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Race in America is a difficult topic to talk about and also a challenging topic for any author to write about. By coincidence, I recently read a book about the history of race in the United States at the start of the 20th century followed by a second book about race in the 21st century.
The firstbook, Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation by Deborah Davis paints a vivid portrait of the state of race relations a generation after the Civil War through the story of two remarkable men: educator and author Booker T. Washington and President Theodore Roosevelt. While these men were different in so many ways - Washington was born a slave in Virginia, while Roosevelt was a member of one of New York’s wealthiest and most prominent families – they also shared a great deal in common. Both men were committed to education, deeply devoted family men who each suffered the loss of their first wife, and, most importantly, committed to the cause of equality. President Roosevelt consulted with Washington on matters of race in the United States and, shortly after taking office in 1901, asked Washington to join him for dinner at the White House. The firestorm of racist criticism that followed took both men by surprise, but served to demonstrate how much work remained to be done.
The second book, Losing My Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture by Thomas Chatterton Williams, is both a memoir and a critical analysis of hip-hop culture, which, according to the author, has a corrosive effect on African-American life in America. Williams, is the son of a white mother and a black father who, despite an impoverished upbringing in the segregated South, managed to earn a Ph.D. in sociology. Williams grew up in New Jersey with one foot solidly in the loving, academically-minded middle class world of his family and the other in the violent, misogynistic world of hip-hop. This perspective, in the hands of a very talented writer like Williams, makes for a fascinating look at an important facet of American culture.
Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation is also available as a digital audiobook.
To learn more about what I've read, what I'm reading now, and what I'd like to read in the future, find me on Goodreads here.