Leading with the chilling statistic that more African Americans are under correctional control than were enslaved in 1850, legal scholar Michelle Alexander debunks the myth of a post-racial America, arguing that "we have not ended the racial caste system but merely redesigned it." This is a must-read for every American with a conscience.
Captions by Rebecca Walker
Sydney Zamora works at Cachet magazine in New York, shops at Barneys and has yet to meet a man who can break through her shell of self-sufficiency. Enter Mitzi the Jewish matchmaker and a lucrative discrimination-suit settlement from Cachet, and Sydney ends up at an ashram, on a mission to find herself. This wildly funny and very smart novel uses tropes of traditional chick lit without sacrificing depth, character and meaningful psychological growth.
This experimental collection is one of two-time Faulkner Award-winning author and MacArthur Fellow John Edgar Wideman's finest. One hundred "microstories" explore Wideman's wide-ranging view in evocative prose sometimes no longer than a sentence or paragraph. Wideman published the book with his son, Daniel, at the online outfit Lulu.com, staking a claim to literary space outside of the big publishing houses and adding respect and prestige to the burgeoning realm of self-publishing.
Henrietta Lacks was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, but her cells — taken without her knowledge — became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses and the effects of the atom bomb; and helped lead to in vitro fertilization, cloning and gene mapping.
Hailed almost universally as one of the year's best novels and anointed by Oprah herself, Franzen's sprawling book about marriage, gentrification, environmentalism and the pathos of upper-middle-class white people of a certain age has an inventive structure, compelling characters and an important message. The major blip in the narrative is the lack of black bodies. A must-read for what is included but also, perhaps more important, for what is left out.
In a society more acclimated to looking at the pressures that women face in our (still) patriarchal culture, the study of the impact of the social construct of gender on men is still woefully absent in contemporary discourse, especially as it intersects with race and class. This book charts the stories of eight African-American men of different ages; readers come away with a firsthand account of more than a decade of African-American history.
The stories of powerful stateswomen are few and far between, making this biography of Cleopatra a must-read for women negotiating the shifting sands of power. Cleopatra became a queen at 18 and went on to rule Egypt for 22 years, at the height of her power controlling just about the entire eastern Mediterranean coast. Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff sings Cleopatra's song with passion and an extraordinary eye for detail.
Prepare to be inspired by this mash-up of memoir and deeply respectful history of hip-hop. Don't let the book's coffee-table appearance fool you: It is the story of a young hustler from the projects turned record- and garment-industry titan, but it's also a portrait of a tender young artist and intellectual. Jay-Z shares the intricacies of selling crack while offering impressive literary deconstructions of his lyrics. Heartfelt, nuanced writing gives this book extra shine.
Roubini predicted the current economic collapse back in 2006, when lenders and real estate developers were clinking champagne glasses and buying Gulfstreams with their seemingly endless skyrocketing profits. At the time, global economists called him Dr. Doom. Obviously, he was right. A great overview of what went wrong and the steps the government can take to bring about real economic stability in America.
Ralph Ellison toiled for 40 years on his follow-up to Invisible Man, never finishing. In 1999 John Callahan published Ellison's posthumous manuscript, Juneteenth; it received mixed reviews. Now Callahan and new editor Adam Bradley, instead of imagining Ellison's choices, leave the manuscript incomplete and rename it, including Ellison's notes, the thoughts and observations of his wife, Fanny, and several sketches. A definitive, intimate look at a master artist at work.