11 new books we recommend this week
THE RUPTURE OF GROUND: An American city and its quest for justice, by Scott Ellsworth. (Dutton, $ 28.) On May 31 and June 1, 1921, white mobs descended on the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, pulling and plundering their way through a vibrant and prosperous black enclave, reducing it to rubble. Ellsworth’s book begins by recreating the bloody events of 100 years ago in a propelling present. Ellsworth then goes on to trace the story of what has happened since, from the silence and cover-up to the sustained attempts to learn the whole story. The book is “frank and self-aware, supported by Ellsworth’s serious efforts to understand this story and get it right,” writes our reviewer Jennifer Szalai. “Part of what makes this book so fascinating is Ellsworth’s skillful narration, his impeccable sense of when to reveal information and when to withhold something.”
THE SECOND: Race and weapons in a fatally unequal America, by Carol Anderson. (Bloomsbury, $ 28.) A provocative look at the racial context of Americans’ right to bear arms, Anderson’s forcefully argued new book argues that the Second Amendment was inspired by “fear of blacks” – a desire to ensure that whites can suppress slave rebellions. Anderson “tells of how black people have been repeatedly prevented from defending themselves by authorities who show enthusiasm for the rights of gun owners when they are white, indifference when they are black and hostility. outright when they are dissident African Americans determined to challenge the racial status quo, ”writes Randall Kennedy in his review. The book, he adds, is “brilliantly written, painted in broad strokes, and peppered with memorable anecdotes and vivid quotes.”
AMERICA ON FIRE: The untold story of police violence and black rebellion since the 1960s, by Elizabeth Hinton. (Liveright, $ 29.95.) Hinton documents hundreds of often violent urban protests by black Americans starting in the mid-1960s, as the police grew increasingly aggressive. Such protests should be understood, she argues, not as riots but as “rebellions” against racial injustice. Peniel E. Joseph, upon examining it, calls his book “a revolutionary, deeply documented and deeply heartbreaking account of the origins of our national crisis of police violence against black America.” … One of the many virtues of this book is the way it contextualizes the emergence of not only the manifestations of Black Lives Matter, but our greatest contemporary moment.
WIN INDEPENDENCE: The decisive years of the War of Independence, 1778-1781, by John Ferling. (Bloomsbury, $ 40.) This substantial work, written with admirable clarity, seeks to redeem the reputation of Sir Henry Clinton, the general who lost the war to the Americans, while describing a military situation that became a “quagmire” for the British. Reviewing the book in his latest Military History Column, Thomas E. Ricks notes the conventional view that Clinton was indecisive and blind, and writes that “the pleasure of reading this enormous volume is to see Ferling argue that Rather, Clinton was “an accomplished, diligent and caring commander” who was undermined by his insubordinate subordinate, General Charles Cornwallis.
THINGS WE LOST IN THE WATER, by Eric Nguyen. (Knopf, $ 26.95.) In this first novel set in New Orleans, around a Vietnamese family of four who very quickly becomes three, there is also the memory of the city they left behind: Saigon. The book is vast in size and ambition, while being succulent and inviting in its privacy. “The question of how to define the house persists throughout,” writes Bryan Washington in his review. “Is this a place? A person? A state of mind? Although they are irrefutable, these questions are made accessible through the multiple perspectives of Nguyen. … It’s a rare novel that expresses the vertigo of a journey without demystifying its individual turns, but Nguyen is a capable captain, and the path he traces us is enlightening.