We Can't Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival (Paperback)
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A Finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay
Insightful and searing essays that celebrate the vibrancy and strength of black history and culture in America by critically acclaimed writer Jabari Asim
In We Can’t Breathe, Jabari Asim disrupts what Toni Morrison has exposed as the “Master Narrative” and replaces it with a story of black survival and persistence through art and community in the face of centuries of racism. In eight wide-ranging and penetrating essays, he explores such topics as the twisted legacy of jokes and falsehoods in black life; the importance of black fathers and community; the significance of black writers and stories; and the beauty and pain of the black body. What emerges is a rich portrait of a community and culture that has resisted, survived, and flourished despite centuries of racism, violence, and trauma. These thought-provoking essays present a different side of American history, one that doesn’t depend on a narrative steeped in oppression but rather reveals black voices telling their own stories.
About the Author
Jabari Asim was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. For eleven years, he was an editor at The Washington Post, where he also wrote a syndicated column on politics, popular culture and social issues, and he served for ten years as the editor in chief of Crisis magazine, the NAACP's flagship journal of politics, culture and ideas.
He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Creative Arts and the author of several books for adults, including The N Word, as well as children's books.
"Asim delivers moving tales of Black survival in the face of racial injustice...Captivating."—Essence (October Reading Recs)
"A fantastic essay collection...Blending personal reflection with historical analysis and cultural and literary criticism, these essays are a sharp, illuminating response to the nation’s continuing racial conflicts."—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"Jabari Asim delivers profound musings on race in contemporary America."--The Root
"A collection of essays that go wide and deep into the black experience in America. As a former editor and columnist for the Washington Post and editor-in-chief of the NAACP's The Crisis, Asim brings an impressive breadth of experience to these pieces. He places current events within the context of a legacy that is literary, political, and cultural, as well as racial, with a voice that is both compelling and convincing...A sharp vision that challenges readers to shift perspective and examine conventional narratives."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"In this small but expansive collection of essays, writer and cultural critic Asim draws on the full breadth of black history in the United States, illuminating the story of black resilience through the centuries....Melding the personal with the national and cultural, this collection is a must-read."--Publishers Weekly
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