Richard Prince’s Book Notes™: Holiday Offerings
Our latest list of nonfiction books by journalists of color or those of special interest to them — part two of two. Part one was published on Monday.
Jonathan Abrams, an accomplished writer for the Bleacher Report who has worked for ESPN’s late Grantland site, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, has “Boys Among Men: How the Prep-to-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution” (Crown Archetype, $28 hardcover; $16 paperback due March 14 from Three Rivers Press).
“When the basketball phenomenon Korleone Young declared for the NBA Draft in 1998, he was still in high school — but he was already being tipped for superstardom, and mentioned in the same breath as recent phenomena Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett,” David Sims wrote March 22 for the Atlantic.
“Both had jumped straight from high school to the pros in 1995 and 1996 respectively, sparking a trend that snowballed into the new normal: After years of players only making the leap from college, each draft featured a handful of ‘prep-to-pro’ prospects who bypassed the NCAA entirely. Young was picked 40th in the draft by the Detroit Pistons. He appeared in three games before getting cut; his pro career literally lasted 15 minutes.
“Jonathan Abrams wrote about Young’s tragic story arc, and the ups and downs of the prep-to-pro boom in the NBA, for Grantland in 2013. Inspired by the variety of narratives, from successes like Bryant and LeBron James to perceived ‘flops’ like Kwame Brown and forgotten players like Young, he’s written a masterful book called Boys Among Men that takes the entire, roughly 10-year era into account.
“The NBA banned the practice of drafting high schoolers in 2005, instituting the so called ‘one-and-done’ rule, which requires players to spend a year in college or play overseas until they’re 19 years old to be eligible for the NBA Draft. The rule remains controversial, so much so that even after years researching the history of high-school stars, Abrams still isn’t sure exactly where he falls on it. . . .”
In March, Alex Wong of GQ asked Abrams, “In an ideal world, what would the system look like?”
Abrams replied, “If you go to college, you have to stay for at least two years, but you’re still allowed to make the jump from high school to the NBA if that’s the route you want to take. But once you’re in college, you stay for two years, because I don’t think one year does all that much. Plus, two years puts you a lot closer to being able to graduate, if that’s the route you want to take once your NBA career is over. . . .”
Hardly any of the reviews of this book were written by black journalists or those primarily concerned with education, so it’s an open question whether any would have noted that going to college for its educational value seems not to figure in the equation.
Abrams quotes the late Moses Malone on leaving the University of Maryland in 1975 after five days. “Big Mo going pro,” Malone told his roommate, John Lucas. “Big Mo can’t take these damn college hours.” He signed a seven-year contract with the American Basketball Association’s Utah Stars that would pay him up to $3 million.
“The education value is only considered in the book on the notion that it’s the least some of the guys who flamed out of the NBA quickly could have had, had they not bypassed school,” Abrams told Journal-isms.
- SoundCloud: The Lach Podcast
Veronica Chambers, a JSK fellow at Stanford University who has been an editor at the New York Times Magazine, Glamour and Newsweek, has edited “The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own” (St. Martin’s Press, $24.99 hardcover; $11.99 ebook). It is to be published Jan. 10.
“This anthology is less an intellectual analysis of Michelle Obama as First Lady and more a series of musings, reminiscences and pash notes to Michelle Obama as homegirl, the woman who (alongside Mindy Kaling) we all want to be friends with,” Chambers writes.
“Dr. Sarah Lewis connects the dots between Frederick Douglass’s passion for imagery that represented African Americans with dignity and grace and the iconic portraits of Michelle O by photographers like Annie Leibovitz. Dr. Brittney Cooper ponders the mutual admiration society of our First Lady and Beyoncé. Damon Young talks about how Michelle’s beauty and boldness first swayed his vote. Anyone who has ever read his Very Smart Brothas knows that his blog name is not mere hyperbole. His essay will make you think — and laugh out loud. Anita Hall Moran and Jason Moran describe their up-close glimpses of the Obamas and how they navigate the paths of marriage, partnership, power and creativity. . . . ”
Chambers tells us, “More than one essayist in this anthology refers to the First Lady as ‘Chelle. There’s an intimacy we felt with her from the beginning. . . . ”
Other writers are Ava DuVernay, who supplied the preface, Benilde Little (“Michelle in High Cotton”), Ylonda Gault Caviness (“We Go Way Back”), Chirlane McCray (“Two Black First Ladies Walk Into a Room”), Cathi Hanauer (“Becoming the Wife”), Tiffany Dufu (“On Being Flawlessly Imperfect”), Tanisha C. Ford (“She Slays: Michelle Obama & the Power of Dressing Like You Mean It”), Marcus Samuelsson (“Cooking With a Narrative”), Phillipa Soo (“The Best of Wives and Best of Women”), Rebecca Carroll (“She Loves Herself When She Is Laughing: Michelle Obama, Taking Down a Stereotype and Co-Creating a Presidency”) and Roxane Gay (“Making Space”). Publishers Weekly called the collection “charming.”
