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[personal profile] pauraque
This book has been reviewed here several times, and I don't disagree with what others have said. Much of it is a beginner-level discussion of racism and privilege, though a notably clear and compassionate one with many striking analogies. (I particularly liked the image of racism as an airport moving sidewalk -- if you "do nothing", it carries you along. You have to actively walk the other way just to stay in one place, let alone get anywhere else.)

It seems aimed at people who may still be unsure about whether white privilege is real, and if it is, whether it's really that big of a deal. I think it could be a good way to ease in to the topic for someone who doesn't know where to start, especially because of the large amount of further reading Tatum suggests. It led me to add many titles to my list of books to look for.

Read more... )


a: Tatum Beverly Daniel, African-American, non-fiction, race
pauraque: bird flying (Default)
[personal profile] pauraque
What is Whiteness? Who is White?

These are questions that many people (and especially people who consider themselves white) never seriously ask, as though the category of whiteness is a natural one. It isn't, of course -- it's a socially constructed idea that has developed and changed considerably over many hundreds of years.

This book takes us through the history of that idea from its earliest known roots in antiquity, and ultimately goes on to focus mostly on Britain and the United States, where various different "white races" were long spoken of and ranked in value. The gradual incorporation of light-skinned people into one big group called White proceeded (and continues to proceed) in waves in the U.S., corresponding to waves of immigration, backlash against it, and an eventual admission that such-and-such a group is at last "American".

You've probably heard this phenomenon mentioned as a derailing tactic in discussions of race. ("Irish people were treated worse than black people") That is not what Painter is doing at all. She understands that the racialized ill treatment of white groups by other white groups does not erase anti-black racism -- it illuminates it! As the definition of who can be "white" has expanded over the centuries, it only sharpens the line between white people who might be able to become "just plain American" someday if they work hard and assimilate, and black people who, no matter what they do, never can.

Read more... )


a: Painter Nell Irvin, African-American, non-fiction, history, race
[identity profile] veleda-k.livejournal.com
#17: Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching by Paula J. Giddings.

Ida: A Sword Among Lions )
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[identity profile] kyuuketsukirui.livejournal.com
Title: The History of White People
Author: Nell Irvin Painter
Number of Pages: 496 pages
My Rating: 4.5/5

Amazon Summary: Who are white people and where did they come from? Elementary questions with elusive, contradictory, and complicated answers set historian Painter's inquiry into motion. From notions of whiteness in Greek literature to the changing nature of white identity in direct response to Malcolm X and his black power successors, Painter's wide-ranging response is a who's who of racial thinkers and a synoptic guide to their work. Her commodious history of an idea accommodates Caesar; Saint Patrick, history's most famous British slave of the early medieval period; Madame de Staël; and Emerson, the philosopher king of American white race theory. Painter reviews the diverse cast in their intellectual milieus, linking them to one another across time and language barriers. Conceptions of beauty (ideals of white beauty firmly embedded in the science of race), social science research, and persistent North/South stereotypes prove relevant to defining whiteness. What we can see, the author observes, depends heavily on what our culture has trained us to look for. For the variable, changing, and often capricious definition of whiteness, Painter offers a kaleidoscopic lens.

Review: This was an interesting book, but I often felt like I was slogging through a textbook trying to read it (especially the early chapters), so I kept setting it down and it actually took me several months to finally finish. I just didn't find the writing style engaging at all, otherwise I would probably have given if five stars.

But it was interesting, and I learned a lot of things about famous people of the past (none of them good) that I didn't know before. It was also interesting to see how little anti-immigrant rhetoric has changed. A lot of things people were saying about Irish, Italian, Eastern European, Jewish, etc. immigrants is pretty much word for word what people say about Latin@ immigrants today. A lot of "oh noes, the right people aren't having enough babies and the wrong people are having too many!" and that sort of thing. Except it wasn't Those Brown People who were going to destroy the White Race, is was Those Other Inferior White People.

