20 August 2014

Three books to talk about when we talk about Ferguson

The Left Bank Bookstore in St. Louis is putting together a recommended reading list for residents and others who want to learn more about the underpinnings behind what's been going on in Ferguson, Missouri these past (nearly) two weeks. The list, which is here, incorporates fiction and nonfiction, recent books and some classics. This is not the only necessary response but for me it is an important one; one of its effects on me has been to make me aware of how much I need to learn about the U.S., racial politics, policing, etc.

Here are some recommendations I have gotten from Twitter and elsewhere that I intend to follow up on:

  • James Loewen, SUNDOWN TOWNS: A HIDDEN HISTORY OF AMERICAN RACISM. A "Sundown Town," historically, was a town that unofficially kept African-Americans and other minorities from living or working there through intimidation, threats or indirect local ordinances. Ferguson may have been one of those towns, prior to the 1980s when the demographics of the town began to shift to today (majority African-American population). 
  • Radley Balko, THE RISE OF THE WARRIOR COP. Some of the most striking images coming out of Ferguson have been focused on the silhouettes cut by the Ferguson police against the protesters, seemingly over-militarized in their riot gear. This book elaborates on and evaluates the programs that have armed local law enforcement divisions (largely since 9/11) in places like Ferguson. 
On the fictional side, I have been also reminded of some of the historical pieces in Jonathan Franzen's debut novel THE TWENTY-SEVENTH CITY, which is set in St. Louis and whose plot involves suspicion among several racial and ethnic groups in and around the city. 

What have you been reading about Ferguson lately?

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