So You Say You Are Looking for AfAm Children’s Books? (Link Luv)

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Sue VanHattum @ And All the Rest Blog, has just finished compiling a list of some of her favorite children’s books by or about African Americans. Her list is fairly extensive and includes several books I personally am excited to read. As a collector of children’s books, it is always nice to see what others think are the must reads. And I know I have many parents here on the blog who have asked at one point or another for a book suggestion, so here is  a good place to start.

(most of these books are Children’s Lit not Young Adult fiction, though some are for older readers. If you have books that you think everyone should be reading that are about black girls and teens, let us know in the comment section. I will be compiling a list of children’s fiction I love some time soon for the blg and finally writing that “female protagonist” post of Young Adult fiction as well. I have also sent a tweet to BiancaLaureano to participate with her list of Young Adult fiction for young men of color. So should be good. Anyone else want in?)

BHM: Marcus Books knowledge is power

Marcus Books is the oldest and still thriving bookstores dedicated to African American and black authors. It has been serving the Bay area for 50 years and has survived the gentrification of their neighborhood when so few other black owned businesses ever do. More important for African American herstory, Marcus Books was co-founded by Raye Richardson, along with her husband, and she continues to be committed to the store’s success. Currently, Marcus Books is run by her two daughters, Blanche Richardson and Karen Johnson who most store patrons credit as being the most knowledgeable people about black books they have ever met. Rounding out this matriarchy of black female booksellers/owners is Johnson’s daughter Tamiko who already helps out in the bookstore and will likely be in charge of it when her mother and aunt pass it on.

The store focuses on history and literature by and about African Americans from children’s literature to adult fiction and is named after black national Marcus Garvey. Both Richardson and her husband grew up in households heavily influenced by Garvey’s writing and Raye credits black nationalism as one of the reasons she had such a thirst for black books. As she grew up, she found herself lending her books out to all of her friends, who were also having a hard time finding or being exposed to new black books. The bookstore idea came from both the need to have ready access to books and to allow avid readers to retain their copies; you see, like me, when Richardson lent out her books, she almost never got them back because people loved them so much.

The bookstore marks a critical and long term intervention into the narrow publishing and stocking traditions of publishing houses and bookstores by refusing to ghettoize African American literary production. As one store patron put it:

” Years ago I grew tired of looking for books in the ‘African American Section’ of Borders or B[arnes] &N[oble] only to be inundated with trashy Black novels about a man who ain’t “no good” and the Sistah strong enought [sic] to love him.” – Jabir F

As many of us know, this and historical books about slavery are about all you can get on the shelves of mainstream bookstores. And if you want something on black women and empowerment or black women and feminism, you will neither find it in the WS section nor in the AFAm section unless it is a chapter in a book about [white women and] feminism in general or church women or a civil rights picture book respectively. Thus mainstream bookstores’ ordering policies work to erase a wide range of black intellectual thought and to perpetuate urban fantasies and the erasure of black women feminists and pro-woman movements.

Another patron explains his trouble in finding two popular biographies at the chain stores and how Marcus Books filled in the gap:

After much back and forth, I finally decided to purchase either Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story or The Pact for my ninth grade mentees.  So I hit my usual haunts Borders – “if we have it will be in the African-American section located on the second floor rear corner.” Bad sign.  Some 50 years post Rosa and we are still riding the back of the bus. “Most likely we don’t have it and can order it and have it in a couple of days.”

I call Stacey’s ask them about both books.  “I haven’t heard of The Pact and Gifted Hands is the that by Robbins?”

“The Pact, about 3 Newark doctors who made a pact to finish school, to become doctors, and to return to help the community.  Gifted Hands by and about Dr. Ben Carson, who escaped the mean streets of Detroit to become a gifted peds neurosurgeon.”

“Don’t have it, we can order it.”

“I need to find me an ethnic bookstore.”

“Good-bye.” Click.

One google search later, I find Marcus Books in Oakland.  “The Pact, about the doctors, they have another book coming out; we hope to have them back when they do their book tour.  Yes, we have two copies.  I don’t see that we have Gifted Hands in stock but I will call our San Francisco store…Yes, they have both books.”

