17 Books Published by Soft Skull Press on Our Site — Book Cover Mosaic

Click for more detail about Tijuana Book of the Dead by Luís Alberto Urrea Tijuana Book of the Dead

by Luís Alberto Urrea
Soft Skull Press (Mar 17, 2015)
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From the author of Pulitzer-nominated The Devil’s Highway and national bestseller The Hummingbird’s Daughter comes an exquisitely composed collection of poetry on life at the border. Weaving English and Spanish languages as fluidly as he blends cultures of the southwest, Luis Urrea offers a tour of Tijuana, spanning from Skid Row, to the suburbs of East Los Angeles, to the stunning yet deadly Mojave Desert, to Mexico and the border fence itself. Mixing lyricism and colloquial voices, mysticism and the daily grind, Urrea explores duality and the concept of blurring borders in a melting pot society.


Click for more detail about Letter to Jimmy by Alain Mabanckou Letter to Jimmy

by Alain Mabanckou
Soft Skull Press (Dec 16, 2014)
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Written on the twentieth anniversary of James Baldwin’s death, Letter to Jimmy is African writer Alain Mabanckou’s ode to his literary hero and an effort to place Baldwin’s life in context within the greater African diaspora.

Beginning with a chance encounter with a beggar wandering along a Santa Monica beach?a man whose ragged clothes and unsteady gait remind the author of a character out of one of James Baldwin’s novels? Mabanckou uses his own experiences as an African living in the US as a launching pad to take readers on a fascinating tour of James Baldwin’s life. As Mabanckou reads Baldwin’s work, looks at pictures of him through the years, and explores Baldwin’s checkered publishing history, he is always probing for answers about what it must have been like for the young Baldwin to live abroad as an African-American, to write obliquely about his own homosexuality, and to seek out mentors like Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison only to publicly reject them
later.

As Mabanckou travels to Paris, reads about French history and engages with contemporary readers, his letters to Baldwin grow more intimate and personal. He speaks to Baldwin as a peer?a writer who paved the way for his own work, and Mabanckou seems to believe, someone who might understand his experiences as an African expatriate.


Click for more detail about Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria by Noo Saro-Wiwa Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria

by Noo Saro-Wiwa
Soft Skull Press (Aug 21, 2012)
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Noo Saro-Wiwa was brought up in England, but every summer she was dragged back to visit her father in Nigeria ? a country she viewed as an annoying parallel universe where she had to relinquish all her creature comforts and sense of individuality. After her father, activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, was killed there, she didn’t return for several years. Recently, she decided to come to terms with the country her father given his life for.

Saro-Wiwa travels from the exuberant chaos of Lagos to the calm beauty of the eastern mountains; from the eccentricity of a Nigerian dog show to the decrepit kitsch of the Transwonderland Amusement Park. She explores Nigerian Christianity, delves into the country’s history of slavery, examines the corrupting effect of oil, and ponders the huge success of Nollywood.

She finds the country as exasperating as ever, and frequently despairs at the corruption and inefficiency she encounters. But she also discovers that it si far more beautiful and varied than she had ever imagined, with its captivating thick tropical rainforest and ancient palaces and monuments. Most engagingly of all, she introduces us to the many people she meets, and gives us hilarious insights into the African character, its passion, wit and ingenuity.


Click for more detail about Memoirs of a Porcupine (NONE) by Alain Mabanckou Memoirs of a Porcupine (NONE)

by Alain Mabanckou
Soft Skull Press (Apr 17, 2012)
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All human beings, says an African legend, have an animal double. Some doubles are benign, others wicked. This legend comes to life in Alain Mabanckou’s outlandish, surreal, and charmingly nonchalant Memoirs of a Porcupine.
When Kibandi, a boy living in a Congolese village, reaches the age of 11, his father takes him out into the night and forces him to drink a vile liquid from a jar that has been hidden for years in the earth. This is his initiation. From now on, he and his double, a porcupine, become accomplices in murder. They attack neighbors, fellow villagers, and people who simply cross their path, for reasons so slight that it is virtually impossible to establish connection between the killings. As he grows older, Kibandi relies on his double to act out his grizzly compulsions, until one day even the porcupine balks and turns instead to literary confession.
Winner of the Prix Renaudot, France’s equal to the National Book Award, Alain Mabanckou is considered one of the most talented writers today. He was selected by the French journal Lire as one of fifty writers to watch this coming century. And as Peter Carey suggests, he ?positions himself at the margins, tapping the tradition founded by Celine, Genet, and other subversive writers.” In this superb and striking story, Mabanckou brings new power to magical realism, and is sure to excite American audiences nationwide.


