Cover image for We can't breathe : on black lives, white lies, and the art of survival
Title:
We can't breathe : on black lives, white lies, and the art of survival
ISBN:
9781250174536
Personal Author:
Edition:
First Edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Picador, [2018]

©2018
Physical Description:
193 pages ; 19 cm
Contents:
Getting it twisted -- The elements of strut -- Shooting negroes -- Color him father -- The seer and the seen : on reading and being -- Brick relics -- The thing itself -- Of love and struggle : the limits of respectability -- Selected bibliography.
Summary:
"Asim disrupts what Toni Morrison [calls] the 'master narrative' and replaces it with a story of black survival and persistence through art and community in the face of centuries of racism. In eight ... essays, he explores such topics as the twisted legacy of jokes and falsehoods in black life; the importance of black fathers and community; the significance of black writers and stories; and the beauty and pain of the black body"--Front flap.
Holds:

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Book 305.896 Asim
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Book 305.896 Asim
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Book 305.896 Asim
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Book 305.896 Asim
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Book 305.896 Asim
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Book 305.896 Asim
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On Order

Summary

Summary

A Finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay

Insightful and searing essays that celebrate the vibrancy and strength of black history and culture in America by critically acclaimed writer Jabari Asim

In We Can't Breathe , Jabari Asim disrupts what Toni Morrison has exposed as the "Master Narrative" and replaces it with a story of black survival and persistence through art and community in the face of centuries of racism. In eight wide-ranging and penetrating essays, he explores such topics as the twisted legacy of jokes and falsehoods in black life; the importance of black fathers and community; the significance of black writers and stories; and the beauty and pain of the black body. What emerges is a rich portrait of a community and culture that has resisted, survived, and flourished despite centuries of racism, violence, and trauma. These thought-provoking essays present a different side of American history, one that doesn't depend on a narrative steeped in oppression but rather reveals black voices telling their own stories.


Author Notes

JABARI ASIM was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. For eleven years, he was an editor at The Washington Post , where he also wrote a syndicated column on politics, popular culture and social issues, and he served for ten years as the editor in chief of Crisis magazine, the NAACP's flagship journal of politics, culture and ideas. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Creative Arts and the author of six books for adults, including The N Word, and nine books for children.


Reviews 3

School Library Journal Review

In contrast to the whitewashed, abridged history books that have long dominated our historical narrative stands this collection from the renowned writer, scholar, and cultural critic. In eight smartly crafted essays of varying lengths, Asim shares his experience as a black man in America. Most notable is his talent for braiding past and present into a cohesive explanation that shines a light on ugly histories while being honest about how far we have or have not come. "Shooting Negroes" links the murder of Trayvon Martin with slavery and the school-to-prison pipeline. The tender depiction of Asim's father show his roots as a poet-both in the short verses he includes as well as in the descriptions of his family. Educators may be best served by selecting pieces most appropriate for their students, as some entries assume knowledge of historical and current events or use advanced vocabulary, and one contains a graphic sexual description. -VERDICT Sure to spur the conversation on race and identity, this is a strong addition to any collection for mature teens, especially as a supplement to history texts that have left out the stories and voices of people of color.-Lindsay Jensen, Nashville Public Library © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publisher's Weekly Review

In this small but expansive collection of essays, writer and cultural critic Asim (Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis) draws on the full breadth of black history in the United States, illuminating the story of black resilience through the centuries. "Along with brutality, torture, and murder, a principal step in oppression, American style has long involved getting between the oppressed and their stories," he writes. To combat this oppression, he discusses depictions of blackness in art, black fathers and father figures, the meaning of representation in literature, the racist roots of neighborhood watch squads, and the limits of respectability politics. In one heartfelt essay, he wonders at the power of a brick wall-built in a Massachusetts town by an enslaved artisan in 1765-to act as a physical reminder of great sacrifice. In Asim's telling, Trayvon Martin, the black teenager who was murdered by a white neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012, lives alongside Pomp, the man who built that wall. Melding the personal with the national and cultural, this collection is a must-read for history buffs, activists, and students of societal power dynamics. (Oct.) c Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Acclaimed writer Asim (associate professor, director, creative writing, Emerson Coll.; Preaching to the Chickens; A Taste of Honey: Stories) writes an insightful, compact volume featuring eight pivotal essays that redress African American history and culture as it's commonly represented in America today. This latest work eloquently weaves a narrative rich with black philosophers, artists, and writers, juxtaposing the standard offerings of black history found in present-day classrooms. His essays transverse the difficulties of racism, violence, and oppression; however, a keen mastery of language and storytelling positively illuminates how African Americans continue to resist against injustice. Asim effortlessly opens the dialog by widening the lens on various issues such as black fathers as leaders, the appropriation of black tragedy by white artists, how the stories of African American heroes come to be misrepresented, and the misconception that love is enough to fight injustice. VERDICT A highly accessible book that would serve high school and college classrooms well in continuing the conversation about civil rights and social justice.-Angela Forret, Clive, IA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Getting It Twistedp. 1
The Elements of Strutp. 21
Shooting Negroesp. 49
Color Him Fatherp. 69
The Seer and the Seen: On Reading and Beingp. 91
Brick Relicsp. 115
The Thing Itselfp. 127
Of Love and Struggle: The Limits of Respectabilityp. 171
Acknowledgmentsp. 189
Selected Bibliographyp. 191