s so much packed in to our lives today,” Nicole says. “I don’t feel like I have that space and opportunity [to read],” Nicole says. “I remember being a child or even a high school student there were nights that I would stay up all night long to finish a book – I can’t remember the last time I did that, I’m too exhausted.”
At the end of the day, though, Sean thinks there’s hope for the reading community, especially in Ithaca. The couple notes the enthusiasm people seem to have for books: the Friends of the Library book sale, the number of libraries in the community, and just the access to books the community has in general.
“I think books are gonna make a comeback — that’s what I think,” Sean said.