Book club: food services manager Debbie Herrera uses books to teach life lessons

Herrera sits in her office during fourth period managing food data.

Herrera sits in her office during fourth period managing food data. Photo by Sebastian Zhang.

When food services manager Debbie Herrera lived in Merced, there was little to do, so her daughter spent much of her time reading books. As a result, Herrera found that books were powerful in teaching her daughter life lessons and frequently found books for her while also reading them herself.

After living in Merced, where 35 percent of residents live in poverty, Herrera now takes her daughter to volunteer at homeless shelters and retirement homes every Christmas and Thanksgiving. Having seen just how difficult it is to escape poverty, she brings up The Hunger Games, which a bookstore clerk recommended, to reject Suzanne Collins’s unrealistically ambitious formula for defeating poverty, to separate romanticized fiction from the real world.

As a mother, Herrera also wants the best for her daughter, who, now in high school, faces temptations of drugs, alcohol, sex and older, richer men — one of her daughter’s friends dates a cash-loaded man 14 years older and is now pregnant with their second child. Wishing to save her daughter from such a path, Herrera recommended 50 Shades of Grey to her to discourage her from pursuing older, wealthier men.

Click through the Soundcloud files to listen to Herrera’s insights.

The Hunger Games:

50 Shades of Grey:


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