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review 2017-04-29 14:01
There are other books that have done it better.
Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White - Frank H. Wu

In attempting to whittle down my ever-growing stack of books I thought I'd try to plow through books by Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) for the month of May (which is AAPI Month). I've had 'Yellow' for several years on my shelf so it seemed like it would be a good opportunity to get a head start on the month (as well as clearing out the rather large, oops).


Wu discusses Asian Americans and examines their identity, their place in US society, the racism and microaggressions encountered in his personal experiences. He walks the reader through history, pop culture references, societal context, relations with others, etc. How to recognize the concept of race in US has not limited to black and white, what we can learn, what we still need to learn, etc.


At least, I think that's what he was trying to do. As other reviews say, his background as a lawyer comes very clearly through. Sometimes he goes into excruciating detail that isn't always necessary. Sometimes it's frustrating to watch him switch topics without a better transition or framework. And honestly, a lot of this seemed to be colored by his own experiences and feelings. Which is not necessarily bad or invalid, but it's a little frustrating.


He isolates Asian Americans a bit (which is understandable in his focus) but as noted elsewhere, his comments about black people are worth a side-eye. He may acknowledge their work and history but perhaps without understanding racism, anti-blackness and how that may be affecting his POV. Some of his commentary on immigration and racial profiling are a bit bizarre and at odds with his overall thesis...or examples of how he doesn't quite understand the greater context. 


Overall the book is not for me. It might be handy for a law student (seriously, it sometimes reads like it's a bunch of legal case studies) but as someone who is more of a layperson and was looking for something different it wasn't for me. I wish I hadn't purchased it as a bargain buy but oh well. Recommend the library unless you're studying specific topics he covers.


A book that I thought of (but is not quite on the same topic) is Erika Lee's 'The Making of Asian America' which is more of a history and I felt can be read without needing a class to frame the book.

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review 2016-04-28 20:51
Review: Disintegration by Eugene Robinson
Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America - Eugene Robinson

*Please note: The cover for this book has this teaser underneath the author's name "Winner of the Pulitzer Prize" - yes the author is a winner of this award, but not for this particular book (it was awarded due to his work for The Washington Post and MSNBC). Just want to clarify.


Gwen Ifill, one of the anchor's of PBS's news program(s), summed up this book nicely with her back cover blurb:


...Eugene Robinson neatly explodes decades' worth of lazy generalizations about race in America. At the same time, he raises new questions about community, invisibility, and the virtues and drawbacks of assimilation. An important book.


After finishing reading this book, I definitely agree with Ifill. I do admit to some bias towards Mr. Robinson and his commentary, as I often (but not always) agreed with him when he appeared on Keith Obermann's news program Countdown (man, I miss that show - entertaining and enlightening). This bias led me to pick this book up.


Robinson breaks down his big ideas with studies, statistics that go beyond headline-grabbing numbers (actual analysis - YAY!), and personal experiences. His writing is very conversational, which made the book hard to put down (I ended up spending more time on the cardio machines at the gym because I didn't want to put the book down until the end of the chapter). What you won't find is snark or condescension for the reader or the subject matter. This was written in order to inform and provoke interesting conversations, not to be a viral sensation. It may seem like a quieter book than others on the same subject(s), but for me that makes the book work all the more. 


However, Robinson is not afraid to put forth some solutions that would take a lot of financial and political capital, that could be seen as controversial. But he explains his arguments with facts and logic; he also acknowledges that his solutions are not going to be easy.


One part that I did not agree with Robinson was his support for "education reformer" (quotes intended) Michelle Rhee. That was about all of one or two sentences in the entire book, but I intensely do not like Rhee or her work, so it stood out to me.


Overall, 5 stars.


P.S. - sorry to my international followers who had to read this review and have no idea of the American media references found here.

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review 2016-04-11 23:00
Between the World and Me
Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates writes beautifully and plainly to explain his experience and wisdom to his son. Though his son is the intended reader, his words are something everyone should read. There's no simple way to explain what he talks about because he covers so many topics, though it can be said that they all relate to the lack of security that a black body has historically had in the United States.

But it's so much more than that. He doesn't lament the unfairness of the world or advocate the innocence of anyone. He just points out the realities and that they are a part of life. He doesn't even insist that his son or anyone change things, but accept that they are what they are for now. No change can happen without realizing the state that we all are in. 

I loved Coates's elegant style of writing and the way it was poetic and brutal in its own way. So much of the content of this book have been said in other ways by other people and they were missing something. Coates isn't apologetic or inflammatory, which made the whole experience of this book enlightening in a whole new way for me. 


Read this. Read it even if you want nothing to do with race relations. Read it even if you consider yourself someone who doesn't "see race." Read it no matter what your race is. Especially, read it if you live in the US. 

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review 2015-01-06 17:12
Kindred, by Octavia Butler
Kindred - Octavia E. Butler

Writing about literature shouldn't make intangible feelings obvious ones. It shouldn't pantomime nuance, or float those subtleties an author steeped into the novel’s tone. This is how it is to write about Kindred, a story rife (for any time) with aching parallels, and built on that bonework of slavery that America has so often broken in literature and, in life, reset:  everything you mouth ruins the words.  Kindred isn't an easy novel to read, and will take time to assimilate, and that is the best an author could hope for: that the novel lasts and lives -- uncomfortable and, for a time, inarticulate -- inside those who read it.  That is how we can talk about it.  In how it worms inside us, and in how we see something like that level of abuse living inside the people we love, the people we are.  It’s an underskin, and it feels base to split apart, instead of ourselves, a novel that does so well at making us know better the inner muscles of the world we inherit, and inhabit, and pollute with misunderstanding and actionless self-knowledge.  Let the ugly part of literature live for a while, and perhaps spare that ugliness from the rest of the world, until you are able to recognize and articulate how much it is yourself.

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review 2012-10-29 00:00
The Race Across America (Geronimo Stilton Series #37)
The Race Across America - Geronimo Stilton Awesome information about major races held around the word. Great vocabulary! I want to teach with these!
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