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Book Review | Tarnished

publication date: Feb 9, 2022
author/source: Joanne Linka

Have you ever had this experience? Someone raves about a book, or you read a glowing review, and you think “Yes! I need to read that book!” So, you go ahead and buy it, read it and…. meh. You are underwhelmed and wonder why that other person loved it so much. Maybe it was too much build up? Maybe you just have a different standard for “A GREAT BOOK” or maybe it just wasn’t the right time for you and that book to encounter each other. Whatever the reason, it is a disappointment and let down.

In light of this preamble, I hesitate to rave about Tarnished, simply because I don’t want you to be let down if it doesn’t meet your expectations for A GREAT BOOK. However, the honest truth is that I thought this was not only a great book, but also a very important book - one that every leader in the social profit sector needs to read. Let me tell you why.

Those of us who have worked in the social profit sector know that it doesn’t take long to recognize the challenges and quirks of the sector. This includes: low pay, the welfare mentality, the struggle with toxic workplaces and colleagues, a high burnout rate… and the list goes on. Many note these things and just stick it out – it’s the “extra tax” we pay to do rewarding work. Others get worn down to a nub and end up leaving the sector. Tarnished offers a third, much better option: it provides tools and resources to create change in our beloved sector.

Author Maryann Kerr does not shy away from telling it like it is. She discusses toxic bosses and work environments, the insidious damage of racism, wage disparities, white saviourism, gender inequities and how culture can make or break an organization. But she doesn’t just discuss these challenges, she offers tools and resources to deal with them. Every chapter includes resources and “further reading” to assist the reader in finding solutions and opportunity for growth and change. Her goal is to challenge all of us to consider how to improve organizational health and wellbeing.

A few other things that I loved about the book:

  1. It is Canadian and offers Canadian research, resources and solutions.
  2. Kerr shares personal stories about her own experiences and the experiences of others in the sector to illustrate how deeply damaging some organizational practices are and the impacts they have had on the wider sector.
  3. Kerr calls our sector what it is: “social profit” – not what it isn’t: “non-profit.” If we want our community to recognize the value of what we do, we need to present our work with language that defines our value. We are much more than just non-profit – we are community benefit, social profit, investing-in-people organizations doing essential work in our community. The fact that we don’t earn a profit says nothing about our work and everything about the lack of value that has been afforded to the important work that we do.

Tarnished will open your eyes to the many challenges and disparities that our sector is facing, and it will also give you encouragement and resources to take on some of those challenges. Together, we can bring change and health to our sector, and continue providing the essential services that our community needs. Go get the book – you won’t be disappointed!

Joanne Linka is the Manager of Communication and Fund Development at The Cridge Centre for the Family in Victoria BC. She loves to dig into systemic issues and look for solutions that benefit the wider community. She can rant on any number of issues at the drop of a hat. When not working, Joanne is reading, in the garden or pestering her children.

Tarnished is published by Civil Sector Press, a division of The Hilborn Group.

You can learn more about Tarnished and purchase it here.


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