15 Books Forming Formidable Dialogues for Deep Discussions

Given the climate of our country’s cultural landscape, and its affect on public opinions that have seemingly created a ripple effect on how we are collectively viewed. I have been busying myself by reviewing, researching, and reading various insightful books. Books that have formed a necessary foundation for the deep discussions that I find myself entangled in, from time to time.

I must admit that I’m fortunate to have been assigned many of these great works, due impart to the area of scholarship I chose to focus upon at the University of Washington.

That said, the following texts are filled with an abundance of knowledge, proactively providing their readers with a level of perception that can only be gathered after consuming the contents of each well written book. I feel certain that they will further dialogues that are crucial to the ever evolving effects of democracy, on the citizens of the United States.

On the other hand, I’m hopeful that what you will come to read after examining the titles below. Will hopefully assist you, as you deliberate your options during the upcoming primary election, held on November 7th.

Let’s dig into the stack, shall we…

A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki


Winner of an American Book Award, A Different Mirror recounts U.S. history in the voices of Native Americans, African Americans, Jews, Irish Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and others.

“…a splendid achievement, a bold and refreshing new approach to our national history. The research is meticulous, the writing powerful and eloquent, with what only can be called an epic sweep across time and cultures.” —Howard Zinn, Author of A People’s History of the United States

Africans In The Americas: A History of the Black Diaspora by Michael L. Conniff


This text provides a comparative history of African Americans, from the arrival of the first Africans in the Western Hemisphere to present. By offering a complete view of African-American history and by considering the contributions of Blacks to the development of all of the Americas, the book aims to place the African diaspora in the larger context of world history.

american diaspora: poetry of displacement edited by Virgil Suárez & Ryan G. Van Cleave


Diaspora constitutes a powerful descriptor for the modern condition of the contemporary poet, the spokesperson for the psyche of America. The poems in American Diaspora; Poetry of Displacement focus on the struggles and pleasures of creating a home-physical and mental-out of displacement, exile, migration, and alienation. To fully explore the concept of diaspora, the editors have broadened the scope of their definition to include not only the physical act of moving and immigration but also the spiritual and emotional dislocations that can occur-as for Emily Dickinson and other poets – even in a life spent entirely in one location. More than one hundred and thirty contemporary poets reflect and mediate, rage and bless, as they tell their own stories. In short, this is an anthology of American poetry that draws upon the sensitivity, tenderness, rebelliousness, patience, and spirituality that point to the future of our nation.

My favorite of many within this collection:

Two Sounds by Michael Bugeja – for my son

Grandmother came here in the cargo hold

Of a great vessel and loved the tap of rain

On roofs, the ocean ever in her ears,

Grooved cornucopias that echo still

In this empty shell like a wavelength.

Can you hear the soothing rattle-tap-tap

Gutter-drip, her fingertip on your pane?

You, too, will lose and find me in this hymn

At 40, dreading another dawn. Listen

Then to the arias of robin and starling

Grandmother fed with bread I did not eat

On her lawn, happy to wake to the warbling,

As we wait now, sleepless but together.

I have loaded you these legacies of sound

To outlast the apparitions of light

Which always fade, as I will, in the night.

“ These poems probe the loss and yearning at the heart of our national experiment.” —Christopher Merrill, Author of Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars

Asian American Politics Law, Participation, and Policy edited by Don T. Nakanishi & James S. Lai


Asian Americans are emerging as a political force and yet their politics have not been systematically studied by either social scientists or politicians. Asian American politics transcend simple questions of voting behavior and elective office, going all the way back to early immigration laws and all the way forward to ethnic targeting.

For the first time, this book brings together original sources on key topics influencing Asian American politics, knit together by expert scholars who introduce each subject and place it in context with political events and the greater emerging literature. Court cases, legislation, demographics, and key pieces on topics ranging from gender to Japanese American redress to the Los Angeles riots to Wen Ho Lee round out this innovative reader on a politically active group likely to grow in number and electoral impact.

Black Faces In The Mirror by Katherine Tate


Here, Katherine Tate examines the significance of race in the U.S. system of representative democracy for African Americans. Presenting important new findings, she offers the first empirical study to take up the question of representation from both sides of the constituent-representative relationship.