Click for more detail about Black Cool: One Thousand Streams Of Blackness by Rebecca Walker Black Cool: One Thousand Streams Of Blackness

by Rebecca Walker
Soft Skull Press (Feb 07, 2012)
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Black Cool explores the ineffable state and aesthetic of Black Cool. From the effortless reserve of Miles Davis in khakis on an early album cover, to the shock of resistance in black women’s fashion from Angela Davis to Rihanna, to the cadence of poets as diverse as Staceyann Chin and Audre Lorde, Black Cool looks at the roots of Black Cool and attempts to name elements of the phenomena that have emerged to shape the global expectation of cool itself.

Buoyed by some of America’s most innovative thinkers on the subject?graphic novelist Mat Johnson, Brown University Professor of African Studies Tricia Rose, critical thinking and cultural icon bell hooks, Macarthur winner Kara Walker, and many more?the book is at once a handbook, a map, a journey into the matrix of another cosmology. It’s a literal periodic table of cool, wherein each writer names and defines their element of choice. Dream Hampton writes about Audacity. Helena Andrews about Reserve, Margo Jefferson on Eccentricity, Veronica Chambers on Genius, and so on. With a foreword by Henry Louis Gates that bridges historical African elements of cool with the path laid out for the future, Black Cool offers a provocative perspective on this powerful cultural legacy.


Click for more detail about White Like Me: Reflections On Race From A Privileged Son by Tim Wise White Like Me: Reflections On Race From A Privileged Son

by Tim Wise
Soft Skull Press (Sep 13, 2011)
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With a new preface and updated chapters, White Like Me is one-part memoir, one-part polemical essay collection. It is a personal examination of the way in which racial privilege shapes the daily lives of white Americans in every realm: employment, education, housing, criminal justice, and elsewhere.

Using stories from his own life, Tim Wise demonstrates the ways in which racism not only burdens people of color, but also benefits, in relative terms, those who are ?white like him.” He discusses how racial privilege can harm whites in the long run and make progressive social change less likely. He explores the ways in which whites can challenge their unjust privileges, and explains in clear and convincing language why it is in the best interest of whites themselves to do so. Using anecdotes instead of stale statistics, Wise weaves a narrative that is at once readable and yet scholarly, analytical and yet accessible.


Click for more detail about Broken Glass by Alain Mabanckou Broken Glass

by Alain Mabanckou
Soft Skull Press (May 18, 2010)
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Alain Mabanckou’s riotous new novel centers on the patrons of a run-down bar in the Congo. In a country that appears to have forgotten the importance of remembering, a former schoolteacher and bar regular nicknamed Broken Glass has been elected to record their stories for posterity. But Broken Glass fails spectacularly at staying out of trouble as one denizen after another wants to rewrite history in an attempt at making sure his portrayal will properly reflect their exciting and dynamic lives. Despondent over this apparent triumph of self-delusion over self-awareness, Broken Glass drowns his sorrows in red wine and riffs on the great books of Africa and the West. Brimming with life, death, and literary allusions, Broken Glass is Mabanckou’s finest novel ? a mocking satire of the dangers of artistic integrity.


Click for more detail about Open Letters To America: Essays By Kevin Powell by Kevin Powell Open Letters To America: Essays By Kevin Powell

by Kevin Powell
Soft Skull Press (Oct 20, 2009)
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After eight years of George Bush’s America, we are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history, when we can put forth a new and bolder kind of democracy. Just as the Civil Rights Movement opened the doors for blacks and other people of color, for women, for the LGBT community, the rise of Barack Obama to the presidency ? and the post-Bush society we now encounter ? opens new possibilities for our democracy. And it also prompts us to re-examine from a new perspective the old issues around poverty, class, gender, and race. In other words, can the progressive multicultural coalition Barack Obama put together to win the presidency be translated into a progressive multicultural movement?

Open Letters to America is writer Kevin Powell’s celebration of the sudden, mass political engagement of America’s youth, and Americans in general; his thoughts in the aftermath of Obama’s magical and historic presidential campaign; and his open acknowledgment that if 21st-century America is going to be the great world democracy it promises to be, it will be Generations X and Y that make it so.


