This review of “Better Than We Found It” is sponsored by Candlewick Press.
What would it take to make the world a better place? In Better Than We Found It: Conversations to Save the World, authors Frederick Joseph and Porsche Joseph have an answer. Divided into sixteen issues that are affecting our world today — from the healthcare and housing crises to the spread of disinformation — Frederick and Porsche share personal stories and research on how these crises are holding us back from fulfilling our full potential and building a legacy of greatness for future generations. Each chapter is bolstered by expert insight and perspective and adds to an already empowering, inspiring and necessary discussion of the problems we are facing and how we can combat them.
Eye-Opening and Educational
No matter who you are, you will find something eye-opening and educational in this book. Every person should be given a copy and told to read with an open mind. I know this isn’t always easy but it is necessary.
As a cisgender white woman, I am constantly at work unpacking and educating myself, whether it is about other identities or communities, or the ways I can make a difference. When I was growing up, I didn’t understand privilege (especially coming from a single-parent home where my mom worked three jobs to make ends meet). I know if I had this book, one that takes time to explain and allow for growth and understanding, I might have had a better vocabulary and a way of using that privilege to help others. Students in similar situations can become better accomplices (a word used in place of ally as an accomplice is active in supporting oppressed communities) to groups outside of their own identities or find ways that they can better themselves and the world.
Becoming an accomplice is integral to making the world a better place. It’s checking your ableist comments and ideologies, it’s not allowing for transphobic comments, it’s supporting women’s equality and justice. By taking these steps, we can ensure that we allow for people to feel safe and live their best lives. And when people are doing that and have the space for safety and well-being, they can put their creativity, love, and intelligence out into the world. And when we do that, we can work on things together.
One of the most eye-opening chapters — and there are many — is the section on the military industrial complex. This might be a difficult chapter to read for some because, like many topics discussed in the book, it confronts an ingrained influence from companies and the government who need us to sustain a certain ideology. Did you know that a majority of our defense budget is spent on contractors to make new weapons rather than our troops and their well-being and health? Why is that? Profit. Companies make millions off of our fear. They don’t want peace. They want conflict and anything that will give them a reason to bill the government for new weapons or defense contracts —weapons that get into the wrong hands most of the time.
I could spend the rest of the review sharing what I learned and was stunned by, but I want you to explore it for yourself. Confront your previously held beliefs and investigate where they come from. Why do you believe that our country’s military needs billions to keep us safe? Do you know how that money is being spent? That bloated budget is the reason we are ranked below 25 other countries in education and health care. We may appear safe from the outside but inside, we’re struggling.
Empowering and Integral
Better Than We Found It is a call to action. It’s a gift but also a push, and it can feel overwhelming, as it left me with so many thoughts and ideas on the ways I want to help the world. Luckily, the authors have put together a website (BetterThanWeFoundItBook.com) to guide readers after they’ve finished taking it all in.
Young readers, especially, are this book’s target audience because they are at an age where they are open to new ideas and ready to make important changes. That isn’t to say that the authors expect every young reader to go out and solve every crisis but instead start a discussion that leads to education and betterment for themselves and others. For example, a young reader might not realize that their language is ableist, and they might help correct it among their friends and family. Or, after reading the fantastic chapter on Indigenous land theft, they might confront a curriculum in school that is racist or start a conversation with loved ones.
These young readers are the change makers, leaders, and voters of tomorrow, and it is integral to arm them with the truth and information necessary to making those decisions. And for adult readers, it’s never too late to change and do better. And this book is one way to start.
One of the best parts of Better Than We Found It are the conversations that Frederick and Porsche have with experts, activists, actors, and writers about the topics posed in every chapter. From Elizabeth Warren on education to author Nic Stone about the prison industrial complex, each conversation provides an added layer to an already exhilarating and instructive section. The way these figures opened up and shared their perspective, alongside the personal stories from Frederick and Porsche, was invaluable. As a reader, I felt like I was involved in the conversation, and witnessing that wisdom and grace helped me better understand these issues.
Over the course of 450 plus pages, I was amazed, horrified, angered, and empowered. I know that as Better Than We Found It is read around the world, I won’t be the only one to feel that way. After the events of 2016 and the pandemic, many of us realized that we cannot continue the status quo. Something needs to change. This book is a step in the right direction.
I will be revisiting this book often, and I’m excited to join the conversation. Even though I feel sadness and anger for a lot of what I’ve read (and helplessness after reading about our healthcare crisis, especially), I’m excited for readers (young and old) to find their passion after reading this book, and I want to know what stuck with them, what excited and spurred them into action.
Better Than We Found It: Conversations To Save The World by Frederick Joseph and Porsche Joseph was published on October 11, 2022.