Marcus Book Store I love you.  Like the big chain stores, Marcus has the technical, historical context books that white professionals like to read to understand the ways of black folk, but unlike the big chains and the “other local bookstores,” Marcus actually has general interest books, books about people, poetry, and every type of book by, about or for [black people that] you would find in Borders except [Borders only has these books about white people]. – Ralph C

This story is all too familiar to most of us. What is disconcerting about it is less that the books weren’t stocked, as we all should have expected that, but that these books were mainstream titles (meaning they were published by publishers these chains order from) and yet unknown to anyone working at the store. Worse, when mildly confronted about their absence, the response was not “we can order it” but to simply hand up on the potential buyer.

And while mainstream bookstores have failed to represent a wide range of black authors and historic and contemporary events, black bookstores have often had limited, aging, and male-centric selections that make them unappealing to the average browser and the discerning feminist reader. According to another book patron at Marcus books however, they have not fallen into this trap:

Aside from the late Karibu chain in DC/MD, in the past I’ve been disappointed by the offerings of black bookstores. But this place has a GREAT selection, even of hard to find books (I needed an older Percival Everett joint for a last minute gift, and couldn’t find it ANYWHERE except Marcus Books).  They had everything i wanted, some things I didn’t know I wanted (like Zora Neale Hurston’s writeup of her ethnographic work on voodoo), and offered to order anything I couldn’t find. – Jakeya C

And while many of the guest speakers at Marcus Books have been male authors and intellectuals, they also have a thriving number of up and coming and established female authors who have spoken or had book readings at the store.

I’ve seen Nikki Giovanni and Octavia Butler read here, to a room full of people of color, mostly Black folks. Need I say more? – Rona F

Marcus Books is also implicated in a larger narrative of African American history in the Bay area. During the 1950s, the bookstore shared the building with Jimbo’s Bop City, a famous Jazz club. Artists such as John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Art Tatum would stop by the store before late night jam sessions. They also featured talks by Elison (a classmate of Richardson’s husband), Baldwin, and Malcom X as well as contemporary movers and shakers in the black literary scene like Angelou and Morrison. The bookstore also embraces contemporary fiction, including urban fiction which they see as potentially an observation on the plight of working class and subsistence level black youth in a setting that both booksellers and readers can easily identify (way to make something subversive, no?), and the authors writing it.

While Marcus Books is small, housing only 6000 volumes, it also manages to keep several of the most high demand books in stock and on the shelves according to patrons. This is extremely important to readers of black literature because Marcus Books circumvents the unfair tax mainstream stores’ “we can order it” places on their customers. By unfair tax, I mean not only potentially monetary cost but also emotional tax, ie:

  1. unlike white readers or readers looking for books by/for/about white people, black readers and ppl with interest in black books have to wait 5-14 business days to get a book they are interested in reading
  2. if the person is unable to return to the store to pick up their books or chooses to buy online out of frustration, they have to pay shipping and handling when mainstream white readers do not
  3. readers of black books almost always have to ask for help in the hopes of finding a book and as a result run the risk of being hung up on or the in person equivalent like the story quoted above
  4. even when they are not hung up on these book searches often include the tiring task of having to explain repeatedly what the book is and what it is about, even when the book is a popular paperback, which reinforces the idea that black literature and black lives are less important
  5. while mainstream white readers can spend hours roaming the stacks of any mainstream bookstore only to stumble upon a book they have never heard of but soon becomes their favorite, readers of black books have 1 small shelf to look through meaning they will likely never be exposed to the wide array of black books available to them in a bookstore

The last of the above list is critical for two reasons:

  1. the ongoing lack of exposure to a wide array of black books for patrons of bookstores (regardless of their interests)
  2. the reinforcing failure to buy a substantial number of black books b/c no one knows about them that the publishers and bookstores use for neither publishing nor stocking black books

The availability of inventory at Marcus books has not only been helpful to regular readers but also to academics. Several of the patrons attesting to the import of Marcus books were students or teachers/professors all of whom claimed Marcus Books has been invaluable to their own reading and their teaching. As one graduate student put it:

Marcus is responsible for more than half of my cherished book collection. – Jamila N

And one principal credits the bookstore with ensuring her school had a diverse lending library and curriculum for its diverse students.

For me, growing up in areas where black owned bookstores have been tiny, ratty, hovels with only a handful of ancient books and where the feminist bookstore is just as guilty of failing to stock a wide range of black women’s literature and theory as the mainstream stores, Marcus Books is an inspiration on how to get independent bookstores and black lit right. I wish anyone running a bookstore, but especially an independent feminist one, would have the opportunity to sit down with these three generations of women with 50 years of black owned bookstore knowledge behind them and ask how they can better represent black women’s intellectual production and black books in general.

