by Kam Williams
Looking back on the best books I read this past year by African-Americans, the only thing they seem to have in common is their daring in terms of a willingness to tackle material from an unorthodox point of view. This refreshing inclination reflects the fact that black thinking has become less and less a predictable, monolithic mindset and is increasingly represented by a variety of novel perspectives.
For instance, in Pimps Up, Ho’s Down, rap fan T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting confesses to being conflicted about how the music she was raised on has influenced the thinking and behavior of females of the Hip-Hop Generation.
In Lose Your Mother, Saidiya Hartman writes about her disappointing year spent in the Motherland during which she discovered herself to be more American than African.
And how about Sonsyrea Tate’s revealing memoir, Do Me Twice, in which she shares the often shocking details about being raised inside the Nation of Islam? While sisters do dominate the list, there are several brothers who have distinguished themselves, such as Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint with Come on People, their controversial clarion call for self-help and personal responsibility.
In an entirely different vein, we have photographer Jerry Taliaferro’s Women of a New Tribe, a tasteful, black & white celebration of the black female via portraits posed in the glamorous style of screen divas from the Forties. Meanwhile, Harriet Washington’s meticulously-researched Medical Apartheid shed some light on America’s discriminatory healthcare system.
As you can see that the entries covering a wide range of subjects. So, without further ado, I give you this critic’s picks as the best non-fiction books published by black authors in 2007.
10 Best Black Books of 2007
1. Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women
by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting
In the wake of Don Imus being fired and rehired for his insensitive comments about black women, you probably couldn’t ask for a more timely discussion of gangsta rap and its demeaning depictions of females. Highly recommended as a seminal tome likely to usher in a promising new era of honest intellectual debate about the imminent head-on collision between hip-hop and emerging, black feminist thinking.
2. Lose Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route
by Saidiya Hartman
Written in a most engaging fashion, this thought-provoking, post-sentimental, and ultimately heartbreaking neo-narrative, if embraced, is likely to lead to an overhaul in Pan-Africanist thinking. For the fundamental question repeatedly raised here by implication is whether African-Americans are more African than American or vice versa. And Saidaya provides plenty of anecdotal evidence to support her thesis that the latter just might be the answer.
3. Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors
By Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D.
Ever since Bill Cosby delivered what might be called the historic Ghettoesburg Address in Washington, D.C. during the NAACP’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision, there’s been a big brouhaha brewing in the black community over his oft-repeated remarks. In a cultural war, you have to pick a side, and I suspect that most parents who truly love their children will consider straight talk of this nature not only appropriate but downright necessary in the face of the degeneracy directed daily at African-American youth in the battle for their bodies and minds.
4. Women of a New Tribe: A Photographic Celebration of the Black Woman
By Jerry Taliaferro
This groundbreaking photographic collection features a rainbow of African-American females, not just in terms of skin color, but also in shape, size and age. And we don’t just see sisters who meet a shallow, narrowly-defined, Eurocentric standard of beauty. A timely and overdue homage, indeed, which wonderfully elevates and illustrates both the inner and outer beauty of all sisters, a segment of society generally taken for granted, if not denigrated by the mainstream culture.
5. Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
by Harriet A. Washington
Most people only think of the infamous Tuskegee study of subjects with untreated syphilis when it comes to the exploitation of blacks as guinea pigs. But such experimentation by medical researchers neither began nor ended with that shocking case. This chilling expose’ makes it abundantly clear that just as America has a two-tiered criminal justice system, it has totally different quality healthcare systems when it comes to its blacks and white citizens.
6. Do Me Twice: My Life after Islam: A Memoir
by Sonsyrea Tate
Until the age of 18, Sonsyrea Tate was essentially raised in the Nation of Islam, which apparently proved to be very confusing for a child who first had it ingrained in her head that all white people were devils, before being taught that they’re not devils, and then, oops, they were in fact devils after all. But apparently far more damaging than the dogma was the hypocrisy young Ray-Ray witnessed in her family members and other disciples whose behavior bore little resemblance to what was dictated by the Koran. A poignant page-turner offering an insider’s view from behind the veil.
