Not until publication of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics (St. Martin’s , $28.99) has our country acknowledged or fully appreciated how four African American women—the self-proclaimed “colored girls”—have so deeply influenced contemporary American politics. This book, written with candor and humor by Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry, and Minyon Moore, recounts how these “colored girls” found their paths in politics and at the center of the Democratic Party, working in every Democratic presidential campaign since 1984 and inside the last two Democratic administrations. Each woman alone is worthy of her own biography. But taken together, the stories of Brazile, Caraway, Daughtry, and Moore offer a unique and welcome primer on political activism, progressive social movements, party politics, and the nobility of public service. Their story is an important slice of American history, and a very enjoyable read to boot.
Derek Black grew up schooled in racist ideology and was heir-apparent to the white nationalist movement. But after entering college, he ended up reexamining his extremist beliefs and eventually repudiated them, denounced white nationalism, and publicly divorced himself from the movement. It was quite a shock when all this happened several years ago, and Eli Saslow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning feature writer with the Washington Post, recounts this remarkable transformation in intimate, riveting detail in Rising Out of Hatred (Doubleday, $26.95). While the book focuses on the journey of a single former white nationalist, parts of the story reflect America’s larger ongoing struggles with racism. As Saslow suggests, Black’s personal evolution could provide lessons for the nation’s own way ahead. Indeed, one of the main takeaways of the book is the potential for dialogue and moral reasoning to overcome hateful dogmas.
Novelist and essayist Ben Fountain contends that American society has a history of burning in order to survive—it did so literally in the fields of the Civil War and figuratively in the streets of the Great Depression. In Beautiful Country Burn Again (Ecco, $27.99) he contends that another fire is due. He bases his argument in his experience covering 2016's presidential candidates as they postured, promised, and dwindled their way from Iowa to the White House. In that reportage, the author conveys both the absurdness and the tragedy of that race while documenting a country he sees becoming a democracy in name only. Is Trump the problem, or a symptom of a much larger problem we can no longer avoid facing? This is a tough book about tough issues—the reader doesn't get many sentences off. But what Fountain addresses in these essays eloquently and frankly speaks to the threat he feels we all must confront, no matter who wins the next election.