Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was first introduced to this book via excerpts that were assigned in college courses on race and reproductive health. The excerpts alone were very fascinating, but I do believe that this is a book that should be consumed in its entirety. Dorothy Roberts' argument, that Black women have long been denied reproductive autonomy (and worse, that this structural denial of reproductive justice threatens the liberty of all women and all Black people), is thoroughly researched and documented. I challenge anyone to come up with an equally researched counterargument. Dorothy Roberts scarcely makes a claim that isn't backed up with ample proof, making it quite difficult to refute her argument.
That all being said, this is not an easy read, particularly if you are a woman, but especially if you are a Black woman. This book is a thorough accounting of the ways that the U.S. (government officials, medical institutions and private citizens alike) have sought to control the reproductive lives, and subsequently the bodies of Black women. From rape and forced breeding during slavery to eugenics, forced sterilization and the coerced use of birth control to the denial of assistance for fertility issues, the details are stomach-churning, frightening, and angering. Roberts proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the preservation and perpetuation of white genetic lineage has taken precedence over ensuring the liberty of Black women.
This is a hefty read. With the academic language and heavy subject matter, this isn't a book that you'd want to read in one sitting. I took the book chapter by chapter, and each took time to reflect upon and digest. However, this is a book that is worth the effort. Though it was written in 1997, it has particular relevance in today's atmosphere of Black Lives Matter & the renewed struggle for reproductive justice.
The best part about this book, in my opinion, is that unlike many similar Sociological works, Roberts doesn't simply lay out the problem, she also provides a solution. She provides a good argument for centering race not only in feminist movements, but also in constitutional interpretations of liberty. I love a thorough read, and Dorothy Roberts more than delivered on that front. I doubt that anyone could read this book and not be convinced by Roberts' argument.
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In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"Eating with the fullest pleasure - pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance - is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend." - Wendell Berry
The best thing about this book is its simplicity. It is not a diet book, and can even be classified as an anti-diet book. It is not a difficult text on nutrition science. It is as it claims to be: a defense of food. Food untouched by the unscrupulous capitalist aims of food corporations, free from the reductionist trappings of science & gov't-backed "nutritionism", and free from the pressures and prescriptions of well-meaning yet often misguided health officials. Michael Pollan's suggestion for better health and better life is simple: eat a diverse diet, rich in real, whole foods in their most natural state. No calorie counting, no minimizing food to their nutrient parts, no removing & refortifying or any of the other questionable methods of modern agriculture. Just clean, whole foods.
Pollan's aim isn't to solve heart disease or hypertension or make a prescription for addressing obesity. He isn't even solely addressing the sick. He's talking to all of us who have been led away from the foods that our bodies need for optimal health, who have fallen victim to the perpetual need for cheap, fast, convenient food. He calls upon us all to truly examine our relationship with food, not just in a nutritional sense, but also within the context of family, culture, and ancestry.
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Unbought And Unbossed by Shirley Chisholm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Though the term has been carelessly tossed around over the past couple years, Shirley Chisholm embodied the definition of "political outsider". A regular, Black woman schoolteacher from Brooklyn, Chisholm knew that her very presence ran counter to the political agendas within both New York & national politics, but she gathered the guts to take them to task anyways. Chisholm understood how to run a real grassroots political campaign, standing firm in her decision to be a voice for the most disenfranchised, even when - no, *especially* when it meant possible political suicide. With a keen and knowing eye, Shirley studied the ways of local and national politics in order to work both within and around their confines, to do as much work for her people as possible.
Unbought & Unbossed is quite honestly a timeless read. Shirley Chisholm's struggles in Washington under the Nixon administration provides a blueprint for working within politics today. It conjures up the old adage: the more things change, the more they stay the same. And there is much to be learned from a true political outsider's foray into the mouth of an old and unyielding political beast. Chisholm is brutally honest about the shortcomings of American politics, from the unwillingness of the old guard to yield power, to the carelessness and nauseating misbehaviors of so-called representatives in Congress. Chisholm identifies and calls out the Old Boy's club for what it is, and makes it clear that true change will come not from our local govts or Washington, but from the collective efforts of grassroots movements made up of a coalition of the disenfranchised.
It's a shame how little we discuss Shirley Chisholm's brave and tenacious political career; I admit that I didn't know much more about her than her given moniker of "first woman to run for President". It's a shame - and a testament to the strength of this nation's enduring sociopolitical structure - because that is precisely how she did *not* want to be remembered. I urge everyone to read her own words and take the time to know Shirley Chisholm the woman, the Black woman, the citizen, the insistent voice of the downtrodden and discarded. For sure, you'll find more bravery within these pages than can be found in most political spaces today. Shirley Chisholm, an underacknowledged catalyst for change, is a true unsung American hero whose use of agency, tenacity and determined, progressive action should serve as an inspiration for us all.
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Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
If you're a fan of any of Anthony Bourdain's TV shows, then you'll definitely enjoy Kitchen Confidential. Bourdain writes with unflinching honesty about his experiences in the restaurant business. He's forthcoming about his bad behavior, his missteps, and being a general "punk" as he so knowingly refers to his younger self. Bourdain is clear that this isn't the authoritative story of the dark side of the restaurant industry, but rather, that it is uniquely and quite honestly his story. I appreciate honesty, even if the things I'm being presented with aren't the most pleasant.
After reading about the antics that Bourdain experienced during his years as a chef, you absolutely will start to approach eating out with a different eye, regarding many restaurants and the meals they serve with suspicion. No doubt, Bourdain gives a no-holds-barred look into the seething "culinary underbelly", with brutal honesty and a refreshing dose of humor. You will cringe, you will squirm, you will be shocked, you will laugh. You will get just about everything you'd expect from Bourdain, and then some. If you're an aspiring chef, or simply a curious foodie, this book is definitely worth the read.
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Niv Mullings is a writer, poet, and plant-based health coach hailing from The Boogie Down Bronx.