The 5 Best Books for Understanding the Dominican Republic

The brand-new website, Shepherd, asked me to share some recommendations of books related to my first book, Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola.

I was intrigued by the story of the book-loving founder, Ben Fox, who launched the site in April 2022 after deciding there HAD to be a better way to find books than relying on algorithms. So he started reaching out to authors for their recommendations.

Below are five novels that together give a good overview of the Dominican Republic, with a particular focus on the mid-twentieth century onward. I prioritized books that either were written in English or had excellent translation. I also chose books that can be easily found, because who wants to be intrigued by a book and then frustrated that they can’t buy or borrow it? Unfortunately, that knocked several worthy candidates off of the list.

So, without further ado, here is my annotated list of the 5 best novels for understanding the Dominican Republic:

Once you’ve read the list, take some time to explore Shepherd, which has many wonderful lists. Here are just a few:

Here are recommendations by 21 authors for their favorite books on Latin America.

Recommendations from Russell Crandall on the 5 best books on US involvement in Latin America.

Recommendations from Daniel Loedel on the 5 best books of Latin American magical realism.

When you find some that you like, order them from the links on Shepherd to support their good work.

And keep visiting! Ben and his team are adding more books and lists every day.

You Are What You Risk Korean Edition Launches

YOU ARE WHAT YOU RISK is now available in South Korea via Miraebooks

Media coverage:

Maeil Business Newspaper author interview: ‘Grey Rhino’ asks again after 5 years “Your risk fingerprint… Did you understand?”

Maeil Business Newspaper review

Newsis.com review

Econonovil[Taesan Joo Book Review] “The second ‘gray rhino’ is running, get on it!”

YOU ARE WHAT YOU RISK Romanian Edition Launches

You Are What You Risk is now available in Romanian as Esti Tot Ce Risti, published by Editura Creator.

Esti tot ce risti. Arta stiintei de a naviga printr-o lume incerta.

Esti tot ce risti este un apel clar pentru o conversatie cu totul noua despre relatia noastra cu riscul si incertitudinea. In aceasta carte revolutionara, Michele Wucker analizeaza de ce este atat de important sa intelegeti amprenta de risc si cum sa va faceti relatia de risc sa functioneze mai bine in afaceri, viata si in lume. Bazandu-se pe povesti de risc convingatoare din intreaga lume si tesand in cercetarea economica, antropologie, sociologie si psihologie, Wucker face o punte intre conversatiile profesionale si cele cu risc laic. Ea contesta stereotipurile cu privire la atitudinile de risc, reincadreaza modul in care sunt legate de gen si de risc si arunca o noua lumina asupra diferentelor dintre generatii. Ea arata cum noua stiinta a “personalitatii de risc” remodeleaza afacerile si finantele, cum ecosistemele de risc sanatoase sprijina economiile si societatile si de ce o atitudine dispusa la risc poate rezolva conflictele.

Wucker impartaseste informatii, instrumente practice si strategii dovedite care va vor ajuta sa intelegeti ce va face cine sunteti si sa faceti alegeri mai bune. Esti tot ce risti introduce un nou vocabular pentru a vorbi despre aceste amenintari. Toata lumea are o “amprenta de risc” personalizata care descrie ce fel de risc isi asuma, modelata de personalitatea, educatia si experientele lor. Intarirea “muschiului de risc” te poate ajuta sa iei decizii bune. Wucker se concentreaza pe examinarea situatiilor dificile personale si se apropie de crizele globale, analizand modul in care oamenii se lupta cu alegerile si incertitudinea. – Grist, revista online americana non-profit 

Dupa cum ilustreaza Silicon Valley, atitudinile si comportamentele de risc se afla in centrul motivului pentru care organizatiile si economiile prospera sau se indreapta spre dezastru. In Esti tot ce risti, Michele Wucker exploreaza dinamica din spatele relatiilor indivizilor si companiilor cu riscul, de la experienta personala la valorile culturale si pana la ecosistemele politice. Cunostintele sale originale si recomandarile practice ii vor ajuta pe cititori sa aleaga asumarea sanatoasa a riscurilor in locul greselilor periculoase din afaceri, viata si lume. – Deborah Perry Piscione autor al Secrets of Silicon Valley: What Everyone Else Can Learn from the Innovation Capital of the World 

