I went to South Florida to see my family and friends for the holiday. My beach pick was a reread of Saidiyah Hartman’s Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route, one of several books I will assign in my “Gender, Race and Urban” Space class for the Spring 2017 semester. I read this wonderful book on one scholar’s search for self and community in Ghana during my comprehensive exams in grad school.
I wondered if I’d made a good selection for the course. After digging into it, falling in love with the writing and premise again, and seeing how often the urban space comes in and out of view (and ways to help grad students find meaning in that dynamic and others), I felt better.
I returned to Alabama to open Christmas presents and saw that my husband hooked me up with Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly Schapiro. In the same way Hartman makes the reader rethink what some African Americans believe about Africa, this book forces you to revisit everything you thought you knew about New York!
I was reminded again of how much I love geography (must be an outcome of those childhood days when my grandparents let me be the navigator during fishing trips from Miami to Lake Okeechobee. I always had the map when we hit those backroads. Like Hartman, I moved through space with my eyes wide open).
The authors and various contributors to Nonstop Metroplis play with how New York and its boroughs actually look. This approach helps the reader “visually” and spatially think about numerous subjects including the Caribbean community in and outside the United States, the environment, women and race.
As I also prepare to teach “American Civilization to 1865,” an introductory undergraduate course again, it was especially interesting to spatially see the draft riots during the Civil War alongside earlier disturbances and more recent ones.
This book is so good, I did not go to bed until 2:30am – after two flights home. There are also lots of hip hop spatial narratives in here so this read also has learning tools for my “Bebop to Hip Hop: Music and Young America” class, too. This is the best holiday present! (I also loved my socks featuring Franklin, the African American character from the Peanuts series, which I found on Urban Outfitters’ webpage. Gift to self. Going to rock those next semester.
I’m also going to rock that Big Bird-looking vest my husband got me from UA’s Supe Store. The best sales at our campus bookstore are around the December holidays. Roll Tide!