Asian American Religious Cultures.
Ed. by Jonathan H. X. Lee and others.
2v. 2015. 1,050p. illus. ABC-CLIO, $189
Asian Americans are a diverse and heterogeneous group in terms of religion, ethnicity,
culture, and country of origin. This is not surprising, as Asia is equally as diverse (the term
in antiquity simply referred to those living
east of Greater Greece, possibly along the Silk
Road). Asian Americans are more recent immigrants and are still considered a minority.
Hence, their identities are in flux as these are
redefined within the context of the American
landscape. Although mainstream Americans
have generally categorized Asian Americans by
country of origin, this classification neglects
the variations in ethnicities and religions that
exist side by side in Asia. This reference has the
Sisyphean task of integrating religious cultures
from such a heterogeneous and diverse group
in a two-volume set. A work like this one is
likely to underrepresent some portions of Asian
Americans, either religiously, ethnically, or
culturally. Another challenge is that whatever
methodology is used is unlikely to work for all
of the Asian American subpopulations that call
America home. Indeed, the only viable option
is to present the research in encyclopedia-type
entries that are essentially short essays.
The distinction between the 20 essays and
200 entries seems artificial in subject matter,
length, and content. Essays and entries are
heavily cross-referenced, and each ends with a
handful of references for further research. The
writing style tends to be academic and in some
cases requires effort to focus on the information presented. Given the subject-matter
challenges, this work does an admirable job
of being accessible to novices while not diluting the ubiquitous nuances characteristic of
this topic. Recommended as a reference for
advanced high-school and undergraduate students. —Muhammed Hassanali
YA/C: Suitable for advanced high-school
research on religion. RV.
The Black Calhouns: From Civil War
to Civil Rights with One African
By Gail Lumet Buckley.
Feb. 2016. 352p. Atlantic Monthly, $26
(9780802124548); e-book, $26 (9780802190697). 973.
Although it was illegal to teach a slave to
The Black Presidency: Barack Obama
read and write, Dr. Andrew Bonaparte Cal-
houn wanted a “sophisticated” butler, and
so Moses Calhoun, Buckley’s great-great-
grandfather, became literate and, upon
emancipation, a highly successful Atlanta
businessman. Lacing her
assiduously researched and
gracefully written family
history into the very fabric
of the Republic, Buckley
captures the brief sense
of possibility for African
Americans after the Civil
War and the vicious back-
lash that spawned the Ku Klux Klan (officially
designated as a terrorist group in 1870) and
Jim Crow (the model for Hitler’s race laws).
While some of the “black Calhouns” stayed
in Georgia, others migrated to Brooklyn.
As Buckley’s entrancingly well-told saga of
her mixed-race family rolls forward, it is il-
luminated by the rise of her mother, that
bright and dazzling star, singer, and civil
rights activist Lena Horne. Abandoned by
her stylish gangster father and “neglected
and endangered” by her mother, a frustrated
actress, Lena thrived nonetheless, thanks to
her indomitable grandmother Cora Calhoun
Horne, a teacher, social worker, and activ-
ist. As wholly compelling as Lena’s story is,
Buckley astutely sets her mother’s trials and
triumphs within a larger mosaic depicting the
tragic persistence of racism now manifested
in yet another poisonously reactionary surge,
as our first African American president navi-
gates his final year in office. Buckley’s superbly
realized American family portrait is enthrall-
ing and resounding. For more such tales, see
“Core Collection: Multicultural American
Family Histories,” p. 14. —Donna Seaman
and the Politics of Race in America.
By Michael Eric Dyson.
Feb. 2016. 336p. Houghton, $27 (9780544387669). 973.93.
Prolific author and public intellectual Dy-
Blackballed: The Black and White
son refreshes our memories and contextualizes
Barack Obama’s tumultuous
presidency to show how
his political ascendancy has
changed what it means to
be black in America. He
couldn’t have chosen a bet-
ter lens through which to
view America’s race relation-
ships than Obama, whose
biracial “otherness” continues to be problem-
atic for both blacks and whites. Dyson parses
defining moments, including the backstory of
Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the president’s for-
mer pastor, and First Lady Michelle Obama’s
“Pride-gate” statement, to demonstrate the
tightrope act necessary for appealing to white
voters while seeking to unify the black vote.
Also highlighted are acts of overt racism and
disrespect no other president has had to face.
Dyson contends that during the last quarter of
his presidency, Obama’s public statements have
moved closer to his privately held beliefs and
that his voice ranks among other noted black
orators. By focusing on social impacts rather
than legislative successes and failures, Dyson
places Obama’s achievements and struggles
within the continuum of systematic racial in-
justice. A perceptive, carefully sourced, and
thought-provoking inquiry. —Dan Kaplan
Politics of Race on America’s Campuses.
By Lawrence Ross.
Feb. 2016. 288p. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (9781250079114).
A college education is widely considered
the great equalizer, a way for disadvantaged
students to improve their lives, buttressed by
initiatives like affirmative action and multicultural curricula. But in this insightful,
comprehensive analysis, author and activist Ross explores the insidious persistence
of racism at college campuses in the U.S.,
especially in so-called Greek life. Ross cites
numerous racist incidents, including a party
bus full of white frat boys chanting lyrics celebrating lynching and a cross burning at a
black sorority in Alabama. He disputes the
notion that these are isolated events, asserting that, instead, they are symptomatic of
deep-seated, institutionalized racism. The
sheer number of nauseating examples Ross
enumerates provides convincing evidence of
an epidemic that is often downplayed. Ross
connects everyday microaggression that students of color experience at predominantly
white institutions and analyzes the victim-blaming rhetoric that frequently arises in
popular-media coverage. In light of recent
events at Yale and the University of Missouri,
as well as ongoing efforts by Black Lives
Matter activists, Ross should be read along
with Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates,
and Claudia Rankine. —Diego Báez
YA: Teens about to embark on their own
college journeys will be enlightened and
empowered by Ross’ eye-opening volume. SH.
Blood Brothers: The Fatal
Friendship between Muhammad Ali
and Malcolm X.
By Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith.
Feb. 2016. 416p. Basic, $29.99 (9780465079704). 301.45.
Sports historians Roberts (Rising Tide,
2013) and Smith (The Sons of Westwood, 2013)
delve deeply into the little-known intricacies
and tragic consequences of the close bond
between the mentoring Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X and the young boxer Cassius
Clay. As the authors tell the gripping personal
stories of these two passionate revolutionaries
and seekers, they cover with both anecdotal