There have been so many books published since we last connected. I couldn’t really decide which ones I wanted to feature, but in staying true to my own tastes, I’m giving you three very different nonfiction September releases. If you’re new here, every month I share three new releases and pair them with two backlist titles: book pairings à la The Stacks. If you like what you read here, there are way more book recommendations, conversations, and reviews to be found on The Stacks podcast and on our Instagram page. So check it all out.
Unfollow Me: Essay in Complicity by Jill Louise Busby
Jill Busby used to be famous for talking to people on her Instagram page, @jillisblack, about race and privilege. Then she realized she wasn’t happy and she wasn’t being honest with herself or her followers. She took a lot of time to think about the performance of what she’d been doing as “Jill is Black” and then took herself to task for her complicity. This taking to task is the book Unfollow Me, and it is so good. The book is more than self interrogation, it is a question of the large social media economy and culture. Busby balances the humor and the scathing perfectly and she is not afraid to get vulnerable. If you’re a person who enjoys critique (even when you yourself might be implicated) you’ll like this book. Hear more from Jill Busby on The Stacks.
If Unfollow Me interests you, I suggest you check out
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
While a lot of what this book is doing, explaining racism to folks, is wildly antithetical to what Busby does with Unfollow Me, I think understanding what Busby is pushing up against is important to contextualize her work: race as industry model. I also found Oluo’s book on racism and its systems to be one of the best in the genre I refer to lovingly as “racial self-help.” If you’re looking for ways to better understand the intersectionality of racism and American culture, this is a great book for you. Ijeoma Oluo shared so much for her brilliance on The Stacks last year when discussing her newest book Mediocre.
Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Britany Cooper
What I loved about Eloquent Rage is a lot of what I loved about Unfollow Me: neither author was scared to talk about the harms that appear when discussing race, while still being willing to implicate themselves. The level of self awareness and also humility to say “this thing is terrible, and yeah I benefit from it” is powerful and necessary if we really want to confront racism and the ways it uses our silence to continue on. I also think Brittany Cooper is a genius, and this book has it all, from Beyonce to mass incarceration.
The Kaepernick Effect: Taking a Knee, Changing the World by Dave Zirin
As a lover of sports and politics, Dave Ziriin is my go-to sports’ journalist. He never shies away from unpacking the political implications of sport and has made a career out of actively not sticking to sports. In The Kaepernick Effect, he looks at the ways Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 protest during the National Anthem has reverberated throughout sport, all the way from high school athletes to college to the pros. This is not a book about Colin Kaepernick; this is a book about the people who knelt in solidarity with his message. You can hear Zirin discuss his latest book in detail on The Stacks.
If you’re into sports and politics, I highly recommend
Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back: Dilemmas of the Modern Fan by Jessica Luther and Kavitha Davidson
To all my sports fans with a conscience, this book is for you. It explores the ways we love sports and the ways sports are just terrible to the athletes and the fans and pretty much everyone involved (aside from the owners and the commissioners). It covers so much, like racist mascots, CTE in football, athletes accused of domestic violence and more. The book doesn’t just discuss these ideas, it also suggests what we can strive for to make things better.
You know I don’t like to break the rules, but I don’t think there are any official rules about pairing a book by an author with an older book by that same author, so here we are. Welcome to the Terrordome is my favorite book by Zirin (and he has 10 others for you to check out), and I think if you’re interested in sports and politics it’s a great one to read. He is relentless in exposing the hypocrisy in sports and the issues that are rotting the games we love.
Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood by Dawn Turner
This is a memoir and reported work of nonfiction about Turner, her sister Kim, and her best friend Debra, who all grow up in Chicago’s neighborhood of Bronzeville. The book follows what happens to each woman over time and the ways lives that are deeply connected can have vastly different outcomes. I have to be honest: I had issues with this book, but found some of it to be compelling. I think there are other books that do similar things you might like.
If you’re interested in similar books to Three Girls From Bronzeville check out
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs
This book and Three Girls from Bronzeville are essentially the same book. They’re both stories of kids from under-resourced neighborhoods with “potential” who are confronted with the ways their childhoods impact their lives forever. They diverge of course in content, but the premises are very similar. If you’re interested in these types of narratives, Robert Peace is not to be missed.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Look: Toni Morrison is one of the greats, and with The Bluest Eye she is able to do what Turner attempts with her book but with much more clarity and range. We get to explore the ideas that Turner suggests with her subtitle, but with a strong point of view. Everytime I think about The Bluest Eye I simply cannot believe it is a debut novel. This book does so much with race and beauty and self worth and struggle, but in a nuanced and layered way. I only wish all books could be this great. If you want a much longer discussion of The Bluest Eye, check out this old episode of The Stacks (there are spoilers).