From Publishers Weekly
Under six broad rubrics (e.g., Entertainment, Sports, the Arts, Sciences, Technology, Education, Activism, Political Thought), Early and Dickerson have assembled previously published essays by nearly 30 writers. James McBride recalls how he sidestepped hip-hop the way you step over cracks in the sidewalk, and his realization that I missed the most important cultural event in my lifetime. Uzodinma Iweala urges a redirection of Western media concerns away from campaigns, [that] however well intentioned, promote the stereotype of Africa as a black hole of disease and death. Barack Obama is the subject of two essays and the author of one, which reflects on the mutual suspicion that sometimes exists between religious and secular America. Malcolm Gladwell is instructive in discussing the Flynn effect (that average I.Q.s shift over time) in the black-white I.Q. gap. The editors are inclusive: three essays are by non-African Americans on African American subjects and the well-known mingle with the unfamiliar. Flat moments are few, and Bill Maxwells heartbreaking account of teaching at a black college in Alabama and Emily Raboteaus Searching for Zion, on the Beta Israel and African Hebrew Israelite communities in Israel, rise to particularly affecting heights. (Jan.)
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Since slavery, African Americans have viewed the essay as a powerful means of examining issues of social justice, producing a long line of powerful essayists, including W. E. B. DuBois, Frederick Douglass, and J. A. Rogers. This inaugural collection of essays examines the African diaspora experience from viewpoints as varied as Kwame Anthony Appiah on modern-day slavery in a Ghanaian American family, Emily Raboteau on searching for Zion in Israel, and Uzodinma Iweala on misguided efforts to “save” Africa. Also among the contributors are Michael Eric Dyson, Barack Obama, John McWhorter, Thomas Sowell, Orlando Patterson, and Jill Nelson. Many of the essays are “off message,” going well beyond observations on racism and social justice. Writing in a range of styles from personal to polemical, humorous to somber, contributors cover topics on ordinary life, entertainment, science and technology, sexual orientation, international politics, and black activism. This fascinating collection offers a look at the variety of perspectives on the African diaspora and larger human experience. --Vanessa Bush
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