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review 2018-06-21 16:13
Wade in the Water, by Tracy K. Smith
Wade in the Water - Tracy K. Smith

U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith's Wade in the Water is her most recent collection and the first I've read. I think it makes an excellent introduction to her work and wouldn't be a bad place to start if you're new to contemporary poetry. She does not intimidate, nor does her language obfuscate.


The two middle sections engaged me most. The first mines the Civil War era past and makes use of erasure and historical and primary sources in a way that both gives the suffering of African Americans at the time specificity and voice while absolutely illuminating continued injustices in the present. The second also makes poetry out of found materials to focus on contemporary issues such as the environment and racist violence. However, the poems don't attack; they feel like they come from a place of hope.


A book I'm sure I'll come back to soon, after I read her other collections, of course. :)

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review 2018-06-18 22:08
Part of Summer Reading Goals
The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law, and Justice in the Reconstruction Era - Michael A. Ross

Ross looks at a once famous case that has been largely forgotten by people today. A kidnapping of a young child who is later found with a black Creole. In discussing the case, Ross shows how Reconstruction, racism, and changing times influenced the case and its outcome. A very interesting and engrossing read. 

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review 2018-06-07 16:32
Another Country, by James Baldwin
Another Country - James Baldwin

"So what can we really do for each other except--just love each other and be each other's witness?"


When I finished Another Country, it brought tears to my eyes. There's so much suffering exquisitely depicted alongside glimmers of love and beauty, such whole, flawed characters. Like the recently read The Fire Next Time, a nonfiction work by Baldwin, it might have been written today. Again, this is both a compliment to Baldwin's art and his powers of observation but also a lament that so little has changed, particularly regarding race but also gender and sexuality.


Nothing is easy about this book except its gorgeous, lucid prose. It's not afraid of the dark things in people, the mistakes we make, and what holds us back. I felt deeply for these characters, but the book doesn't give in to despair, which, at the end, is what made me cry in relief.


I was surprised to be reminded of Virginia Woolf as I read. There are passages where a character's inability to express "it" or oneself or story are noted. There's a suicide. There's also something about the way both Baldwin and Woolf capture fine states of emotion or the way our feelings and attitude can change so quickly, from seemingly small things. And, when we learn Cass's real name is Clarissa (her husband is Richard), I knew I wasn't crazy to make these connections!


The book is a landmark queer text, and Baldwin clearly knows how to write sex, the act itself--between men and women and between two men--and desire. Its queerness affected its reception at the time; I'm sure many would prefer Baldwin stick exclusively to race and racism. The quote above is spoken by Vivaldo to Eric, and it is a beautiful and simple idea even as the story proves it may be impossible to live by.


However, Baldwin does privilege love between men and the homosocial above all. Nearly all the central male characters are queer or explore their sexuality with one another; at the very least, platonic love between them is a source of comfort and hope. This is not the case with the women. Women's sexuality and power emasculate or cannot be known. There appears to be no escape or solution for women and their pain and oppression, whether white or black. If there is one flaw or problematic issue in this book, in my mind it's that. The love and act of witnessing in the quote seem to be for men only.



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review 2018-06-06 21:35
So You Want to Talk About Race
So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo

This book needs handed out in social studies courses in high school. Oluo packs so much in this book that I really do think is a good guide for people who have questions about race. She delves into all kinds of topics and I was here for them. Sometimes the writing gets a bit technical, but I think that a lot of pre-teens and above would do very well with reading this and having an honest conversation about race afterwards.


As one of my friend's laments, "The reason why the United States still has a huge problem with racism is that no one wants to be honest about it. Everyone wants to pretend that racism died when the North won the Civil War, and it didn't." Then she usually goes into a rant about how she almost got into a fight with someone who tried to explain to her how reverse racism is a thing (it freaking is not).


Oulo breaks this book into 17 sections after her introduction. In each section she goes into some personal history and I wanted to read even more about her family and her experiences. I do follow her on Twitter, but have managed to not come across like a crazy fan. I just love reading her stuff. If you have time, check out her articles. One of her articles on Rachel Dolezal or whatever name she is going by now was a very insightful read. 