- Angela Bronner Helm, newsone.com: 16 Writers Love On Michelle Obama In New Book Of Essays
- CBS News: Michelle Obama tells Oprah Winfrey the election “was painful”
Wesley Lowery, a reporter at the Washington Post, has “They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement” (Hachette, $27 hardcover; $13.99 Kindle; $35 audio CD).
Lowery was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for “its revelatory initiative in creating and using a national database to illustrate how often and why the police shoot to kill and who the victims are most likely to be.”
He tells readers, “I’m a black man in America who is often tasked with telling the story of black men and women killed on American streets by those who are sworn to protect them but who historically have seen and treated those men, women and even their children as anything but American. That story didn’t start or end on the streets of Ferguson.
“I wrote this book from the messy notes I compiled as I reported, by looking back at what I reported in the Washington Post, and from hundreds of interviews with young protest leaders, elected officials, police officers and chiefs, and the families and friends of those who in death became national symbols. . . . ”
Lowery told a Journalists Roundtable audience in Washington this month, “It became an all-consuming beat.” He saw a duty to explain to readers just why African Americans were so upset. “Why don’t people get this?” Lowery said he asked. In his reporting, he used vignettes to explain.
Matthew Delmont, writing in November in the Boston Globe, said of Lowery, “As a reporter following stories from city to city, he describes the difficulty and importance of cultivating sources that can provide accurate information. He describes working with colleagues on a broader effort to collect police-shootings data. . . . Lowery comes to question the news coverage, which too often focuses on the personal details of the dead, trying to litigate people into good guys and bad guys — and missing the point. . . .”
In the New York Times on Monday, Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” wrote that “Lowery more or less pulls the sheet off America, exposing the malign disavowals and horrendous racial structures and logics that make the unjust deaths of young men like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Sean Bell not only possible but inevitable. As a primer for the Black Lives Matter movement and as a meditation on the death-grip that white supremacy has on the American soul, ‘They Can’t Kill Us All’ is essential reading. . . .”
- Excerpt (scroll sideways)
- Rebecca Carroll, Los Angeles Times: A nation’s ruptures seen up close: Wesley Lowery’s ‘They Can’t Kill Us All’
Malcolm Nance, a go-to counterterrorism expert for MSNBC and NBC News and a longtime intelligence officer who has followed terrorism for more than 34 years, published “The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election” (Skyhorse Publishing, $12.95 paper; $18.99 ebook) more than four weeks before the Nov. 8 election. It reached bookstores on Oct. 6.
In December, the Russian hacking finally captured the public’s sustained attention. Nance wrote in his book, “This is a real-life spy thriller, happening in real time. It is my hope that The Plot to Hack America will inform the American Electorate of how Russia executed a full-scale political and cyberwar on America, starting with Watergate 2.0, to elect Donald Trump president of the United States.” A few writers, such as Bob Burnett in the Huffington Post, writing in October, and David Corn, in Mother Jones in November, picked up on Nance’s message.
In a talk before the Journalists Roundtable in Washington on Dec. 3, Nance discussed Russian efforts to destablilize and dismantle European governments. Trump has a record of doing business with Russian oligarchs, he said, providing a context for Russia’s covert support of the president-elect. Nance called the hacking of accounts associated with the Democratic Party “Watergate 2.0.”
ISIS is in its last throes, he said, but if Trump acts on campaign promises to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it could prompt a backlash that would “save” ISIS by unifying Arab ambassadors against Washington. Trump, Nance said, is what the intelligence community would call an “unwitting asset” to the Russians.
“It’s time to go back and read the books by Hannah Arendt” on the rise of totalitarianism, Nance added.
- Janice Temple: Malcolm Nance, Wesley Lowery discuss their books (via Periscope, after interviews with Journalists Roundtable attendees)
Rashod Ollison, music and culture writer for the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., has “Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues & Coming of Age Through Vinyl” (Beacon Press, $25.95, hardcover; $24.99 Kindle; $17.95 audiobook; paperback due at $18 on Jan. 24).