Recently the store launched an online community to help customers and people outside of the Bay area stay connected (see link at top of page) as well as twitter @marcusbooks.

Erzulie’s Skirt Virtual Book Group

So, after a quick survey of the peeps/tweeps, I’ve decided to host a discussion of Erzulie’s Skirt, possibly the first lesbian novel set in the erzuliesskirtDominican Republic and its diaspora by a contemporary Dominican American female author, next month on the blog. We will be reading the book in sections as yet undetermined and all are welcome. Here’s a brief description from the amazing publisher:

Set in the age of urbanization in the Dominican Republic over the course of several lifetimes, Erzulie’s Skirt is a tale of how women and their families struggle with love, tragedy and destiny. Told from the perspectives of three women, Erzulie’s Skirt takes us from rural villages and sugar cane plantations to the poor neighborhoods of Santo Domingo, and through the journey by yola across the sea between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.  It is a compelling love story that unearths our deep ancestral connections to land, ritual and memory.

In the interest of full disclosure, I know this author personally.

If you are interested in participating and you have a twitter account please DM me so I can send you a reminder when we start. If you don’t just stop by the blog when we start reading.  And please pass this announcement on.

I look forward to talking abt the book w/ all of you. 🙂

I Read Banned Books, Do You?

Sunday marked the start of banned books week. As I said on twitter, I was surprised by some of this year’s entries. Looking over the list for BannedBooksWeek20092008-2009 it seems as though we have become less “tolerant” of diversity and developmentally appropriate exploration in our literature and our schools.

Among the books banned are classics in Latin@ literature, critical entries in Native American literature, and a slew of LGBTQI literature. While the latter may be expected by most of us, what I certainly did not expect was what parents and school boards consider “queer” lit, ie too queer for my children. More importantly, the far reaching definitions of “inappropriate” queer exploration have also extended to heterosexual exploration in ways that once again prove my point that oppression multiplies outward from the targeted to those who target.

These are the books on the list that I own and/or teach:

  • Sarah Brannen. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding. – (Gay Guinea Pigs get married, children’s book). Banned from library (placed in restricted area) Castle Rock CO
  • Parnell and Richards. And Tango Makes Three – (story of the gay penguins in central park zoo) – Banned Bristol UK and multiple banning attempts in U.S.
  • Linda deHaan & Nijland Stern. King & King. – (fairytale with gay marriage at end, children’s book) – Banned in Bristol UK as “unsuitable for children” and Attempted ban at Grade School level Lexington MA grade school b/c of “homosexual agenda”
  • Stephen Chbosky. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – (epistolary novel written by a freshman about figuring out life, sexuality, drugs and death, to imagined reader) – Banned for High School level Portage IN for sexuality, homosexuality, and drug use (also among the most frequently challenged books in the U.S.)
  • Lisa Jan-Clough. Me Penelope (teen girl obsesses with sex as attempt to get love & heal from death of  her brother & parent’s divorce) – Banned for Middle School level Tavares FL for sexual references
  • Sherman Alexie. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian – (semi-atuobiographical story of Native American boy’s life on Spokane (Rez) & struggles with attending an all white school)- Banned for HS level in Prineville OR for ref to masturbation
  • Khaled Hosseini. The Kite Runner – Banned for High School level MI for homosexual content & rapeKingkiss
  • Alice Walker. The Color Purple – Banned Morgantown NC homosexuality, rape, violence
  • Alice Sebold The Lovely Bones – (a young girl who was raped & murdered by a neighbor, watches over her family while she comes to terms with her own death) – Banned for Middle School Waltham MA “too scary”
  • John Berendt. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – (A queer murder mystery set in the South) Banned 4 days Middle School level- Buelah ND then put on new parental permission list
  • Susanna Kaysen. Girl Interrupted – (the story of a young girl incarcerated in mental facility largely for failing to adhere to gender norms) – Banned High School level New Rochelle NY for sexual content and language
  • Anonymous. Go Ask Alice – (Young girls decent into drug addiction & depression & abuse) – Banned Middle School level Berkeley Co SC  for language, sexuality, and blasphemy
  • Rudolfo Anaya. Bless Me Ultima – (coming of age set against backdrop of diff religious/spiritual traditions & their meanings for Nueva Mexicanos) – Banned High School level Newman Ca for profanity & anti-catholic sentiment
  • Jodi Picoult. My Sister’s Keeper (young girl sues for emancipation to stop being “just an organ donor” for her ill sibling) – Banned for Middle School level Clawson MI “too racy”
  • Mark Bowden. Black Hawk Down (war novel based on failed Somali operation) – Banned High School level Raceland LA for profane language
  • Alta Schreier. Vamos a Cuba.  Banned from Miami Dade for “inaccurate portrayal of Cuba”

