May's Bookshelf

This one is quite late and will be followed next week by my June reads!  As I wrapped up my classes, May became a great month for reading and listening to books and I'm going to drop a lot of them here for readers to consider picking up, because so many of them were amazing.  So let's get to it!

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, #3) by N. K. Jemisin


If you haven't cracked open this series open, do so ASAP but you need to start with The Fifth Season.  Jemisin's final book in The Broken Earth trilogy delivers upon much that she promised in the first two but not making everything so neat and tidy. Readers get enough to understand what has happened in the past and where the future may lead, but the story of the protagonists, Essun and Nassum is completed.  In this final book, we find the mother and daughter protagonists preparing and racing to the other side of the Earth in order to possibly start a program that will realign Earth's moon with the Earth to end the cycles of 5th-seasons (seasons where instability and harsh conditions rule).  However, Essun (mother) and Nassum (daughter) have different goals in mind and are approaching the endgame with different supports, so when they finally meet, it's not clear just what the outcome will be. What's fascinating about this book is that Jemisin spends as much time in the deep past (long before Nassum and Essun are born) providing a glimpse at how the present moment had been created by past events.  It also becomes clear and apparent why certain narrative approaches have been taken throughout the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed this final arc--so much so that I do not need another book.  At times, I long for "the next story" and while there are clearly survivors at the end of this book, Jemisin has given us a story that feels complete.  Yes, other stories could be written but it doesn't need to be.  That's the mark of a great storyteller.  


Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class by Ian Haney-Lopez


Book cover to Dog Whistle Politics by Ian Haney-López
To understand how racism has permeated politics for the last fifty years, even though so many politicians openly disavow it, then Haney-Lopez's book is a fantastic primer on understanding America's coded racism.  He used the term, "dog whistle politics" to explain that since the 1950s and 1960s with the rise of Geroge Wallace, Richard Nixon, and William F. Buckley have purposely looked to code race by relying upon or making associations between negative imagery (Willie Horton ad), soundbites ("welfare queen"), and cultural artifacts (drugs, social services, etc) and then relying on those associations to play upon white fears in order to win votes, push for elimination of public services, or disenfranchise opportunities and rights for people of color.  Haney-Lopez focuses much of his work on the Republic Party since their white supremacist strategy (or in the Republican's politically correct term, "southern strategy") have been the hallmark of efforts for over a half-century.  However, he also goes after Democrats and their equally appalling efforts to marginalize people of color through attempts to be "tough on crime" (always geared towards populations association with people of color) such as Three-Strikes laws.  In total, Haney-Lopez's work serves as a history and decoder for how much structural racism is woven into the modern political discourse.  It's fascinating to see this book was written a few years ago but to see how much of it resonates with the politics practiced by Trump throughout the 2016 election cycle, using tactics initially introduced by Wallace and Nixon.  In fact, the book does much to explain Trump as the culmination of white supremacy harnessed by the Republicans in their efforts for decades.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Stevenson's reflection on the criminal justice system is a powerful rebuke of the myth of fairness and equity for those who are found "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" or even those who plead guilty.  In this memoir, Stevenson shares the years of work he has put in as a lawyer in the South attempting to protect and save many people who are unfairly crushed under the weight of the criminal justice system.  From poor representation to intentional prosecutorial or police misconduct to horrible conditions in prison, Stevenson shows how wide and disproportionate the cracks are in the system that allows many innocent people fall through them as a result of racism, class, and a system that is fixated on simple metrics and tied to politics.  It's a must-read for anyone trying to understand how wrong and limited we have come in the US in terms of justice. 


Books

  • Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, #3) by N. K. Jemisin

Audiobooks

  • Negroes with Guns by Robert Williams
  • The People Vs Tech: How the Internet Is Killing Democracy by Jamie Bartlett
  • I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
  • No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America by Darnell Moore
  • Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class by Ian Haney-Lopez
  • Learn Better: Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School, or, How to Become an Expert in Just About Anything by Ulrich Boser
  • This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
  • Space Opera by Catherynne Valente
  • Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Joseph Aoun
Wanna catch up on my latest blog posts about books?

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What have been some of your most recent reads of late?  What book do you find yourself recommending to everyone?  What author(s) can't you get enough of?



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