As everyone knows, I’m obsessed with reading. Nothing excites me more than hearing about a heavily hyped book, finally getting my hands on it and diving in. Turning the pages I oftentimes find myself falling into the world the author has created for me; I freely surrender myself to whatever I may find within those pages. It is such a joyful, freeing thing for me.
So you can imagine my dismay and slight disappointment that I’ve been unable to experience any of those feelings when it comes to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. It is academic in presentation and tone, making me pause every few sentences (paragraphs if I’m lucky) to fully digest everything she’s saying. I’ve found myself consulting my phone’s dictionary app more times than I’m comfortable acknowledging. These are the challenges I’m dealing with before even addressing the book’s subject matter, painful realities of America’s race relations and prison atrocities.
We are being confronted with some conflicting truths of where America really stands in this “Age of Obama.” For this reason, I so badly wish to have finished this book within days of receiving it, feel empowered when engaging in intelligent and deliberate debate with others about being Black in America, and overall just having a better understanding of my place in this space of time.
Why is becoming more conscious so painful? Yes, I understand I’m being a bit dramatic. But seriously, this book has gotten such rave reviews, such glowing testimonies, and I’m over here creeping along at a snail’s pace in disbelief that I’m having such a hard time with it. I’ve spoken to a few other friends about this-everyone agrees it’s quite intense. Have we been reading it wrong?
This is not to discredit the immense value Alexander’s book gives. Already in just her Introduction and Chapter 1 she has provided me with a wealth of resources, facts and historical context about the subject matter. It is a read, albeit an intense one, that I do encourage others to explore and add to their personal libraries. Our education is our individual and unique responsibility and sometimes, like this time, I just wish it were a bit less challenging.
But then again, things worth having rarely are easy.