What the vast majority of these books have in common is marginality and abuse especially of young girls. The books provide an opportunity for students who are struggling RedUltimaSmwith similar issues to see themselves reflected in the literature they read and potentially develop a language for discussing trauma, adolescent questioning, and sexuality. Many of these books reflect distinctly female voices from working class or single parent homes, authors and characters of color, and queer voices. Removing these books for such minor infractions like “mentions masturbation” serves to not only police the boundaries of sex and sexuality in a developmental period in which such exploration is already occurring in real life but also limit the exposure youth have to traditionally marginalized and erased voices in the literary canon. Much like the recent attacks on health clinics in the schools, banning books with this kind of content fails to recognize both the realities of young adult lives and the actual uses of such literature. Kaysen’s book will no more encourage people to be promiscuous (espec. since the ban misses that sexual acting out in this book is larger a result of sexual abuse) than Hosseini’s will encourage mean boys to rape quiet ones. What these books will do is help people talk about difficult and stigmatized events in a way that provides insight to those less aware of them. They will also possibly provide a pathway to speaking about these issues for those who have similar ones. Since most of these bans take place at the k-12 level, they also validate the families and desires of young people at a critical moment in their lives when they may feel shame or consider self-harm. For girls in particular, these books warn of the sexual violence in our1985_The_Color_Purpleworld and provide ways to understand both domestic and sexual violence they may have already seen or experienced. “Protecting them” from these stories is not worth the risk of failing to provide insight and outlets to them protecting themselves or seeking protection from the violence in the real world.

An important economic aspect to the banned book list is also related to diversity. Not only are many of the authors people of color, queer, and/or women but many of these books were published by independent presses who are more willing to publish marginalized voices and experimental texts. While some people benefit from being on the banned book list, because it raises awareness about their books during the controversies that inevitably ensue, publishers depend on book orders from libraries and schools to make up the bulk of their revenue. Young adult fiction in particular gets most of its exposure in libraries and classroom curriculum. If these books are banned, the independents may go under or take less “risk” on publishing diverse authors in the future. The “underselling” of these books also helps larger publishing companies justify not publishing, providing marginal marketing, or otherwise marginalizing traditionally underrepresented authors. So that the banned book list, at least at the young adult level, has lasting impact on what is available for all of us to read in the future. And the fact that many of the entries on the list are considered literary classics or on Oprah’s booklist should make us no less concerned for the impact on the market as a whole. (Go Ask Alice is out of print, Girl Interrupted was briefly out of print, and many of the most challenged books are never ordered by school libraries for fear of the process of defeating a challenge – ie an unofficial ban is in place in many schools, etc.)

There are undeniable political motivations behind many of this year’s banned books that seem to be more blatant than usual. The fact that books on the basic cultures of Cuba or New Mexico were banned for failing to “accurately portray” country or church smacks of the kind of totalizing agenda that people are always trotting out when trying to ban queer shermanissues from the schools. That these books, along with the gay wedding books, were banned is proof that there are people who want their politics to run the school and that we should all be wary of them. Disagreeing with content of a book or with the identities it represents within its pages is one thing, demanding that all youth be denied access to this material b/c you don’t like it, is another. And for a political ideology that makes so much of the role of parenting, it makes me wonder why they do not trust their parenting and their churches (b/c I am convinced they don’t go to my church) enough to provide context for their children to understand the material they read? Is it the fact that they are discovering that when children are allowed to think for themselves and given material that reflects the lives around them they are more likely to see both their own desires and people who are different from them, or people who are abused and marginalized, as equally human and deserving?

