“The Fire This Time” ed. Jesmyn Ward

There’s a cartoon by Ben Sargent, called “Still Two Americas,” that achieved internet fame a couple of years ago. It has two panels. Both depict boys at their front door, and both boys are are saying, “I’m goin’ out, Mom.” One of the boys is white and the other is black. The white boy’s mother…

Shakespeare in the Age of the Tyrant

Stephen Greenblatt’s new book, Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power, is a timely tome. As Greenblatt well knows, we’re living in an age of ruthless strongmen. The world’s recent and lamentable swing to the right is embodied by all-powerful authoritarians. Here’s the cast list: Nicolás Maduro (Venezuela) – presiding over an avoidable domestic catastrophe, a post-apocalyptic hellscape…

“In the Wake: On Blackness and Being” by Christina Sharpe

Part memoir, part thesis, and part lyrical examination of what it means to be black in the 21st century, In The Wake is simply a great, great book. It bridges so many fields – social justice, poetry, fiction, Critical Race Theory, semiotics, semantics – yet retains complete coherence. It is beautiful, ingenious and tragic. In…

New Books on Race in the United States

  Invisible No More: Police Violence against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea J. Ritchie (Beacon Press) This book by Black feminist legal scholar, writer, and activist Andrea Ritchie looks at the ways black and indigenous women are affected by racial profiling, police brutality, and immigration enforcement. The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison…

“Feeling the Unthinkable: Essays on Social Justice” by Donald Gutierrez

If Donald Gutierrez were alive today, what would he think of the USA now? He’d be horrified. And disgusted. Gutierrez, who died in 2013, shortly after this collection was published, was a social conscience. He passionately confronted inequity and government abuses, particularly that of his own country, the United States of America. Here, 48 of…

Twelve New Books with Social Justice Themes

1. Decolonization: A Short History by Jan C. Jansen and Jürgen Osterhammel (Princeton University Press) Decolonization examines the consequences of European, Japanese and American decolonization from World War I to the 1990s. It details the dramatic collapses of long-established imperial regimes, some in peace, others in a torrent of blood, and describes the long shadow cast…

“The End of Imagination” by Arundhati Roy

“Terrorism is the symptom, not the disease.” (Arundhati Roy, The End of Imagination) Arundhati Roy is a superhero. She wears a sari instead of a cape. She has written one novel – The God of Small Things – and it won the Booker Prize. She is an award-winning screenwriter and an award-declining dissenter. She is…

RIP Tom Hayden 1939-2016

On October 23rd we lost writer/activist/politician Tom Hayden. He’d lived a life of service in the pursuit of social justice. Hayden was one of the original Freedom Riders, journeying to the Deep South in 1961 and getting beaten up for his efforts. The following year, while in jail in Georgia, he drafted the Port Huron…