cover image Jackson, 1964: And Other Dispatches from Fifty Years of Reporting on Race in America

Jackson, 1964: And Other Dispatches from Fifty Years of Reporting on Race in America

Calvin Trillin. Random House, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-399-58824-2

Trillin (Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin), a regular contributor to the New Yorker since 1963, collects his insights and musings on race in America in previously published essays from over 50 years of reporting. They cover events from the 1964 voter registration drives in Jackson, Miss., to a 2006 deadly shooting on Long Island, N.Y., “the single most segregated suburban area in the United States.” Providing abundant context and telling details, Trillin covers the Mardi Gras Zulu parade in New Orleans, the resistance to school integration in Denver, race relations in the Mormon Church in Utah, a stop-and-frisk with tragic results in Seattle, and the confrontation between Italians and African-Americans over the construction of an apartment building called Kawaida Towers in Newark, N.J. Most of these episodes take place in the 1960s and ’70s, so Trillin provides updates at the end of each essay to show how the issues have evolved and what progress, if any, has been made. He also delves into the definitions of black and white in modern-day Louisiana and the qualities of a southern “moderate” in the 1970s, and invites a black civil rights activist to tell the story of her hardscrabble life in Dorchester County, S.C., in her own words. As Trillin notes in his introduction, today’s African-American students are more isolated than they were 40 years ago, education policy makers have abandoned integration as a cause, and a number of states have recently passed laws meant to suppress non-white votes. What’s shocking is how topical and relatively undated many of these essays seem today. Agent: Eric Simonoff, William Morris Endeavor. (June)