Showing posts from March, 2021

Review: From "Superman" to Man

From "Superman" to Man by J.A. Rogers My rating: 4 of 5 stars Rogers' fictional polemic explores and deconstructs the racism that pervades the United States. The story focuses largely on a conversation between Dixon, a Black porter on a train, and the white Southern racist legislator as the legislator attempts to argue the "nature" of Black inferiority. Over the course of several days, the conversations wind and turn with him throwing up argument after argument. But whether a strawperson of sociology, biology, psychology, economics, culture, religion, etc, they all crumble against Dixon's ample intelligence and research. While Dixon is a fictional character, the research he calls upon is real, relying on scientists, philosophers, political thinkers, and many others both of the time and from centuries past. That's what is most striking about this book from 1917--the height of Jim Crow--that Rogers has such a systematic

Review: Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys

Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys by Victor M. Rios My rating: 5 of 5 stars Rios's dissertation work-turned-book is a fantastic and powerful read that feels like a perfect counterpart to The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness . Over several years, Rios situates himself among a group of Latino and Black young men in Oakland, California to learn from their vantage what life is like when society deems you a problem or menace. From his observations, interviews, and analysis, Rios highlights the many ways in which young people of color are stuck between living in challenging spaces that demand one kind of conformity while a predominantly white (and racist) culture demands conformity in another. These two demands are at odds with one another, leaving youth men determining what is the rational choice to pursue based on their situation (rather than the "rational" assumptions people not in their pos

Review: Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass

Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass by Mary L. Gray My rating: 4 of 5 stars Exploring life at what is referred to as "automation's last mile", Gray and Suri discuss the human cost to supposedly seamless technology. Their study is fascinating because while it highlights the many problems that the gig economy and invisible labor represent, they also identify that despite this very precarious work, some individuals who do it find meaningful ways of engaging in.  However, the crux of their discussion exposes the ways in which companies have made huge efforts to externalize nearly every aspect of costs to people they can pay but not consider employees and have utterly no responsibility to them (including giving useful feedback or even paying them properly).  What I appreciate about Gray and Suri's work is that they don't just focus on Amazon's Mechanical Turk, the most evident examp

Review: What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading

What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading by Leah Price My rating: 5 of 5 stars We have all heard (and maybe preached) the refrain that "people are reading less" and with it, comes the deep dread of a zombie apocalypse worldwide, not of actual zombies but by people unable or unwilling to read or at the very least, humanity is made all the less for this great and tragic loss of reading. But Price largely shatters that perspective with an in insightful historical look at books and our fundamental misunderstanding about books and the poor public discourse we have around them. Her first focus is to dismantle the myth of people reading less coupled with a challenge that asks exactly when were people doing more reading and what did that consist of? She notes that reading is still happening in significant numbers but people are fixated on the idea that people aren't reading books. Of course, book sales tell a different story