RaveThe Washington Post... detailed, vivid and moving ... Perhaps for legal reasons, Samuels and Olorunnipa are uncharacteristically vague about other figures involved in leading Floyd to this fateful step, as well as in later getting him to appear in an amateur porn video ... In the page-turner second half of the book, the authors largely put aside efforts to link Floyd to broader racial trends and statistics as they follow him to Minneapolis, where he moved in 2017 in hopes of starting over ... The ups and downs of the last part of the book, which chronicles the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, also make for poignant reading.
MixedThe Washington PostFor anyone who isn’t steeped in film history, Haygood provides a valuable service by recalling the few movies made by White producers and directors in the pre-civil rights era that dealt seriously with race issues ... Haygood...passes on the opportunity to document the director’s struggles with the big movie studios and other powers that be in Hollywood ... Haygood also offers only passing insight into the hurdles faced by such Lee heirs as John Singleton ... This dearth of behind-the-scenes reporting is particularly striking in the case of another member of this club, director Lee Daniels, since one of his best-known films was based on Haygood’s own Washington Post profile and book about the real-life story of longtime White House butler Eugene Allen. Haygood devotes only a page or two to each of these films and filmmakers at the end of the book, and in his brief account of Lee Daniels’ The Butler, he doesn’t disclose his personal connection ... Colorization...in the end has a decidedly sepia tone.
PanThe Washington Post... reads like an extended version of one of those high-price talks ... If you’ve ever attended a corporate retreat with a \'thought leader\' speaker, or listened to enough TED talks online, you know the genre. Weaving together historical examples from across centuries and continents, illuminating statistics, intriguing academic research, and a few pop-culture references, these lectures have the effect of making audiences feel instantly smarter, without troubling them with the kind of soul-searching questions that might ruin a good night’s sleep or the conference cocktail party ... In this fluid yet fleeting manner, Ferguson devotes the first third of his book to analyzing dozens of grand explanations for historical calamity, from religious eschatology to Marxist economics to the more modern innovations of \'chaos theory\' and \'cliodynamics,\' or the computer-driven attempt to decode historical patterns through massive data crunching. Like a good, Oxford-educated, small \'c\' conservative, he finds them all interesting but ultimately wanting in their failure to acknowledge historical unpredictability and the limits of human foresight ... In a neat trick of homage and appropriation, Ferguson zeros in on three trendy disaster metaphors in particular, each coined by a lesser-known big thinker ... Although this history of plagues is insightful, Ferguson’s discussion of the coronavirus itself is unsatisfying — mostly because it’s not yet history ... Despite the pose of scholarly detachment that characterizes most of the book, Ferguson also betrays several striking biases in his closing chapters ... History also offers many examples of the social and economic havoc that can result from such maddening inequality, but those stories may not go over so well with the well-heeled audiences that await Ferguson back on the speaking circuit. Safely vaccinated and wealthier than ever, they’d rather not picture that gray rhino.
Les Payne and Tamara Payne
PositiveThe Washington Post... less a formal portrait and more an impressionist mosaic made up of the strongest fragments of Payne’s reporting ... Payne’s is very much a journalist’s book, focused on clearing up factual disputes and re-creating fly-on-the-wall details, and he adds invaluably to our understanding of Malcolm’s story at three key junctures in particular ... More than 50 pages of Payne’s book are devoted to the events surrounding Malcolm’s assassination in February 1965, while he was giving a Sunday afternoon speech at the Audubon Ballroom north of Harlem, and the account is gripping ... At other points, Payne’s research becomes a bit too exhaustive ... A little more personal confession would have explained Payne’s lifelong obsession with Malcolm X and elevated the narrative voice of this book another notch.
Peniel E. Joseph
PositiveThe Washington Post... [an] excellent joint history ... Joseph retraces some ground that will be familiar to anyone who has read those books, but for the most part he smartly zeros in on the relatively brief period during which King and Malcolm actively influenced each other, even if they had no personal contact. It is a fascinating story, full of subtle twists and turns, that unfolded in three phase.
PositiveThe Washington PostIn his meticulously researched and absorbingly written book, journalist Charles Fishman provides both a celebration of the Apollo 11 mission and a corrective to some of the myths that have crystallized around it ... To the criticism that the Apollo program was a \'moondoggle\' (in the words of sociologist Amitai Etzioni) and a waste of billions of dollars that could have been better spent addressing social ills at home, Fishman offers a persuasive defense ... As tempting as it would be to recommend One Giant Leap as a welcome diversion from our current political chaos, that meditation invites the question of what has become of that spirit in the self-dealing era of President Trump...But Fishman rescues what could have come across as an outdated paean to American exceptionalism with a crucial caveat.
RaveThe Washington PostSwenson has produced a compelling, beautifully written book that goes well beyond that initial journalistic probe into a grave injustice. Good Kids, Bad City is a powerful addition to the growing literature on the failures of America’s criminal justice system, particularly in dealing with African American men. But it is also a gripping, novelistic account of what happened to the three defendants and their lone accuser after the convictions, a frank confession of the methods and emotions of an obsessed reporter, and a poignant meditation on the dark side of Cleveland and what became of that once-proud embodiment of Midwestern virtues that allowed this travesty to happen.
PositiveThe Washington Post\"[The book\'s first half is] a good tale, but not as good as the second part of the book, which is devoted to the improbable run of the baseball Tigers ... To place this rich local drama in historical context, Haygood occasionally digresses into summaries of landmark stories that in one way or another set the stage for it, from the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that sanctioned segregated schooling to an entire chapter on how Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier. Unfortunately, some of these summaries are long enough to interrupt the narrative but not long enough to do justice to important details... Yet that’s a small flaw in a book that is both highly readable and a valuable contribution to the under-appreciated history of the African American North in the wake of the Great Migration.\
Michael Eric Dyson
PositiveThe Washington PostIn this short and passionately written book, What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America, the prolific scholar and commentator Michael Eric Dyson revisits a turning point in Kennedy’s moral and intellectual odyssey on the issue of race ... When it comes to artists (and athletes), Dyson invokes a sometimes dizzying array of pop-culture stars and phenomena, from Jay-Z and Beyoncé, to LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick, to Hamilton and Black Panther. But where he is most illuminating and provocative is in discussing figures like himself: black public intellectuals.
MixedThe Washington PostKing’s three years at the Crozer Theological Seminary, south of Philadelphia, marked an important turning point in his life and are well worth the exclusive focus they get in this compact, readable and well-researched book ... Parr’s most interesting revelations trace King’s growth as a preacher and public speaker ... Presumably, readers will come to a book called The Seminarian expecting to discover how three years in divinity school influenced King’s religious and political ideas. On this score, Parr offers course catalog descriptions and some vivid stories, but not much in-depth reflection. He relates unpleasant episodes at local diners that stoked King’s anger at Northern racism ... King’s vision of himself as a \'drum major for justice\' also had much in common with the Old Testament prophets, whom he studied in depth at Crozer. Here, too, Parr offers little analysis, but he does leave readers with a memorable image.