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  New York Times Review

no one becomes "not racist," despite a tendency by Americans to identify themselves that way. We can only strive to be "antiracist" on a daily basis, to continually rededicate ourselves to the lifelong task of overcoming our country's racist heritage. We learn early the racist notion that white people have more because they are more; that people of color have less because they are less. 1 had internalized this worldview by my high school graduation, seeing myself and my race as less than other people and blaming other blacks for racial inequities. To build a nation of equal opportunity for everyone, we need to dismantle this spurious legacy of our common upbringing. One of the best ways to do this is by reading books. Not books that reinforce old ideas about who we think we are, what we think America is, what we think racism is. Instead, we need to read books that are difficult or unorthodox, that don't go down easily. Books that force us to confront our self-serving beliefs and make us aware that "I'm not racist" is a slogan of denial. The reading list below is composed of just such books - a combination of classics, relatively obscure works and a few of recent vintage. Think of it as a stepladder to antiracism, each step addressing a different stage of the journey toward destroying racism's insidious hold on all of us. Biology "FATAL INVENTION: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century," by Dorothy Roberts (New Press, 2011). No book destabilized my fraught notions of racial distinction and hierarchy - the belief that each race had different genes, diseases and natural abilities - more than this vigorous critique of the "biopolitics of race." Roberts, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, shows unequivocally that all people are indeed created equal, despite political and economic special interests that keep trying to persuade us otherwise. Ethnicity "WEST INDIAN IMMIGRANTS: A Black Success Story?" by Suzanne Model (Russell Sage Foundation, 2008). Some of the same forces have led Americans to believe that the recent success of black immigrants from the Caribbean proves either that racism does not exist or that the gap between African-Americans and other groups in income and wealth is their own fault. But Model's meticulous study, emphasizing the self-selecting nature of the West Indians who emigrate to the United States, argues otherwise, showing me, a native of racially diverse New York City, how such notions - the foundation of ethnic racism - are unsupported by the facts. Body "THE CONDEMNATION OF BLACKNESS: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America," by Khalil Gibran Muhammad (Harvard University, 2010). "Black" and "criminal" are as wedded in America as "star" and "spangled." Muhammad's book traces these ideas to the late 19th century, when racist policies led to the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of blacks, igniting urban whites' fears and bequeathing tenaciously racist stereotypes. Culture "THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD," by Zora Neale Hurston (1937). Of course, the black body exists within a wider black culture - one Hurston portrayed with grace and insight in this seminal novel. She defies racist Americans who would standardize the cultures of white people or sanitize, eroticize, erase or assimilate those of blacks. Behavior "THE NEGRO ARTIST AND THE RACIAL MOUNTAIN," by Langston Hughes (The Nation, June 23, 1926). "We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame," Hughes wrote nearly 100 years ago. "We know we are beautiful. And ugly too." We are all imperfectly human, and these imperfections are also markers of human equality. Color "THE BLUEST EYE," by Toni Morrison (1970); "THE BLACKER THE BERRY," by Wallace Thurman (1929). Beautiful and hardworking black people come in all shades. If dark people have less it is not because they are less, a moral eloquently conveyed in these two classic novels, stirring explorations of colorism. Whiteness "THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X," by Malcolm X and Alex Haley (1965); "DYING OF WHITENESS: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland," by Jonathan M. Metzl (Basic Books, 2019). Malcolm X began by adoring whiteness, grew to hate white people and, ultimately, despised the false concept of white superiority - a killer of people of color. And not only them: low- and middle-income white people too, as Metzl's timely book shows, with its look at Trump-era policies that have unraveled the Affordable Care Act and contributed to rising gun suicide rates and lowered life expectancies. Blackness "LOCKING UP OUR OWN: Crime and Punishment in Black America," by James Forman Jr. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017). Just as Metzl explains how seemingly pro-white policies are killing whites, Forman explains how blacks themselves abetted the mass incarceration of other blacks, beginning in the 1970s. Amid rising crime rates, black mayors, judges, prosecutors and police chiefs embraced toughon-crime policies that they promoted as pro-black with tragic consequences for black America. Class "BLACK MARXISM: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition," by Cedric J. Robinson (Zed Press, 1983). Black America has been economically devastated by what Robinson calls racial capitalism. He chastises white Marxists (and black capitalists) for failing to acknowledge capitalism's racial character, and for embracing as sufficient an interpretation of history founded on a European vision of class struggle. Spaces "WAITING 'TIL THE MIDNIGHT HOUR: A Narrative History of Black Power in America," by Peniel E. Joseph (Holt, 2006). As racial capitalism deprives black communities of resources, assimilationists ignore or gentrify these same spaces in the name of "development" and "integration." To be antiracist is not only to promote equity among racial groups, but also among their spaces, something the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s understood well, as Joseph's chronicle makes clear. Gender "HOW WE GET FREE: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective," edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (Haymarket, 2017); "WELL-READ BLACK GIRL: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves," edited by Glory Edim (Ballantine, 2018). I began my career studying, and too often admiring, activists who demanded black (male) power over black communities, including over black women, whom they placed on pedestals and under their feet. Black feminist literature, including these anthologies, helps us recognize black women "as human, levelly human," as the Combahee River Collective demanded to be seen in 1977. Sexuality "REDEFINING REALNESS: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More," by Janet Mock (Atria, 2014); "SISTER OUTSIDER: Essays and Speeches," by Audre Lorde (Crossing Press, 1984). 1 grew up in a Christian household thinking there was something abnormal and immoral about queer blacks. My racialized transphobia made Mock's memoir an agonizing read - just as my racialized homophobia made Lorde's essays and speeches a challenge. But pain often precedes healing. By not running from the books that pain us, we can allow them to transform us. 1 ran from antiracist books most of my life. But now 1 can't stop running after them - scrutinizing myself and my society, and in the process changing both.

  Library Journal Review

Starred Review. This beloved 20th-century novel is expertly narrated by Ruby Dee, who sets a deliberate pace and does a wonderful job distinguishing among the characters. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Summary
<p>A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick</p> <p>"A deeply soulful novel that comprehends love and cruelty, and separates the big people from the small of heart, without ever losing sympathy for those unfortunates who don't know how to live properly." --Zadie Smith</p> <p>One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years--due largely to initial audiences' rejection of its strong black female protagonist--Hurston's classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.</p>
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