Conversation for the Dinner Table

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Whether you want to sound smart, divert a family beef, or stimulate interesting conversation, here's some lit-related news to share at the dinner table.

Did You Hear That We Spent Billions on a Reading Program That Didn't Work?
President Bush spent $1 billion annually for several years on "Reading First," a literacy program for low-income children that the Department of Education has deemed ineffective. The initiative didn't do jack to improve students reading comprehension. Surprised? Me either.

Did You Know that Zadie Smith Released a New Book?
Although many Zadie Smith fans eagerly await another fiction work from her (if you haven't read White Teeth or On Beauty, do yourself a favor) she's released a collection of essays in the meantime. Changing My Mind riffs on books, film, politics, family, and lots in between. Read an excerpt.

Did You Know Some Bookstores Segregate Black Authors?
The fact that some bookstores have African American sections that house books by black authors may be old news, but the frustration that many black writers feel about being "segregated" by bookstores and publishers continues to be a sore spot. Recently, novelist Bernice McFadden spoke about her experiences trying to break out of the black book ghetto. She told GalleyCat: "[Publishers] have placed all African-American authors in one box, forcing them to compete for the attention of ONE audience."

Did You Know that the Work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is Being Revived?
The King Legacy is a partnership between nonprofit publisher Beacon Press and the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. to print new editions of some of the civil rights leader's past work as well as compile his sermons, lectures and writings into new books. In January, Beacon will release Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, a chronicle of nonviolent resistance and Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community, the last book written by Dr. King.


is a writer, speaker, author of books for adults and youth, and the book columnist for The Root. Her most recent book is \"The Message: 100 Life Lessons from Hip-Hop’s Greatest Songs.\" Visit her at