Showing posts from October, 2021

Review: How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith My rating: 5 of 5 stars History is grounded in the stories we tell and the artifacts and places that we preserve. What does it mean to look for and uncover history that is both in plain sight but also obscured by the stories that we tell? That is the question that Smith explores in this book. His book is both a journey across the country (even the world) that opens up newer understandings about the power of storytelling and place and serves as its own metaphorical "green book" about historical sites willing to lean into their racist backdrops and those that avidly avoid it.  Through the book, Smith visits places like Monticello, the Whitney Plantation (a museum of slavery), Blandford Cemetery (a Confederate cemetery), Angola Prison, Galveston, Texas (home of the first Juneteenth celebrations), New York City (Slavery & the Underground Railroad Walkin

Review: On Juneteenth

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed My rating: 4 of 5 stars Part memoir, part history, and part cultural excavation, Gordon-Reeds' collective essays about both her personal history and the history of Texas through the lives of people from marginalized groups (Black people, women, Native Americans) end "on Juneteenth", the culmination of history, exile, and healing.  It's a powerful way to explain how Gordon-Reed balances both the big cultural idea of "Texas" in its own and in US history, coupled with her own fondness for the state while simultaneously recognizing how exclusionary it has been to her and other Black people.  The essays traverse from her experience growing up in a slowly and reluctantly (and legally mandated) desegregated school system to how childhood play of "Cowboys and Indians" replicated the U.S. and Texan culture about who were the true Texans and who were disposable.  In total, the es

Review: Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer

Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer by Steven Johnson My rating: 4 of 5 stars Johnson returns with another enjoyable and intriguing exploration that considers what are the factors in the last few hundred years that have led to a near doubling of human life. It's not an extensive history nor a history that explores this through the genius model of history (a history that frames it in the solitary figures who did "great deeds"). Rather, Johnson delivers a network history that explores the conditions and structures that created the changes in thinking to introduce practices, tools, and advocates to widened the Overton Window (the range of socially acceptable ideas around a subject) to include these newer ideas.  That's not to say he ignores the more well-known names but places them in a larger context that shows how without other elements, they would not have been able to help shift the paradigm.  Beyond that, Johnson's book prov

Review: No Study Without Struggle: Confronting Settler Colonialism in Higher Education

No Study Without Struggle: Confronting Settler Colonialism in Higher Education by Leigh Patel My rating: 5 of 5 stars It's a compelling critique about higher education as a place that extends the settler-colonial mentality and practices of ownership, particularly the concept of creditors and debtors. It feels timely and relevant given a range of cultural clashes within higher education over the last decade, not to mention how schools have approached the entire pandemic and student, staff, and faculty safety--often interested in protecting the "investment" of the "live experience" over meaningful support of people in crisis at numerous levels. In essence, Patel asks how the legacy of the European invasion of the Americas, Africa, and Asia has been reinforced through concepts of property, many of which are baked into higher education. For instance, she draws out the ways in which older institutions (particularly Ivy Leagues) thrive thr