Click for more detail about Who’s Your Mama?: The Unsung Voices Of Women And Mothers by Yvonne Bynoe Who’s Your Mama?: The Unsung Voices Of Women And Mothers

by Yvonne Bynoe
Soft Skull Press (Apr 01, 2009)
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Unlike other motherhood books that focus on the experiences of a small group of affluent, married white women, Who’s Your Mama? centers on the largely untold perspectives of the majority of American women, whose unique and sometimes unconventional family structures impact our country. Their contributions speak practically of their personal beliefs, intimate relationships, and socioeconomic realities.

The book explores the intersection between motherhood and other facets of the contributors’ lives, including race, class, sexuality, politics, and personal tragedy. Personal stories include a feminist juggling the roles of activist and mother, a college graduate who applies for welfare so she can remain home with her child, a gay couple’s navigation of the adoption process, and a mother’s celebration of her own vibrant sexuality. This collection of personal narratives will illuminate various female experiences of parenting and humanize a variety of social and economic issues that affect millions of American women and their families.


Click for more detail about Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From An Angry White Male by Tim Wise Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From An Angry White Male

by Tim Wise
Soft Skull Press (Sep 01, 2008)
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In this highly anticipated follow-up to White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, activist Tim Wise examines the way in which institutional racism continues to shape the contours of daily life in the United States, and the ways in which white Americans reap enormous privileges from it. The essays included in this collection span the last ten years of Wise’s writing and cover all the hottest racial topics of the past decade: affirmative action, Hurricane Katrina, racial tension in the wake of the Duke lacrosse scandal, white school shootings, racial profiling, phony racial unity in the wake of 9/11, and the political rise of Barack Obama. Wise’s commentaries make forceful yet accessible arguments that serve to counter both white denial and complacency?two of the main obstacles to creating a more racially equitable and just society. Speaking Treason Fluently is a superbly crafted collection of Wise’s best work, which reveals the ongoing salience of race in America today and demonstrates that racial privilege is not only a real and persistent problem, but one that ultimately threatens the health and well-being of the entire society.


Click for more detail about Be A Father To Your Child: Real Talk From Black Men On Family, Love, And Fatherhood by April R Silver Be A Father To Your Child: Real Talk From Black Men On Family, Love, And Fatherhood

by April R Silver
Soft Skull Press (Jul 01, 2008)
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How do young black fathers relate to their children, as well as to their own fathers? How do they see — and play — their roles in both family and community? These are some of the big questions this timely, accessible book addresses. Written by both popular commentators and those who have experienced the issues firsthand, Be a Father to Your Child begins with a frank discussion of how family formation has changed since the 1960s, especially for communities of color. Individual selections then flesh out historical, sociological, and cultural contexts, examining the impact of welfare, child support, criminal justice, and employment policies on young men of color. In addition to this analytical material, the book presents more personal, anecdotal pieces — including poems and lyrics, short stories, and interviews — that form a powerful composite portrait of the challenges facing modern communities of color, and how to overcome them.

Book Review

Click for more detail about No Sleep Till Brooklyn: New And Selected Poems by Kevin Powell No Sleep Till Brooklyn: New And Selected Poems

by Kevin Powell
Soft Skull Press (Mar 10, 2008)
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Written between 1989 and 2008, the poems in Kevin Powell’s powerful new collection encompass everything from his early role as a renowned slam poet (and original cast member of MTV’s Real World) to his current incarnation as a poet operating away from the scene. Within this rich tapestry of musings, confession, and introspection, Powell weaves issues like racism, black self-hatred, and gender violence with his own anguished revelations about sex, love, and misogyny. Sampling from the personal and the political, Powell reshapes them into a provocative soundtrack for the times.


Click for more detail about African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou African Psycho

by Alain Mabanckou
Soft Skull Press (Feb 28, 2007)
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Its title recalls Bret Easton Ellis’s infamous book, but while Ellis’s narrator was a blank slate, African Psycho’s protagonist is a quivering mass of lies, neuroses, and relentless internal chatter. Gregoire Nakobomayo, a petty criminal, has decided to kill his girlfriend Germaine. He’s planned the crime for some time, but still, the act of murder requires a bit of psychological and logistical preparation. Luckily, he has a mentor to call on, the far more accomplished serial killer Angoualima. The fact that Angoualima is dead doesn’t prevent Gregoire from holding lengthy conversations with him. Little by little, Gregoire interweaves Angoualima’s life and criminal exploits with his own. Continuing with the plan despite a string of botched attempts, Gregoire’s final shot at offing Germaine leads to an abrupt unraveling. Lauded in France for its fresh and witty style, African Psycho’s inventive use of language surprises and relieves the reader by injecting humor into this disturbing subject.