Ollison “is also a gifted memoirist,” Jonathan Odell wrote in January for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. “In ‘Soul Serenade,’ Ollison tells of how his obsession with soul music sustained him through the heartbreaking hardships of growing up poor, black and gay in rural Arkansas in the 1970s and ’80s. . . .”
Nicholas Richard Rees wrote in Out magazine, “In Ollison’s highly personal and engrossing memoir,” Ollison “explores the cycle of abuse, constant bullying, and difficult circumstances that upended his childhood. Through extremely evocative language and recreated dialogue, the reader is transported to a time when food was never a certainty and Aretha Franklin was queen. . . .” It is also a tell-all about Ollison’s family.
Ollison said of the creative process behind the book, “It was like four years of writing. There was a lot of transformation and emotional upheaval.” He told Rees, “I’ve described the book as something of an exorcism, because it released a lot of family grief, pain, sorrow, and a lot of resentment, too. In order to heal, you have to revisit those places or that time where you were hurt. I was able to relive those situations and arrive at a place of empathy and compassion. . . .”
- Dan Rodricks, Baltimore Sun: Roughly Speaking podcast: Soul Serenade with Rashod Ollison (episode 64) (March 10)
Tatsha Robertson, a veteran writer and former crime editor at People magazine, has co-written “Media Circus: A Look at Private Tragedy in the Public Eye” (BenBella Books, $17.46 hardcover; Kindle $14.72) with Kim Goldman. Goldman is the sister of Ron Goldman, who was brutally killed in 1994 along with Nicole Brown Simpson, ex-wife of O.J. Simpson.
Included are interviews with Mildred Muhammad, ex-wife of John Muhammad, the D.C. sniper; and Esaw and Emerald Garner, wife and daughter of police choke victim Eric Garner.
“I wish colleges would put this book on their journalism curriculum,” Robertson told Journal-isms by email.
“Here’s what I learned. Families are ok with you reporting on the gore. I learned this from Kim Goldman and later learned it from all the subjects we talked to. They do not want reporters to tip toe around the tragedy, prettying it up.
“Tell what really happened to their loved one. Describe the gore. They want people to know the truth. Don’t dance around it, but just don’t add unnecessary details and opinions and untruths. The truth is bad enough.
“Second, don’t bring flowers to a grieving family’s home. A lot of big media organizations believe bringing flowers help get you the interview. It does not. You got the interview but it was not not because of the flowers. The families hate it and think it’s false.
“Third, grieving families understand you have a job and actually believe most reporters, even those in trucks outside their home, are respectful and kind.”
Lawrence Ross was a reporter at Los Angeles Independent Newspapers and managing editor of Rap Sheet magazine in the late 1990s before moving to screenwriting, book writing and a career on the college lecture circuit. He made his mark in 2000 with “The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities.”
This year, he published “Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses” (St. Martin’s Press, $25.99 hardcover; $16.99 trade paperback, $12.99 ebook).
Ross writes, “This book is a no-holds-barred look at how black students often find themselves at the mercy of white campus racism, both individual and systemic; why the average college and university has turned into a hostile space for African American college students; and why, as a result, black college students feel blackballed from their campuses and American society.”
Who won’t be disgusted at the reminder of the March 2015 incident at the University of Oklahoma that looms over the beginning of this book? Tuxedoed members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and their dates were videotaped on a party bus chanting, “There will never be a nigger SAE! There will never be a nigger SAE! You can hang ’em from a tree, but it will never sign with me! There will never be a nigger SAE!” The chapter was disbanded, but incidents continued at other SAE chapters.
Linguist and commentator John McWhorter thinks Ross’ conclusions are too severe. He wrote July 7 for Barron’s, “Some of us believe — often deemed ‘conservative’ because of it — that whites have changed about as much as they are going to (accessible via search engine), and that black people’s job now is to battle racism where it gets in our way, but to otherwise treat it as something to step around, and get on with this thing called living. Black people are hardly alone in having to resign themselves to such realities. The notion of a U.S. devoid of any tacky racist sentiments against blacks, Jews, Muslims, or others is akin to a fantasy of a world without germs. . . .”