When I was attending a Catholic grade school, we had a banned book cart. It was a stack of books deemed “inappropriate” for youth that the librarian refused to remove from the library. The compromise was to put them on the cart b/c we were all taught that books on carts needed to be reshelved and not to touch them.  B/c of my disabilities, I spent a lot of time in doors during recess, and eventually discovered the cart in question. Among the books shelved there were The Color Purple, A Separate Peace, and the play The Children’s Hour, among others. I remember asking if I could read one of the books, and the librarian telling me I had to read it in the library. As the days turned into weeks, Ibegan to read everything on that cart, asking questions about material I did not understand or recognize. As those weeks spanned to months, suddenly several students who had come and gone from the library on days they could not be outside or had been put in “detention” in the library also began to read with us. We were ultimately a core group of 8. The critical skillsGo Ask Alice Collage Cross we developed in those small reading sessions made us better scholars in our other classes, asking new questions and thinking about things in new ways. Then one day, the principle walked in on our group, admonished her daughter, the librarian, and suddenly the cart was gone. I spent my inside days in the art room after that.

Though I was too young to know what was going on, what I do remember was how brilliant and alive thosemade me feel when I read them. How nice it was to see people of color and young people with real problems reflected in the things I read. And how those grade school days seemed to make me so much better prepared than my high school peers when many of the issues like drugs, sex, desire, and dating violence, entered our adolescent lives.

Having had that experience, and being an educator in love with books, I would argue that most of the material listed above helps readers develop critical thinking skills and possibly survival strategies (in the case of rape, domestic violence, etc.) that transcend the material itself. The point of education is to provide people with those skills so that they can better understand and navigate our world. And yes, by teaching all students a diverse curriculum we, as educators and librarians, provide the opportunities for young people to embrace diversity and build a more inclusive society/ies in the future.

If you are interested in any of these books, please go read them or check them out of the library. And if you live in one of the places where the book was banned, consider buying one and making it available for young adults to read.

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images

  • official poster for Banned Books Week 2009
  • image from King & King children’s book. deHaan & Stern. King and King. Tricycle Press, 2004.
  • cover art Bless Me Ultima. Anaya, R. Bless Me Ultima. Grand Central Publishing, 1999.
  • The Color Purple movie poster/new release book cover. Walker, A. The Color Purple. Harcourt, 1984.
  • cover art True Diary. Alexie, S. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. Little, Brown Young Readers, 2007.
  • student college project UNC. Borne, C. “Go Ask Alice, Interpretation 3”

Book I’m Looking Forward to Reading

So, I promised myself this semester I was not only going to teach the overload our department desperately needs with so many on leave, but that I was going to continue my summer commitment of reading for pleasure. I know . . . I’ve over-estimated access to time and space (physical alone time) again. Nevertheless, I have already picked out a book from my vast shelf of  “things I meant to read but life got in the way”:

Not only does this book sound exciting, but since it does dovetail with a core course I have to teach in Spring, I can call it work when I have to and free-time when I don’t.

I’m curious, does anyone else find that they have stopped reading for pleasure during the term? It’s really a shame.

After the two cancer scares this summer (a pet and a human family member), I promised that all the things I put off for work, I’m going to somehow fit in. Don’t want to breathe my last breath having failed “to suck the marrow out of life.”

POC in Sci Fi Meme: Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica Legacies

The Meme: Recommend, review, and/or discuss poc characters/authors in sci fi

Afrolantica Legacies

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Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica Legacies begins with a question: how to explain the innovations of the present to President Jefferson if he were to appear in the present. The answer: start with how a black man has the right to explain anything to a white one.

As this question and answer imply, the book explores the progress of African Americans while questioning the legacy of racism that remains constant in our nation even amongst liberals and the working class. Often the discussion goes beyond the stereotypical white=bad: black=good discussion and starts to interrogate black leaders, civil rights tactics, and the meaning of oppression in general. Unlike both traditional race and science fiction narratives, it also includes strong female characters and discussions of feminism. Where it falters is in the execution of some of its ideas and characters, clunks dialogue, and a section of Jewish-black issues that is problematic at best.

The Form and the Content

The mythic island of Afrolantica is resurfacing equadistant from the U.S. and Africa. It’s previous appearance prompted African Americans and members of the African Diaspora to pack up their lives and attempt to establish a free society on the island oasis only hospital to black people. Instead, they received a list of 7 principles with which to confront oppression and empower themselves while the island returned to the ocean.

As the nation and the world prepare for its return, several parties prepare for critical discussions about race and what it will mean for black people to leave N. America for good over inequality. Among them is a speech by the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, apologizing for racism and the author of the speech, Derrick Bell, and his alien/sorceress colleague Geneva Crenshaw, outlining illustrations of the 7 principles to light the way.

