Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream

Bold Type. Sept. 2020. 208p. ISBN 9781568588735. $26. SOC SCI
Choosing a president does not excuse one from democratic duties, argues Smith (Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching) in this latest work. This political examination employs the tools of memoir to make a powerful entry into the post-Trump discussion. In a much-needed dissection of the continuous “unwinding” of the United States, Smith argues that the nation has never been united, and that the hideousness of this moment has been long brewing. He bridges contemporary political discussions with an eagle-eyed examination of history to dissect people’s mounting disillusionment. Central to the national delusion as he sees it is the question of what is political. “Pickup trucks and oak trees are apolitical only if no one you have ever loved has had their body dragged behind one or hanged from the other.” Years and years of “depoliticization” have obfuscated the violent means by which our government has enriched white people and oppressed poor people of color, he maintains. While the book is centered on racial inequalities, Smith also looks at gender and the Me Too movement.
VERDICT This is not always easy book, but it is one that sees the United States for what it is. A searing combination of memoir and commentary that makes for essential reading.
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