I can finally announce this: Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy is the winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Nonfiction. Jeff Hobbs’s The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is the runner-up. As the judge for this category, along with Faith Adiele, I can attest that these books will change your life. All six finalists were outstanding. I was honored to have been asked to be part of this worthy contest.
You can find out the fiction winners and read more about these books here.
Devon Maloney wrote a very brave, controversial article about why she quit her job as music editor of the LA Times after four months. She brings up issues that are central to the chauvinism of music criticism, the lard-ass-ness of legacy journalism, and the privileged passion of Millenials. I would love to hear readers’ take on Devon’s story.
I just came across a summer story from Entertainment Weekly in which Lin-Manuel Miranda cites the book about Rent as an inspiration for the forthcoming book on Hamilton:“When I fall in love with a musical, I want to know everything about it. I remember Rent changing my life on my 17th birthday and being so grateful for the Rent book, which so beautifully brought the story behind Jonathan Larson’s musical to life.” I wrote that book, with my friend Katherine Silberger. The funny thing is, I’m dying to see Hamilton not just because it sounds like such a great show, but because my family lore is that I’m related to Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton is my grandmother’s maiden name, and the middle name of my dad, brother, and son.
Chrissie Hynde’s memoir Reckless has been surrounded by controversy because of some boneheaded comments the rock icon made in an interview. Apparently, having the appropriate response to one’s experience of abuse is another one of those boxes women artists now have to check off correctly, while men can carry on doing the raping and pillaging — no questions asked. I found her book to be a story not about sexual violence as much as about the American dream turned sour, as I wrote for the Los Angeles Times.
In deference to Straight Outta Compton, for today’s return of Throwback Thursday — blasts from my journalistic past — here’s my 1991 article for Musician magazine on women rappers, particularly Yo-Yo and Nikki D. I remember getting into Ice Cube’s tour bus after a show in Chicago, the bus driver stopping me for a second, then Cube giving the nod that I was “with the band.”
Bum Rush the Locker Room Feature
In The New York Times Magazine on Sunday, Emily Bazelon writes about opposing feminist views of rape culture. Understanding the difference between “dominance feminists” such as Catherine MacKinnon and “pro-sex feminists,” led in “The Sex Wars” by Janet Halley, is crucial to realizing that there is no single ideology for analyzing and overcoming gender oppression. This understanding can be applied to the sex wars raging in rock’n’roll; Chrissie Hynde and Joan Jett could use a little help from feminists such as Halley, while Jackie Fox is setting herself up as pop’s answer to the late Andrea Dworkin. The figure and voice missing from Bazelon’s article is the late Ellen Willis, whose measured, thoughtful critiques of both porn protesters and S&M advocates I’ve been rereading, and missing. If any tabloid tool tries to mansplain feminism to you, hand them this Times piece, and a copy of The Essential Ellen Willis. Then tell him to get a sex change, live as a woman, and get back to you in 50 years.
As was recently announced online, I am one of two judges for the final round of the nonfiction category of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. It is an incredible honor to serve this noble cause, and an immense pleasure to read the six finalists. Following is the list from the press release. Winners will be announced September 30.
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: From one of the country’s most visionary legal thinkers, social justice advocates, and MacArthur “geniuses,” this is an intimate and unforgettable narrative journey into the broken American criminal justice system, an exquisitely rendered account of a heroic advocate’s fights on behalf of the most powerless people in our society.
- No Man’s Land by Elizabeth D. Samet: This book offers a moving, urgent examination of what it means to negotiate the tensions between soldier and civilian, between war and peace, between “over there” and “over here”—between life on the front and life at home.
- The Other Side by Lacy M. Johnson: This is the haunting account of a first passionate and then abusive relationship, the events leading to Johnson’s kidnapping and imprisonment, her dramatic escape, and her hard-fought struggle to recover, raising timely questions about gender roles and the epidemic of violence against women.
- The Short And Tragic Life Of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs: Written by his college roommate, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is the brilliant, deeply-researched account of the life of Robert DeShaun Peace, a talented young African-American man who left the ghettos of Newark, New Jersey, on a full scholarship to Yale University, but who was tragically murdered in a basement marijuana lab after he graduated.
- There Was And There Was Not by Meline Toumani: Frustrated by the all-consuming nature of her close-knit Armenian community’s quest for genocide recognition by Turkey, Toumani moved to Istanbul; this account of her “love thine enemy” experiment probes universal questions: how to belong to a community without conforming to it, how to acknowledge a tragedy without exploiting it, and, most important, how to remember a genocide without perpetuating the kind of hatred that makes such atrocities possible in the first place.
- Who We Be by Jeff Chang: This book explores the changing (and unchanging) ways that the U.S. has viewed race over the past half-century, asking whether or not in the eras of “multicultural” and “post-racial” cultures if we really see each other more clearly.