Fie ca esti investitor, antreprenor, ca incerci pur si simplu sa-ti croiesti cariera strategic in orice domeniu, vei beneficia de abordarea inovatoare si clara a lui Michele Wucker de a-ti asuma riscuri intelepte si de a naviga in incertitudine. Aceasta carte va va ajuta sa treceti de la obisnuit  la extraordinar. – Laura Huang, profesor de administrarea afacerilor la  Harvard Business School si autor al Ascendent. Cum sa transformi dificultatile in avantaje 

Michele Wucker a inventat termenul de “rinocer gri” care simbolizeaza o noua perspectiva asupra evenimentelor probabile, evidente, de impact si care ne ofera posibilitatea de a alege sa actionam. Ea este autoarea a patru carti influente, inclusiv The Gray Rhino: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore, care a mutat pietele financiare, a modelat politica guvernamentala si strategiile de afaceri din intreaga lume. Totodata, a inspirat o discutie populara TED care extinde teoria “rinocerului gri” la probleme personale. Fost director media si CEO Think Tank (Grup de experti), este fondatoarea firmei de consultanta strategica Gray Rhino & Company din Chicago. A fost recunoscuta de World Economic Forum ca Young Global Leader si ca bursiera Guggenheim.

NYC Allows Legal Immigrants to Vote in City Elections

The New York City Council has overwhelmingly approved a bill to allow more than 800,000 lawfully present immigrants to vote in municipal elections, becoming the largest U.S. city to do so. As a founding member of the New York Coalition to Expand Voting Rights, created in 2003 to research, recommend, and advocate for the ideas that culminated in this new policy, I could not be prouder. Even though I moved to Chicago in 2014, part of my heart will always remain in New York City and I am so happy that New Yorkers who support vibrant democracy have finally carried this initiative over the finish lines.

If this is the first time you are hearing about noncitizen voting –which was widespread in the U.S. until early in the twentieth century– please wait before you pass judgment. Many of the arguments of opponents simply do not hold water. The word “citizen” comes from the days when people’s allegiances lay with their cities because nations did not yet exist. The NYC policy does not allow voting in state or federal elections, so does not remove an incentive for recent immigrants to become U.S. citizens. To the contrary, it helps prepare them to become full federal citizens as they wait until they are eligible.

Below is the testimony that I delivered to the New York City Council for November 14, 2005 hearings on Intro. 628, the first bill introduced in favor of municipal voting rights for lawfully present non-citizens.

“Why the Voting Rights Restoration Act (Intro. 628) Is Good for New York City”

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on why New York City should allow non-citizens who reside legally in this city to vote in municipal elections. My name is Michele Wucker and I am a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute at The New School, where my research focuses on immigration and citizenship issues, particularly on how immigrants integrate into their host communities, on the policies that can promote or retard that process, and on the consequences. With Ron Hayduk, I am a co-founder and co-director of the Immigrant Voting Project (www.immigrantvoting.org), which documents and analyzes the initiatives to enfranchise non-citizens around the United States and the world, both throughout history and during a revival of the practice that began in the 1960s and accelerated in the 1990s through the present.

You’ve heard important testimony today about rights, democracy, and the ways that non-citizens would benefit from being given a voice in the city’s affairs. But I wouldn’t blame you, or your constituents, for asking, “What’s in it for me?”

All New Yorkers should care whether or not non-citizen New Yorkers can vote in city elections for the same reason that we care whether anybody votes at all. It’s not at all hard to see why people are alarmed that the voter turnout last week was below 40% and the lowest in five mayoral elections. Municipal voter participation reflects how much residents care about the city where they live and how much of a stake they feel they have. A recent New York Times Magazine article argued that, given that the likely benefit to any one individual of casting a vote is tiny, it’s a wonder that anyone votes at all. The broader community benefits far more than any individual does when he or she casts a vote.

