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28 Books To Read In Wake Of Ferguson

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Brown’s death and protests in Ferguson can’t be boiled down to five-second soundbites. Left Bank Books, an independent bookstore in Saint Louis, put together a growing list of titles for an in-depth look at race in America. BF_STATIC.timequeue.push(function () { if (BF_STATIC.bf_test_mode) localStorage.setItem(‘posted_date’, 1408948830); }); BF_STATIC.timequeue.push(function () { document.getElementById(“update_posted_time_3426741”).innerHTML = “posted on ” + UI.dateFormat.get_formatted_date(1408948830); });

In bringing these books together, Left Bank writes:

The events in Ferguson have been upsetting for nearly everyone in our community. In an attempt to add some civility and context to the mix, we’ve started to curate a list of books, poems, articles and blog posts that explore race, not only in St. Louis, but America as a whole. By no means a full comprehensive list, here are a few to get you started on the trail of understanding what’s happening here in our community.

Via left-bank.com

1. Never Been a Time: The 1917 Race Riot That Sparked the Civil Rights Movement

Never Been a Time: The 1917 Race Riot That Sparked the Civil Rights Movement

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Left Bank Books / Via left-bank.com

From Goodreads:

“The dramatic and first popular account of one of the deadliest racial confrontations in the 20th century—in East St. Louis in the summer of 1917—which paved the way for the civil rights movement.”

2. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces

Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces

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Left Bank Books / Via left-bank.com

From the WSJ:

“Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats, law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop—armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.”

3. The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow

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Left Bank Books / Via left-bank.com

From NPR:

“Legal scholar Michelle Alexander writes that many of the gains of the civil rights movement have been undermined by the mass incarceration of black Americans in the war on drugs. She says that although Jim Crow laws are now off the books, millions of blacks arrested for minor crimes remain marginalized and disfranchised, trapped by a criminal justice system that has forever branded them as felons and denied them basic rights and opportunities that would allow them to become productive, law-abiding citizens.”

4. Freedom Summer: The Savage Season of 1964 That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy

Freedom Summer: The Savage Season of 1964 That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy

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Left Bank Books / Via left-bank.com

From Goodreads:

“In the summer of 1964, with the civil rights movement stalled, seven hundred college students descended on Mississippi to register black voters, teach in Freedom Schools, and live in sharecroppers’ shacks. But by the time their first night in the state had ended, three volunteers were dead, black churches had burned, and America had a new definition of freedom.”

5. The Lynching of Cleo Wright

The Lynching of Cleo Wright

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Goodreads / Via goodreads.com

From Left Bank Books:

“On January 20, 1942, black oil mill worker Cleo Wright assaulted a white woman in her home and nearly killed the first police officer who tried to arrest him. An angry mob then hauled Wright out of jail and dragged him through the streets of Sikeston, Missouri, before burning him alive. Wright’s death was, unfortunately, not unique in American history, but what his death meant in the larger context of life in the United States in the twentieth-century is an important and compelling story. After the lynching, the U.S. Justice Department was forced to become involved in civil rights concerns for the first time, provoking a national reaction to violence on the home front at a time when the country was battling for democracy in Europe.”

6. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

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Left Bank Books / Via left-bank.com

From the NYT:

“Based on more than a thousand interviews, written in broad imaginative strokes, this book, at 622 pages, is something of an anomaly in today’s shrinking world of nonfiction publishing: a narrative epic rigorous enough to impress all but the crankiest of scholars, yet so immensely readable as to land the author a future place on Oprah’s couch.

Wilkerson follows the journey of three Southern blacks, each representing a different decade of the Great Migration as well as a different destination. It’s a shrewd storytelling device, because it allows her to highlight two issues often overlooked: first, that the exodus was a continuous phenomenon spanning six decades of American life; second, that it consisted of not one, but rather three geographical streams, the patterns determined by the train routes available to those bold enough to leave. “

7. Losing Legitimacy: Street Crime And The Decline Of Social Institutions In America

Losing Legitimacy: Street Crime And The Decline Of Social Institutions In America

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From Google Books:

“Using unique data that span half a century, Gary LaFree argues that social institutions are the key to understanding the U.S. crime wave. Crime increased along with growing political distrust, economic stress, and family disintegration. These changes were especially pronounced for racial minorities.”

