Book Recommendations

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General recommendations

Bound to the Fire: How Virginia's Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine by Kelley Fanto Deetz
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky (October 18, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0813174732
ISBN-13: 978-0813174730
Kelley Fanto Deetz draws upon archaeological evidence, cookbooks, plantation records, and folklore to present a nuanced study of the lives of enslaved plantation cooks from colonial times through emancipation and beyond. She reveals how these men and women were literally “bound to the fire” as they lived and worked in the sweltering and often fetid conditions of plantation house kitchens. These highly skilled cooks drew upon skills and ingredients brought with them from their African homelands to create complex, labor-intensive dishes such as oyster stew, gumbo, and fried fish. However, their white owners overwhelmingly received the credit for their creations.
Focusing on enslaved cooks at Virginia plantations including Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and George Washington's Mount Vernon, Deetz restores these forgotten figures to their rightful place in American and Southern history. Bound to the Fire not only uncovers their rich and complex stories and illuminates their role in plantation culture, but it celebrates their living legacy with the recipes that they created and passed down to future generations.

Available Formats: Kindle and Hardcover

 

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (February 28, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0553447459
ISBN-13: 978-0553447453
In Evicted, Princeton sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Hailed as “wrenching and revelatory” (The Nation), “vivid and unsettling” (New York Review of Books), Evicted transforms our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving one of 21st-century America’s most devastating problems. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.
Available Formats: Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback and Audiobook


The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (May 2, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1631492853
ISBN-13: 978-1631492853
Widely heralded as a “masterful” (Washington Post) and “essential” (Slate) history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law offers “the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation” (William Julius Wilson). Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation; and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods. A groundbreaking, “virtually indispensable” study that has already transformed our understanding of twentieth-century urban history (Chicago Daily Observer), The Color of Law forces us to face the obligation to remedy our unconstitutional past.
Available Formats: Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback and Audiobook

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; Reprint edition (August 18, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 081298496X
ISBN-13: 978-0812984965
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinkmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever. Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Available Formats: Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback and Audiobook

Takeover: Race, Education, and American Democracy by Domingo Morel
State takeovers of local governments have garnered national attention of late, particularly following the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. In most U.S. cities, local governments are responsible for decisions concerning matters such as the local water supply and school affairs. However, once a state takes over, this decision-making capability is shuttled. Despite the widespread attention that takeovers in Flint and Detroit have gained, we know little about how such takeovers--a policy option that has been in use since the 1980s--affect political power in local communities.

By focusing on takeovers of local school districts, this book offers the first systematic study of state takeovers of local governments. Although many major U.S. cities have experienced state takeovers of their local school districts, we know little about the political causes and consequences of takeovers. Complicating this phenomenon are the justifications for state takeokers; while they are assumedly based on concerns with poor academic performance, questions of race and political power play a critical role in the takeover of local school districts. However, Domingo Morel brings clarity to these questions and limitations--he examines the factors that contribute to state takeovers as well as the effects and political implications of takeovers on racialized communities, the communities most often affected by them. Morel both lays out the conditions under which the policy will disempower or empower racial and ethnic minority populations, and expands our understanding of urban politics. Morel argues that state interventions are a part of the new normal for cities and offers a novel theoretical framework for understanding the presence of the state in America's urban areas. The book is built around an original study of nearly 1000 school districts, including every school district that has been taken over by their respective state, and a powerful case study of Newark, New Jersey.

Available Formats: Kindle, Hardcover, and Paperback

War Isn't the Only Hell: A New Reading of World War I American Literature by Keith Gandal
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (March 28, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1421425106
ISBN-13: 978-1421425108
American World War I literature has long been interpreted as an alienated outcry against modern warfare and government propaganda. This prevailing reading ignores the US army’s unprecedented attempt during World War I to assign men―except, notoriously, African Americans―to positions and ranks based on merit. And it misses the fact that the culture granted masculinity only to combatants, while the noncombatant majority of doughboys experienced a different alienation: that of shame.
Gandal also examines combat-soldier writers William March, Thomas Boyd, Laurence Stallings, and Hervey Allen. Their works are considered straight-forward antiwar narratives, but they are in addition shaped by experiences of meritocratic recognition, especially meaningful for socially disadvantaged men. Gandal furthermore contextualizes the sole World War I novel by an African American veteran, Victor Daly, revealing a complex experience of both army discrimination and empowerment among the French. Finally, Gandal explores three women writers―Katherine Anne Porter, Willa Cather, and Ellen La Motte―who saw the war create frontline opportunities for women while allowing them to be arbiters of masculinity at home. Ultimately, War Isn’t the Only Hell shows how American World War I literature registered the profound ways in which new military practices and a foreign war unsettled traditional American hierarchies of class, ethnicity, gender, and even race.

Available Formats: Kindle and Hardcover