In Fall 2003, the Los Angeles community of Lynwood, where 44% of voting-age residents are not citizens, discovered the hard way what happens when a large part of the community is disenfranchised. Taxpayers were funding Lynwood City Council members’ exorbitant salaries, fancy meals and junkets to Rio de Janeiro and Hawaii. The whole city suffered because the local government was not accountable to all of its residents.

When a city fails to create engaged local citizens, the consequences can be devastating, as has been happening in the immigrant suburbs of Paris. Similarly, the 1992 Washington Heights riots here in New York City were caused in part because community residents were isolated from the rest of the city and felt they had little say or influence over policies that affected them. The solution was to develop policies to address residents’ needs. In Washington, D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood in 1991, ethnically charged riots inspired several suburbs to respond by granting local voting rights to noncitizen residents as a way of making sure that their concerns were addressed before they reached a breaking point.

When I first heard about the idea of noncitizen voting rights, my reaction was similar to the one I often get today when I tell others about the work of the Immigrant Voting Project and the New York Coalition to Expand Voting Rights. Why would someone bother to become a citizen if they already enjoyed the right to vote? While it is an understandable reaction, because Americans are far more likely to vote in national elections than local ones, it also is mistaken. The New York movement, like many similar ones across the country, only involves city-level voting rights; you still must be a citizen to vote for, say, President of the United States.

Adopting a new nationality is an emotional and very personal decision. Legal residents must wait five years before they can even apply to become a naturalized citizen, a long and often frustrating process. For many immigrants, the big hurdle in deciding to apply for naturalization is emotional: when they say the Pledge of Allegiance, they want to mean it. They want to feel like they belong to a place before they do the paperwork and undergo a process that is so complicated and frustrating that only those who really want to be citizens will go through. Giving incipient Americans a voice in their communities is a way to create involved, educated citizens at the local level, which will encourage many of them to go on to become U.S. citizens as well. At the same time, by cultivating all immigrants as citizens of this great city, New York will benefit immensely by welcoming into our civic life even those individuals who may not ever naturalize.

Becoming a “citizen of the city” is very different, both emotionally and in terms of results, from being a citizen of a nation. While it is only logical to think long and hard before changing their nationality, people are arguably citizens of a new city the minute that they take a job, sign a lease, enroll their children in schools, or begin a school semester of their own. Everyone who lives in a city immediately have an interest in securing safe and clean streets, good schools, and reliable and affordable transportation and health care. City officials’ decisions have immediate and tangible effects on the daily lives of every single resident: whether we have to walk through garbage or pass by crack dealers on the corner, how long we have to wait at the bus stop or subway station. We cannot afford to wait until the newest New Yorkers become U.S. citizens to make them full citizens of the city.

All residents depend on their neighbors being willing and able to participate in making sure that elected officials know what their needs are and meet them. Last year, I moved to Washington Heights, a neighborhood that is heavily populated by recent immigrants who, because of their citizenship status, cannot vote. I had to depend on the “A” train, which I quickly learned was unreliable at best. But, because the residents of Washington Heights had only a limited political voice, nobody expected more frequent or reliable train service any time soon. Meanwhile, lower Washington Heights finally succeeded in ending the skip-stop 9 train and increasing 1 train service, a feat achieved only when the number of likely voters to be courted hit critical mass. I think about the businesses that depend on reliable transportation for their workers no matter what their citizenship status and about the citizens who cannot get the services they need because their neighbors have no voices. And in these examples, I hope that you too will see clearly the answer to the question, “What’s in it for me?”

YOU ARE WHAT YOU RISK

YOU ARE WHAT YOU RISK: The New Art and Science of Navigating an Uncertain World, is now available at your favorite bookseller. Please support your local independent bookstore.

