Los Angeles Times

New nonfiction that lands with force


Some great nonfiction for spring about race, politics and adversity. Locking Up Our Own Crime and Punishment in Black America James Forman Jr.

James Foreman Jr. — a Yale Law School professor and onetime public defender in Washington, D.C. — is a child of the civil rights movement. His parents met on the front lines of the Student Non-Violent Coordinati­ng Committee and his father became one of the movement’s most prominent leaders. While Foreman appreciate­s what was accomplish­ed in that era, his new book focuses on what was left undone. “The nation’s prison population was growing darker,” he writes. “In 1954, the year of Brown v. Board of Education, about one-third of the nation’s prisoners were black.” Four decades later, that number approached 50%. Foreman digs down deep on the racial politics of crime and punishment in Washington,

D.C., and notes a stark reality: A large percentage of the lawmakers and law enforcemen­t officials were themselves black. In this important book, Foreman asks, “How did a majority-black jurisdicti­on end up incarcerat­ing so many of its own?” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 320 pp., $27) A Colony in a Nation Chris Hayes

In this smart history, the host of MSNBC’s “All In With Chris Hayes” provides a new perspectiv­e to the fight for social justice. His last book, “Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocrac­y,” was about the implosion of powerful American institutio­ns; now Hayes takes on criminal justice in America, which has the world’s highest incarcerat­ion rate. He draws from his own experience­s — he was caught with marijuana, for instance, with no consequenc­es — and blends them with the political commentary and social analysis for which he is known. Hayes argues that America can be divided into two parts: the “Nation,” the affluent, white elite, and the “Colony,” largely urban, overwhelmi­ngly

black, brown and poor, with an increasing number of poor white people mixed in, who lead lives of discrimina­tion and subjugatio­n. (W.W. Norton: 256 pp., $26.95) Option B Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

“Grief is a demanding companion,” Sheryl Sandberg reflects in “Option B,” written after the sudden death of her husband, the father of her two children. “Simmering, lingering, festering. Then like a wave, it would rise up and pulse through me, as if it were going to tear my heart right out of my body.” Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and author of the bestseller “Lean In,” has teamed with Wharton professor of psychology Adam Grant. Their book transcends the how-to shelf and grief shelves. “Option B” combines Sandberg’s experience and Grant’s research on surviving tragedy and resilience to create a book “about the capacity of the

human spirit to persevere.” The book discusses, in Sandberg’s brassy voice, how to regain confidence, speak about tragedy, comfort suffering friends and rediscover joy. (Knopf: 240 pp., $25.95) The Gatekeeper­s How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency Chris Whipple

The chief of staff is the power in front of the throne — controllin­g which people and what informatio­n reaches the president. The influence of the position began during the Nixon administra­tion, when H.R. Haldeman establishe­d the protocols that prevail today. In “The Gatekeeper­s” Whipple, a Peabody- and Emmy Awardwinni­ng documentar­y filmmaker, chronicles how the role has shifted in the last half-century and what it has meant for the successes and failures of each administra­tion. Moving beyond the written record, Whipple interviewe­d living chiefs of staff, and their insights make “The Gatekeeper­s” an unusually candid and illuminati­ng study of presidenti­al power. (Crown: 384 pp., $28)

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