The first half of the book examines whether Black members of the U.S. House legislate and represent their constituents differently than white members do. Representation is broadly conceptualized to include not only legislators’ roll call voting behavior and bill sponsorship, but also the symbolic acts in which they engage. The second half looks at the issue of representation from the perspective of ordinary African Americans based on a landmark national survey.

Tate’s findings are mixed. But, in the main, legislators’ race does shape how they represent their constituents and how constituents evaluate them. African Americans view Black representatives more positively than they do white representatives, even those who belong to their own political party. Black legislators, however, are just as likely as white representatives to sponsor and gain passage of bills in the House. Tate also concludes that Black House members are more liberal as a group than are their Black constituents, but that there is considerable divergence in the quality and type of representation they provide.

Buddha is Hiding: Refugees, Citizenship, the New America by Aihwa Ong


Fleeing the murderous Pol Pot regime, Cambodian refugees arrive in America as at once the victims and the heroes of America’s misadventures in Southeast Asia; and their encounters with American citizenship are contradictory as well. Service providers, bureaucrats, and employers exhort them to be self-reliant, individualistic, and free, even as the system and the culture constrain them within terms of ethnicity, race, and class. Buddha Is Hiding tells the story of Cambodian Americans experiencing American citizenship from the bottom-up. Based on extensive fieldwork in Oakland and San Francisco, the study puts a human face on how American institutions—of health, welfare, law, police, church, and industry—affect minority citizens as they negotiate American culture and re-interpret the American dream.

In her earlier book, Flexible Citizenship, anthropologist Aihwa Ong wrote of elite Asians shuttling across the Pacific. This parallel study tells the very different story of “the other Asians” whose route takes them from refugee camps to California’s inner-city and high-tech enclaves. In Buddha Is Hiding we see these refugees becoming new citizen-subjects through a dual process of being-made and self-making, balancing religious salvation and entrepreneurial values as they endure and undermine, absorb and deflect conflicting lessons about welfare, work, medicine, gender, parenting, and mass culture. Trying to hold on to the values of family and home culture, Cambodian Americans nonetheless often feel that “Buddha is hiding.” Tracing the entangled paths of poor and rich Asians in the American nation, Ong raises new questions about the form and meaning of citizenship in an era of globalization.

Creating Black Americans: African-American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present by Nell Irvin Painter


Here is a magnificent account of a past rich in beauty and creativity, but also in tragedy and trauma. Eminent historian Nell Irvin Painter blends a vivid narrative based on the latest research with a wonderful array of artwork by African American artists, works which add a new depth to our understanding of Black history.

Painter offers a history written for a new generation of African Americans, stretching from life in Africa before slavery to today’s hip-hop culture. The book describes the staggering number of Africans–over ten million–forcibly transported to the New World, most doomed to brutal servitude in Brazil and the Caribbean. Painter looks at the free Black population, numbering close to half a million by 1860 (compared to almost four million slaves), and provides a gripping account of the horrible conditions of slavery itself. The book examines the Civil War, revealing that it only slowly became a war to end slavery, and shows how Reconstruction, after a promising start, was shut down by terrorism by white supremacists. Painter traces how through the long Jim Crow decades, Blacks succeeded against enormous odds, creating schools and businesses and laying the foundations of our popular culture. We read about the glorious outburst of artistic creativity of the Harlem Renaissance, the courageous struggles for Civil Rights in the 1960s, the rise and fall of Black Power, the modern hip-hop movement, and two Black Secretaries of State. Painter concludes that African Americans today are wealthier and better educated, but the disadvantaged are as vulnerable as ever.

Painter deeply enriches her narrative with a series of striking works of art–more than 150 in total, most in full color–works that profoundly engage with black history and that add a vital dimension to the story, a new form of witness that testifies to the passion and creativity of the African-American experience.