The book is:
A Next Big Idea Club Spring 2021 Nominee
An AudioFile Earphones Award honoree (audiobook edition)
A Porchlight Books Editor’s Choice

YOU ARE WHAT YOU RISK: A Review by Anne Janzer
Q&A with Deborah Kalb
Grist: The World Is Getting Scarier

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: 40 Books for Summer Reading
BookBits: Six More for the Investor’s Bookshelf
Practical eCommerce: 14 New Business Books for 2021

What drives a sixty-four-year-old woman to hurl herself over Niagara Falls in a barrel? Why are cor­porate boards paying more attention to risky personal behavior by CEOs? Why are some countries quicker than others to recognize—and manage—risks like pandemics, technological change, and the climate crisis?

The answers to these questions define each person, organization, and society as distinctively as a finger­print. Understanding the often-surprising origins of these risk fingerprints can open your eyes, inspire new habits, catalyze innovation and creativity, improve teamwork, and provide a beacon in a world that suddenly seems more uncertain than ever.

How you see risk and what you do about it depend on your personality and experiences; culture and values; the people around you; and even unexpected things like what you’ve eaten recently, the temperature in the room, or the fragrance in the air. Being alert to these often-unconscious influences will help you to seize opportunity and avoid danger.

You Are What You Risk is a clarion call for a new conversation about our relationship with risk and uncertainty. In this ground-breaking and accessible book, Michele Wucker examines why it’s so important to understand your risk fingerprint, and how to make your risk relationships work better in business, life, and the world.

Drawing on compelling stories from risk takers around the world and weaving in economics and social psychology, Wucker bridges the divide between professional and lay risk conversations. She challenges stereotypes about risk attitudes, shows how the new science of “risk personality” is re-shaping business and finance, and reveals how embracing risk empathy can resolve conflicts. Wucker shares insights, practical tools, and proven strategies that will help you to make better choices, both big and small.

“There’s a huge need in the business world to better understand the human factors behind how we perceive and evaluate risks, and there’s no better guide than Michele Wucker. Drawing on the stories of compelling risk-takers, practical research, and proven strategies, You Are What You Risk treads essential new territory for executives who want their organizations to be innovative, creative, and industry leaders.” — Danielle Harlan, author of The New Alpha: Join the Rising Movement of Influencers and Changemakers Who are Redefining Leadership

“The world is complex. But if we can’t be aware of all things happening everywhere all the time, can we at least have a framework for understanding what risks loom large and small in our lives, and start to think rationally – as individuals, companies, governments, and societies – about how to respond? You Are What You Risk delivers that story, that framework, and that action plan.”
  — Parag Khanna, author of Connectography and How to Run the World

“As Silicon Valley illustrates, risk attitudes and behaviors are at the heart of why organizations and economies thrive or head for disaster. In You Are What You Risk, Michele Wucker explores the dynamics behind individuals’ and companies’ relationships with risk, from personal experience to cultural values to policy ecosystems. Her original insights and practical recommendations will help readers choose healthy risk-taking over dangerous missteps in business, life, and the world.”

  — Deborah Perry Piscione, author of Secrets of Silicon Valley and The Risk Factor

“Whether you’re an investor, entrepreneur, of simply trying to forge your career strategically in any field, you’ll benefit from Michele Wucker’s innovative, clear-eyed approach to taking wise risks and navigating uncertainty. This book will help you to get from ordinary to extraordinary.” — Laura Huang, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and Author of EDGE: Turning Adversity into Advantage

The Gray Rhino in BTS hit single”Blue & Grey”

The gray rhino inspired a lyric in the hit single “Blue & Grey” by the global K-pop phenomenon BTS released with its album BE in November 2020. BTS, which is known for smashing music records and bringing needed attention to under-appreciated issues, shone a full-on spotlight on mental health with “BE.” Vox called the release “essential pandemic pop.” The hit singles “Life Goes On” and “Blue & Grey” (which Rolling Stone called the album’s standout song) in particular refer to the pain of depression and loneliness during lockdown but offer a message of hope: we can get through this and life goes on.

A rap line in “Blue & Grey” uses the gray rhino as a metaphor for anxiety and depression: “This lump of metal does feel heavy/ A grey rhino that is coming toward me/ Absently, I stand with vacant eyes.”

