cover image Racism 101

Racism 101

Nikki Giovanni. William Morrow & Company, $20 (203pp) ISBN 978-0-688-04332-2

These brief essays by poet Giovanni ( Sacred Cows and Other Edibles ) on subjects both personal and societal are fluid, often perceptive musings that beg for more substance. Written since she joined the English faculty at Virginia Polytechnic five years ago, the pieces contain her reflections on the path of her career and offer advice to black students on how to apply themselves scholastically, as well as how to deal with stupid questions from whites. Giovanni values the influence of W.E.B. Du Bois's intellectual honesty but also criticizes those whom she sees as his neoconservative progeny, writer Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Justice Clarence Thomas among them. She is harsh on Spike Lee's film, Malcom X , calling it a ``sick joke,'' and lionizes novelist Toni Morrison. Asserting that she doesn't feel alienated from Western culture (``my people have contributed so much that is vital and good to it''), Giovanni adds, ``I am alienated from the people . . . who think they own Western tradition.'' Author tour. (Feb.)