The 'Begin Again' author shares titles to help contextualize this moment of racial reckoning in America.
I recently interviewed Professor Eddie Glaude, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University for theGrio on Instagram Live.
As we discussed his new book “Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own,” I was curious as to what books inspired Professor Glaude during this moment.
So many people are yearning for books to help contextualize the uprisings, the racial reckoning and possible reconstruction of this young nation, the lack of empathy from millions of Americans, and the solidarity expressed by millions more.
Professor Glaude and I had a wide-ranging conversation about his desire to have a conversation with James Baldwin, and not just about Baldwin, at this important moment.
I recently published a list of suggested books by my political science colleagues which provided lists of books they read for understanding and for solace. As many people are just waking up to the inequities Black people have faced and continue to face in education, housing, healthcare, the carceral state, the police state, and even with the air they breathe, it is imperative we read authors who help us understand the history of this nation.
Black people in America have never been beneficiaries of the full rights and privileges so easily given and attained by other racial and ethnic groups. Countless deaths have shown us that Black people are not immune to discrimination based on their gender, ethnicity, geographic locale, class status, or occupation.
Professor Glaude’s understanding of Baldwin’s intellect and analysis pertaining to the limitations of American democracy are so needed and necessary right now. “Begin Again” is the continuation of a conversation about race, America’s unkept promises, and the anti-Black foundation of this country. How we move forward remains to be seen, but we can fortify ourselves with a deeper understanding of our history and our placement in this country in order to work toward a more equitable future.
Professor Eddie Glaude’s top five books:
James Baldwin: Collected Essays (edited by Toni Morrison)
This is a wonderful collection and offers a glimpse into the depth of Baldwin’s nonfiction. One can see the continuity of theme and subject as well as the shift in tone and audience as the material conditions of Black life changed over the course of his life. I would urge people to read closely _No Name in the Street_. The book speaks directly to our current moment, I think. I do believe Baldwin’s last book, _The Evidence of Things Not Seen_, should have been included in this collection, but I am bias.
More Beautiful and More Terrible: The Embrace and Transcendence of Racial Inequality in the United States by Imani Perry.
Perry offers a clear-eyed view of racial inequality as a cultural practice. She rejects the simple distinction between structural racism and individual acts of discrimination and shows how practices play out in law, policy and our daily living reproduce racial injustice. The bibliography informing this book is absolutely amazing. Pilfer the footnotes!
Beloved by Toni Morrison
You just need to read this novel to be a literate human being! It also offers some perspective on the depth of the trauma that haunts…
Black Reconstruction by W.E.B. DuBois
This brilliant treatise offers what I take to be one of the most thorough accounting of America’s betrayal of its so-called promise. Reading _Black Reconstruction_ now will help situate this latest betrayal. I love “The General Strike” and “The Propaganda of History” chapters.
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
We need to reach for something beautiful in these tragic times. I couldn’t put this memoir down.
(I have also been reading Octavia Butler. I recently devoured “Lilith’s Brood.” Just needed to escape this crazy world.)
[Originally published on June 30, 2020 via theGrio]