7. Saving the Race: Empowerment through Wisdom
Daily Affirmations for Young Black Males
by Anthony Asadullah Samad
If one is to believe the dire statistics, African-American men are an at-risk segment of the population, and in acute crisis due to skyrocketing incarceration, dropout, unemployment, HIV infection, drug addiction and homicide rates. This book is a collection of inspirational affirmations aimed at young black males culled from a variety of sources, including the Bible, African proverbs, and dozens of different luminaries like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Malcolm X, Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, and Muhammad Ali. A worthwhile opus which ought to serve as a regular reminder to impressionable young minds to resist negative influences as they strive for success in their every endeavor.
8. Broken Utterances:
A Selected Anthology of 19th Century Black Women’s Social Thought
Edited and Illustrated by Michelle Diane Wright
For too long, the unique perspective of the African-American female has languished in the shadows of intellectual thought. This treatise lays the groundwork for a long overdue appreciation of a score of visionary sisters who were ready to lead their people over a hundred years ago. An admirable, exhaustive, encyclopedic effort to elevate these brave women, even if belatedly, to their rightful place as very important voices in the black struggle for freedom.
9. We Gotta Have It:
Twenty Years of Seeing Black at the Movies, 1986-2006
by Esther Iverem
Worth the investment for the opening chapter alone, in which the author assesses the predicament of blacks in the U.S. through the prism of motion pictures. There, she asks, “Why does a police officer feel he can get away with sodomizing us with a broomstick; shooting us, as we stand unarmed, forty or fifty times; or beating us bloody on a crowded New Orleans street?”
She concludes it is “the least attractive, the most criminal, the most seedy part of us, that is then made to become representative of us all.” A cultural critic who can skewer so succinctly and delightfully is rare enough indeed, but when you couple that talent with an uncompromising, unique black feminist perspective, now you’re talking about a sister with a seminal voice deserving of much wider recognition.
10. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded:
Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex
Edited by Incite! Women of Color against Violence
Have you ever wondered why poverty persists in America, despite the existence of so many incredibly wealthy charitable organizations, some of which boast billion-dollar endowments? This incendiary collection of essays brilliantly blows the covers off the non-profit racket, indicting it as being in bed with a power elite whose primary interest is in maintaining the status quo.
Apparently, many charities even masquerade as progressive while pushing an arch-conservative agenda. In sum, the sisters behind this enlightening expose’ earn high marks for compiling a critical inquiry into an unregulated industry long-presumed to be dedicated to the public interest, which unfortunately, more often than not, ostensibly functions as a pawn of big business and the ruling class.
Ralph Ellison: A Biography
by Arnold Rampersad
The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas
by Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher
The Student Entrepreneur’s Guide to Launching
a Multimillion-Dollar Business
by Randal Pinkett
Crisis of the Black Intellectual
by W.D. Wright
You Have Cancer:
A Death Sentence That Four African-American Men Turned into
an Affirmation to Remain in the “Land of the Living”
by Ronald P. Bazile, Sr., Ellis M. Brossett, Sr., Preston J. Edwards, Sr. and Benjamin M. Priestley
From the Streets to the Stove, from Cocaine to Foie Gras
by Chef Jeff Henderson
How to Make Your Child Rich & Famous
by Emory Drake
Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire
Book II: Origin of Civilization from the Cushites
by Drusilla Dunjee Houston
Edited by Dr. Peggy Brooks Bertram
Sucka Free Love:
How to Avoid Dating The Dumb, The Deceitful, The Dastardly,
The Dysfunctional, and The Deranged
By Deborrah Cooper
In-Dependence from Bondage
Claude McKay and Michael Manley:
Defying the Ideological Clash and Policy Gaps
In African Diaspora Relations
by Lloyd D. McCarthy
Grace After Midnight
by Felicia “Snoop” Pearson
with David Ritz
Fishing for Love on the Net:
A Guide to Those Searching for Love
by Myles Reed, Jr.
African American History for Dummies
by Ronda Racha Penrice
Wiley Publishing, Inc.