I am going to list out the chapters that I loved the best, everything that is not mentioned does not mean that I didn't enjoy it, I just loved these topics the most while reading.


Chapter One: "Is it really about race?"-I love that Oluo breaks it down for people that seem to think that a Utopia United States that would fully embrace socialism will somehow make racism go away is not a thing. It drives me up the wall when people don't seem to get that.


We have a class system in the United States that Oluo points out which is oppressive and violent and harms a lot of people of all races and it should be addressed and torn down, but that class system getting torn down doesn't mean that everything will magically become better.


Oluo brings up labor movements and others which often pushed POC's issues to the back burner as something that would eventually get addressed. This is why I personally still keep struggling with the #metoo movement. It's not an intersectional movement. 


Chapter Three: "What if I talk about race wrong?"-I loved this one because Oluo brings up a conversation with her mother and I maybe sprayed water all over. I won't spoil it for you, but it's hilarious. But she does show a perfect example on how some allies out there need to listen a lot more instead of trying to tell people about their experiences.


I personally get annoyed when I go to a party and I have some random person ask me so what do you think about race in this country? I seriously have had that happen a lot to me. I am not the sole voice in the African American community. Also stop doing that to people.


Oluo goes into a lot of examples to show how to talk about race without forcing a POC to be on the defensive and or having to educate you while in the middle of a conversation.


Chapter Five: "What is intersectionality and why do I need it?"- Oluo goes into Hoteps (shaking my head) and the importance of intersectionality and how people can be more thoughtful in ensuring that if you are having discussions about race how to increase the intersectionality in any discussions that you hold. 


Chapter Six: "Is police brutality really about race?"-Oluo provides readers with a story about how she when she got pulled over in 2015, she Tweeted about it. I don't do that because I am honestly too scared to move if I get pulled over. I was taught to keep hands on the wheel, make sure that you ask for permission to move, when moving still explain what you are doing, and be respectful and keep your eyes lowered. It's like being around a rabid dog that you are afraid is going to bite you. And this is coming from a POC that is friends with a ton of police officers and others in law enforcement. I have a different reality from my friends who are white. I have been in the cars with them when they have mouthed off to cops and in one case flipped the guy off when he was walking back to his patrol car. My only thought was, please don't let me get killed cause of this idiot here!


Oluo breaks down the history behind police forces, and how they started off as Night Patrols who had the principal task of controlling black and Native American populations in England and Slave Patrols who had the principal task of catching escaped black slaves. She then segues into post-Reconstruction America and how the Jim Crow era morphed the police force into something else. 


Chapter Seven: "How Can I Talk About Affirmative Action?"-Such a good chapter. I loved it. My heart also break for Oluo and the coworker that she mentions. I think every POC has a story out there like these.


Chapter Nine: "Why Can't I say the N word?"-Cause you freaking cannot. Enough said. Seriously though Oluo provides again a personal story about being called the N word and how it made her feel. And also explaining why it's not okay to say the word if you are not black. 


And last, but not least.


"Chapter Eleven: "Why Can't I Touch Your Hair"-Please stop touching people without permission. Oluo goes into her own personal history about her hair and about people who think that just cause they saw Chris Rock's "Good Hair" they are now the end all be all of knowing what black men and women deal with with regards to their hair. I personally relax my hair because that's my choice. Shoot, I want to have natural hair, but my hair dresser has point blank said, girl your hair grows too fast and is too thick. Have at it and God bless. LOL. I just don't have the patience for it. I do love black women's hairstyles. I love it when it's natural, relaxed, braided, etc. Do you know how much I loved Black Panther for showcasing women with their hair in all kinds of ways? I loved it a lot. 


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text 2018-06-06 16:54
Reading progress update: I've read 256 out of 256 pages.
So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo

Wow. I took my time with this one because it was so good! I thought that Oluo's way of breaking down different topics about race (microagressions, touching people of color's hair, affirmative action, etc.) was done very well. Even though I am a WOC this still gave me food for thought and once again it's great reading a book showing I am not alone out there with regards to incidents that have happened to me in my personal and professional life.


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