An important, sympathetic effort to elucidate matters of Black lives while expanding intellectual horizons.

TEACHING BLACK HISTORY TO WHITE PEOPLE

A popular University of Texas professor offers a trenchant survey of Black history—and an argument for why every American, of every ethnicity, needs to learn it.

“African American history should be a graduation requirement in every high school, college, or university in America. Every. Single. One.” So urges Moore, who allows that he took a circuitous path to academia. He was an average student in college but was awakened when he discovered some of the awful facts about being Black in America, past and present. For one, as he observes, not so very long ago, Black drivers were not allowed to pass White motorists in Mississippi, for “it was believed that the dust from the Black person’s car would fly up and hit the windshield of the white person’s car, which would symbolize domination of Black over white.” White students in Austin have flocked to Moore’s survey courses and emerged with a clear understanding of such injustices, and many have gone on to teaching and activism themselves. The author writes cogently of how he handles such ticklish subjects as reparations—he supports them—and, with a look back at Jim Crow laws, current Republican efforts to suppress the Black vote. He is especially good on economic inequalities: Moore observes that if Black and White people were to sit down and play Monopoly together, the Black player wouldn’t be able even to start to accumulate property until the 20th move. He urges that White liberals, many of whom “value trees and the environment more than people,” learn foremost how to be uncomfortable, for the history that he teaches will expose them as being implicated in the same system in which White supremacists operate. Moore closes with a syllabus of suggested reading that “highlight[s] the historical issues and themes that best connect to contemporary Black life in America.”

An important, sympathetic effort to elucidate matters of Black lives while expanding intellectual horizons.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4773-2485-1

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Everything about Sabathia is larger than life, yet he tells his story with honesty and humility.

TILL THE END

One of the best pitchers of his generation—and often the only Black man on his team—shares an extraordinary life in baseball.

A high school star in several sports, Sabathia was being furiously recruited by both colleges and professional teams when the death of his grandmother, whose Social Security checks supported the family, meant that he couldn't go to college even with a full scholarship. He recounts how he learned he had been drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the first round over the PA system at his high school. In 2001, after three seasons in the minor leagues, Sabathia became the youngest player in MLB (age 20). His career took off from there, and in 2008, he signed with the New York Yankees for seven years and $161 million, at the time the largest contract ever for a pitcher. With the help of Vanity Fair contributor Smith, Sabathia tells the entertaining story of his 19 seasons on and off the field. The first 14 ran in tandem with a poorly hidden alcohol problem and a propensity for destructive bar brawls. His high school sweetheart, Amber, who became his wife and the mother of his children, did her best to help him manage his repressed fury and grief about the deaths of two beloved cousins and his father, but Sabathia pursued drinking with the same "till the end" mentality as everything else. Finally, a series of disasters led to a month of rehab in 2015. Leading a sober life was necessary, but it did not tame Sabathia's trademark feistiness. He continued to fiercely rile his opponents and foment the fighting spirit in his teammates until debilitating injuries to his knees and pitching arm led to his retirement in 2019. This book represents an excellent launching point for Jay-Z’s new imprint, Roc Lit 101.

Everything about Sabathia is larger than life, yet he tells his story with honesty and humility.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13375-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Roc Lit 101

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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