The Matter of Black Lives: Writing from the New Yorker

Ecco. Oct. 2021. 848p. ed. by Jelani Cobb & David Remnick. ISBN 9780063017597. $35. LIT
In his introduction, Cobb (The Substance of Hope) grounds this essential anthology in the American experience: “Race has exerted a profound, distorting effect on American life—all of it, not simply the portion labeled with the racial modifier ‘Black.’” More than an antiracist reading list, this collection of mindfully curated historic and contemporary New Yorker texts surveys a wide range of voices and narratives, from Rebecca West’s 1947 account of a lynching trial in South Carolina to Kelefa Sanneh’s recent analysis of corporate hip-hop. It includes canonical authors (James Baldwin, Jamaica Kincaid, Toni Morrison) alongside recent works by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Jill Lepore, and Elizabeth Alexander. Cobb and Remnick have assembled a dialogue across generations of New Yorker contributors that encourages readers to engage with the nation’s history of racism and potential for change.
VERDICT Recommended for all libraries, this anthology offers an engaging and highly relevant selection for American audiences.
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