Thursday, February 2, 2017

Recent Reads | Black History Month


Part of the thrill of reading is getting to inhabit other worlds and see things from other perspectives. I try to make it a point to include diverse literature in my reading lists, especially as I read so many books every year, and this month - Black History Month - is no exception. I think it's ridiculous that we had to dedicate a month to black history for it to ever get included in history books, and I don't mean to post this as an empty token appreciation of the idea, but as a good reason to pick up a few books about subjects I'm less familiar with.

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
Award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi works through the entire history of racist ideas in the US, starting from a brief history of anti-anything-other-than-white sentiments present in old Greek philosophy and how this thought was used in starting American universities based on "the classics," moving onwards through the War on Drugs. Kendi proves that racist thought did not start by accident and has lasted well through present day in its effect on policymaking.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
With the release of the movie Hidden Figures there are probably few who don't know of the basics: the real life stories of African-American women who worked at NASA as "computers." The book draws on oral histories, documents, newspapers, and interviews to recall the successes of five incredible women: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Christine Darden, and Gloria Champine.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
Claudine Rankine's recounting of growing racial tensions in life and the media tell of small moments that can build up to affect the way a person lives, speaks, grows. It changes the way people view themselves, as people, as citizens. Citizen is a highly acclaimed work of poetry that seems particularly timely in the current political climate.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Jim Crow laws may technically be a thing of the past, but in actuality African Americans still live under the effects of the past. The criminal justice system in America routinely and systematically targets black communities, and mass incarceration is one way of keeping these communities from progressing. Alexander's book looks at the effects of mass incarceration and its usage as a system of racial oppression.


If reading books isn't your thing but you still want to learn/appreciate something, I would highly recommend watching Donald Glover's FX show Atlanta, viewing Ava DuVernay's Netflix documentary 13th, and seeing the film version of Hidden Figures.


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