Also, while this book is called The History of White People, it's very US-centric. She traces things from Europe to the US, but once she gets to the US, she really never talks about whiteness elsewhere for the rest of the book.
[identity profile] veleda-k.livejournal.com
Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism by Cornel West.

This isn't a long book (218 pages) but it's a heavy one, and it manages to fit a lot of issues in. Highlighted are racism in the U.S., the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Christian identity in the U.S., and the importance of Youth Culture.

West is an eloquent and passionate writer. His respect and love for Christianity and American democracy is clear, but he doesn't hold back in his criticism.

I feel that too often "trying to see both sides of the issue" is code for "wishy-washy excusing of oppression", so I'll avoid that type of language. West definitely knows what side he's on. But he stays aware of the humanity of everybody, even the people he's railing against. I am in full support of this, if only because it ensures that those people are held responsible for their actions. West treats the oppressors (in all their many forms) as human, which demands that they act human.

Unfortunately, some of the final parts of the book are mostly about West's feud with Harvard president Lawrence Summers. The confrontation is relevant to the book, but it feels anti-climatic after the sharp and insightful look at world and national politics that the rest of the book gives. Checking, the West versus Summers content only lasts about ten pages, but it felt like more.

Overall, recommended.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
40. Reza Aslan, How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror

A non-fiction pop book dealing with a wide range of subjects, from the history of the state of Israel, to the difference between Islamist groups like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Jihadist groups like al-Qa'ida (as well as the inaccuracy of referring to al-Qa'ida as any kind of unified group), to historical examples of other 'cosmic wars' such as the Crusades or the Zealot rebellions of the Roman Empire, to the history of Fundamentalist Christianity in the United States, to others. He doesn't always tie these many, many topics together as tightly as one might wish, but if you look at the book as a smorgasbord of various information about the "war on terror", it's a pretty awesome book.

One of my favorite things about Aslan is that he's a much more lyrical, thoughtful writer than I tend to expect from pop non-fiction. Let me quote a paragraph at you: "When I close my eyes, I see white. Strange how synesthetic memory can be. I am certain the insular town of Enid, Oklahoma, where my family alighted three decades ago, was chockablock with buildings, homes, churches, parks. And surely other seasons came and went in the stretch of time we lived there, months when the city's empty streets were not blanketed in snow and the sky did not rumble with dark and silvery clouds. But I remember none of that. Only the clean, all-encompassing whiteness of Enid, Oklahoma, snow as it heaped on the sidewalks, perched on the trees, and settled evenly over the glassy lake." See? How can you not be willing to spend a couple of hundred pages with the man, even if he wasn't telling you fascinating, important things.

Overall, I think I prefer Aslan's other book, No God But God, to this one, but for a broad summary of many things relating to modern Middle Eastern politics and the American response, this book is great.
[identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
39. Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, Black London: Life Before Emancipation

This was a great book, but not quite as great as I wanted it to be. An academic work as readable as any pop non-fiction book, Black London deals with the historical presence of black people in London throughout history, although the focus is on the 1700s. The author says that she decided to write this book when, while doing research, a bookseller told her, "Madam, there were no black people in England before 1945".

I loved how this book didn't just give generalities about black life in the 1700s, but used the historical record to find real individuals and tell their stories: slaves, escaped slaves, servants, husbands and wives (it appears to have been quite common for black men to marry white women during this time), shop-owners, writers, the children of African elites come to Europe to study, the mixed-race children of Caribbean planters, actors, beggars, and on and on. I found it really fascinating and wished the whole book had been about these stories of people. Alas, about half the book is actually taken up with recounting the stories of two legal changes (and the mostly white lawyers, judges, plaintiffs, defendants, reporters, etc, etc, involved): the James Somersett lawsuit of 1771, which outlawed slavery in England itself, and the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which abolished the slave trade. While these parts of the book were interesting, they weren't as incredibly awesome as the first part. Still, I enjoyed this book, and am excited to see she has another about black people during the Victorian period.
[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
 #28.  Skim, Mariko Tamaki (writing) and Jillian Tamaki (art)
2008, Groundwood Books

Another book that I found through reviews on this comm.   (Thanks again to all of you: you keep leading me to wonderful books.)

