Shelf Life: Tanya Beat

Tanya Beat is the director of the San Mateo County Commission on the Status of Women, opens a new window and the LGBTQ Commission, opens a new window, as well as serving as staff liaison to the Domestic Violence Council, opens a new window. as well as various county diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives. Her specialties include youth development and leadership, girls and women's issues, asset-based community development, program implementation, coaching, training, and volunteer management.

We asked Tanya about what she's reading and some of the books that have made the biggest impact in her life. Read on for her responses.

What are you currently reading?

I love Brené Brown and am reading her latest book, Atlas of the Heart. I always have to mentally prepare to read her because of how honest and raw her work strikes me. It’s like going home. I seek the comfort of her compassion and end up not being able to sleep because of the rawness and realness of vulnerability. I love how she takes her research and qualitative stories to tell stories of fear, shame, armoring up and how to take down those walls and have the courage to be vulnerable. How that process of vulnerability heals and fulfills and how it allows us to love and be loved.

I first read the Gifts of Imperfection in 2012 when I was going through my certification program for personal development coaching. Two years previously I had gone through huge changes in my personal and professional worlds. This book rocked me to the core and aligned with this new life I was embracing where the foundation was authenticity, self-love, self-compassion and gratitude. “Gifts” simply reaffirmed my life purpose of love – love for myself and helping others to self-love while including practices of kindness and compassion.

Is there a book that had a big influence on your life?

I read The Art of Happiness by his Holiness the Dalai Lama when I first moved to Northern California. The Dalai Lama is full of grace, humor and compassion. His teachings have allowed me to gain perspective from a place of empathy and to understand that happiness is more about peace and fulfillment than a constant state of joy and ecstasy. The connection to others grounds us and is truly of most value when we look at a life of fulfillment.

What kind of reader were you as a child?

I’m the youngest of three and my mother was an English teacher, so I grew up in a house of books. I loved to read but also remember being shy around new people. My mother tells me a story how my first-grade teacher thought I couldn’t read. One day, we were doing circle reading – basically the student circled around her for reading out loud – she had to leave the room for a minute and when she came back, she found me reading to the group. I was too shy to read in front of her but not my friends. To this day I’m a huge supporter of varied teaching methods and ways to support neurodiverse learning.

A series I loved as a child was the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – now commonly known as the Chronicles of Narnia. It was a foundation for my love of fantasy and escapism.

Tell us about a book you like to give as a gift

There is not one book I give as a gift as it all depends on the person. I value books with simple stories and usually point back to gratitude, love, forgiveness, kindness and community.

Some of my favorite books to gift include:

Is there a book you actually hate?

A book that scarred me was Educated by Tara Westover.

What I thought would be an inspirational story of a girl’s resilience turned out to be a story of trauma and pain and then that girl’s decision to do whatever she needed to do to remove herself from that trauma. It’s an amazing story but it’s very triggering and not for the faint of heart.

What book have you reread more than any other?

Daughters of a Coral Dawnis a comfort read. I wouldn’t say it’s high literature. In fact, I would call it like I see it: pure fluff and escapism. Written in 1984 by Katherine V. Forrest, it’s a story of lesbians in space who find a new planet to live on after Earth is falls apart. It makes me smile because it’s the corniest sci-fi lesbian fiction I’ve ever read but that’s the point. Everyone needs that book that they can go to any time for an afternoon of queer space love..

Is there a book that made you cry and laugh?

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I love this book beyond life! Junior is someone who I could always identify with. He’s funny, a cartoonist, and is trying to balance two worlds: one of which is on the Rez and the other is through school that allows him a future off the Rez. Heartbreaking, funny, and poignant.

Shelf Life is an occasional series of San Mateo County Libraries, where we talk to the San Mateo County community about books books books! Inspiration taken from book pages everywhere, including The Guardian and the New York Times.