Family, Race, Violence, and the Calculations Made to Survive

Book review: Survival Math, by Mitchell S. Jackson (Amazon / Book Depository) Sirens scream (for who else in the world but you?) in the distance. In a prose style unlike any I’ve encountered before, Mitchell S. Jackson, novelist and writing instructor at New York and Columbia Universities, writes a memoir of his life and tumultuous upbringing in Portland, Oregon. His story is interwoven with those … Continue reading Family, Race, Violence, and the Calculations Made to Survive

Poet Ross Gay Writes His Delights

Book review: The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay (Amazon / Book Depository) It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study. A month … Continue reading Poet Ross Gay Writes His Delights

Documentary-Like Memoir of a Mother Who Made “A Way Out of No Way”

Book review: The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers, by Bridgett M. Davis (Amazon / Book Depository) Professor and novelist Bridgett M. Davis’s mother Fannie was a number runner. Even before she understood exactly what that was and meant, Davis understood she had to keep what her mother did a secret. I talked about her less and less because … Continue reading Documentary-Like Memoir of a Mother Who Made “A Way Out of No Way”

Witty, Sharply Smart Essays on All Kinds of Thickness

Book review: Thick, by Tressie McMillan Cottom (Amazon / Book Depository) Being too much of one thing and not enough of another had been a recurring theme in my life … Thick where I should have been thin, more when I should have been less, a high school teacher nicknamed me “Ms. Personality,” and it did not feel like a superlative. I had tried in … Continue reading Witty, Sharply Smart Essays on All Kinds of Thickness

Reinvestigating Roanoke

Book review: The Secret Token, by Andrew Lawler (Amazon / Book Depository) Roanoke has long been a setting for our national nightmares. A recurring topic of Andrew Lawler’s new exploration into the lost colony of settlers at Roanoke in the 1580s is just how much this story, from the early beginnings of European history in North America, fascinates us. And why, when there have been … Continue reading Reinvestigating Roanoke

A Case Study of Justice and Racial Politics in Florida

Book review: Beneath a Ruthless Sun, by Gilbert King Amazon Gilbert King, 2013 Pulitzer winner for Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, returns to the setting of that book: mid-20th century Florida and the intersection of justice and race relations, to tell a new story from the era in this extensive work of history. The book, which … Continue reading A Case Study of Justice and Racial Politics in Florida

Immersive Journalism from the Ugly, Scary Heart of America’s White Nationalists

Book review: Everything You Love Will Burn, by Vegas Tenold (Amazon / Book Depository) What had initially motivated my excursion into the world of white supremacy was curiosity about a brand of politics that seemed almost too outdated to be real – and one that I was surprised to find thriving throughout the country.  Journalist Vegas Tenold says that it was the 2011 massacre perpetrated … Continue reading Immersive Journalism from the Ugly, Scary Heart of America’s White Nationalists

South African Roots and Apartheid’s Influence, with a Sense of Humor

Book review: Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah Amazon Where most children are proof of their parents’ love, I was the proof of their criminality. Apartheid is one of those subjects that I know embarrassingly little about beyond the basics. If you’re in the same position, I highly recommend comedian and Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s 2016 memoir, Born a Crime, of his unique experience growing up as mixed-race … Continue reading South African Roots and Apartheid’s Influence, with a Sense of Humor

Smart, Richly Crafted Essays from the Incomparable Zadie Smith

Book review: Feel Free, by Zadie Smith (Amazon / Book Depository) Novelist Zadie Smith has got to be one of the most brilliant minds writing today. She burst onto the literary scene with the novel White Teeth in 2000 and has been a heavyweight presence ever since. I read that book and only retained from it that I liked it a lot – when it … Continue reading Smart, Richly Crafted Essays from the Incomparable Zadie Smith

Poetic Explorations of American Culture, History, Race, and the Downsides of NYC

Book review: Notes from No Man’s Land, by Eula Biss (Amazon / Book Depository) I discovered Eula Biss’s confrontational but melodic, intelligent and analytical writing in the collection Tales of Two Americas. It’s a great collection of essays, stories, and poems all dealing somehow with various aspects of American inequality. She contributed a piece about the concept of white debt, and how it’s not something that can be … Continue reading Poetic Explorations of American Culture, History, Race, and the Downsides of NYC

Hurston/Wright Legacy Award-Winner: Racial Politics and Murder in Post-Reconstruction Philadelphia

Book review: Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso, by Kali Nicole Gross (Amazon / Book Depository) In 1887, in a pond just outside of Philadelphia, the dismembered torso of a man was discovered, triggering a search that eventually led to Hannah Mary Tabbs, a Maryland native and seemingly very unpleasant lady, according to many who knew her. She had been, quite scandalously for a black … Continue reading Hurston/Wright Legacy Award-Winner: Racial Politics and Murder in Post-Reconstruction Philadelphia

Eight Years of Power, Pain, and Ultimately Turning From Progress

Book review: We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates Ta-Nehisi Coates’ latest, garnering buzz for being among the year’s best, was a very hard book to read, but why wouldn’t it be? History is ugly and current events surely aren’t much better to look at. The book is structured chronologically by eight essays, one previously published every year of the Obama presidency at The … Continue reading Eight Years of Power, Pain, and Ultimately Turning From Progress