The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Publisher/Year: The New Press, 2010
Narrator: Karen Chilton
Length: 13 hrs, 16 minutes
What it is: An analysis of today’s supposedly colorblind legal system and an argument that Jim Crow has simply been repackaged to suit today’s purposes. At face value, the system looks and sounds like it’s applied equally, but communities of color continue to be decimated. African American men, in particular, are imprisoned in disproportionate numbers; many will spend their lives in and out of prison, or in poverty because of the stigma of being labeled a felon.
Why I listened to it: I had my eye on it for a long time and just finally got around to listening to it.
What I thought: Parts of this book are really powerful and heartbreaking. I was already familiar with some of the things Alexander addresses, but she does a great job at outlining the history of some of the worst laws. She makes compelling arguments and eloquently connects the dots from Jim Crow to the present day. Maybe because I’ve already read about this subject, I didn’t always think the book was particularly groundbreaking in some of its arguments, but I do think I it’s an important book; she makes a great point that anyone interested in racial justice should be more vocal regarding the criminal justice system. I do regret listening to this on audiobook, though; Chilton does a good job narrating, but there are so many facts and statistics being thrown that I would have liked to have a printed version to be able to go back and refer to.
A companion recommendation: Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness by Rebecca Walker. It’s completely different subject matter (it’s an anthology on the concept of “black cool”), but a couple of the essays definitely came to mind while I was listening to The New Jim Crow.
Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2011
What it is: A graphic novel about Brás de Oliva Domingos, an obituary writer and son of an award-winning Brazilian author. Brás dreams of being a successful writer himself, but instead is stuck in his dead-end job waiting for his life to begin. It’s a non-linear story that reads more like a series of vignettes featuring Brás at different ages.
Why I read it: I had read some good reviews, and that book cover sealed the deal.
What I thought: I took my time with this book. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous. And the story itself is philosophical in nature: at what age does life really begin? Something terrible happens to Brás at the beginning of the book that sets the tone for the other chapters. You learn about his life in little snippets. He has his share of happy and magical moments, but like many people, he’s always waiting for the next big thing; it’s that age-old story of waiting for life to happen, even though it’s been happening and is already passing you by.
You might also like: Big Questions by Anders Nilsen, another philosophical graphic novel. It’s massive and a lot less straightforward than Daytripper, but it’s weird and awesome.