Book List: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Article by corby

It’s a sad and amazing fact that Martin Luther King Jr. was not yet forty when he was assassinated at Memphis’ Lorraine Motel in 1968. The title of King’s last book was WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE: CHAOS OR COMMUNITY?, and it’s hard to think of a more apt question for where we now find ourselves as a nation in 2016. This week, we acknowledge King’s incomparable strength of spirit and intelligence, as well the ongoing, evolving struggle for civil rights in America. Check out these seven titles—all on our shelves now—to get you thinking about where we go from here as a community.

The New Jim Crow Cover Image
By Michelle Alexander, Cornel West (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781595586438
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New Press - January 16th, 2012

The best recent book on the state of race relations in America; this is what you want to read if you want to really understand what’s behind #blacklivesmatter. Impassioned law professor Michelle Alexander makes a compelling case—supported with lots of data and an expert’s legal analysis—that the last few decades of America’s war on drugs has had a devastating impact on black America, essentially instituting a New Jim Crow. Cornel West blurbed it as “an instant classic” and has a characteristically brilliant introduction to this paperback edition.

Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul Cover Image
ISBN: 9780804137416
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Crown Publishing Group (NY) - January 12th, 2016

Published just two weeks ago, this emotional, truth-telling book from Princeton professor Glaude builds a case for what he calls the Great Black Depression, a perfect storm of economic and social injustices that have left black America disproportionately impacted in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. This is a book from the heart, not a dry history or sociological analysis—part memoir, part manifesto. A keenly intelligent inside look at America in the age of Ferguson.

Citizen: An American Lyric Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555976903
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - October 7th, 2014

On pages 134-135 of this poetic masterpiece, Rankine has a list, a list that keeps growing with every reprinting: “In memory of Eric Garner…In memory of Tamir Rice…In memory of Sandra Bland…” These names—of African Americans who have died recently at the hands of law enforcement—are the names that define a troubling moment in American history. Rankin’s mixed-media volume has received more accolades than can be comfortably printed on the back cover—including being a National Book Award Finalist and the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry. This is the book that caused a stir at a Donald Trump rally—and rightly so. Widely hailed as one of the best, most original books of 2015.

S O S: Poems 1961-2013 Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802124685
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Grove Press - February 9th, 2016

Poet Amiri Baraka started his career in conversation with the Beats and the New York school poets, but after the assassination of Malcolm X he essentially started a new life (including leaving his wife and kids) and evolved into a founder and leading voice of the Black Arts movement. SOS—a New York Times Notable book of 2015--is the most complete collection of Baraka’s poetry, from his first published work in the early 60s all the way to unpublished work written just before his death in 2014. Dip in to this tome to sense the ferciously intelligent, jazz-infused and improvisational aesthetic, much of it forged in the fire of the 1960s civil rights movement.

Between the World and Me Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812993547
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Spiegel & Grau - July 14th, 2015

When Toni Morrison tells you something is required reading, you’d best pay attention. Coates writes about being black in America on a visceral level, and it’s this immediacy that touched thousands (if not millions) of readers and won the book the National Book Award for non-fiction for 2015. Cast as a letter from Coates to his teenage son, BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME is also an outpouring of grief over the death of Coates’ Howard University friend Prince Jones, who was shot and killed by police after being mistaken for a criminal. This book has quickly become the most important literary and cultural talking point in America.

The Sellout Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374260507
Availability: Backordered
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - March 3rd, 2015

This is without a doubt one of the smartest and funniest novels of 2015. In 2006 Paul Beatty edited a great anthology, HOKUM: AN ANTHOLOGY OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HUMOR, and his authorial voice in this novel is not only laugh-out-loud funny, it’s also antic, cuttingly satiric and insightful. THE SELLOUT tells the story of an artisanal watermelon and marijuana dealer who ends up in a case before the US Supreme Court (where he doesn’t shy away from lighting up in front of Clarence Thomas). Beatty does not write superficial satire, and every aspect of racial conflict in America comes in for skewering.

Voyage of the Sable Venus: And Other Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101875438
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - September 29th, 2015

Lewis dedicates her volume “for BEAUTY,” and this glittering, enigmatic National Book Award-winning collection certainly lives up to it. The title poem is an 80-page masterpiece, constructed completely from “titles, catalog entries, or exhibit descriptions” of museum pieces representing the black female form, from 38,000 BC to the present. Lewis is a genius, and she uses her gifts for language to give voice to these anonymous, objectified women. This is a book that will stand up to re-readings for years.

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