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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ramcat Reads #14

  Ramcat Reads #14

Benforado, Adam.  Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice.  New York: Crown, 2015.

Whether we are trying to make sense of vice or holiness, innocence or guilt, stupidity or intelligence, we are condemned to think with rather than against the tides of media.  Our contemporary fascination with social networking positions us to be complicit.  We resist, then discover resistance does not suffice.  The labels or ideological stances we adopt ----independent, conservative, liberal ---eventually collapse under what both David Walker and Frantz Fanon understood wretchedness to be.  Our souls may escape to elsewhere, but our minds cannot.  Given this scenario, Adam Benforado's work should be required reading for the temporary relief it offers.  The book should be required reading in our nation for President Donald J. Trump and his tribe, for members of Congress (especially for those who pretend to be Democrats), for public school and university students and teachers, for all of us inclined to resist from diverse angles.

Cushman, Ellen et al., eds. Literacy: A Critical Sourcebook.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2001.

A good collection of essays to promote thinking about technologies and diverse forms of literacy.

Harris, Jessica B. My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir.  New York: Scribner, 2017.  Harris's "confessional" memoir is innovative.  It deserves special attention for what it reveals about the presentation of self and how dependent the shaping of identity can be on reference to famous persons.  Harris also embeds recipes in her text to emphasize how cuisine is related to language, affection, and social bonding.

Long, Richard A.  Ascending and Other Poems.  Chicago: DuSable Museum of African American History, 1975.  With an introduction by Hoyt W. Fuller and Margaret T. Burroughs' note "about the author," Ascending and Other Poems is a rare volume of sixteen poems, which should be accounted for in histories of the Black Arts Movement.

Nolan, James.  Reinventing Justice: The American Drug Court Movement. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001. For people who have professional investment in the American criminal justice system and special knowledge of legal reasoning and practices,  Nolan's study may be lucid and nuanced.  For those who do not, the book may seem to be dense.  It is not easy to understand how radical replacing "just desert" with "just treatment" might be.  Nevertheless, lay readers will grasp that displacing retributive procedures with therapeutic practices entails  "fundamental role transformations for the major actors in the courtroom drama"(89) -----the judge, the defendant,  the prosecutor, and the defense lawyer.  Nolan's exposure of how theatrical the justice system might become is sobering.

Taylor, Elizabeth Dowling. The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray and the Story of a Forgotten Era.

New York: Amistad, 2017.  While the topic of black elitism has low priority in African American historiography, it serves as a counterweight to emphasis on the underclass and cycles of deprivation in studies of black social and cultural history.  According to Taylor, the primary focus of her book is designed "not only to highlight the heterogeneity of the black experience but to put into highest relief the absurdity of the notion of white supremacy" (409). More studies of class as a racialized category of analysis are needed to expand our understanding of how assimilationist values and thinking continue to function in the evolving of American society.

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