- Danielle C. Belton, The Root: Hey, PWIs! Diversity Is Great, but Inclusion Is Better (Feb. 7)
- Eve Dunbar, the Nation: Who Can Change the American University? (March 29)
- Casey Quinlan, ThinkProgress: Fraternities Were Built On Racism. So Why Are We Surprised When They Do Racist Things? (Feb. 22)
- Robert Bruce Slater, Washington Post: Why campus racism just won’t go away (Feb. 19)
Anita M. Samuels, a frequent contributor to the Daily News in New York, has “Rants & Retorts: How Bigots Got a Monopoly on Commenting About News Online” (Syllable Media, $19.99 paper; $9.99 Kindle)
Irritated by racist comments on news sites, Samuels began collecting them in earnest in 2008. Two years later, she writes, she stopped. “I had become depressed over the words that I had been reading every day for more than three years. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get the racist comments out of my mind, and I didn’t like the way they made me feel.
“It is terrible when anger gives way to feelings of hopelessness from written words of hate, and no matter what anyone says, these comments can affect one’s self-esteem.
“I came back to the book in 2013, because I decided that the documentation of online racist comments is just as important as the Works Progress Administration’s oral slave narratives in the 1930s. The online comments could serve as a written history of how some elements of society saw African-Americans in the 2lst century. . . . ”
In the foreword, Carlton (Chuck D.) Ridenhour, founder of the conscious and pioneering rap group Public Enemy, writes, “I think Anita’s book is going to help make a change by identifying the people who seem to have the most at stake here, the service providers that allow anonymous comments/ They may not know the identities of the people writing the comments, but those people have to pay a bill to keep their Internet on. . . .”
- William Bender, Philadelphia Daily News: Can we make comments sections great again? (Dec. 10)
- Tony Connelly, thedrum.com: Vice is fed up of monitoring ‘crap’ and removes comments section
- Eric V. Tait Jr., Raymond Peterson, Bob Anthony and Anita M. Samuels, Manhattan Community Media: “Media Watch” (video) (Nov. 28)
Gary Younge, an Alfred Knobler Fellow at the Nation Institute and a columnist for Britain’s Guardian and the Nation, has “Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives” (Nation Books, $25.99 hardcover; $16.99 ebook)
“It was just another day in America,” Younge writes. “And as befits an unremarkable Saturday in America, ten children and teens were killed by gunfire.
“. . . They are white noise set sufficiently low to allow the country to go about its business undisturbed: a confluence of culture, politics, and economics that guarantees that each morning several children will wake up but not go to bed while the rest of the country sleeps soundly.
“It is that certainty on which this book is premised. The proposition is straightforward. To pick a day, find the cases of as many young people who were shot dead that day as I could, and report on them. I chose a Saturday because although the daily average is 6.75, that figure is spread unevenly. It is over the weekend, when school is out and parties are on, that the young are most likely to be shot. But the date itself — November 23 — was otherwise arbitrary. . . .”
Writing for The Root, Hope Wabuke declared Oct. 3, “Here is a powerful and necessary accounting of one of the deadliest epidemics ever to sweep across America — and a call to action to do something about gun violence. Younge’s writing is chilling, urgent and profound; his reportage deeply personalizes the victims, making them come alive through the memories of those who knew them during their short lives. For Younge, a parent himself, this is very real. . . .”
In the Financial Times, Neil Munshi wrote on Sept. 30, “Younge writes that his is not a book about race or gun control (accessible via search engine). This is true in that he avoids polemic and sticks closely to his case studies, though he barely needs to spell out their implications. Seven of 10 victims are black and two are Hispanic. The book functions as an argument for how the socio-economic realities and geography of institutional racism combined with the flood of easily available guns dictate that ‘there are places in almost every American city where . . . the deaths of young people by gunfire do not contradict a city’s general understanding of how the world should work but rather confirm it’. . . .”
On Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune named this one of its “Best books of 2016.”
- Natalie Y. Moore, South Side bureau reporter for Chicago’s WBEZ-FM public radio, has “The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation” (St. Martin’s Press, $27.99 hardcover; $17.99 paper; $14.99 ebook). Sam Worley, writing on March 23 in the Chicago Reader, called the book “a combination of reporting with policy analysis and prescription and, most compellingly, memoir. Weaving her own history through discussions of educational and residential segregation, food access, and black politics in Chicago, Moore pays tribute to a place of ‘loveliness and contradictions and negotiation.’ . . .”
