Shalini Shankar through her newest book, Beeline: What Spelling Bees Reveal About Generation Z’s New Path to Success, gave insight and commentary on the differences between generations starting with the baby boomers, immigration and race, and of course, the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Thoughtful and well-written, the book reads more like a documentary than a thesis, keeping you engaged and connected to the people introduced throughout the entirety of the book.
Shankar, makes note of the differences between the parenting styles of each generation, beginning with the Baby Boomers, and how each generation is separated along with what was and is expected of them. She also points out that the generation titles that group people together are all based on white middle-class standards and doesn’t include immigrants or first-gens. With a focus on the South Asian community, the book shows that you can’t put everyone under the same umbrella and anyone seen outside of that umbrella is seen as a threat to the white population in the United States. This became evident when the South Asian community started to take part in the Bee, became committed to this brain sport. and each winner from the past decade have all been South Asian and people started to question why the people at the top were no longer white.
From countless interviews over the past five years, Shankar was able to see how intensely the students had studied and prepared for the Bee. She was also able to share the social impact that each child has had during Bee Week and the change it has made to not only their lives, but to their parents’ as well. Preparing for the Bee is a family effort, with the preparation, encouragement, and financial commitment needed in order to compete against the dictionary.
Beeline was insightful and eye-opening to the world of the Bee and into how Generation Z, in my opinion, will be and already is, the most successful, hardworking, diverse and multi-talented generation. The market has taken note and society continues to change in order to keep up. With this book, every reader has the chance to get a glimpse of the increasing pressure on what it means to be successful, the changes in the expectations of childhood and what it means to be American.