Strangers in Their Own Land; Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell. The New Press, 2016.The not so rosy world of stagnant wages, home foreclosures, the elusive American dream, and current political choices. National Book Award.
Stamped from the Beginning; The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. Nation Books, 2016. The author assembles sources from Cotton Mather to Angela Davis, from the Great Awakening to Black Lives Matter, suggesting that racist ideas are central to American social thought. National Book Award.
Nothing Ever Dies; Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Harvard University Press, 2016. A meditation on the way in which memories are produced, then cultivated, and eventually empowered or subdued. National Book Award.
The Other Slavery; The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. For Centuries Native Americans were enslaved and there was no abolitionist movement to challenge this “other slavery.” Reséndez claims that it was slavery rather than epidemics that decimated Indian populations across North America. National Book Award.
The Slave’s Cause; A History of Abolition by Manisha Sinha. Yale University Press. 2016. The diverse and far-ranging abolitionist movement. National Book Award.
Blood in the Water; The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Thompson. Pantheon, 2016. A prison uprising at New York’s Attica Prison seemed to have been settled to the prisoners’ satisfaction. Then Governor Nelson Rockefeller revoked the agreement and the Prison’s exercise yard was taken by military force, part of his getting “tough on crime”. National Book Award.
America’s War for the Greater Middle East; A Military History by Andrew Bacevich. Random House, 2016, The disasters perpetrated on the Middle East by the architects of American empire-building. National Book Award.
The Firebrand and the First Lady; Portrait of a Friendship; Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Struggle for Social Justice by Patricia Bell-Scott. Vintage, 2017 paper. A friendship born of a letter sent by Murray – the granddaughter of a mulatto slave, to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt – whose ancestry would have allowed her to be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. National Book Award.
Imbeciles; The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck by Adam Cohen. Penguin Press, 2017 paper. A history of the eugenics movement in America, from its beginning as an offshoot of social Darwinism to becoming a popular movement. The author has told this story through the lens of an incarcerated young “feeble-minded” woman. National Book Award.
Weapons of Math Destruction; How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil. Crown, 2016. We live in the age of algorithms; our lives are increasingly not described as our efforts to make rational choices but rather by mathematical models fed by statisticians. National Book Award.