From Publishers Weekly
The isolation and ineffectuality of the American left is lamented in this brooding, somewhat unfocused cri de coeur. Writing primarily for an African-American audience, novelist Mosley (the Easy Rawlins mystery series) argues that today's political myopia and paralysis are caused by a lack of "context." Americans, he contends, dwell on their own problems while ignoring the global context of oppression and exploitation—in Iraq, Africa and elsewhere—in which they are complicit. They are in turn shut out of decision-making forums, whose agenda is set mainly by the narrow interests of the wealthy and privileged. The efforts of progressive groups, meanwhile, lack any unified context and rallying point, and are therefore fragmented and dispersed among a myriad of causes. These musings prompt a number of suggestions, some of which—like giant downtown video screens to project images of humanitarian crises abroad—the author almost immediately retracts. Mosley's most substantive proposal is to challenge the two-party duopoly with a black political party; unfortunately, however, he does not discuss ways to lower the formidable institutional barriers to third parties in the American electoral system. In the end, he falls back on platitudes about the need for citizens to get involved and speak truth to power. Fine sentiments, indeed, but they fall well short of a cogent guide to action. (Jan.)
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From Workin' on the Chain Gang: Shaking Off the Dead Hand of Slavery
(2000) to his popular genre fiction, Mosley's writing has always questioned the status quo. Now, in this short, passionate essay, he confronts his deep sense of political disengagement, and he calls on African Americans to get away from victimhood and take on responsibility for people of color, not only in America but also across the world. He is inspired by personal encounters with Hugh Masekela and Harry Belafonte, but Mosley speaks to ordinary people ("We are not only performers. We are also the rank and file"). He urges everyone to sit at the table, not in the yard, and to listen to the young. Sure to spark controversy, one chapter calls for a Black Party that will focus on prison reform, suffrage for all ex-convicts, universal health care, global child labor, and more. Never hectoring or self-righteous, the naive personal style may do what Mosley wants--call some readers to action and bring them to the table. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved