Tag Archives: racism

** Franchise by Marcia Chatelain

Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America uses the well-known fast food chain to describe the much larger story of African-American entrepreneurs, civil rights, and racism in America. The author occasionally places all the blame of the racist climate onto Mc Donald’s, which seems somewhat unfair–and at the same time correctly identifies clearly racist practices in assigning franchise locations. I found the stories of African-American entrepreneurs who sought success as franchisees particularly interesting.

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Filed under Non fiction

*** Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Red at the Bone is staged at an elaborate sixteenth birthday party, from which we go back to the parents and grandparents of the birthday girl, who faced racism, gentrification, and the errors of teenagers to get to that point. The author has a wonderful ability to get into the head of characters of very different ages to share how they view the world and how they act on their perception.

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Filed under New fiction

*** How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi

How to Be an Antiracist weaves a solid theoretical description of racism with a very personal memoir of how he came to term with each aspect, starting as a third grader who noticed that the teacher called on the white students much more often than others–and bravely pointed that out to her. (Many of the experiences he relates show him in decidedly non-hero roles, which makes the book all the more credible and interesting.)

Not surprisingly, it’s a lot more difficult to be an antiracist than simply not be a racist, and I wish that the book had more practical suggestions on how to proceed, but it’s thought- and action-provoking.

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Filed under Non fiction

*** Self-Portrait in Black and White by Thomas Chatterton Williams

The author of Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race considers himself black, and certainly his father does (his mother is white) but has blond, blue-eyed children with his wife, also a white woman. And it makes him think about race, racism, and our perhaps unnecessary obsession with categorizing people in rigid categories.

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Filed under Non fiction

** There Will Be No Miracles Here by Casey Gerald

There Will Be No Miracles Here starts and end in a combative and confusing mood–but do persevere to the (vast) middle part, which tells the story of a rough childhood, followed by a football scholarships to Yale and entry into Wall Street. This is not a simple success story, and the author takes great care to explore the stunning contrast between his impoverished neighborhood and the halls of power, as well as the prejudices and twisted logic that allow schools and other institutions in poor neighborhoods to wither while the rich congratulate themselves on helping a chosen few to escape.

You would be bitter, too.

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Filed under True story

** Breathe by Imani Perry

Breathe: A Letter to My Sons is both a memoir of the author’s experience of racism, sometimes blatant, as with the high school teacher who was a great teacher, but only for the white kids in her class, sometimes less obvious, in the Ivy-League universities where she studied and now teaches, but still there. There are some touching moments, as when she explains who Jesse Jackson is to her sons, for whom he would be lost in the past, and others when she laments along with other parents the loss of boredom in favor of screens.

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Filed under Non fiction

*** The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys stars an African-American high schooler who seems just about perfect: smart, hard working, kind. But after accepting a ride to college in a stolen car, he is sent to a hellish reform “school” where boys, and especially African-American boys are half-starved, beaten, and abused, sometimes to death. Basing the story on an all-too-real institution, the author recreates the inexorable grinding down of a promising young man (and his cohort) at the hand of sadistic, corrupt administrators.

The book reminded me of Solitary, which tells contemporary, but just as horrifying story of racist prison abuse, with the difference that the inmates in Solitary are grown men.

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Filed under New fiction