I enjoyed the book for many of the same reasons others did, especially those mentioned by [livejournal.com profile] kyuuketsukirui[livejournal.com profile] sanguinity and [Bad username or unknown identity: puritybrown .]   As regards the art style, I also loved, as someone else mentioned, that it clearly evokes Japanese aesthetics and the Japanese artistic tradition... but the influences it draws on are not manga.  There's something about that, especially given the often troubling aspects of gender representation in mainstream manga (I'm thinking of exaggerated gender dimorphism, neoteny, and hypersexualization), that I found profoundly refreshing and even kind of inspiring.

Very highly recommended.  I'm putting Mariko Tamaki's other graphic work, Emiko Superstar, on my to-read list, and I'd love to see other work from Jillian Tamaki.  (Actually... let's see.  Her website is here, there's an interesting illustrated interview with her here, and I see mention of a 2006 book called Gilded Lilies.  Has anyone read it?)

[Tags I would add if I could: spirituality (or: religion/spirituality), high school]

Hey, by the way: [Bad username or unknown identity: puritybrown , ]did you ever send the Tamakis that fan letter?

[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
#20[b]: A Right to Be Hostile: The Boondocks Treasury, Aaron McGruder
2003, Three Rivers Press

This is hilarious. I remember reading The Boondocks on and off while it was running in newspapers (more off than on; I was moving around a lot and not all my papers carried it), and I remember being sometimes impressed but often lukewarm on it. I remember formulating the impression that it was presumably the strip's controversy value and what Amazon somewhat coyly calls its "notoriety" that made it such a big success. (What "notoriety" means here is, among other things, visibly black characters talking about visible black issues, often with no white people in sight(!), and, with enormous daring, going so far as to claim the aforementioned right to be hostile. In America's newspapers! In the funny pages!)

Anyway, reading this compilation, I'm forced to dramatically revise my opinion. This is fabulous stuff. McGruder's incisiveness, cutting wit, characterization and sense of timing are often nothing short of brilliant. The strip really does bring to mind the eminent predecessors McGruder cites as influences in the foreword (Trudeau, Watterson, Breathed). (All of which leaves me unsure why I didn't find the strip quite so awesome at the time, except that it does come to mind that collections allow authors the luxury of picking and choosing; McGruder may have wisely left out a lot of duds. ;)

Anyway. What is awesome about this strip?  Let me tell you! )



[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com
#25. This Bridge Called My Back, ed. Cherríe Moraga & Gloria Anzaldúa
1981/'83, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press

This is another book that is so full of... ideas and thinking and newness, and that has so many visions and so much emotion in it, and that contains both so much I can identify with and so much that seems deeply foreign -- I don't mean only the experiences and attitudes of the women who wrote it, but also, which is harder for me to assimilate, the lens through which they view the world: the moment of history, cultural and political, in which thy formulated these ideas and these manifestoes -- that I feel overwhelmed when I try to think about posting a review of it.

But I also feel kind of like a coward for backing out of reviewing it. What to do? I think I will let it simmer for a while. I may also read the much more recent companion book to it (this bridge we call home, used, I see, as an icon for this group ;), and see if that helps me understand, and bridge the thirty years of historical difference between these women and me.

[tags I would add if I could: assimilation, sociology, spirituality [or: religion/spirituality], puerto rican, a: morales rosario, a: rushin donna kate, a: wong nellie, a: lee mary hope, a: littlebear naomi, a: lim genny, a: yamada mitsuye, a: valerio anita, a: cameron barbara, a: levins morales anita, a: carillo jo, a: daniels gabrielle, a: moschkovich judit, a: davenport doris, a: gossett hattie, a: smith barbara, a: smith beverly, a: clarke cheryl, a: noda barbara, a: woo merle, a: quintanales mirtha, a: anzaldua gloria, a: alarcon norma, a: combahee river collective, a: canaan andrea, a: parker pat] 


(Also, apropos of nothing: Whoo! Halfway through! This book feels like an appropriate one for that milestone.)


