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Originally published on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2015 at 8:00 AM

Book Reviews

Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems

by James Baldwin

Beacon Press 2014

Baldwin is rarely examined as a poet, so this collection is significant for those new to Baldwin as well as those who have studied and treasure his complete canon. Here is a complete collection of published poems, offering insight and beauty into his views on race, class, poverty and social stigmatization.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

by Michelle Alexander

The New Press 2010

Legal scholar Michelle Alexander’s book lays out a compelling argument that the legacy of Jim Crow laws have not disappeared but rather morphed over time into a more overt system of racial injustice currently most evident in the rates of mass incarceration of African Americans. By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness.

Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology

Edited by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence

South End Press, 2006

What would it mean to truly end gender-and-race-based violence? This is just one of the important questions that Color of Violence takes on. This anthology of writings by 33 radical feminist women of color and edited by the INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence collective, is a deeply thoughtful contribution to radical anti-violence activism. Arguing that any meaningful anti-violence effort must fully account for the scope of oppressions affecting women of color — including white supremacy, heterosexism and imperialism — Color of Violence engages a complex and diverse dialogue about forms of violence, resistance, and strategies for movement building used by women and trans people of color around the world.

Parable of the Sower

by Octavia Butler

Published by Seven Stories Press 1996

Set in a future where government has all but collapsed, Parable of the Sower centers on a young woman named Lauren Olamina who possesses what Butler dubbed hyperempathy – the ability to feel the perceived pain and sensations of others -- develops a benign philosophical and religious system during her childhood in the remnants of a gated community in Los Angeles. Civil society has reverted to relative anarchy due to resource scarcity and poverty. When the community’s security is compromised, her home is destroyed and her family murdered.

Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

by Robin D.G. Kelley

Beacon Press 2003

This exciting history of renegade intellectuals and artists of the African diaspora throughout the twentieth century begins with the premise that the catalyst for political engagement has rarely been misery, poverty, or oppression on its own. People are drawn to social movements because of hope: they dream of a new world radically different from the one they inherited. From Paul Robeson to Aime Cesaire to Malcom X, Kelley unearths freedom dreams in African American and Third World liberation movements, in the hope that Communism offered, in the imaginative mindscapes of Surrealism, in the transformative potential of radical feminism, and in the four-hundred-year-old dream of reparations for slavery and Jim Crow.