cover image We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival

We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival

Jabari Asim. Picador, $17 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-250-17453-6

In this small but expansive collection of essays, writer and cultural critic Asim (Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis) draws on the full breadth of black history in the United States, illuminating the story of black resilience through the centuries. “Along with brutality, torture, and murder, a principal step in oppression, American style has long involved getting between the oppressed and their stories,” he writes. To combat this oppression, he discusses depictions of blackness in art, black fathers and father figures, the meaning of representation in literature, the racist roots of neighborhood watch squads, and the limits of respectability politics. In one heartfelt essay, he wonders at the power of a brick wall—built in a Massachusetts town by an enslaved artisan in 1765—to act as a physical reminder of great sacrifice. In Asim’s telling, Trayvon Martin, the black teenager who was murdered by a white neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012, lives alongside Pomp, the man who built that wall. Melding the personal with the national and cultural, this collection is a must-read for history buffs, activists, and students of societal power dynamics. [em](Oct.) [/em]