8. Boy, Snow, Bird

Boy, Snow, Bird

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Left Bank Books / Via left-bank.com

From Left Bank Books:

“In 1953, Boy Novak runs away from her home on the Lower East Side of New York and ends up in a small town in Massachusetts. She marries Arturo Whitman, a widower with an adored daughter named Snow, and the three live happily until the birth of Bird, whose dark skin exposes the Whitmans as African-Americans passing for white. Oyeyemi is a stunning talent who examines the disparity in how we perceive ourselves and how we allow others to perceive us. Boy, Snow, Bird is a bewitching and beguiling tale with unforgettable characters.”

9. Americanah

Americanah

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Amazon / Via amazon.com

From the NYT:

“What’s the difference between an African-American and an American-African? From such a distinction springs a deep-seated discussion of race in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s third novel, “Americanah.” Adichie, born in Nigeria but now living both in her homeland and in the United States, is an extraordinarily self-aware thinker and writer, possessing the ability to lambaste society without sneering or patronizing or polemicizing. For her, it seems no great feat to balance high-literary intentions with broad social critique. “Americanah” examines blackness in America, Nigeria and Britain, but it’s also a steady-handed dissection of the universal human experience — a platitude made fresh by the accuracy of Adichie’s observations. “

10. The Burgess Boys

The Burgess Boys

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From Left Bank Books:

“You pick up this book thinking it’s about the titular brothers. And it is! But it’s also about their families and their small hometown. After Jim and Bob Burgess leave their hometown in Maine for their comfortable lives in New York City, they watch the changes as Somali immigrants move to the town with a detached interest. But it’s the family and friends they left behind, as well as the immigrant community, that has to find a way to share the town. After Jim and Bob’s nephew rips apart the tenuous peace in the small community, the Burgess Boys are pulled back to their hometown to address the tensions that hide right below the surface in their hometown and in their families.”

11. Mass Incarceration on Trial: America’s Courts and the Future of Imprisonment

Mass Incarceration on Trial: America's Courts and the Future of Imprisonment

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Amanzon / Via amazon.com

From Left Bank Books:

“For nearly forty years, the United States has been gripped by policies that have placed more than 2.5 million Americans in jails and prisons designed to hold a fraction of that number of inmates. Our prisons are not only vast and overcrowded, they are degrading—relying on racist gangs, lockdowns, and Supermax-style segregation units to maintain a tenuous order. In short, mass incarceration has proven to be a fiscal and penological disaster.

A landmark 2011 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Plata, has opened an unexpected escape route from this trap of “tough on crime” politics and points toward values that could restore legitimate order to American prisons and ultimately lead to the dismantling of “mass incarceration.” Berkeley law professor Jonathan Simon—an internationally renowned critic of mass incarceration and the war on crime—argues that, much like the epic school segregation cases of the last century, this new case represents a major breakthrough in jurisprudence. Along with twenty years of litigation over medical and mental health care in California prisons, the 2011 Brown decision moves us from a hollowed-out vision of civil rights to the threshold of human rights.”

12. Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It

Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It

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Amazon / Via amazon.com

From Goodreads:

“Bestselling author, trial attorney, and NBC News analyst Lisa Bloom covered the murder trial and was appalled by what she witnessed. Bloom now exposes the injustice, conducting new in-depth interviews with key trial participants and digging deeper into the evidence. Suspicion Nation outlines the six biggest mistakes made by the state of Florida that guaranteed it would lose this ‘winnable case,’ and the laws and biases that created the conditions for this tragedy.”

