sarahmichigan: (kitty)
[personal profile] sarahmichigan
Feeling a little sad that the orange tabby cat in my icon has now passed away. Maybe I'll have to make a new one where I'm reading with our other cat, Bitsy.

"Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga" by Pamela Newkirk. This nonfiction book follows the story of Ota Benga, a Congolese man of small stature, called "pygmies" at that time, who was either kidnapped or convinced to come to America, where he was exhibited first at the World Fair and later in the monkey cage at the Bronx Zoo. Pamela Newkirk does a magnificent job of researching the various claims about Benga (yes, he had sharpened teeth, but no, he wasn't a cannibal) and his history (did he come with explorer Samuel Verner willingly, or was he coerced?). She puts his exhibition in context by exploring the backgrounds of the men who put him on display and the tradition of bringing back sample humans from exotic lands to put on display in the U.S. Overall, a great, if sad, read.

and

"Between the World and Me" by Ta-nehisi Coates. I listened to it as an audiobook as read by the author and was blown away by it, consistently. It is a very brief (only 3 discs on audibook) book written in the form of a letter to Coates' teenage son, looking back on what it means to be black in America and talking about his hopes and fears for his son. This is so powerful. Just read it.

My full comments on both books here.
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