This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-80046-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

This quirky, wide-ranging collection of essays, paired with gorgeous art, is a well-informed love letter to hip-hop.

HIP-HOP (AND OTHER THINGS)

A COLLECTION OF QUESTIONS ASKED, ANSWERED, ILLUSTRATED

The pop-culture writer returns with “a celebration of rap, one of the three or four things I love the most in this world.”

Hip-hop culture is so ingrained in the pop mainstream that it’s easy to forget that today’s stars are only fragments of the broader culture and products of a rich history. Serrano, best known for his work at the Ringerand Grantland, tries to rectify that with his latest collection of essays and artwork (by Dallas-based artist Torres), using the same creative style he popularized in his bestsellers Basketball (And Other Things)and Movies (And Other Things). Serrano asks thought-provoking—some might say argument-inducing—questions and then answers them with a compelling mix of history, memoir, criticism, and creative writing. The chapter titled “How Do You Talk About Missy Elliott’s Supa Dupa Fly?” shows Serrano at his best, approaching the classic album from a variety of perspectives. “It gets in your ears and then in your brain, and then, instantly and fully, all the parts inside your skull are soaked,” he writes, explaining how the album makes you feel. The author also writes knowledgeably about the best rappers with the best verses in various eras of hip-hop; sure to inspire heated debate among hip-hop fans is his in-depth comparison of Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, m.A.A.d City and Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which he considers “the two best albums of the 2010-2019 decade.” All of the material is entertaining, even when Serrano’s fanboy perspective leaves out a problematic swath of Lauryn Hill’s career in a chapter about her being nearly perfect. Even when a particular chapter doesn’t quite grab you, the warm, creative illustrations—e.g., 50 Cent and Eminem playing Skee-Ball or Nas styled as Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator—sure will.

This quirky, wide-ranging collection of essays, paired with gorgeous art, is a well-informed love letter to hip-hop.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-3022-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more