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Best African American Essays: 2009 Paperback – January 13, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Best African American Essays
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (January 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553385364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553385366
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,971,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an engrossing thought-provoking potpourri of African American experiences ranging from politics to personal issues and relationships. Not the usual "pie in the sky" fare. The stories, essays and articles are often startling in their honest candor, but never boring. I especially liked, "Fired!", a very universal experience about friendships and relationships that simply end, and neither of the individuals really knows why.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I finished up Best African-American Essays last night. Overall, as a writer and a reader, I'm pleased with the selections, though some of them would not have been my choice.

I was particularly moved by BIll Maxwell's three-part essay on Stillman College (not Spelman College), one of 100 or so Historical Black Colleges largely in the South. Maxwell writes of his personal experiences as a English and journalism professor who, as Langston Hughes poetically wrote, had his "dream deferred." He arrived at the college to find a body of students too poor, too lacking in prior academic skills, and too marginalized socially and politically to handle the rigors of college-level education. He spent a couple of years trying to turn things around, only to find students increasingly apathetic about their own academic achievement.

It's interesting, however, that he never ponders or doesn't say why students enrolled in the college in the first place. Did they enroll because they had nothing better to do? Money didn't seem to be the answer because the college didn't seem to have any. It also seems that Maxwell, and other educators in this situation where trying to bring a model of education to a community that was largely ill-prepared and indifferent to that model. He could have learned something from Paulo Friere's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which provides a critical analysis about education based on the needs of the community, rather than the paradigms of perhaps far different communities.

Colleges and universities in these type of poor communities need to let go of traditional elite paradigms where knowledge is something passed down to students who in turn are tested on that knowledge.
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Format: Hardcover
This book does a fine job of letting readers view the world through the lens of various contemporary African American writers. As a white pastor, I found some of the essays difficult to relate to, but very informative. This book was an elective for a class on pastoral writing and I picked it up because the subject matter (and the authors) was outside of my wheelhouse. I wanted to be challenged and, for the most part, this book rose to occasion. The essays are diverse and cover love, friendships, movies, war, politics and music. Some of the essays were particularly well written. The chapter on the film industry's depiction on African Americans in the South was of great interest to me since I currently live in Alabama. Some essays were harder to get into. However, this type of book solves that problem by allowing readers the freedom to skip ahead to the next chapter. I would recommend reading a little bit every day to allow time to digest individual essays.
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By DuchessII on February 12, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I gave these as gifts for Christmas. Everyone to whom it was given just loved reading these and thought that the ideas and positions taken were fascinating and different.
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