Listen to the song along with real-time translations here:

My tweet about the song, which BTS’ official account “liked,” went viral and generated headlines in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea.

Watch below as BTS’s V (Kim Tae-hyun), who wrote the main text of Blue & Grey and was producer for the song, interviews J-Hope (Jung Ho-seok), who wrote and performed the song’s rap overlay including the gray rhino lyric. J-Hope begins discussing the concept around 9:10 in the video, explaining that “It’s also a term used in economics… It’s a term used to describe a danger that you’re aware is approaching, but you neglect and ignore it. Grey rhino is used to describe those dangers. And when I used that term it was like having a face-to-face with myself. The job I have has many dangerous factors, and there are other dangerous factors. But for these parts I have to carry with me the dangers I can’t be sure of. So instead of being afraid of it, I wanted to face it. And that’s what I wanted to convey.” In response, V says, “When I saw the lyrics, ‘gray rhino,’ I told our producers, ‘Holy moly, baam. Wow, grandfather!’ I think I’ve used all the exclamations I can think of!”

YOU ARE WHAT YOU RISK -Coming April 2021

The #1 international bestselling author of The Gray Rhino offers a bold new framework for understanding and re-shaping our relationship with risk and uncertainty to live more productive and successful lives.

What drives a sixty-four-year-old woman to hurl herself over Niagara Falls in a barrel? Why do some people wait until the last minute to get to the airport while others get there much earlier than they need to? Why do entrepreneurs thrive in the face of uncertainty, while others cringe at the thought of leaving a stable nine-to-five job? Why are some countries quicker than others to face up to risks like pandemics, technological change, and climate crisis?

The answers to these questions define each person, organization, and society as distinctively as a fingerprint. Our risk fingerprints are a critically important but overlooked catalyst for innovation and creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, and success. They explain why we seize opportunities and avert obvious dangers –or succumb to stagnation, fear and failure. We ignore them at our peril, yet traditional risk management

In You Are What You Risk, Wucker examines why we avoid risk, when we should embrace it, and how we can re-examine our relationship with uncertainty, danger, and opportunity for both personal and professional success.

Risk-takers are motivated by factors as broad as culture and values, as specific as their personalities and past experiences, and as strategic as calculations about how much they have to gain or lose. But the deciding factor in whether they make good or bad bets lies in their awareness of the often-unconscious influences on their perceptions, choices, and behaviors.

Drawing on the stories of risk takers around the globe, and integrating economic, anthropological, sociological, and psychological insights, this ground-breaking and accessible book offers a completely new way to understand and face a changing world.

Wucker reveals insights, practical tools, and proven strategies that will help readers seize ownership of risk and make better choices, whether big and small. She shows how the new science of “risk personality” is beginning to shape business and finance, drawing on examples of activists, businesses, and countries seeking to create a healthy risk ecosystem that supports creativity, innovation, and positive entrepreneurship. 

You Are What You Risk answers important questions: Why are some people good at averting crises at work but a mess in their personal lives? Why are we more likely to take chances when we are part of a group than when on our own? Are we born with our risk attitudes or do we pick them up along the way? What is the right amount of uncertainty to live with?

Risk decisions have never been more crucial, particularly in a world where political turmoil, economic insecurity, technological transformation, and climate change have exposed us to unprecedented levels of vulnerability. You Are What You Risk is a clarion call for a new approach to risk, one that will surprise and challenge us as we look towards the future.

In the US: Pegasus Books (April 2021)

International English: Simon & Schuster International (May 2021)

Audio: Oasis (April 2021)

China: CITIC (2021)

Taiwan: Commonwealth (2021)

South Korea: Mirae Books (2022)

Pre-order HERE or at your favorite bookseller.

THE GRAY RHINO Kindle Sale: $2.99 for July only

For July 2020 only, the Kindle/ebook edition of THE GRAY RHINO is on sale for $2.99 across all digital platforms. Don’t miss this chance to get your copy of the #1 best seller in financial risk management –and even better, gift it to friends and colleagues!