Staff Pick

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and a six-time champion, gracefully extended his personal spotlight to an international platform of social justice (as well as to literature: he’s written several history books, autobiographies, mysteries, children’s books, and graphic novels). Now he merges these passions and rallies for the win with Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality beyond Black and White (Time Home, $27.95). Working with his frequent co-writer Raymond Obstfeld, Abdul-Jabbar deploys history and statistics to assess America’s current state of angst with regard to Islamophobia, media bias, rape culture, and the social plague of inequality reflected in housing, education, employment, sexism, and racial profiling. To keep these themes poignant, lyrical, and connected, the authors put them in a musical framework, drawing from songs as a source for chapter titles and segues; give a listen to Marvin Gaye’s “Makes Me Wanna Holler,” Imagine Dragons” “Radioactive,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” The latter initiates the book with the haunting refrain: “...when you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer/superstition ain’t the way.” Through its elevating soundtrack and accessible discourse, Writings on the Wall offers and inspires solutions, encouraging fundamental change and renewing belief in the power of community.

Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White Cover Image
ISBN: 9781618931719
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Time Home Entertainment - August 23rd, 2016

Staff Pick

Following in the footsteps of James Baldwin and his collection of essays, The Fire Next Time, Jesmyn Ward has gathered the work of today’s leading black writers for The Fire this Time (Scribner, $25). Featuring Claudia Rankine, Edwidge Danticat, Isabel Wilkerson, and many others, this collection makes an important contribution to the current discussion of race relations in America. Ranging from essays on Rachel Dolezal and the murals instructing New Yorkers what to do if they witness police brutality, to poetry and the legacy of Baldwin and his contemporaries, this forum reminds readers that the black community continues to experience the same bias it did when Baldwin was living and working. These pages are full of history, cultural criticism, and vivid first-hand accounts of what it means to be a part of the black community. Readers familiar with The Fire Next Time will find that its namesake does not copy nor repeat Baldwin’s original work, but draws from that powerful writer and expands on his thought in new ways. This quickly became one of my favorite books of the year. The power of hearing multiple black voices in one collection makes The Fire This Time well worth reading and a great holiday gift.

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501126345
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner - August 2nd, 2016

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501126352
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Scribner - June 20th, 2017

Staff Pick

If any book this year can help explain the sense of alienation and rage felt by poor and working-class whites in the rust belt and Appalachia, it’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (HarperCollins, $27.99) by J.D. Vance. This is not a political book. It’s a memoir and cultural exposé written by a young, white, straight, Protestant male who grew up in hillbilly country – a part of Ohio that could just as easily have been in the most depressed parts of Kentucky. Vance’s family suffered from the afflictions so often present in poor white communities – the very communities whose votes contributed to the election of Donald Trump this year. Vance chronicles joblessness, alcoholism, drug addiction, marital strife, domestic violence, inadequate schools, and more. That Vance made it out of his chaotic and often dysfunctional surroundings (his first stop was the military) is a testament to his own grit and intelligence, but also to his luck in having a few family members who, even amid their own turmoil, didn’t give up on him. A graduate of Ohio State and Yale Law School now working in the Bay Area, Vance still yearns to understand his former and current worlds and the enormous cultural chasm that divides them. This book is poignant and timely -- a must read for anyone confounded by the class and cultural dynamics shaping America today.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062300546
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - June 28th, 2016