Centering Black Livelihoods | Social Sciences Reviews

Issac J. Bailey writes a powerful call to action. Kimberly Drew & Jenna Wortham compile writing and artwork around Black lives. Kenya Hunt tells how Black women survive and thrive.

Why Didn't We Riot Bailey, Issac J. Why Didn't We Riot?: A Black Man in Trumpland. Other Pr. Oct. 2020. 192p. ISBN 9781635420289. $21.99. SOC
In this much-needed book, journalist Bailey (My Brother Moochie) recounts the stark history of racism and violence Black Americans live with every day, and what happens when efforts to speak out are largely met with resistance or aren't taken seriously. Bailey reveals how racial stereotypes are perpetuated within society and still repeated in the media far too often, despite the increased support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd's murder. Recounting his own experiences, Bailey shares how he was asked to tone down the narrative of his newspaper reporting on police brutality while expanding upon how Black Americans are mistreated in the criminal justice system, often leading to wrongful convictions. Powerful chapters continue to expose the stark differences between President Obama speaking out against police violence, and white men using anger to their advantage, especially for political gains. In an illuminating chapter, Bailey also reveals the connections between white supremacy and Evangelical Christianity in United States, making a case for the removal of Confederate monuments that have served as symbols of hate. VERDICT An essential and powerful call for action asking us all to examine the role our silence plays in upholding white supremacy.—Venessa Hughes, Denver

Black Futures Drew, Kimberly & Jenna Wortham. Black Futures. One World. Dec. 2020. 544p. ISBN 9780399181139. $40. SOC
Edited by writer Drew and journalist Wortham, this collection brings together wide-ranging, often experimental writing and art responding to the question: "What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?" Contributions are gathered into overarching and overlapping topics, including Black Lives Matter, Black futures, power, joy, justice, ownership, memory, outlook, Black is (still) beautiful, and legacy. Selections include essays, interviews, dialogs, photography, recipes, poetry, video and film stills, plays, digital art, drawings, paintings, screenshots, and much more. Both the individual contributions and the book as a whole are nonlinear, playing with Western conceptions of linearity, temporality, and progress, incorporating linking and intertextuality to speak with themselves, readers, and others. Because of this, the book lends itself to reading in many ways. Many of the entries, such as Eve L. Ewing's "Affirmation" and Akinola Davies Jr. and Cyndia Harvey's "This Hair of Mine" span just a few pages, so the book can be read in small bites. Readers will find themselves noting passages to revisit and contributors whose other work they wish to seek out. VERDICT A significant offering for its timely, accessible documentation of writing, artwork, and thought around Black lives and Black futurity.—Monica Howell, Northwestern Health Sciences Univ. Lib., Bloomington, MN

Girl Gurl GrrrlHunt, Kenya. Girl Gurl Grrrl: On Womanhood and Belonging in the Age of Black Girl Magic. Amistad. Dec. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9780062987648. $26.99. SOC
Journalist Hunt writes an excellent collection of essays sharing her experiences and perspectives as a Black woman growing up in the United States; as an expat living in London; and as a writer, speaker, and commentator in media and fashion. Her essays probe the iconic phrase #BlackGirlMagic and what it means to experience life and media today as a Black woman. Standout essays candidly explore topics such as pregnancy loss, religion, and police violence, as well as major media events. Peppered throughout the volume are a handful of essays by other women who share their stories of success, resilience, vulnerability, and tragedy. If there is one tone that ties the book together, it is reflection. Both Hunt and the additional contributors bring a thoughtfulness to their narratives that leads the reader to pause and reflect as well. The final chapter, "The Way We Grieve," profoundly reflects on the emotional toll of repeatedly grieving Black people who become hashtags. VERDICT This thought-provoking collection of ruminations from Black women on how they thrive and struggle in the complex world today is particularly relevant to this moment but will remain an important text for years to come.—Sarah Schroeder, Univ. of Washington Bothell

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