Click for more detail about Someday We’ll All Be Free by Kevin Powell Someday We’ll All Be Free

by Kevin Powell
Soft Skull Press (Sep 06, 2006)
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Someday We’ll All Be Free is the indispensable and passionate follow-up to Kevin Powell’s best-selling essay collection, Who’s Gonna Take The Weight? Manhood, Race, and Power in America. Here Powell widens his lens and skillfully dissects the dreams of American freedom and democracy in these early days of the 21st century. Be it the reelection of President George W. Bush, the colossal tragedy of September 11th and the policies and wars that have followed, or the historic destruction of the city of New Orleans before our very eyes, Powell tells us the uncomfortable truths about America, his country, and yours, too. These coolly observant essays, quilted together, firmly establish why Powell is widely considered one of America’s brightest leaders and thinkers.


Click for more detail about Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine and Beyond by Mark Ames Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine and Beyond

by Mark Ames
Soft Skull Press (Nov 16, 2005)
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Going Postal examines the phenomenon of rage murder that took America by storm in the early 1980’s and has since grown yearly in body counts and symbolic value. By looking at massacres in schools and offices as post-industrial rebellions, Mark Ames is able to juxtapose the historical place of rage in America with the social climate after Reaganomics began to effect worker’s paychecks. But why high schools? Why post offices? Mark Ames examines the most fascinating and unexpected cases, crafting a convincing argument for workplace massacres as modern day slave rebellions. Like slave rebellions, rage massacres are doomed, gory, sometimes inadvertently comic, and grossly misunderstood. Going Postal seeks to contextualize this violence in a world where working isn’t?and doesn’t pay?what it used to. Part social critique and part true crime page-turner, Going Postal answers the questions asked by commentators on the nightly news and films such as Bowling for Columbine.

Book Review

Click for more detail about Trust: Reaching the 100 Million Missing Voters and Other Selected Essays by Farai Chideya Trust: Reaching the 100 Million Missing Voters and Other Selected Essays

by Farai Chideya
Soft Skull Press (Aug 25, 2004)
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Where are the 100 million people who failed to vote in 2000 and are unlikely to vote in 2004? Political analyst Farai Chideya looks beyond day-to-day political struggles to the heart of a nation at war with itself. The 2000 election highlighted the rift between liberal/conservative and "Red State"/ "Blue State." But that superficial crack in our society actually is evidence of much more serious, indeed foundational, damage in our society. The United States, Chideya argues, lacks the moral, legal, and psychological framework for debating complex issues in a pluralistic society. Instead we rely on an outdated idea of dichotomy, that each issue has two opposing sides instead of many interested parties. And in so doing, we have lost, in effect disenfranchised, half the country.
Chideya’s title essay compliments many other ones written in the course of covering campaigns and controversies. She skips the easy answer, showing how black/white thinking (a key element of the Bush Adminstration) restricts our moral and political responses. A real democracy will allow us to acknowledge the complexity of our own lives, as well as our political interests. As we do that, we will be able to craft a working vision of government and civic life.


Click for more detail about Stand and Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership, and Hip Hop Culture by Yvonne Bynoe Stand and Deliver: Political Activism, Leadership, and Hip Hop Culture

by Yvonne Bynoe
Soft Skull Press (Mar 25, 2004)
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Hip Hop activism, a joining of a musical genre with political action, is a highly ambiguous term that encompasses a range of initiatives, from those that are genuinely attempting to affect public policy to largely self-promotional efforts that are more about getting media exposure for celebrities than addressing the cause they are allegedly representing.
For too long, Bynoe maintains, Black leaders have only been "Charismatic Leaders," and have largely functioned as "spokespersons" delivering complaints and exhortations to the White power structure. Bynoe is passionate about the need for a new generation of Black leadership and civic and political organizations to instead actively engage in a policy-centered relationship with the White power structure, not only in field of government but also in economics and media. This understanding, Bynoe argues, should be premised on the principle that political power comes from influence and influence comes from the ability to delivery (or deny) money, votes or both to a political candidate, legislator or political party; in the words of MC Lyte, all the rest is "chitter chatter".