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January 1&15, 2017 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 Black History Nonfiction
Although 6 of the 10 best African American nonfiction books reviewed since the February 1, 2009, Spotlight on Black History aren’t biographies, only one may lack elements of that beloved-by-readers genre, making for a reading list, indeed.
The Dandy Dons: Bill Russell, K. C. Jones, Phil Woolpert, and One of College Basketball’s Greatest and Most Innovative Teams. By James W. Johnson. 2009. Univ. of Nebraska, paper, $19.95 (9780803218772).
Powered by Bill Russell and K. C. Jones, the 1955–56 NCAA champion University of San Francisco Dons compiled a 60-game winning streak, in the process altering basketball forever.
Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America. By Beryl Satter. 2009. Holt/Metropolitan, $28 (9780805076769).
Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ’n’ Roll. By David Kirby. 2009. Continuum, $19.95 (9780826429650).
When Kirby hears America singing, it sounds like Little Richard. Ride along on his high-octane travelogue-cum-meditation on the Georgia Peach, and you’ll second the perception.
“A Long Time Coming”: The Inspiring, Combative 2008 Campaign and the Historic Election of Barack Obama. By Evan Thomas and the staff of Newsweek. 2009. PublicAffairs, hardcover, $22.95 (9781586486075).
Real-life stories get no more compelling than this crisply anecdotal chronicle of the campaign and election of the first African American U.S. president.
Mongrel Nation: The America Begotten by Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. By Clarence E. Walker. 2009. Univ. of Virginia, $22.95 (9780813927770); paper, $13.95 (9780813927787).
Walker views the complexities of American race relations through the prism of the contradictions between Jefferson’s writings on race and his 38-year relationship with his slave Sally Hemings.
Post Black: How a New Generation Is Redefining African American Identity. By Ytasha L. Womack. 2010. Lawrence Hill, paper, $16.95 (9781556528057).
One-size-fits-all definition of black identity is crumbling, Womack says, as burgeoning disparate constituencies (young professionals, immigrants, bi- and multiracials, etc.) impact black America.
Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne. By James Gavin. 2009. Atria, $27 (9780743271431).
Maintaining a classy image through decades of pop-music and racial-climate changes and despite personal insecurities, singer Horne is a mesmerizing icon in Gavin’s pages.
Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson. By Wil Haygood. 2009. Knopf, $27.95 (9781400044979).
Haygood compares the achievements of the all-time great boxer with those of three similarly innovative contemporaries of his: poet Langston Hughes, singer Lena Horne, and jazzman Miles Davis.
Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original. By Robin D. G. Kelley. 2009. Free Press, $30 (9780684831909).
The first full biography of the pianist-composer who cocreated bebop is a landmark of jazz literature that dispels a cloud of myths as it brings Monk alive for his generations of fans.
Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington. By Robert J. Norrell. 2009. Harvard/Belknap, $35 (9780674032118).
In a more nuanced assessment of the post-Reconstruction leader long disparaged for racial accommodation, Norrell argues that Washington’s strategy was that of the fox rather than the lion.
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