9 notable nonfiction books on race published in 2017


Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

By Erica Armstrong Dunbar. Atria: Feb. 7, 2017; list price $26; 272 pages 

Rutgers history professor was a National Book Award finalist for her “crisp and compulsively readable feat of research and storytelling (USA Today).” To get around Pennsylvania’s rule that any enslaved person be freed after six months of residence in the state, George Washington sent his slaves home from Philadelphia, then the nation’s capital, to Virginia every six months. Ona Judge’s escape at age 22 prompted a manhunt led by Washington himself. Said Essence magazine: “There are books that can take over your life: Try as you might, you can’t seem to escape their mysterious power. That’s the feeling I had when reading the tour de force, Never Caught.” 

The Blood of Emmett Till 

By Timothy B. Tyson. Simon & Schuster: Jan. 31, 2017; list price $27; 304 pages 

Tyson, a research scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, retells the events leading up to Till’s lynching in 1955 in Mississippi. He also broke some news at the time: The woman who accused Till of accosting her, leading to Till’s murder, tells Tyson she had made false statements. Writing in the Atlantic, Vann R. Newkirk II said Tyson “manages to turn the past into prophecy and demands that we do the one vital thing we aren’t often enough asked to do with history: learn from it.” Starred review in Publishers Weekly. 

I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street 

By Matt Taibbi. Spiegel & Grau: Oct. 24, 2017; list price $28; 336 pages 

Taibbi, the Rolling Stone writer and author of earlier books including “Insane Clown President” and “The Great Derangement,” recounts the death of Eric Garner, who resisted New York police efforts to arrest him on suspicion of selling cigarettes illegally. According to his publisher: “Taibbi tells about other African-Americans, mostly male and poor, who were stopped and frisked, strip-searched, sexually assaulted, set up, beaten or killed for the tragic reason that racist cops didn’t like them or the even more tragic one that those kinds of humiliations are ordained by U.S. law and policy.” 

Chokehold: Policing Black Men 

By Paul Butler. The New Press: July 11, 2017; list price $26.95; 256 pages 

Butler is a former federal prosecutor and now a law professor at Georgetown. “Chokehold” received rave reviews both for its content and for Butler’s writing. Washington Post: “Butler has hit his stride. This is a meditation, a sonnet, a legal brief, a poetry slam and a dissertation that represents the full bloom of his early thesis: The justice system does not work for blacks.” New York Times: “The most readable and provocative account of the consequences of the war on drugs since Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow . . .” Michael Eric Dyson: “A wonderfully disturbing book that will upset everything you think you know about race and criminal justice in America.” 

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race 

By Reni Eddo-Lodge. Bloomsbury Circus: Nov. 7, 2017; list price $27; 272 pages 

Eddo-Lodge’s unsparing discussion of race and racism in Britain is, according to the Financial Times, “for those white readers who have had their ears and eyes shut to the violence in Britain’s past.” Says Harper’s Bazaar: "Searing ... A fresh perspective, offering an Anglocentric alternative to the recent status-quo-challenging successes of Get Out and Dear White People. This book’s probing analysis and sharp wit certainly make us pray she will continue talking to white people about race." Publisher’s Weekly: “Stokes the very conversation the title rejects.” 

The Perils of ‘Privilege’: Why Injustice Can’t Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage 

By Phoebe Maltz Bovy. St. Martin’s: March 14, 2017; list price $26.99; 337 pages 

The word “privilege” has turned into a verbal hand grenade tossed at anyone who enjoys any unearned advantage for any reason. From St. Martin’s description: “Does calling out privilege help to change or soften it? Or simply reinforce it by dividing people against themselves? And is privilege a concept that, in fact, only privileged people are debating?” Says a review in Lilith: “The author is at her strongest when she points out the ways in which calling out privilege ends up maintaining the status quo, because examining privilege isn’t the same thing as changing the system."  

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America 

By Richard Rothstein. Liveright: May 2, 2017; list price $27.95; 368 pages 

Rothstein explores the legal structures of segregation that were built in this country beginning in the late 1800s and that still influence politics, business, social welfare and culture today. Writing in the Washington Post, Jared Bernstein says: “Masterful…The Rothstein book gathers meticulous research showing how governments at all levels long employed racially discriminatory policies to deny blacks the opportunity to live in neighborhoods with jobs, good schools and upward mobility.”  

The Second Coming of the KKK 

By Linda Gordon.Liveright: Oct. 24, 2017; list price $27.95; 288 pages \

Gordon, a history professor at New York University, reviews the 1920s revival of the Ku Klux Klan, why it came about and what it represented. The Klan was, among many other things, a profit-making enterprise that found backing in white churches. Erin Keane, writing in Salon: “A must-read for anyone wondering over the last several months how we ended up as a country ― with the first African-American president not even a year out of office ― facing a group of golf shirt-wearing young white men marching onto the campus of a prestigious university carrying torches and chanting ‘Jews will not replace us.’” 

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy 

By Ta-Nehisi Coates. One World: Oct. 3, 2017; list price $28; 400 pages 

Eight major essays – one from each year of the Obama presidency – that Coates wrote and has now updated with personal reflections. “It now seemed possible,” he writes of the Obama years, “that white supremacy, the scourge of American history, might well be banished in my lifetime. In those days I imagined racism as a tumor that could be isolated and removed form the body of America, not as a pervasive system both native and essential to that body.” Starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews and Booklist.


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