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DEMOCRACY'S DATA

THE HIDDEN STORIES IN THE U.S. CENSUS AND HOW TO READ THEM

A page-turning examination of why we need to understand the census and its wide-ranging effects.

A deep dive into the 1940 U.S. census: how it was created, completed, deployed, and even weaponized and what it can teach us about American democracy.

“I hope that this book will help people hear data speak in new ways,” writes Bouk, a professor of history at Colgate. “I hope readers will develop an admiration for data’s depths, for the ways that sweat and blood suffuse a data set. Some people fall in love with the appearance of data as a thing more or less certain, simple, and precise. I think there is more beauty and also more truth in acknowledging and even appreciating the roots of data in the uncertain, complicated, and often hazy spaces of life.” The author provides a meticulous examination of the mechanics of the census, a complex topic that includes the design of the questions, training of the enumerators, public promotion across the country, and how it affects political representation and opposition. Bouk’s study of the 1940 census shows how data can be manipulated, leading to such lamentable actions as the internment of Japanese Americans during and after World War II. Using photographed examples, including the census data on a variety of significant historical figures, Bouk shines a bright light on the power of the data to be used as a tool to promote or silence the voices of certain demographics. Throughout the text, the author clearly demonstrates the importance of understanding the context of census development: what it can tell us about what was important at the time a particular census was executed as well as the often far-reaching effects on all elements of society. As Bouk argues convincingly, “looking squarely at complicated data-making processes is becoming an essential activity for all those who wish to have a say in shaping our world, from activists to policy makers, and for every person striving to remain an informed citizen.”

A page-turning examination of why we need to understand the census and its wide-ranging effects.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60254-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Winner


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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