13. The Central Park Five: The Untold Story Behind One of New York City’s Most Infamous Crimes

The Central Park Five: The Untold Story Behind One of New York City's Most Infamous Crimes

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From Left Bank Books:

“On April 20th, 1989, two passersby discovered the body of the “Central Park jogger” crumpled in a ravine. She’d been raped and severely beaten. Within days five black and Latino teenagers were apprehended, all five confessing to the crime. The staggering torrent of media coverage that ensued, coupled with fierce public outcry, exposed the deep-seated race and class divisions in New York City at the time. The minors were tried and convicted as adults despite no evidence linking them to the victim. Over a decade later, when DNA tests connected serial rapist Matias Reyes to the crime, the government, law enforcement, social institutions and media of New York were exposed as having undermined the individuals they were designed to protect. Here, Sarah Burns recounts this historic case for the first time since the young men’s convictions were overturned, telling, at last, the full story of one of New York’s most legendary crimes.”

14. The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood

The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood

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Goodreads / Via goodreads.com

From Goodreads:

“Paul Coates was an enigmatic god to his sons: a Vietnam vet who rolled with the Black Panthers, an old-school disciplinarian and new-age believer in free love, an autodidact who launched a publishing company in his basement dedicated to telling the true history of African civilization. Most of all, he was a wily tactician whose mission was to carry his sons across the shoals of inner-city adolescence and through the collapsing civilization of Baltimore in the Age of Crack, and into the safe arms of Howard University, where he worked so his children could attend for free. Among his brood of seven, his main challenges were Ta-Nehisi, spacey and sensitive and almost comically miscalibrated for his environment, and Big Bill, charismatic and all-too-ready for the challenges of the streets.

The Beautiful Struggle follows their divergent paths through this turbulent period, and their fathers steadfast efforts assisted by mothers, teachers, and a body of myths, histories, and rituals conjured from the past to meet the needs of a troubled present to keep them whole in a world that seemed bent on their destruction. With a remarkable ability to reimagine both the lost world of his fathers generation and the terrors and wonders of his own youth, Coates offers readers a small and beautiful epic about boys trying to become men in black America and beyond.”

15. Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America

Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America

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From Left Bank Books:

“The African American population in the United States has always been seen as a single entity: a “Black America” with unified interests and needs. In his groundbreaking book, Disintegration, Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist Eugene Robinson argues that over decades of desegregation, affirmative action, and immigration, the concept of Black America has shattered.”

16. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

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From Left Bank Books:

“Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence? Wes Moore, the author of this fascinating book, sets out to answer this profound question. In alternating narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption, The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a hostile world.”

17.

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From Goodreads:

“As he journeys from the Deep South to the streets and basements of Harlem, from a horrifying “battle royal” where black men are reduced to fighting animals, to a Communist rally where they are elevated to the status of trophies, Ralph Ellison’s nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief. Suspenseful and sardonic, narrated in a voice that takes in the symphonic range of the American language, black and white, Invisible Man is one of the most audacious and dazzling novels of our century.”

18. Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City

Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City

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Indie Bound / Via images.indiebound.com

From Google Books:

“Mapping Decline examines the causes and consequences of St. Louis’s urban crisis. It traces the complicity of private real estate restrictions, local planning and zoning, and federal housing policies in the “white flight” of people and wealth from the central city. And it traces the inadequacy—and often sheer folly—of a generation of urban renewal, in which even programs and resources aimed at eradicating blight in the city ended up encouraging flight to the suburbs. The urban crisis, as this study of St. Louis makes clear, is not just a consequence of economic and demographic change; it is also the most profound political failure of our recent history.”

19. The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why

The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't, and Why

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From Left Bank Books:

“The debate over the N word touches almost every aspect of American popular culture. Does it ever have an appropriate place in the media? Are rappers justified in using it? Should Huckleberry Finn, which repeats it 215 times, be taught in high school?As the cultural critic Jabari Asim explains, none of these questions can be addressed effectively without a clear knowledge of the word’s bitter legacy. Here he draws on a wide range of examples from science, politics, the arts, and more to reveal how the slur has both reflected and spread the scourge of bigotry in America over the last four hundred years. He examines the contributions of such well-known figures as Thomas Jefferson and Mark Twain, W.E.B. Du Bois and Margaret Mitchell, Dave Chappelle and NWA. Through this history, Asim shows how completely our national psyche is affected by the use of the word, and why it’s such a flashpoint today.”

