Our faculty recommend the following readings that we find particularly helpful in learning about our country's current situation and identifying possible solutions:
Alison Bell: “In College, a Christian Girl Told Me that the Last Word from My Mouth Would Be Jesus Even If My Soul Slid Back/ I’d Call for My Mamma (for George Floyd),” Darnell Lamont Walker, 2020. I recommend a poem by Darnell Lamont Walker: an artist, filmmaker, and writer who grew up in Virginia and earned a PhD in Communication and Culture from Howard University. Walker wrote this poem for – and following the murder of – George Floyd (May 2020). Part of the long-standing anthropological project is trying to catch glimpses of other peoples’ experiences in, and perspectives of, the world. Anthropology is often affirmed as being the most scientific of the humanities and most humanistic of the social sciences; in the latter vein, I appreciate and recommend attention to Walker’s words. https://darnellwalker.wordpress.com/…/in-college-a-christi…/
Lynny Chin: Kimberly Jones, June 7, 2020. https://twitter.com/kimlatricej…/status/1269733575374647303…’m not recommending a scholarly reading this time, but the words of Kimberly Jones, author of the novel: “I’m not Dying with You Tonight”. Maybe like me you have encountered this experience, people I know have lauded protests, but condemned violence, rioting, and looting, but never stopped to question how they are related. This post is a powerful explanation why.
Jon Eastwood: The Scholar Denied: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology, Aldon Morris, 2017. This book has opened my eyes, and those of many other sociologists, to the extent to which W.E.B. Dubois successfully created a scientific and anti-racist sociology in the late 19th century, one that was largely ignored by the sociological establishment. We should be thinking about ways to recover these foundations and build on the achievements of Dubois as we look to the future.
Chelsea Fisher: The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits, Tiya Miles, 2017. I’m from New Jersey, went to college in Ohio, and grad school in Michigan - and all that time up in “the north” I always assumed that slavery was something that had happened only in “the south”… this book has helped me learn just how wrong I was. Tiya Miles is an excellent historian, and she manages to piece together scant scraps of archival evidence to tell the stories, struggles, and victories of Black and Indigenous people who were enslaved in early Detroit. This book profoundly changed the way I think about U.S. history.
Don Gaylord: The Fire this Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, Jesmyn Ward (Editor), 2016. One of the most transformational moments in my life came from reading James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time during an undergraduate class at Rutgers on late 20th-century history; especially important to my re-imagining of who I needed to become was A Letter to My Nephew.Few experiences have shaken me to the core of my beliefs as this reading did. In working through what to include in this resource list, my first instinct was to suggest Baldwin’s book of essays, and while it is still terribly relevant, I wanted to suggest something more recent. Thanks to Alison who led me to Jesmyn Ward’s collection of essays and poems that come as a response or restatement of these heartbreakingly similar issues almost six decades later. The original Baldwin letter to his nephew is reproduced here: https://progressive.org/magazine/letter-nephew/.
Sascha Goluboff: Kindred, Octavia E. Butler, 1979. Butler, an Black science-fiction author, tells the story of a Black woman who unwittingly travels back in time to come to the aid of her slave-holding white great-grandfather when he is a young man. While reading this book last year for my MFA in fiction, I was caught up in the vivid narrative that, through storytelling rather than scholarship, clearly articulates the tangled relational qualities and historical legacies of racism. It is as pertinent now as it was then.
Krzysztof Jasiewicz: The Books of Jacob, Olga Tokarczuk (the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature winner), forthcoming in English in March 2021. My recommendation is atypical, in three ways: (1) I have not finished reading the book myself yet (it’s some 900 pages of dense prose…); (2) it’s not yet available in English translation (I am reading it in the Polish original); (3) it’s set in places and times distant from the 21st century America. But it carries a message that is universal: only transgressing borders that separate us from other races, ethnic groups, religions, etc. can make us truly human.
Harvey Markowitz: Conquest, Andrea Smith, 2005. This book focuses on the many kinds of violence that European and Euro-American colonization have perpetrated against American Indians including the extraordinary high incidence of sexual violence against American Indian women.
David Novak: “Seeing Black: Race, Crime, and Visual Processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,” J. L. Eberhardt et al, 2004. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.116. This is an excellent article which reveals significant implicit racial biases in policing. The authors run a series of experiments with college students and police officers. One of the key findings is that respondents are more likely to associate degraded pictures of objects relevant to crimes with Black male facial images. Eberhardt has worked with numerous police departments to deconstruct the implicit racial biases with the goal of reducing police violence toward black males.
Marcos Perez: The Land of Open Graves, Jason De Leon, 2015. An exploration of the catastrophic consequences of migratory policy in the US-Mexico border. When policy is dictated by fear of “the other”, the results are countless of lives lost in the name of security.