“Race” is a modern invention, but “the urge to hate those who are different” is timeless.
In order to explain why race and racism were invented, Aronson surveys human history and demonstrates how new ethical ideas—the monotheism of the Jews, the democratic ideals of the Greeks, the Protestantism of Martin Luther, among others—became new steps toward the idea of race. The study concludes with race in America, the civil-rights movement presented as “a chapter in the history of the global struggle against racial rankings.” This fascinating, completely absorbing history takes young adults seriously, asking them to make connections, see patterns and question society. Always conscious of the story in history, Aronson ranges far and wide for illustrative examples and analogies—some apt, some over the top, all interesting.
Thorough source notes, a lengthy bibliography and a long list of useful websites round out this challenging offering from one of our finest history writers. M.T. Anderson’s The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (2006) is a good match for the second half of this work. (Nonfiction. YA)