Non-Fic Picks: Race in America

Posted Jul 8, 2016

Race is one of the most present issues in America today; this week has shown us that anti-black racism is not going away. Our society remains in crisis.

In times of crisis, it feels hard to act, hard to wrap our heads around how we can make things right. When we can muster the strength to do so, we can make a start in the right direction by seeking to learn about the crisis we are facing - to learn from where it stems, where it might be headed and where we fit into it. While it may feel like reading about racism, justice and civil rights in America won't solve our problems, it behooves us all to be well-informed about our past and present in order to be part of the movement to make the future safer, more just, and more equitable for all.

This blog post was planned a week ago. We wanted to highlight the wealth of new nonfiction exploring race, justice, and rights of black people in America past and present. This week - in light of Philando Castile, in light of Alton Sterling, in light of Dallas - now feels like a difficult yet strangely right time to showcase the voices that have risen, the stories that have been made possible, from our present-day struggles with racism.

The publishing industry still has a long way to go in diversifying its offerings, but it feels like they are starting to see how books telling the African American story, past present and future, are needed right now.  Writers want to write about their experiences and that of other black people across the country, and readers want to read these stories. 

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

Explores the roots of anti-black racism, ultimately showing how we are far from living in a "post-racial" society.

Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

Another strong voice in the cry against calling today's America "post-racial," Glaude's book can serve as a companion to Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me.

Answering the Call: An Autobiography of the Modern Struggle to End Racial Discrimination in America by Judge Nathaniel R. Jones

Beyond sharing his life story as a trailblazing African American judge, Jones uses his vast experience to share a passionate argument for upholding voter rights, desegregation and other issues currently under attack.

Jackson 1964: and Other Dispatches From Fifty Years of Reporting on Race in America by Calvin Trillin

A collection of essays, all previously published in The New Yorker, looking closely at local issues - from Jackson to Oshkosh to Long Island - via a national lens of race and justice. 

The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America by Michael Eric Dyson

Dyson contextualizes our first black presidency in an America of deep and public racial tension, seeking to answer how Obama's race affected his time in office and our nation as a whole.

White Rage: the Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson

Anderson first pinpointed the issue of white rage in an op-ed in the Washington Post in 2014; here she delves into the past to illuminate the present, tracing a lineage of white rage from 1865 to now.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Desmond's scholarly study uses eviction as a lens to study the long history of segregation and poverty right here in Milwaukee.

Sherman Park: a Legacy of Diversity in Milwaukee by Paul H. Geenen

Tells the story of Sherman Park's determined multi-culturalism and integration at a time when the rest of the country - let alone the rest of the city - was slow to move away from segregation policies. A more positive look at race, class and housing in Milwaukee than Desmond's book, and just as important.

Interested in exploring more? Browse the library shelves in the Dewey Decimal areas 305.8 and 323 or browse in CountyCat for the following subject terms: Racism -- United StatesUnited States -- Race relationsUnited States -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century. 

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