A COUNTRY OF STRANGERS by David K. Shipler

A COUNTRY OF STRANGERS

Blacks and Whites in America

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Former New York Times correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Shipler (Arab and Jew, 1986; Russia, 1983) reports from the front line where black and white America collide, divide, overlap, and, too rarely, coexist. Shipler's reportage includes much concrete information garnered from both sides of the racial divide, but his primary goal is didactic and his primary audience is white. If whites gain insight through this book into what it is like to be black in America, they will also learn ``what it is like to be white,'' he writes; armed with that self-knowledge, they might then help right a society in which racial differences continue to frustrate the fulfillment of the American dream. Shipler quotes scholars and activists, but mostly he talks to ordinary Americans. He visits high schools and colleges, police stations and army barracks, boardrooms and secretarial pools, integrated neighborhoods and even integrated families. He finds that whites tend to be uncomfortable discussing race, but that it is an ever-present issue for most of the blacks he talks to. What this white man learns from black Americans makes this a stunning and major work. Shipler reveals starkly and with deep sympathy how blacks still feel they must be on constant guard, even in an era in which institutionalized racism has largely disappeared, and how programs designed to heal the racial divide, such as affirmative action, are under attack from Americans who claim the country no longer has a racial problem. And if Shipler finds that some blacks go to such extremes as becoming racists themselves in pressing their claims, the vast majority long simply for a safe world into which to bring their children. A powerful book that should fulfill Shipler's goal of strengthening the ``tenuous strands of caring across the line that runs through the heart of America.'' (First printing of 60,000; Book-of-the-Month Club selection)

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1997
ISBN: 0-394-58975-0
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1997




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