Mini non-fiction reviews: We Were Eight Years in Power, Fascism: A Warning, and My Own Words

We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Source: Borrowed

“We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. Now Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.”

But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period–and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation’s old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective–the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president.

We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates’s iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including Fear of a Black President, The Case for Reparations and The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration, along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates’s own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment.

This is a very, very important book. It’s a well-written collection of essays and commentary from each of Obama’s eight years in power. It made me very sad. I could’ve cried. If I’m being perfectly honest, I might’ve actually cried. I kind of don’t want to live in this world anymore after finishing.

Instead of reading a physical copy, I listened to the audiobook. Usually I prefer that for non-fiction, but I think I’d actually recommend reading this over listening to it. Highly recommended, but if you’re dissatisfied with the current state of America, prepare for your heart to hurt.


Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Source: Borrowed

A Fascist, observes Madeleine Albright, “is someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever other means are necessary to achieve the goals he or she might have.”

The twentieth century was defined by the clash between democracy and Fascism, a struggle that created uncertainty about the survival of human freedom and left millions dead. Given the horrors of that experience, one might expect the world to reject the spiritual successors to Hitler and Mussolini should they arise in our era. In Fascism: A Warning, Madeleine Albright draws on her experiences as a child in war-torn Europe and her distinguished career as a diplomat to question that assumption.

Fascism, as she shows, not only endured through the twentieth century but now presents a more virulent threat to peace and justice than at any time since the end of World War II.  The momentum toward democracy that swept the world when the Berlin Wall fell has gone into reverse.  The United States, which historically championed the free world, is led by a president who exacerbates division and heaps scorn on democratic institutions.  In many countries, economic, technological, and cultural factors are weakening the political center and empowering the extremes of right and left.  Contemporary leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un are employing many of the tactics used by Fascists in the 1920s and 30s.

Fascism: A Warning is a book for our times that is relevant to all times.  Written  by someone who has not only studied history but helped to shape it, this call to arms teaches us the lessons we must understand and the questions we must answer if we are to save ourselves from repeating the tragic errors of the past.

This is going to be a very mini mini-review because I’m not really sure what to say about it. I think that this is a great primer for anybody who’s interested in the history of fascism throughout the world. It’s an important book to read at this point in time, though it’s not really a warning as much as it is some comparisons between our current political climate and some previous fascist governments. I also felt that, rather than being a really coherent book, it was more like a collection of articles. That’s not necessarily a problem, I guess, but I was expecting a little bit more from this.


My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Source: Borrowed

The first book from Ruth Bader Ginsburg since becoming a Supreme Court Justice in 1993—a witty, engaging, serious, and playful collection of writings and speeches from the woman who has had a powerful and enduring influence on law, women’s rights, and popular culture.

My Own Words offers Justice Ginsburg on wide-ranging topics, including gender equality, the workways of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond US shores when interpreting the US Constitution. Throughout her life Justice Ginsburg has been (and continues to be) a prolific writer and public speaker. This book’s sampling is selected by Justice Ginsburg and her authorized biographers Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams. Justice Ginsburg has written an introduction to the book, and Hartnett and Williams introduce each chapter, giving biographical context and quotes gleaned from hundreds of interviews they have conducted. This is a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of America’s most influential women.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is such an interesting and inspiring person. I was really excited to read what I thought was going to be her autobiography, but this is actually more of a brief history of her life (very interesting) interspersed with some of her speeches and legal opinions (less interesting). The book can be a bit repetitive, but it’s still a worthy read if you’re interested in RBG and the Supreme Court.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!


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18 thoughts on “Mini non-fiction reviews: We Were Eight Years in Power, Fascism: A Warning, and My Own Words

  1. Alyssa Grace says:

    All of these books sound very interesting, especially Ta-Nehisi Coates’s. I’ve also heard so much about Fascism: A Warning. I wish I had the time to read more nonfiction, which sadly gets neglected in my schedule all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

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