* Among the dozens of artists featured are Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Beauford Delaney, Jacob Lawrence, and Kara Walker

* Filled with sharp portraits of important African Americans, from Olaudah Equiano (one of the first African slaves to leave a record of his captivity) and Toussaint L’Ouverture (who led the Haitian revolution), to Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X

Diversity in Democracy: Minority Representation in the United States edited by Gary M. Segura & Shaun Bowler


As the racial and ethnic minority populations of the United States grow past 30 percent, candidates cannot afford to ignore the minority vote. The studies collected in Diversity and Democracy show that political scientists, too, must fully recognize the significance of minority-representation studies for our understanding of the electoral process in general.

If anything has limited such inquiry in the past, it has been the tendency for researchers to address only a single group or problem, yielding little that can be applied to other contexts. Diversity in Democracy avoids this limitation by examining several aspects of representation, including both Latino and African American perspectives, and a wide range of topics, ranging from the dynamics of partisanship to various groups’ perceptions of the political system. The result is a work that pulls together decades of disparate work into a broad and cohesive overview of minority representation.

The most significant conclusion to emerge from this multifaceted examination is the overwhelming importance of context. There is no single strategic key, but taken together, these studies begin to map the strategies, institutions, and contexts that enhance or limit minority representation. In navigating the complexities of minority politics, moreover, the book reveals much about American representative democracy that pertains to all of us.

From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans by John Hope Franklin & Alfred A. Moss, Jr.


The Eight Edition has been thoroughly revised to include expanded material on Africa, the history of African Americans in the Caribbean and Latin America, the current situation of African Americans in the United States, popular culture, and much more. It has also been redesigned with new charts, maps, photographs, paintings, illustrations, and color inserts. Written by distinguished and award-winning authors, retaining the same features that have made it the most popular text on African American History ever, and with fresh and appealing new features, From Slavery to Freedom remains the leading text on the market.

Additionally, I’m fortunate to have received a copy of an interactive study guide; which was included in this extensive text. It has proven to be a useful aid when reviewing this generous body of work.

In Defense of Affirmative Action by Barbara R. Bergmann


At a time when quotas and preferences are under attack nationwide, Barbara Bergmann courageously show that without the help of affirmative action America will never be able to attain a truly race-blind and sex-blind society, for it is naive to imagine that the abolition of affirmative action will lead to a system based solely on ability. Women and minorities do in fact need assistance in cases where prejudice or habit leads to preference for white males in all openings. Free of the posturing that has so often degraded this debate, In Defense of Affirmative Action is a clarion call to maintain affirmative action as a just and indispensable solution to a chronic problem in American society.

“Makes the most persuasive case to date for continuing the project of actively securing fair treatment for women and minorities. . . . Bergmann introduces important new evidence about how decisions to hire and promote are actually made. She resets the terms of the debate.” —Scientific American

Latino Politics in America Community, Culture and Interest by John A. Garcia


Latinos constitute the fastest-growing population in the United States today, and Latino political participation is growing rapidly. Still, Latino political power is not commensurate with the numbers, and much potential remains to be tapped. In Latino Politics in America, author John A. García examines the development of this vibrant community and points the way toward a future of shared interests and coalitions among the diverse Latino subgroups.

This newly revised edition lays out the basic facts of Latino America—who Latinos are, where they come from, where they reside—and then connects these facts to political realities of immigration, citizenship, voting, education, organization, and leadership. García’s nuanced portrait of contemporary Latino political life, first published in 2003, has been updated throughout to include data from the 2010 census and the 2008 and 2010 elections.

Furthermore, this paragraph still remains in my thoughts…”The 1970 census also reflected the different methods to identify persons of Spanish origin. Within the short and long census form, ancestry and self-identification determined Hispanic-ness. That is, an individual who identified herself as a person of Spanish origin would do so. There were no prescribed criteria such as Spanish-language use or foreign-born status that marked Spanish origin. The self-identifier introduced in the 1970 census has become the consistent Hispanic “marker” ever since. Technically, it is referred as the ethnicity item or Spanish-origin identifier. It might be helpful, then, to distinguish between race and ethnicity. ” (pages 17-18 of Latino Politics in America)

Minority Representation And The Quest For Voting Equality by Bernard Grofman, Lisa Handley & Richard G. Niemi


This book is the most up-to-date treatment of voting rights law and the numerous controversies surrounding minority representation. Written by authors with first-hand experience in the case law, the book details the evolution of the law and precedent from 1965 forward. The authors explain the basic logic underlying the major decisions, introduce the reader to the procedures for establishing standards of representation and measuring discrimination, and discuss the major points of recent contention. In the concluding chapter, the authors address the implications of the recent developments in voting rights law for the future of representation in America.

