What I'm Reading, the #blacklivesmatter Edition

posted on: Sunday, August 23, 2015

Racism and the systematic oppression of our black american citizens is a tradition in this country that is almost as old as our country itself. In the news lately we have seen case after case after heartbreaking case of how the lives of our fellow black americans are so devastatingly undervalued. Before the emergence of social media how many of these type of incidents have gone unnoticed or unreported in decades past? How many Michael Browns and Sandra Blands have come before? I suspect the number would be staggering. I suspect we would not want to know. I want to be one less blissfully ignorant white american and in taking one tiny step forward to better my understanding of the problem at hand I have been reading books on the subject of race in America.  

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a fantastic and refreshingly eye opening view on race and culture in America from an outsider's point of view. Fiction, the story follows the life of female protagonist Ifemelu, a Nigerian transplant living in America, as she learns to cope with what it means to be black in America when you come from a country where you have never before been a minority. Near the end of the novel she returns home to Nigeria for the first time in over a decade and says something along the lines of how strange it was to step off the plane and forget for the first time in years that she was black. How much effort it is here for black americans to deal with race -- how freeing it was for her to go back to a place where her race was not her defining characteristic. It was just very revealing and insightful. There is also a beautifully written love story woven into the book and I found it to be an all around outstanding read. Highly, highly recommend this one.

When Toni Morrison is quoted on the cover saying this book is required reading you really have no other choice than to get in line for your copy now. This book is a hard, hard read. Not hard to follow or understand, quite the contrary. It's hard because Coates pulls no punches whatsoever. All of our country's dirty laundry, the inherent and systematic racism we hold so dear is laid out in all it's painful clarity. Written as a letter to his fifteen year old son, it is a devastatingly honest and brutal account of what it means to grow up black and male in America.  There is no sugar coating, there is no happy ending, there is just the hard, unfair, honest truth. 

Ghettoside is probably the best book I have read all year. Non-fiction, the author, Jill Leovy, is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times who embedded herself for years in the LA police division responsible for dealing with the bulk of black on black homicides in the city. Leovy follows the story of the murder and subsequent investigation of 18 year old victim Bryant Tennelle. The book is compassionate and intelligent and backed up with an astounding amount of research and statistics. Leovy really cracks open the issue of black on black crime and shows it for the epidemic that it truly is.  Please read this book, I cannot recommend it enough.

What else could you recommend in this vein? The more I read the more I want to know.


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