PanThe New York Review of BooksWilliams accuses others of giving whiteness too much value. To strike a balance, he must devalue blackness, without sounding like a neocon or the dreaded self-hater. Parenthood supplies the social magicianship. Williams wants to imagine a burden-free future for his children ... He is full of the magnanimity of protective fatherhood and does not want any of us to be defined by the sordid past ... Thomas Chatterton Williams belongs to this tradition...maybe...he’d rather not be identified with: light-skinned black people who place a value on whiteness; he is kidding himself when he says he doesn\'t ... Race transcendence is still a crank’s racket, but it is usually offered in the spirit of a gift to humanity. Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race, this cheerful manifesto of the light-skinned and well placed, carries an atmosphere of gratitude for the acceptance France has promised Williams’s children. He has assured himself that in these times of tattoos, manipulations of the body, gender subversion, transition, transformations of the self, class fantasies, and cultural smugness, not much essentialism remains in definitions of blackness. We are saved already if we but knew it; we are already well, sound, and clear; we have only to recognize it.
RaveThe GuardianEverett\'s subject is serious, but his tone, social observations and stylistic inventiveness reach for the bleakest comedy. Erasure is a sly work, not easily described, though what it\'s for and what it\'s against are always clear. The narrative is allusive, thickly ironic and includes different texts, various textures. It is a novel that builds and then surprises ... Monk also says that he is usually put off by stories that have a writer as the main character. But in Erasure he, the post-structuralist black author who isn\'t funky enough for the market, will tell his story his way. It has two parallel strands: the disintegration of his family and an explosive crisis in his writing life ... Ma Pafology is only one of the texts or voices that give to Erasure an intriguing layered quality. Everett presents swathes of the paper on Barthes that Monk gives to the Nouveau Roman Society, with sample footnotes about hermeneutic codes.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksObama’s quest for the meaning of his absent father’s life becomes a search for his own identity in Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. First published in 1995, beautifully written, it is the story of his youthful disaffection and salvation through community organizing in Chicago ... What comes across in his touching memoir is not how lost he was, but how determined on the path to elected office he already was when writing his first book. It is the work of someone positioning himself, someone who understood instinctively Malcolm X’s autobiography as a conversion narrative in the American grain.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksNow and then a book comes along that might in time touch the public and educate social commentators, policymakers, and politicians about a glaring wrong that we have been living with that we also somehow don’t know how to face. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander is such a work ... Alexander is not the first to offer this bitter analysis, but The New Jim Crow is striking in the intelligence of her ideas, her powers of summary, and the force of her writing. Her tone is disarming throughout; she speaks as a concerned citizen, not as an expert, though she is one. She can make the abstract concrete, as J. Saunders Redding once said in praise of W.E.B. Du Bois, and Alexander deserves to be compared to Du Bois in her ability to distill and lay out as mighty human drama a complex argument and history.
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksNinety-Nine Glimpses is not a conventional biography, but rather a series of telling reflections in ninety-nine brief chapters on the royal and the gaze, on how Princess Margaret was viewed and judged over time ... The openness of form that Brown, a satirist and veteran columnist for almost every British paper, allows himself, including techniques of fiction, is as unexpected as his attitude toward his subject and his witnesses ... The most provocative story Ninety-Nine Glimpses tells is how mean the bohemian milieu in midcentury London could be, how heartless the British upper classes were, and how little they needed the Sixties and social change to swing.