cover image Radical Reparations: Healing the Soul of a Nation

Radical Reparations: Healing the Soul of a Nation

Marcus Anthony Hunter. Amistad, $29.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-063-00472-6

Inspired by the work of W.E.B. DuBois, Derrick Bell, and Octavia Butler, sociologist Hunter (Chocolate Cities) offers an imaginative and exhilarating vision of slavery as “a founding premise of the current human condition,” utilizing this idea as a launch point for his argument that “radical reparations” need to extend beyond the merely financial. In between autobiographical chapters in which he lays out his philosophical and sociological framework, Hunter unspools three alternate-history “parables” that demonstrate the broad societal impact of slavery and colonialism. The first takes place in an alternative America in which the fulfillment of Civil War general William T. Sherman’s promise of 40 acres to repay formerly enslaved people has yielded a Black territory in South Carolina on the verge of gaining independence. The second imagines that Zionist plans for a Jewish settlement in Uganda came to fruition and delineates the impact on the local African people as the settlers begin to abandon the area for a newly formed Israel. The third narrates a multi-century family history about the descendants of Nigerians kidnapped into Arab slavery, tracking their escape from India, establishment of successful business ventures in South Africa, and later political struggle against apartheid. Evocatively portraying the unresolved damage that slavery, racism, and displacement have on the descendants of those who first experience it, Hunter’s uncanny parables refract the violent contours of today’s world. Readers will be spellbound. (Feb.)