I just noticed that The Hemmingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon Reed is this month’s selection for the New Yorker‘s Book Club (See my previous post here). David Remnick, the editor explains why. I consider this book as interesting as Menand’s The Metaphysical Club. It also uses a small group of individuals to pick apart complicated themes in American history, in a way so remarkably written that it is attracting the attention of the wider body of American thinkers/professionals that follow periodicals like the New Yorker or the New York Times. They both, too, won the Pulitzer. Has anyone else read it? What do those of you who commented on the Menand post by Andrew think of Reed’s book? Is there anything to be learned by the fact that both authors were trained outside the historical profession, one in law and one in literature?
Also interesting is the New Yorker‘s portfolio of images and videos of Civil Rights Leaders. I was listening to the New Yorker Outloud podcast yesterday and was astounded to hear Remnick discuss the Civil Rights Movement with a clear understanding of recent (last 10-20 years) literature that emphasizes the local aspects of the movement and de-emphasizes the idea that it was just King’s movement. This is beyond a common perspective among African Americanists, but had not yet seemed to filter into the wider literate society (perhaps because Martin Luther King Jr. day brings us back to him and his “I Have a Dream” speech every year). Nikhil Pal Singh discussed this in Black is a Country. I know every year around this time, African Americans emphasize other aspects of the movement. Perhaps what surprised me was to hear the white editor of the New Yorker have fully synthesized current historiography.
This makes me wonder, too, if you all are aware of Ta-Nahisi Coates, who writes and blogs for the Atlantic? I find his blog one of the most interesting commentaries on the web with regards to race and many other topics. He opens the floor to his commenters every day at noon. They tend to be literate, honest, and surprisingly civil. Talk about a future project for an intellectual historian!