Summer Reading


In June I found a gift card buried in a junk drawer so Aubrey & I went on a shopping spree at Barnes & Noble. I picked up these four. Granted my use of the DC book didn’t pan out as planned, but I know I’ll be visiting there often enough down the road.

As for the other three, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass should be required reading in high school. It would be especially beneficial to discuss the book within the context of when it was circulated; the mid-19th Century. Today most everyone (sadly, “most” but not “all”) would be sickened by much of the first-person cruelty described by Douglass, however in the 1840s & 50s its impact was provocative, eye-opening and exposed the disgusting and deceitful justification arguments of slave-holders.

If Douglass’ narrative should be required reading in high school, Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth should be required in college. The themes he presents may be a bit too heady for high school, and some knowledge and context of colonialism, imperialism, revolution and even psychology would be beneficial to the reader. Franz conveys a painstakingly thorough sense of the life and mindset at the front lines of the colonized. This edition, translated by Richard Philcox, may be uncomfortable to some readers (which is a good thing), as Fanon supports violence against colonizers not only as a strategy towards political liberation, but (more importantly it seems) as a psychological imperative for those whose lives, cultures and history were being obliterated.

I am currently immersed in Orientalism, Said’s important work on how the West has (falsely, innacurately, intentionally) defined the East. This is an extremely important book, as it essentializes the 19th Century discourse which is not fact-based but instead presented from the point of view that the Orient (the  East) is inherently weaker and less civilized than the Occident (the West). In contemporary times not a lot has changed, unfortunately. I’ll have more on this book after I finish it. In the meantime, here’s a quote by Said from July, 2003. Sadly he passed away two months later, in September, 2003. While he was commenting on US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere), it is a prescient statement in light of our current debate on Syria…

“Every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate.”

(Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2003)”
Edward W. Said

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