For instance on page 52, it states, “We can find no support in either logic or the legislative history for the anomalous conclusion to which the appellants’ position leads – that Congress intended, on the one hand, that proof that a minority group is predominately poor, uneducated, and unhealthy should be considered a facto tending to prove a section 2 violation; but that Congress intended, on the other hand, that proof that the same socioeconomic characteristics greatly influence black voters’ choice of candidates should destroy these voters’ ability to establish one of the most important elements of a vote dilution claim.”

Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives by Martin N. Marger


Reflecting the latest data and theoretical literature available, RACE AND ETHNIC RELATIONS: AMERICAN AND GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES, 10e tackles diversity issues from both the American and global perspective, offering an in-depth exploration of today’s globally diverse world. The text’s expansive coverage of race and ethnic relations across the globe highlights major points of difference and similarity between the United States and a number of other societies, as well as includes a unique case study comparing four different countries. This unique comparative approach is vital with the increasing ethnic diversity in most contemporary societies as well as the prominence of ethnic conflicts in virtually all world regions. Current statistics, figures, maps, and citations provide up-to-the-minute insight. The Tenth Edition also includes an all-new chapter devoted to Arab Americans. In addition, end-of-chapter critical-thinking questions encourage readers to think in a sociological mode and examine current issues using concepts presented in the text.

The Shape Of The River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions by William G. Bowen & Derek Bok


This is the book that has forever changed the debate on affirmative action in America. The Shape of the River is the most far-reaching and comprehensive study of its kind. It brings a wealth of empirical evidence to bear on how race-sensitive admissions policies actually work and clearly defines the effects they have had on over 45,000 students of different races. Its conclusions mark a turning point in national discussions of affirmative action–anything less than factual evidence will no longer suffice in any serious debate of this vital question.

Glenn Loury’s new foreword revisits the basic logic behind race-sensitive policies, asserting that since individuals use race to conceptualize themselves, we must be conscious of race as we try to create rules for a just society. Loury underscores the need for confronting opinion with fact so we can better see the distinction between the “morality of color-blindness” and the “morality of racial justice.”

First published in 1998.

Fortunately, this copy was gifted to me many moons ago by the then Vice Provost, Dr. Helen Remick, of the Equal Opportunity Office at the University of Washington.

Furthermore, “No study of this magnitude has been attempted before. Its findings provide a strong rationale for opposing current efforts to demolish race-sensitive policies in colleges across the country. . . . The evidence collected flatly refutes many of the misimpressions of affirmative-action opponents.”–The New York Times

Towards The Abolition of Whiteness by David Roediger


Towards the Abolition of Whiteness collects David Roediger’s recent essays, many published here for the first time, and counts the costs of whiteness in the past and present of the US. It finds those costs insupportable. At a time when prevailing liberal wisdom argues for the downplaying of race in the hope of building coalitions dedicated to economic reform, Roediger wants to open, not close, debates on the privileges and miseries associated with being white. He closely examines the way in which white identities have historically prepared white Americans to accept the oppression of others, the emptiness of their own lives, and the impossibility of change.

Whether discussing popular culture, race and ethnicity, the evolution of such American keywords as gook, boss and redneck, the strikes of 1877 or the election of 1992, Roediger pushes at the boundaries between labor history and politics, as well as those between race and class. Alive to tension within what James Baldwin called “the lie of whiteness,” Roediger explores the record of dissent from white identity, especially in the cultural realm, and encourages the search for effective political challenges to whiteness.


Update: November 1, 2017

Blessed to see that my article has been syndicated on Blavity.

When time permits, please take a moment to read 15 Books For Your Reading List That Will Help You With Your Primary Election Decision (published October 10, 2017).

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