At California Humanities we love books! Here’s what we’re reading over the winter break:

Julie Fry is reading the following:

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?  Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son.

JF comment: I listened to the author reading this in an audiobook, and was moved by many things, including the importance of the arts and humanities to a young man growing up in a difficult time and place. I am reading now to better savor the words.  This has led me to two other books:

How Race is Made in America – Natalia Molina (CH board member)
How Race Is Made in America examines Mexican Americans—from 1924, when American law drastically reduced immigration into the United States, to 1965, when many quotas were abolished—to understand how broad themes of race and citizenship are constructed. These years shaped the emergence of what Natalia Molina describes as an immigration regime, which defined the racial categories that continue to influence perceptions in the United States about Mexican Americans, race, and ethnicity.

American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland – Robert Self
As the birthplace of the Black Panthers and a nationwide tax revolt, California embodied a crucial motif of the postwar United States: the rise of suburbs and the decline of cities, a process in which black and white histories inextricably joined. American Babylon tells this story through Oakland and its nearby suburbs, tracing both the history of civil rights and black power politics as well as the history of suburbanization and home-owner politics.

Janine Paver is reading Shadow of the Wind —Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax – leading him to make a shocking discovery.

Erin Menne’s wish list includes the following:

The Art of Simple Food II — Alice Waters
This satisfies my love of cooking (& eating!). I greatly admire Waters’ community work with Bay-area youth as well as her activism around local and seasonal cooking.

Go Set a Watchman: A Novel — Harper Lee
I‘m excited to dig deeper into the beloved characters of To Kill A Mockingbird and am fascinated by the fact that it is while it’s a sequel, it predates & informed the classic.

Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll — Peter Guralnick
To satisfy my love of music. Sam Philips is the founder of Sun Records and discovered such rockers as Elvis, Howlin’ Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison

Neha Balram would love to receive Why Not Me? — Mindy Kaling, because she loves all things Mindy!