- Richard Reeves’ “Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II” (Picador, $18 paper) was released in soft covers in April during a presidential campaign in which Donald Trump surrogates discussed the notion of a national Muslim registry. “The dangers of history repeating itself seem greater given that this story is often forgotten, or treated as a footnote in the larger, mostly heroic description of World War II found in American history textbooks,” Reeves writes.
- April Ryan, Washington correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, has “At Mama’s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White” (Rowman & Littlefield, $24.95 hardcover; $14.39 Kindle), which “looks at race and race relations through the lessons that mothers transmit to their children.” Interviewees include Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin; Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.; Hillary Clinton; actors Michael Cole and Cindy Williams; Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; O.J. Simpson prosecutor Christopher Darden; presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett; President Obama; former president Jimmy Carter; entertainer Harry Belafonte; Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert and Ethel Kennedy; and life coach Iyanla Vanzant.
- Mychal Denzel Smith, a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute and a contributing writer for the Nation, has written “Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education” (Nation Books, $24 hardcover; $14.99 paper; $15.99 ebook). His consciousness partially shaped by the election of Barack Obama, Hurricane Katrina and the Jena Six, Smith was also editor of the Hampton University newspaper the Script. He wrote there that “Hampton University Hates Black People.” For too many young black men, Smith writes in publicity material accompanying the book, “it’s a life of repressed emotions, domination based on gender and sexual identity, crass consumerism, and a sense of power tied up in coercion and manipulation.”
- The Undefeated published “New Beginnings: The Freshest Books of 2016” on Wednesday. “There are 59 books on this list,” Tierra R. Wilkins wrote. “That seems like a lot, but — it’s not. Each year, the selection of new books by, for, and about black people gets better and better, which makes whittling them down for an end-of-year list incredibly difficult. . . .”
- The “Journal-isms” “Stay Woke” fund-raising drive on gofundme.com passed the $9,000 mark Wednesday night, with contributions from 97 people in 23 days. List of supporters.
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- From Coretta to Barack, and in Search of the Godfather
- Journal-isms’ Richard Prince Wants Your Ideas (FishbowlDC, Feb. 26, 2016)
- “JOURNAL-ISMS” IS LATEST TO BEAR BRUNT OF INDUSTRY’S ECONOMIC WOES (Feb. 19, 2016)
- Richard Prince with Charlayne Hunter-Gault,“PBS NewsHour,” “What stagnant diversity means for America’s newsrooms” (Dec. 15, 2015)
- Book Notes: Journalists Follow Their Passions
- Book Notes: Journalists Who Rocked Their World
- Book Notes: Hands Up! Read This!
- Book Notes: New Cosby Bio Looks Like a Best-Seller
- Journo-diversity advocate turns attention to Ezra Klein project (Erik Wemple, Washington Post, March 5, 2014)
- Book Notes: “Love, Peace and Soul!” And More
- Book Notes: Book Notes: Soothing the Senses, Shocking the Conscience
- Diversity’s Greatest Hits, 2015
- Diversity’s Greatest Hits, 2014
- Diversity’s Greatest Hits, 2013
- Diversity’s Greatest Hits, 2012
- Diversity’s Greatest Hits, 2011
- Diversity’s Greatest Hits, 2010
- Diversity’s Greatest Hits, 2009
- Diversity’s Greatest Hits, 2008
- Book Notes: Books to Ring In the New Year
- Book Notes: In-Your-Face Holiday Reads
- Fishbowl Interview With the Fresh Prince of D.C. (Oct. 26, 2012)
- NABJ to Honor Columnist Richard Prince With Ida B. Wells Award (Oct. 11, 2012)
- So What Do You Do, Richard Prince, Columnist for the Maynard Institute? (Richard Horgan, FishbowlLA, Aug. 22, 2012)
- Book Notes: Who Am I? What’s Race Got to Do With It?: Journalists Explore Identity
- Book Notes: Catching Up With Books for the Fall
- Richard Prince Helps Journalists Set High Bar (Jackie Jones,BlackAmericaWeb.com, 2011)
- Book Notes: 10 Ways to Turn Pages This Summer
- Book Notes: 7 for Serious Spring Reading
- Book Notes: 7 Candidates for the Journalist’s Library
- Book Notes: 9 That Add Heft to the Bookshelf
- Five Minutes With Richard Prince (Newspaper Association of America, 2005)
- ‘Journal-isms’ That Engage and Inform Diverse Audiences (Q&A with Mallary Jean Tenore, Poynter Institute, 2008)