Book Review: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindess by Michelle Alexander (Revised edition)

For the past 6 weeks, I have been participating in a series of facilitated community discussions in Charlotte, North Carolina, about the book The New Jim Crow. To say it was an enlightening experience would be an understatement.

I have spent quite a bit of time studying the issue of race in America. I also grew up in the suburbs during the foundation and escalation of the War on Drugs. The infamous commercial, This is your brain on drugs, will forever be etched into my memory.

I have always been strongly against capital punishment, and its disproportionate use amongst people of color. I also believe that the increasingly privatized prison system in America targets people of color at alarmingly high rates, which is one of the reasons why I was motivated to pick up this book. In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander provides an unparalleled look into the system of mass incarceration, and how our entire criminal justice system has been turned into a new racial caste system that manages to flourish in an era of colorblindness, primarily enacted through the War on Drugs.

The New Jim Crow is provocative. It is gut-wrenching. It is intelligent. It is at times deeply uncomfortable. It challenges you to break your silence on the topic. It is also extremely well-researched, filled with pages and pages of endnotes. It is a book that I believe all Americans should read and discuss with each other.

“The genius of the current caste system, and what most distinguishes it from its predecessors, is that it appears voluntary. People choose to commit crimes, and that’s why they are locked up or locked out, we are told. This feature makes the politics of responsibility particularly tempting, as it appears the system can be avoided with good behavior. But herein lies the trap. All people make mistakes. All of us are sinners. All of us are criminals. All of us violate the law at some point in our lives. In fact, if the worst thing you have ever done is speed ten miles over the speed limit on the freeway, you have put yourself and others at more risk of harm than someone smoking marijuana in the privacy of his or her living room. Yet there are people in the United States serving life sentences for first-time drug offenses, something virtually unheard of anywhere else in the world.” (p.215)

“Seeing race is not the problem. Refusing to care for the people we see is the problem. The fact that the meaning of race may evolve over time or lose much of its significance is hardly a reason to be struck blind. We should hope not for a colorblind society but instead for a world in which we can see each other fully, learn from each other, adn do what we can to respond to each other with love. That was King’s dream–a society that is capable of seeing each of us, as we are, with love. That is a goal worth fighting for.” (p.244)

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

WWW Wednesday – 7 September 2016

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WWW is a weekly meme hosted by Sam over at Taking On a World of Words. You can join in by commenting on Sam’s post, and answering three questions.

Currently Reading:

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Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

Holy Bagumba, this book is fantastic! Kate DiCamillo is one of the many authors who will be at this weekend’s Festival of Books and Authors, hosted by the non-profit Bookmarks organization in Winston-Salem, North Carolina this weekend. We are going to the festival, and the whole family is so excited to meet her! We hadn’t read Flora & Ulysses yet, so I picked it up on Amazon last week to read ahead of the festival. We will definitely be stopping by the Booksigning tent to get her books signed! We will likely also purchase a copy of her newest release, Raymie Nightingale, at the festival.

I am about 2/3 of the way through, and it is definitely jumping up to the top of my list of favorite Kate DiCamillo books.

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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. Still plugging away at The New Jim Crow, but I hope to finish it up in the next day or so.

Just finished:

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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – I enjoyed it, but didn’t love it. I probably won’t review this one, but would give it 3.5/5 stars. Might be the case of a book not living up to the high expectations I had set for it.

Reading Next:

Well, last week’s What am I reading next thoughts turned out to be completely inaccurate, lol. Here’s this week’s guess.

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Roots: The Saga of An American Family by Alex Haley – I participate in the TBR Challenge over on Librarything, and this is one of the books on my list (Rebecca was on the list as well). I have only read 12 of the 24 books on my challenge list; I really need to get back to it!

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Sailor Moon, Vol. 1 by Naoko Takeuchi – Back on my list again this week. I like to balance intense books (i.e. Roots)  with purely fun reads.

WWW Wednesday – 31 August 2016

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WWW is a weekly meme hosted by Sam over at Taking On a World of Words. You can join in by commenting on Sam’s post, and answering three questions.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading two books, that couldn’t be more different from each other.

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Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Who doesn’t know that line? Rebecca has been languishing on my TBR shelf for years and years. I am only about 25 pages in, and I love the atmosphere that Daphne du Maurier creates, right from the very beginning. I already have a chill of anticipation as to what is to come.

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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander – Hands down, this is one of the most important nonfiction books that I have read this year. With only one chapter remaining, it has been a slow, thought-provoking book that I have read as part of a local discussion series called Educate to Engage, a group that has also created the hashtag #NoMoreBystanding. Michelle has constructed a thorough, convincing, passionate account of how the American criminal justice system, triggered by the creation and design of the War on Drugs, has become an institution of oppression towards African-Americans and people of color. The book is filled with detailed facts, arguments and studies to back up the basic premise. It is not an easy read, but it has helped give me the words to talk about a subject that has always been deeply unsettling to me.

What have you recently finished?

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Winter by Marissa Meyer – I loved this book! I thought it was the best one of the whole series. When I started Lunar Chronicles, I enjoyed the first book, Cinder, but didn’t love it. Here, at the end of the series, all of the characters have captured my heart. I didn’t want it to end. Marissa Meyer created a fascinating world with captivating people, it was such a fun read.

What are you reading next?

It’s a toss-up between two books:

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Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín – This is the Sepember selection for my book club, but I am not sure if I will be able to get to it in time for our meeting. I am not extremely motivated to read it right now, especially since the reviews I have heard are only average.

Sailor Moon Vol. 1 by Naoko Takeuchi – My daughter is beginning to express an interest in Sailor Moon manga, so I thought it would be a great time to re-read these books! This will probably be what I pick up next.