Ta-Nehisi Coates could have done many things after winning the National Book Award for Between the World and Me, his superb meditation on racial injustice and white supremacy in 21st Century America. Instead of pursuing any number of projects, he chose to write the relaunch of Marvel’s The Black Panther comic. In it, the Black Panther character is the superhero alter ego of T’Challa, the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation on Earth, yet is struggling to combat an insurgency on its borders and a sense of unease even in the prosperous capital. What is so stunning here is how within the frame of a superhero comic book, Coates is able to ponder profound questions about the meaning of freedom in a semi-autocratic society, the obligation of the rulers towards the ruled, and whether technological progress is possible without hierarchy and some degree of coercion. Brian Stelfreeze’s art gorgeously depicts the environs of Wakanda and provides a lush, cinematic backdrop for Coates’ storytelling.
This book is part memoir, part meandering travelogue through alternative sexuality in 21st century America. The book starts as Witt turns 30 and, newly single, moves to San Francisco—the hotbed of alternative sexual culture in the U.S. today. In San Francisco she focuses her work as a journalist on writing about novel forms of sexual expression cropping up in the Internet age, and the new communities that embrace them. Witt visits polyamorous communities, a BDSM porn company, devotees of a practice called “orgasmic meditation”, and women who earn a living livestreaming their autoerotic acts, as well as other pioneers pushing the boundaries of human sexual expression. She also chronicles her own attempts to find love and lust through the brave new world of online dating. Witt’s forays into all of these strange landscapes remind us of just how radically technological advances and evolving social mores are re-writing the rules of nearly all social interactions today, perhaps most prominently those involving our biologically hard-wired drives to find sex and companionship.
This informative tome retells American history, showing how paradoxical attitudes towards the white underclass have held firm over nearly 400 years. On the one hand, poor whites have long been seen as an undesirable group condemned by heredity to feeblemindedness, sloth, and animalistic behavior. From the colonial period through the early 20th century elites used language borrowed from animal husbandry to describe poor whites as an inferior breed. This abhorrent classist bias culminated the emerging “science” of eugenics and the Supreme Court infamously sanctioning forcible sterilization in Buck vs. Bell (1927), a case that was brought by a poor white maid who resisted the State of Virginia’s efforts to sterilize her. However in contradiction with the denigration and dehumanization of poor whites, they also have long been idealized, from Jefferson’s belief in the innate nobility of America’s yeoman farmers through the examples of Presidents like Jackson, Lincoln, and most recently Bill Clinton, who rose from humble origins in rural backwaters. Isenberg also examines changing depictions of poor whites in the popular culture and media over the years, and when eventually Sarah Palin and Honey Boo Boo find their way into this fascinating book, you won’t be surprised, given the historical continuities Isenberg so compellingly describes.