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text 2020-06-09 05:52
Reading for our moment
Collected Essays - James Baldwin,Toni Morrison

It's hard to believe that it was only two weeks ago that a Minneapolis police officer asphyxiated George Floyd. Since then there has been a remarkable awakening both in America and in many other parts of the world in response to this. Only time will tell what will come of it, but I'm cautiously optimistic that we may see real change result from this tragedy.

 

One of the responses to this has been a dramatic increase in the number of books sold on race and racism. It's frustrating in a way — we shouldn't need someone's murder to remind us that racism is an issue — yet I hope that the people who buy these books will read them and take something important from them. I can certainly sympathize with their desire to learn more, as I've felt the need to read up on something so relevant to our moment, especially as for the past few months I've been a little too self-indulgent in my reading choices.

 

This is why I decided to order a collection of James Baldwin's essays. His is one of those names that I have long encountered without engaging in any great detail with his biography or his thinking. But lately he seems to me more omnipresent than ever. It was after reading a review of a book about his 1965 Cambridge debate with William F. Buckley that I was inspired to change that. So a copy will soon be winging its way towards me, and once I receive it I will make it a priority to read one or two essays a day until I am through with the collection.

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text 2020-06-02 14:13
#BlackOutTuesday
Kindred - Octavia E. Butler
Beloved - Toni Morrison
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness - Michelle Alexander
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream - Barack Obama
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration - Isabel Wilkerson
If Beale Street Could Talk - James Baldwin
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Wisehouse Classics Edition) - Frederick Douglass
African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850�1920 - Rosalyn Terborg-Penn
Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race - Margot Lee Shetterly
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy - Ta-Nehisi Coates

Here are some books by African American authors you may want to read:

 

Kindred by Octavia Butler: The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given...

 

Beloved by Toni Morrison: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a spellbinding and dazzlingly innovative portrait of a woman haunted by the past. Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad, yet she is still held captive by memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Meanwhile Sethe’s house has long been troubled by the angry, destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander: "Jarvious Cotton's great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole." 
As the United States celebrates the nation's "triumph over race" with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status--much like their grandparents before them.

 

 

 
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
by Barack Obama: The Audacity of Hope is Barack Obama's call for a new kind of politics—a politics that builds upon those shared understandings that pull us together as Americans. Lucid in his vision of America's place in the world, refreshingly candid about his family life and his time in the Senate, Obama here sets out his political convictions and inspires us to trust in the dogged optimism that has long defined us and that is our best hope going forward.
 
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
by Isabel Wilkerson: n this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
 
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin: In this honest and stunning novel, James Baldwin has given America a moving story of love in the face of injustice. Told through the eyes of Tish, a nineteen-year-old girl, in love with Fonny, a young sculptor who is the father of her child, Baldwin's story mixes the sweet and the sad. Tish and Fonny have pledged to get married, but Fonny is falsely accused of a terrible crime and imprisoned. Their families set out to clear his name, and as they face an uncertain future, the young lovers experience a kaleidoscope of emotions-affection, despair, and hope. In a love story that evokes the blues, where passion and sadness are inevitably intertwined, Baldwin has created two characters so alive and profoundly realized that they are unforgettably ingrained in the American psyche.
 
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (The Autobiographies #1) by Frederick Douglass. Autobiography of Frederick Douglass. 
 
African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920
by Rosalyn Terborg-Penn: Drawing from original documents, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn constructs a comprehensive portrait of the African American women who fought for the right to vote. She analyzes the women's own stories of why they joined and how they participated in the U.S. women's suffrage movement. Not all African American women suffragists were from elite circles. Terborg-Penn finds working-class and professional women from across the nation participating in the movement. Some employed radical, others conservative means to gain the right to vote. But Black women were unified in working to use the ballot to improve both their own status and the lives of Black people in their communities.
 
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly: The #1 New York Times Bestseller. Set amid the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program. Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as ‘Human Computers’, calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these ‘coloured computers’ used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets and astronauts, into space. Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War and the women’s rights movement, ‘Hidden Figures’ interweaves a rich history of mankind’s greatest adventure with the intimate stories of five courageous women whose work forever changed the world. 
 
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates: "We were eight years in power" was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. Now Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America's "first white president."
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review 2020-03-28 16:09
Gorgeous debut
The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison

I read the Vintage edition that included an afterword where Morrison discusses the problems she sees in her first novel, and while I enjoyed Beloved and Song of Solomon more, this book in spite of Morrison's complaints is an amazing debut.

 

We can see in the text the seeds of the author's immense talent and beautiful use of language that come to fruition in later works. Its a book full of heart, narrated by children who have not yet been crushed by the concepts of beauty and ugliness and connect the lack of marigolds with the tragedy of their friend.

 

"It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each one a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had each accepted it without question. The master had said, 'You are ugly people.' They had looked about themselves saw nothing to contradict the statement; saw, in fact, support for it leaning at them from every billboard, every movie, every glance.

 

It rages at a standard of beauty that excludes blackness. A school system that elevates whiteness, and a society that accepts as normal male cruelty and dominance. The prose is rich and poetic and the characters are gritty and flawed.

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text 2020-03-13 21:36
Friday Night Food
Beloved - Toni Morrison

I escaped the madness of the office today (we are moving to new premises and today was "moving day") by working from home. All my stuff was already packed up, except for my laptop and there were things I needed to get done today. 

 

I also hoped I would get a new desk delivered today...but alas, no.

 

So, anyway, I was able to listen to Toni Morrison reading Beloved while I typed away on some matters that didn't need a lot of concentration. In fact, I was glad Beloved kept me from being bored. In fact, I think I have to thank Beloved from wallowing in self-pity about having to catch-up with admin chores because, clearly, life could be worse. 

 

Still, I'm not sure about Beloved. That is, I'm not sure I am going to love the book as much as most other readers seem to love it.

 

I also had some time to properly break for lunch and cook. It's been a lovely day outside today, but after a week of quick and easy meals (because our canteen had basically given up two weeks ago and I wasn't going to risk it this week when they were probably using up the last of their provisions) I wanted something hearty and warm and comforting and full of veggie wholesomeness.

 

So, potato, leek, and bean stew was what I made.

 

 

It is so simple, and yet so lovely.

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review 2020-02-11 04:33
Review: The Bluest Eye
The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison

Wow.

 

Just wow.

 

This was...haunting is the best I can come up with.  

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