Monday, August 15, 2016

Human rights, racial justice make timely book club selections

Your book club may want to select a book on human rights or racial equality—maybe more than one. Given the volatile nature of the current political campaign, it's important to discuss issues involving racial justice, human rights and justice. There is a vast amount of writing in this area, and it's impossible to recognize it all here, but some of the most important to consider:
Ta-Nehisi Coates' "Between the World and Me," is a 2015 National Book Award winner. Coates writes (beautifully) to his son about the "racist violence that has been woven into American culture." It's a short memoir of race and racism in America. Don't expect pretty words—expect truth.
Worcester Public Library staffers point to "The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens" by journalist Brooke Hauser. It's a nonfiction account of a school in Brooklyn where educators work with students who have survived danger, abandonment and other hardships in coming to the U.S. Here, they encounter new obstacles: legal issues, poverty, the language barrier as they courageously follow their dreams.
In "The Fire This Time," author Jesmyn Ward presents 18 essays by some of the country’s foremost thinkers on race, beginning with James Baldwin. Historian Jelani Cobb says this anthology "should be read by every one of us committed to the cause of equality and freedom.”
In her prize-winning book, “Citizen: An American Lyric,” poet-essayist Claudia Rankine (she's included in Ward's collection) tells narratives of black men pulled over by the police. “Everywhere were flashes, a siren sounding and a stretched-out roar. Get on the ground. Get on the ground now,” she writes. “And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description.”
James Baldwin, who wrote about racial injustice for decades ("Go Tell It on the Mountain," "The Fire Next Time," "Notes of a Native Son") is a seminal source for the voice of the black person in America.
Many authors write about injustice. Michelle Alexander takes that theme into the U.S. prison system with "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness." Alexander details the ways the prison complex destroys black lives and indicts both that system and the police brutality many inmates encounter from the start of their lives as young black men.
Women talk about feminism and racism in "This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color," edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua.
For books with popular impact, try these:
"I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban," by Malala Yousafzai.
"Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity" by Katherine Boo.
"A Fine Balance," by Rohinton Mistry, a brilliant, moving novel about the overriding, inhumane treatment toward Untouchables in 1970s India.
Finally—though there is no finally in a world so full of injustice and human need—Chimamanda Nogozi Adichie's prize-winning novel, "Americanah." It's the story of a Nigerian woman who comes to the United States for an education and stays to make her way in America. Adichie explores racism here and in other parts of the world within the story of a young couple who encounter American life differently.