Tag Archives: racism

*** Real American by Julie Lythcott-Haims

The author of Real American has a British and white mother and an African-American father, and was raised in a very white suburb where racism was rarely blatant but could pop up at any time — and where it was difficult for her to find belonging. She blames her parents for their lack of forethought, a little too much in my mind since they likely did not have much of a blueprint to work from (and seemed to have otherwise treated her family well).  Her work on behalf of first-generation college students is remarkable, above and beyond the story of her upbringing.

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* Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Speak No Evil is the story of a friendship between a white, rather spoiled girl and a black, gay boy that will turn deadly. It raises all kinds of interesting themes but only one manages to develop into a nuanced story: the reaction of the boy’s father, a Nigerian immigrant, to the unacceptable homosexuality of his son. For the rest, the book oscillates between the ridiculous (teenagers at their posh private school assuming that they will all go to Princeton or Harvard) and the tragically overdone

seems like exploiting the black lives matter movement

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** An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage stars an African-American couple whose husband unjustly (and incomprehensibly) is sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. The story takes us back to the beginning of their relationship into the future, when he is eventually released. And it’s a story that will make you want to turn the pages, at least until the release where it gets all strange and “off”, at least to my taste. The complicated decisions and feelings of those two are wonderfully described.

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* When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

Half memoir, half impassioned cry for change, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir has a powerful half: the memoir. If anyone ever wondered how bad racism really is when it comes to law-making, policing, and the justice system (not to mention everyday life), the first author’s story is a sad eye opener. But the systematic, searing assignation to racism of each and every problem she and other African Americans encounter  weakens her argument and may make many avoid the book entirely. It’s too bad because the personal story is so strong.

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*** Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani


Dance of the Jakaranda tells the story of three men, two white British settlers and one Indian emigrant, who live in what will become Kenya and initially build the railroad that connect the hinterland to the port of Mombasa. Their personal lives are linked in direct and indirect ways, and will play out through their descendants in the story, which takes us through the early days of independence. The plot is intricate and often has unexpected twists, and the author’s description of the land is affectionate and occasionally lyrical. The history lesson is a bonus.

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*** Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Show, don’t tell! This classic piece of writing advice shines in  Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. Trevor Noah does not sermonize about the evils of apartheid; he simply describes how his (black) mother had to smuggle him to see his own (white) father. He does not fulminate against domestic violence; he matter-of-factly recounts police officers’ shrugs when his mother reports abuse by his stepfather. He does not belly-ache about how poor people cannot rise out of their poverty; he chronicle how his friend’s gift of a CD burner put him on a path of financial independence.

He is funny, as we would expect, but deadly serious, and this book-length tribute to his indomitable mother is very touching.

 

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** The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

Ever wondered why city A (Richmond, say, in the San Francisco Bay Area, which the author uses abundantly as an example) is black while another (Milpitas) is not? The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America shows how many decades of zoning and building law boldly laid out cities where races were kept well separated. The federal government, through the Federal Housing Agency (FHA) for a long time would only guarantee mortgages to developments that excluded African Americans. Local zoning often prohibited apartment buildings in single-family home neighborhoods, at a time when non-white families could rarely afford single-family homes. Famously, during the Great Depression banks redlined entire neighborhoods and were supported by government agencies to do so. And the list goes on — to a scandalous length.

That said, I felt that the outraged tone of the book detracted somewhat from the message. Let the facts speak for themselves: they are appalling enough to persuade.

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Filed under Non fiction