This reading list has been compiled by CrossTalk DC partner, the DC Public Library. Many thanks to Librarian Kari Mitchell and Special Collections Manager Kerrie Cotten Williams. These books are available at or through your local branch library. More titles coming soon!
Alexander, M. (2010). The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York, NY: New Press.
Despite the triumphant dismantling of the Jim Crow Laws, the system that once forced African Americans into a segregated second – class citizenship still haunts America, the US criminal justice system still unfairly targets black men and an entire segment of the population is deprived of their basic rights. Outside of prisons, a web of laws and regulations discriminates against these wrongly convicted ex-offenders in voting, housing, employment and education. Alexander here offers an urgent call for justice.
Baldwin, J. (1993). The Fire Next Time. New York: Vintage International.
A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document. It consists of two “letters,” written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism.
Bush, M. E., & Bush, R. D. (2015). Tensions in the American Dream: Rhetoric, Reverie, or Reality. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Could the promise of upward mobility have a dark side? In Tensions in the American Dream, Melanie and Roderick Bush ask, how does a “nation of immigrants” pledge inclusion, yet marginalize so many citizens based on race, class, and gender? The authors consider the origins and development of the U.S. nation and empire; the founding principles of belonging, nationalism, and exceptionalism; and their lived reality.
Cahan, A. (1960). The Rise of David Levinsky. New York: Harper.
First published in 1917, Abraham Cahan’s realistic novel tells the story of a young scholar who emigrates from a small town in Russia to the melting pot of turn-of-the-century New York City. As the Jewish “greenhorn” rises from the depths of poverty to become a millionaire garment merchant, he discovers the unbearably high price of assimilation.
Coates, T. (2015). Between the World and Me. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau.
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men–bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
Cohen, R. (2015). The Girl from Human Street: Ghosts of Memory in a Jewish Family. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
In this luminous memoir, award-winning New York Times columnist Roger Cohen turns a compassionate yet discerning eye on the legacy of his own forebears. As he follows them across continents and decades, mapping individual lives that diverge and intertwine, vital patterns of struggle and resilience, valued heritage and evolving loyalties (religious, ethnic, national), converge into a resonant portrait of cultural identity in the modern age.
Gillette, H. (1995). Between Justice and Beauty: Race, Planning, and the Failure of Urban Policy in Washington, D.C. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
As the only American city under direct congressional control, Washington has served historically as a testing ground for federal policy initiatives and social experiments — with decidedly mixed results. Well-intentioned efforts to introduce measures of social justice for the district’s largely black population have failed. Yet federal plans and federal money have successfully created a large federal presence — a triumph, argues Howard Gillette, of beauty over justice. In a new afterword, Gillette addresses the recent revitalization and the aftereffects of an urban sports arena.
Check out KEEP READING: Part 2