Book Commentary: “The Home That Was Our Country” by Alia Malek

This morning I finished reading the book “The Home That Was Our Country” by Alia Malek. If you’ve had the desire to read something that ties together personal stories and the historical context of Syria, I recommend it. Alia Malek was the first of her Syrian-American family born in the U.S. in the 1970’s, and Read more about Book Commentary: “The Home That Was Our Country” by Alia Malek[…]

Book Commentary: “The Mayor of Castro Street” by Randy Shilts

Randy Shilts’ 1982 biography of Harvey Milk, The Mayor of Castro Street, provided much of the source material for the Oscar-winning films The Times of Harvey Milk (the documentary) and Milk (the dramatization). Anyone who has seen either of those films is familiar with the inspiring but tragic story of the first openly gay candidate Read more about Book Commentary: “The Mayor of Castro Street” by Randy Shilts[…]

Guantanamo Diary

Book Commentary: “Guantanamo Diary” by Mohamedou Ould Slahi

This book has the potential to reshape the way you think about American justice. To start, some quick Latin: The U.S. Constitution contains the concept of habeas corpus. In short, it protects people from illegal detention, by allowing someone who’s imprisoned to bring the question of their imprisonment to a court. In other words, the Read more about Book Commentary: “Guantanamo Diary” by Mohamedou Ould Slahi[…]

Book Commentary: “The End of Protest” by Micah White

In 2011, phrases like “we are the 99%” entered the popular vocabulary as Occupy Wall Street began in New York and inspired similar protests. Micah White was one of the co-creators of that movement; although, as he discusses in this book, one of the strengths of the movement was that it took an organic leadership Read more about Book Commentary: “The End of Protest” by Micah White[…]

Book Commentary: “Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl” by Carrie Brownstein

Some may know Carrie Brownstein best from Portlandia, wherein she runs a feminist bookstore, buys things from Kumail Nanjiani, and earns the nickname “Pull Out King”. This book isn’t about any of that, though. “Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl” is instead about Carrie’s childhood and adventures in the life of her band Sleater-Kinney. For Read more about Book Commentary: “Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl” by Carrie Brownstein[…]

Book Review: “The Left Hand of Darkness”

Back in my review for the classic sci-fi novel Solaris, I closed by admiring that book’s ability to show how hard it would really be to communicate with any extraterrestrials if/when we met them. That book is a beautifully tragic example of both humans and a non-humanoid alien trying their best, but not being able Read more about Book Review: “The Left Hand of Darkness”[…]

Book Review: Nonviolent Communication

Some of you might be like me, and learned as a kid from a cartoon rabbit that “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Maybe a rule like this could help discourage your kid from making a judgmental comment, but for adults the rule needs an overhaul. Because the people who Read more about Book Review: Nonviolent Communication[…]

Book Review: “Kindred” by Octavia Butler

When trying to characterize America’s racial history from a zoomed-out level, describing it as full of “mistakes” or “complications” would be reductive, disingenuous, and incorrect. Trying to see “both sides” where there is really just one, or distributing guilt as if it were equally deserved or it were hard to determine, is a dishonest evasion Read more about Book Review: “Kindred” by Octavia Butler[…]

Book Review: “Racism Without Racists” by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

Everyone has to make the world a little smaller to make sense of it. We carve out mental shortcuts, mixing cues from experience, tradition, and research until the heuristics become strong and resilient.

The American racial experience is one of those difficult questions that can’t be mentally tackled all at once. But what if the currently-most-popular set of frames and assumptions about it, dubbed “color-blind racism” in Racism Without Racists by Dr. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva of Duke University, is a deeply flawed one that is creating a rift between mainstream discourse about race, and the unfortunate American racial reality?



Book Review: “So Long Been Dreaming” ed. by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan

The dominant science fiction narrative

The relationship between science fiction and racial identity has always been a tough one. At times, sci-fi can be the most adventurous and experimental of any genre. And yet, the most dominant narrative is essentially one that was written in 1912, John Carter of Mars.


1912! This was a time when scientists had only just barely started to give up on the idea that Mars was covered with canals dug by an intelligent civilization. Meanwhile, racism in the U.S. was at arguably its worst point after the American Civil War. Perhaps not the best time period from which to be drawing influences for imagined scientific and social futures.