[identity profile] ms-erupt.livejournal.com
06. How Far We Slaves Have Come! by Nelson Mandela; Fidel Castro
Pages: 83
Genre: Non-fiction; World Politics; Diplomacy and International Relations; South Africa; Latin America
Rating: 5/10; May or May Not Recommend

Short review and possibly spoilery review. )

Comments may contain spoilers.
[identity profile] sweet-adelheid.livejournal.com
This gets me totally and completely up to date on posting reviews to [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc. Until I finish my next book, anyway...

Us Mob by Mudrooroo (1995, Angus & Robertson)

This is going on my "want to own" and "Indigenous Australia 101" lists. It does exactly what it says on the cover: provide an introduction to a whole lot of issues relating to Indigenous Australians. It's organised by general topic area, with chapters on health, spirituality, language, education, politics, land rights... It's immediately post-Mabo, so it's about fifteen years old at this point. The concluding chapter looks forward so specifically to 2000 as hopefully being the year of Australia becoming a republic that it hurts. (In fact, when this was published, Howard wasn't in government yet: ain't *that* a sobering thought. Things were about to get a whole lot worse...)

Highlights/Lowlights )

Fabulous book, well worth time and effort.

Tags needed: a: mudrooroo
[identity profile] sweet-adelheid.livejournal.com
Black Chicks Talking by Leah Purcell (Hodder Headline, 2002)

This book is going on my personal "learning about Australia 101" list. I'm going to badger all my friends into reading it if they haven't already. Because this book is ... I can't think of any better word: this book is awesome. It fills me with awe.

These ten women - the nine interviewees plus Purcell herself - share so much of themselves in this book, and so openly. And yet also so matter-of-factly. They don't pull punches about the awful parts of life, but what shines through so clearly is the shared humanity of all of us. Which is why it's going to be top of my 101 list.

It's close to impossible to choose a favourite interview or interviewee, or even a 'most influential' one. Cilla Malone (mother of five - I think) left me breathless and amazed by what she does in caring for her children and her community; Tammy Williams has done a staggering amount; Deb Mailman is just so strong and centred, as is Rachel Perkins only in an entirely different way; and Liza Gooda-Frazer in a different way again. Kathryn Hay - who in many ways seems the most fragile of the group - has such grace in letting that fragility show, along with another core of strength that is there as well.

I just love the way this is written (put together), along with the Black Chicks painting (all in shades of pink!) and the portraits of all the women, and Leah's description of their dinner together as the culmination of the project.

Tags needed: a: purcell leah, and I'd love an "interviews" tag or similar, too.
[identity profile] whereweather.livejournal.com

#24. The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, Gwendolyn Brooks [obviously!], edited by Elizabeth Alexander

2005, Library of America (American Poets Project)

 

This book is really intensely interesting.  Gwendolyn Brooks was a very important Modernist, and this volume showcases many of her better-known short works, but it also samples from each of her books (which were real poetry books, that is, planned around central conceits and doing a book's work), as well as from her longer narrative works.  It covers years and years, from the start of her long career to its end in her old age, and you can watch the changes both in her style and in her interests.  (Of the latter, the most obvious is the change that comes when she became interested in applying poetry to the politics of the civil rights movement, and vice versa.)

 

The editor did a really good job, I think, putting together a small book out of 55 years' work like that.  The editor herself, Elizabeth Alexander, is a poet and professor of poetry at Yale.  (She is also African American.)  I hadn't heard of her before reading this book -- or thought I hadn't -- but then realized, retrospectively, that I actually probably had, because she was selected to write and read the inauguration poem at Obama's inauguration in January.

 

(Also also, the book has a cover design by Chip Kidd, which is one reason its design is so eye-catching and awesome. ;)

 

 

Some quotations from the Brooks poems in the book... )

 


[Tags I would add if I could: chicago, color/colorism, harlem, history.]

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