An erudite collection to alarm conservatives and gratify progressives.

CARVING OUT A HUMANITY

RACE, RIGHTS, AND REDEMPTION

Penetrating essays on race and social stratification within policing and the law, in honor of pioneering scholar Derrick Bell (1930-2011).

At the beginning, the editors explain the anthology’s genesis: “Founded twenty-five years ago in 1995, the Derrick Bell Lectures were originally created as a birthday present from Janet Bell to her husband, and were designed to highlight not only Derrick Bell’s legacy as the father of the legal studies movement, but also to give that movement exposure in the academy and beyond.” Some speakers acknowledged Bell’s outsized personality; he’d repeatedly resigned from prestigious institutions to protest wan diversity efforts. Charles Ogletree notes, “the craziness is that he has such insight and foresight that it’s unimaginable,” before narrating the unequal legal landscape of Black America, even following Gunnar Myrdal’s landmark 1944 examination of the U.S. Charles Lawrence discusses backlash against affirmative action even as recruitment of Black students plummeted at prominent law schools, a topic of concern to Bell. Richard Delgado considers Bell’s research as a “toolkit” to address how each advance for racial justice “is cut back by narrow judicial interpretation, foot dragging, and delay.” Patricia Williams anticipates current discourse in a frank reflection on the echo of sexual abuse in persistent racial archetypes, denoting society’s refusal to acknowledge “the actual historical meaning of slavery as a system of human ownership.” Bell himself contributes “Racism as the Ultimate Deception,” in which he concludes, “the only defense against the racism phantasm as it operates in the real world is absolute honesty about our actions, our desires, our goals, or as close to that ever elusive dream as we can come.” Other prominent contributors include Lani Guinier, Paul Butler, Stephen Bright, and Michelle Alexander. Many powerfully acknowledge the persistence of structural racism and offer in-depth discussion regarding particular aspects of the law’s effect on marginalized communities, resonant in an era of White supremacy’s bid for mainstream acceptance.

An erudite collection to alarm conservatives and gratify progressives.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62097-620-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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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

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