... a series of profound and powerful letters written to Black martyrs to racial violence ... Dyson offers both homage and history, emotion and analysis ... At times speaking directly to white Americans who wobble on the precipice of understanding, Dyson evinces both empathy and bewilderment over the current state of disconnection between so many segments of society. From the contrast between the survival skills honed by enslaved people and the persistent reverence for the Confederacy, this nuanced interpretation of America’s egregious abuses of its Black population is at once broad and specific. Dyson’s eloquent, exacting, and consequential scrutiny of 'the racial calamity at the heart of our democracy' is a catalyst for discussion and continued calls for justice, a work essential to the struggle to achieve insight, genuine change, and healing.
... heartfelt letters to victims of racial injustice in America ... The letter addressed to 15-year-old Chicago murder victim Hadiya Pendleton veers somewhat abruptly into a tangent about cancel culture and the legacy of basketball star Kobe Bryant, but concludes with a cogent call to build a 'solid and substantive notion of racial amnesty' for white people 'who own up to the fact that they haven’t got this race thing right'. Dyson also provides valuable historical and sociopolitical context in his vivid descriptions of how Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd died. Rich with feeling and insight, this elegiac account hits home.
Each letter offers the author an opportunity to expand upon the complexities of Blacks’ experience of hatred and oppression and to offer tempered suggestions for change ... A timely, fervent message from an important voice.