Episode 20: Jewel Gilbert | Trying to Make the World a Better Place

On this week’s dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm, I talked with my dear friend Jewel Gilbert. This is the second part of our conversation, so if you missed part one, go back to episode 18 to catch up. We’ll wait! 

One of the things I love about Jewel is how much of a good listener she is, asking good questions and being supportive as I work things out verbally. You’ll get a little taste of that today. We talk about my little free library, Instagram and this podcast, reading diversely, and our shared struggles of learning about systemic racism and what to do about it. I found this conversation so hopeful, and it’s an important dialog. 


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Jewel on Instagram 

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The lovely Jewel Gilbert. Hear more from her on Episode 18 of the podcast! 

One of the first things Jewel asked me was "How's the Little Free Library going?" and at the time we hadn't finished it. We actually have now, so I'm taking this moment to show you some photos of the process! 
A newspaper box, blue, standing in weeds, next to a chain link fence. This is where we originally picked up the box with permission from The Kansas City Star
The original location of our newspaper box. I got permission from our local newspaper to have it, and they told me to go take one and just let them know which location I removed the box from! I was astounded.

the newspaper box after it was opened, being held open with a length of wood
It took $2 in quarters to open the box, which we were able to get back later! Propped it open until we could figure out how to keep it unlocked. Ryan ended up removing the latch.

Planning out the stenciled letters 

All painted! 

After the letters were done. 

Cutting and painting the wood for the shelves inside.

It's done! Ryan got the shelves installed and dragged the box to the end of the driveway. 

The first batch of books! So exciting. 

And here it is again once some more books from the neighbors and community have filtered in. I am loving being a little library steward! 

Speaking about neighbors, the across-the-street neighbors are moving which means that we will have new neighbors soon. They also might leave some books in the box. (The green hockey book on the right is from the current neighbor already!) The last new neighbors that moved in I brought them scones, so Jewel asked if I will also be baking scones to to take to the next new neighbors. Probably! And on the note of books and scones, I enjoyed this cozy mystery The Secret Book & Scone Society and feel like I could join their group now that I have a little free library and a great scone recipe (I usually used dried cherries instead of currants and add dark chocolate chips because pretty much EVERYTHING is better with chocolate). 

Jewel asked me how things are going in the world of Library Laura (blog, instagram, podcast, etc.) and we had a great chat. If you listened to my episode with Whitney, you heard us talk about how much we LOVE bookstagram. I do still love it, but with pandemic plus anti-racism talk, the conversations have gotten more serious and the responsibility I feel to use my platform well has grown. This isn't a bad thing! But it does mean that being on Instagram has gotten a bit more stressful for me at times, or that I over-think what I'm going to post a bit more. 

As we were talking about racial diversity and reading, I mentioned this article, which I found very insightful! It was Don’t Just Read About Racism—Read Stories About Black People Living in which Nic Stone, author of the best-selling young adult novel Dear Martin, explains why your anti-racist reading lists aren’t enough. I keep coming back to this idea again and again. I'm not a huge non-fiction reader anyway, so it feels more natural for me to approach this topic just like I would many others, through fiction and narrative. On that note, if you have any recommendations for fiction or memoirs by people of color, send them my way! 

Jewel's sister Joy follows me on Goodreads. Joy (apparently!) always enjoys seeing what I'm reading and what I think about it. When she heard that Jewel would be talking to me on the podcast, she said wanted to know about these two books:  
  • How to Be Fine - I found this one incredibly interesting and the audiobook was narrated by the authors. It's their experience after 3 years of doing their By The Book podcast. Every 2 weeks they read a self-help book and live by all its "rules." In How to Be Fine, they talked about what worked for them, what didn't, and what they wish they could see more of in self-help books. I loved their approach and their humor. 
  • Beach Read  A very "meta" take on writers block with a nice dose of romance. While the writing does deal with some heavier topics (content warning for suicide, cults, infidelity, and parent with cancer) it also was full of many delightful moments. Can I please own a bookstore with a coffee shop on the shores of Lake Michigan? Pretty please? 
While we were discussing trying to process difficult topics in books, Laura talked about Thursday Next Book 6: One of Our Thursdays Is Missing. There's a scene in which Sprockett the clockwork butler has a dial for expressing emotion, but not one for "worried" so it just ticks back and forth between "confused" and "sad" (If I remember correctly).  

Jewel read Becoming by Michelle Obama at the beginning of this year, and keeps coming back to it. She said it was realistic, hopeful, and inspiring. She recommended that I might enjoy reading it. I had seen it everywhere but I think I was accidentally being hipster and not reading it because it was "too cool." Ha! That's my bad and it's now on my list of books to read. 

I recently read From the Desk of Zoe Washington, and recommended it to Jewel during our conversation. Zoe has a pretty normal middle school life--she's trying to figure out how to feel about the boy next door, she loves to cook, she's trying to get good grades in school and get along with her parents. Then, on her 12th birthday, she gets a letter from her biological father, who's been in prison the whole time she's been alive. Without her mom's permission, she responds to the letter. As they write back and forth she learns more about her bio-dad. Then she asks more questions about why he's in jail in the first place, which leads her to information about wrongful convictions and the Innocence Project.

How to Not Get Shot by D. L. Hughley is another book that Jewel read recently and mentioned during our conversation. 

Jewel works in the mortgage industry and I used to work at an insurance agency. We talked about disparate treatment vs. disparate outcomes, equality vs. equity, and the times when we feel like our industries have been unfair or had negative impact on people because of race or poverty.  

I brought up a Netflix Series called Explained, specifically the episode about The Racial Wealth Gap (in season 1). As I am having conversations with people, I keep mentally coming back to this episode. It's only about 13 minutes long, but it lays out the financial implications of slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow all the way up to the mortgage crisis in 2008 and predatory lending practices on the wealth of people of color. It's powerful and I recommend watching it. 

There are some episodes where I feel like I am really able to capture in the blog post the feeling the episode gave me. I'm having a hard time doing that here! So use these links to get to the resources, but definitely go listen to this episode. It's good, but so hard to summarize. 

Feel free to comment below or get in touch with me on any thoughts or book recommendations. I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Jewel as much as I did! 

Until next time, with lots of literary love from my library to yours, have a wonderful day. 



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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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