We Can't Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival

208p. bibliog. Picador. Oct. 2018. pap. $17. ISBN 9781250174536.
In contrast to the whitewashed, abridged history books that have long dominated our historical narrative stands this collection from the renowned writer, scholar, and cultural critic. In eight smartly crafted essays of varying lengths, Asim shares his experience as a black man in America. Most notable is his talent for braiding past and present into a cohesive explanation that shines a light on ugly histories while being honest about how far we have or have not come. "Shooting Negroes" links the murder of Trayvon Martin with slavery and the school-to-prison pipeline. The tender depiction of Asim's father show his roots as a poet—both in the short verses he includes as well as in the descriptions of his family. Educators may be best served by selecting pieces most appropriate for their students, as some entries assume knowledge of historical and current events or use advanced vocabulary, and one contains a graphic sexual description.
VERDICT Sure to spur the conversation on race and identity, this is a strong addition to any collection for mature teens, especially as a supplement to history texts that have left out the stories and voices of people of color.

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