Each chapter of the book is an individual story illustrating a corresponding principle and introduced by some stilted banter between Crenshaw and Bell as they “relax” on the island of Afrolantica. Some stories are more succesful than others as pieces of fiction; the majority operate more as intellectual essays on the issues barely passing themselves off as part of the semi-fantastical world that supposedly frames them. On the positive side, these essays/stories are full of cited research and law cases that illustrate how race, privilege, and moderate or liberal (defined as changing laws to equalize representation and protections in the existing system) politics have worked in the U.S. over time. Many of these essays ask the reader to think about how power is amassed, retained, and learned, all important things to understand if we are ever to dismantle oppression.

On the negative side, the essays/stories will appeal more to academic readers interested in the subject than to science fiction or fantasies readers who might become interested if introduced through their favorite genre. Worse, the genre itself seems to be a mere prop that is often falling down. Thus while the first two stories involve an alien and a fantasy land respectively, others take place between academics on campus or are review essays of novels or significant historical figures.

While Bell makes several key points about race that remain critcally salient today (and resonate with current events), he is less successful or consistent with other identities presented in the book. Though Bell fills his book with strong women, many of the descriptions or internal narratives about his attraction or lack there of to them arer completely out of line and out of place. Moreover, the recognizable women of color in his novel are all aliens or sorceresses whose concerns are largely for their own agendas. The one exception is a character named Tamara, who functions as white in a story about a Citadel full of people with unearned privilege who lorde it over lowlanders. Tamara is described as extremely intelligent and passionate both of which she gets from her father b/c her mother is dead, and these characteristics are written as gifts from her father rather than hard earned traits. In attempting to solve race relations, Tamara champions lowlanders in typical bleeding heart fashion, remaining silent in public when it will cost her prestige, feeling both attracted and distracted from the “best” lowlander in the area, etc. It is not until the end of the story that we discover that Tamara and the rest of the Citadel dwellers are people of color and that they got their power by taking it from the white lowlanders who use to oppress them. In terms of a racial discourse, this is a fascinating twist that calls up Fanon and/or Lorde. However both Tamara and Offred (yes that Offred) are the most developed female characters in the book. They are written clearly as feminist revolutionaries from which the rest of the characters in the stories can and should learn. There is no similar championing of  Chiara who is duplicitous, occassionally judgmental, and seems as various points to use or advocate violence or Crenshaw, who is judgmental, unattached, and also weilds power in ways that do not take into account Bell’s schedule or needs.  Thus Bell gives us a world in which all the men are black and all the feminists are white, or passing for it, and everyone is straight. (Interestingly, the Chiara story does include a critique of gender and gender binaries, tho there are no transgendered characters in the book.)

At the same time, Bell has to be commended for including women as powerful presences in almost all of the essays/stories in the book. All of them are strong, intelligent, and outspoken. Many of their struggles symbolize the struggle of African-Americans in the book drawing and clear and important line of connection between women’s rights and those of people of color (regardless of gender). Often Bell, as narrator, takes time out to point out the efforts of women, breakdown their activism, and champion it. And in at least one story, he promises a brand new world founded by a woman who chose to be cast out rather than collude any longer.

Unfortunately, he is less successful in discussing antisemitism and the conflict between some Jewish people and some African Americans. His essay/story “Shadowboxing” dispenses with any pretense of science fiction or even much fiction in order to posit a conversation between Bell and a fictional Jewish colleague who Bell feels is unreasonable and slightly racist. Hirsch, the colleague, comes across as a hyper-sensitive, self-obsorbed, colleague invested not so much oppression olympics as oppression eclipse in which only Jewish people suffer. In other words his character is an offensive stereotype. Worse the way that fiction Bell interacts with him about race and ethnicity exempts antisemitism while holding Jewish people accountable for racism. I’m unclear what is worse in this chapter, the insistence that Jewish people overreact to antisemitism to the erasure of other forms of oppression by a character who is guilty of the exact same thing, or the fact that important events in which Jewish boycotts of black leaders and companies led to their demise are eclipsed by the profoundly negative narrative of this chapter. It took me days to push through this chapter and its presence in the collection ensured that I could not recommend this book or gift it to anyone else.

Ultimately, despite pedantic and clunky metaphors and dialogue, inconsistent use of the genre and depiction of women, and the essay above, the book has some incredibly insightful things to say about race and racism and gender and feminism. Better still, it backs up much of its argument like a traditional academic essay, chalked full of references to research, court cases, novels, and historical figues and events. The endnotes alone make this worth perusing in your local library. But if you choose to read it, you should know only some of it is science fiction and only some of it is truly committed to equality.