Summer Reading 2020

Jamil Zaki

Summer Reading Response Prompts

 Please select one of the prompts below and reflect on it. Then, compose a short (1-2 page) response using specific examples from the text. For information about how to properly cite a quotation or paraphrase, refer to the information included below. Be prepared to submit your response to your First-Year Seminar professor on the first day of class, and to engage in a discussion of the book.

1: Your Empathy Range and Mindset

In the first chapter, Zaki describes how our ability to empathize is not a fixed quality; rather, the strength of our empathy is greatly influenced by our experiences and our mindset. More importantly, we can purposely change our level of empathy (move ourselves along our “empathic range”) both by adopting a mobilist mindset toward empathy and by consciously practicing empathy skills (27).

Start by taking the empathy quiz developed by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley (You can choose to reveal your score or not in your reflection.) Then, compose a reflection on your own empathy range and mindset, considering how they have been shaped by previous experiences, and the role you seem them playing in your future.

Then, as you write your reflection, consider some of the following:

Do you agree with the score you received? Why or why not?

What, specifically, has shaped your attitudes toward empathy?

To what extent do you feel your beliefs about empathy and empathic abilities will be important in your future? Why?

2: Receiving Empathy

In Chapter 5, Zaki recalls the medical professionals who treated his newborn daughter in an intensive care nursery. He describes them as “empathetic superheroes” and observes, “I’ve studied empathy for years, but I have rarely received it in such a profound way. These doctors, nurses, and technicians were strangers, yet they became the closest people to us at the hardest moment in our lives” (95). This experience inspired Zaki to explore the empathetic toll placed on medical professionals.

Compose a reflection on a time when you’ve been on the receiving end of empathy. How would you contextualize the empathy you experienced considering Zaki’s research?

Some questions you might consider include: How was empathy demonstrated? How did it make you feel? What did you learn about yourself or your “empathetic superhero” from that experience? 

3: Why is Empathy Difficult?

In Chapter 3, we are introduced to Ex- white supremacist Tony Macleer and learn about his path towards becoming an advocate for empathy and anti-racist practices. Through Macleer, Zaki outlines how “people effortlessly carve the world into insiders and outsiders . . . [and] boundaries between insiders and outsiders destroy virtually every type of empathy” (55). However, Zaki also describes at length the events in Macleer’s life that forced to him to embrace a more empathetic way of living, reminding readers that empathizing with those who are different from us is a choice.

Is there a time where you regret not displaying more empathy to someone or a group of people? Or a time when you have witnessed a person or group failing to empathize with others? Examining one of these experiences, compose a reflection on the challenges of empathy. How might Zaki interpret this situation? What social and personal factors made empathy difficult for you or the person you witnessed? How might these difficulties be overcome?

4: Take the Kindness Challenge

On his website, The War for Kindness, Jamil Zaki invites reader to engage in their own “kindness challenges” based on a few of the studies he referenced in the book. Zaki explains that “empathy is less like a fixed trait, and more like a skill, which we can work on and build—the same way you’d strengthen a muscle. To put the book’s principles into practice, I’ve developed a series of kindness challenges like exercises at an “empathy gym” that you can use to push yourself and connect better.” The challenges are listed here.

Select and complete one of the challenges Zaki outlines, and then reflect on your experience. Why did you select the challenge you did? What were your expectations going into the challenge? What was your experience like? Did you feel any personal growth? Did you experience empathy fatigue? Did your experience reflect those described in Zaki’s book, or did you have different results?

Citing an E-book in MLA Style:

The MLA Style Center outlines information on creating a full citation for an e-book.

The in-text citation for a quotation or paraphrase follows the style used for other books: the author’s last name and the page number for the cited material are listed in parenthesis at the end of the sentence.

Example: (Smith 2).

Note that it is important to make sure your citation reflects the static page number of the print-text version and not the device-specific page number, since that will vary depending on your device (iPad, Kindle, etc.). Your device should offer a way for you to see the static page number.

For information on what to do if you cannot figure out the static page number for your citation, check out the Madison College Libraries’ useful guide for citing e-books in MLA, APA, and Chicago.