cover image Entertaining Race: Performing Blackness in America

Entertaining Race: Performing Blackness in America

Michael Eric Dyson. St. Martin’s, $32.50 (656p) ISBN 978-1-250-13597-1

Cultural commentator Dyson (Long Time Coming) analyzes “the terms of Black performance” in this wide-ranging and artfully conceived collection of essays, speeches, and interviews. Eloquently illustrating how “Black folk didn’t just express the pain and suffering of Blackness, they also gave voice to inexplicable joy and defiant victory,” Dyson examines the careers and cultural significance of entertainers including Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Nas, and the Isley Brothers. Elsewhere, Dyson poignantly reflects on the “intertwined pandemics” of Covid-19 and systemic racism: “From the start of our forced intimacy with North America, Black folk have been trying to breathe air that is free of the pollution of captivity, of coerced transport, of enslavement, of white supremacy, of social inequality and perennial second-class citizenship.” Other pieces include a conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates that touches on atheism, white supremacy, and James Baldwin; a speech praising Nikole Hannah-Jones and her 1619 Project; and a forceful call for America to apply to Black reparations “the same ingenuity it used to fashion restrictions and limitations on Black life in chattel slavery and Jim Crow.” Throughout, Dyson maintains a firm grip on the cultural moment and offers razor-sharp insights into American history, politics, and art. This is a feast of insights. (Nov.)