The Trayvon Generation

Elizabeth Alexander. Grand Central, $22 (160p) ISBN 978-1-5387-3789-7

Poet and memoirist Alexander (The Light of the World) expands on her New Yorker essay in this vigorous and inspiring reflection on how Black art reckons with the traumas of racism and racial violence. Contending that the “war against Black people feels as if it is gearing up for another epic round,” Alexander highlights how Black poets, artists, authors, and musicians have “continuously articulated the problem, the hope, and the possibility of America.” She lucidly analyzes poems by Amiri Baraka, Lucille Clifton, and Clint Smith, among others, and describes the political battle over historian John Hope Franklin’s eighth-grade textbook, Land of the Free, written in 1966, as an antecedent to today’s fights over critical race theory. Elsewhere, Alexander discusses how the “worldview” of African Americans who grew up in the past 25 years has been shaped by the killings of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, George Floyd, and others, and spotlights music videos by Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus that “bring together the naturalistic and the visionary” to showcase the “reanimating” power of Black joy and community. By capturing the rich spectrum of Black culture in America, Alexander offers hope and instruction for younger generations. The result is a thought-provoking must-read. Agent: Faith Childs, Faith Childs Literary Agency. (Apr.)