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Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America

by Eugene Robinson

Instead of one black America, today there are four. There was a time when there were agreed-upon "black leaders," when there was a clear "black agenda," when we could talk confidently about "the state of black America"--but not anymore. -from Disintegration. The African American population in the United States has always been seen as a single entity: a "Black America" with unified interests and needs. In his groundbreaking book,Disintegration, Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist Eugene Robinson argues that over decades of desegregation, affirmative action, and immigration, the concept of Black America has shattered. Instead of one black America, now there are four: a Mainstream middle-class majority with a full ownership stake in American society; a large, Abandoned minority with less hope of escaping poverty and dysfunction than at any time since Reconstruction's crushing end; a small Transcendent elite with such enormous wealth, power, and influence that even white folks have to genuflect; and two newly Emergent groups--individuals of mixed-race heritage and communities of recent black immigrants--that make us wonder what "black" is even supposed to mean. Robinson shows that the four black Americas are increasingly distinct, separated by demography, geography, and psychology. They have different profiles, different mindsets, different hopes, fears, and dreams. What's more, these groups have become so distinct that they view each other with mistrust and apprehension. And yet all are reluctant to acknowledge division. Disintegration offers a new paradigm for understanding race in America, with implications both hopeful and dispiriting. It shines necessary light on debates about affirmative action, racial identity, and the ultimate question of whether the black community will endure.

Last Dance in Havana

by Eugene Robinson

In power for forty-four years and counting, Fidel Castro has done everything possible to define Cuba to the world and to itself -- yet not even he has been able to control the thoughts and dreams of his people. Those thoughts and dreams are the basis for what may become a post-Castro Cuba. To more fully understand the future of America's near neighbor, veteran reporter Eugene Robinson knew exactly where to look -- or rather, to listen. In this provocative work, Robinson takes us on a sweaty, pulsating, and lyrical tour of a country on the verge of revolution, using its musicians as a window into its present and future.Music is the mother's milk of Cuban culture. Cubans express their fondest hopes, their frustrations, even their political dissent, through music. Most Americans think only of salsa and the Buena Vista Social Club when they think of the music of Cuba, yet those styles are but a piece of a broad musical spectrum. Just as the West learned more about China after the Cultural Revolution by watching From Mao to Mozart, so will readers discover the real Cuba -- the living, breathing, dying, yet striving Cuba.Cuban music is both wildly exuberant and achingly melancholy. A thick stew of African and European elements, it is astoundingly rich and influential to have come from such a tiny island. From rap stars who defy the government in their lyrics to violinists and pianists who attend the world's last Soviet-style conservatory to international pop stars who could make millions abroad yet choose to stay and work for peanuts, Robinson introduces us to unforgettable characters who happily bring him into their homes and backstage discussions. Despite Castro's attempts to shut down nightclubs, obstruct artists, and subsidize only what he wants, the musicians and dancers of Cuba cannot stop, much less behave. Cubans move through their complicated lives the way they move on the dance floor, dashing and darting and spinning on a dime, seducing joy and fulfillment and next week's supply of food out of a broken system. Then at night they take to the real dance floors and invent fantastic new steps. Last Dance in Havana is heartwrenching, yet ultimately as joyous and hopeful as a rocking club late on a Saturday night.

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