20. The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America

The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America

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From the Boston Globe:

“This was a year when politics and culture trumped all, for according to the distinguished Brown University historian James T. Patterson, 1965 — roughly the middle year of the seventh decade of the 20th century — was “the inaugural year of the Sixties.’’

Patterson’s “The Eve of Destruction’’ — not quite a reprise nor quite a work of revisionism — is no romantic romp of nostalgia. It is a searching look at a year that spawned Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society legacy of legislation on education, civil rights, and health and produced a high tide of American liberalism even as bloody confrontations at Selma, bombings in North Vietnam, and a credibility gap in the capital showed cracks in the American edifice. “

21. Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice

Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice

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Indie Bound / Via images.indiebound.com

From Google Books:

“Uprooting Racism explores the manifestations of racism in politics, work, community, and family life. It moves beyond the definition and unlearning of racism to address the many areas of privilege for white people and suggests ways for individuals and groups to challenge the structures of racism. Uprooting Racism’s welcoming style helps readers look at how we learn racism, what effects it has on our lives, its costs and benefits to white people, and what we can do about it.”

22. Native Son

Native Son

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From Left Bank Books:

“Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright’s powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.”

23. No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row

No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row

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Indie Bound / Via images.indiebound.com

From Goodreads:

“No Choirboy takes readers inside America’s prisons, and allows inmates sentenced to death as teenagers to speak for themselves. In their own voices—raw and uncensored—they talk about their lives in prison, and share their thoughts and feelings about how they ended up there. Susan Kuklin also gets inside the system, exploring capital punishment itself and the intricacies and inequities of criminal justice in the United States.”

24. White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

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From Google Books:

“In White Like Me, Tim Wise offers a highly personal examination of the ways in which racial privilege shapes the lives of most white Americans, overtly racist or not, to the detriment of people of color, themselves, and society. The book shows the breadth and depth of the phenomenon within institutions such as education, employment, housing, criminal justice, and healthcare. By critically assessing the magnitude of racial privilege and its enormous costs, Wise provides a rich memoir that will inspire activists, educators, or anyone interested in understanding the way that race continues to shape the experiences of people in the U.S. Using stories instead of stale statistics, Wise weaves a narrative that is at once readable and scholarly, analytical and accessible.”

25.

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Indie Bound / Via images.indiebound.com

From Left Bank Books:

“In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young men in her life—to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: Why?”

26. Betsey Brown

Betsey Brown

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From Left Bank Books:

“Ntozake Shange brings to life the story of a young girl’s awakening amidst her country’s seismic growing pains. Set in St. Louis in 1957, the year of the Little Rock Nine, Shange’s story reveals the prismatic effect of racism on an American child and her family.”

27. Waking from the Dream: The Struggle for Civil Rights in the Shadow of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Waking from the Dream: The Struggle for Civil Rights in the Shadow of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Indie Bound / Via images.indiebound.com

From Goodreads:

“David L. Chappell reveals that, far from coming to an abrupt end with King’s murder, the civil rights movement entered a new phase. It both grew and splintered. These were years when decisive, historic victories were no longer within reach—the movement’s achievements were instead hard-won, and their meanings unsettled. From the fight to pass the Fair Housing Act in 1968, to debates over unity and leadership at the National Black Political Conventions, to the campaign for full-employment legislation, to the surprising enactment of the Martin Luther King holiday, to Jesse Jackson’s quixotic presidential campaigns, veterans of the movement struggled to rally around common goals.”

28. That’s the Way It Was: Stories of Struggle, Survival and Self-Respect in Twentieth Century Black St. Louis

That's the Way It Was: Stories of Struggle, Survival and Self-Respect in Twentieth Century Black St. Louis

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Indie Bound / Via images.indiebound.com

From Left Bank Books:

“Segregation was a way of life in St. Louis, aptly called “the most southern city in the North.” These thirteen oral histories describe the daily struggle that pervasive racism demanded but also share the tradition of self-respect that the African American community of St. Louis sought to build on its own terms.”

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…and the list goes on.

You can suggest more titles by tweeting Left Bank Books at @leftbankbooks #fergusonreads

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/hprainbow/28-books-to-read-in-wake-of-ferguson-x8md

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