The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy—and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a common root problem: racism.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy—and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a common root problem: racism. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?

McGhee embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm—the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others. Along the way, she meets white people who confide in her about losing their homes, their dreams, and their shot at better jobs to the toxic mix of American racism and greed. This is the story of how public goods in this country—from parks and pools to functioning schools—have become private luxuries; of how unions collapsed, wages stagnated, and inequality increased; and of how this country, unique among the world’s advanced economies, has thwarted universal healthcare.

But in unlikely places of worship and work, McGhee finds proof of what she calls the Solidarity Dividend: gains that come when people come together across race, to accomplish what we simply can’t do on our own.

The Sum of Us is a brilliant analysis of how we arrived here: divided and self-destructing, materially rich but spiritually starved and vastly unequal. McGhee marshals economic and sociological research to paint an irrefutable story of racism’s costs, but at the heart of the book are the humble stories of people yearning to be part of a better America, including white supremacy’s collateral victims: white people themselves. With startling empathy, this heartfelt message from a Black woman to a multiracial America leaves us with a new vision for a future in which we finally realize that life can be more than a zero-sum game.

The Vault

The Vault is a quiet and vulnerable sequence of ethereal fragments, letters, and poems that trace a narrative of love and healing in the afterlife of a parent’s death. Seasons turn and a life is built despite the ruin.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

The Vault is a quiet and vulnerable sequence of ethereal fragments, letters, and poems that trace a narrative of love and healing in the afterlife of a parent’s death. Seasons turn and a life is built despite the ruin. Each poem is a music box of prayer, of the decisions made and yet to be made.

Ghost Letters

Ghost Letters creates a ghost mother who becomes a presiding presence in Baba Badji’s first collection of poems. His poetry explores what it means to be Senegalese, American, and Black, as well as the bonds of Black people across the Black diaspora.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

Ghost Letters creates a ghost mother who becomes a presiding presence in Baba Badji’s first collection of poems. His poetry explores what it means to be Senegalese, American, and Black, as well as the bonds of Black people across the Black diaspora.

Master Suffering

Master Suffering pendulates between yield and command; the bodies of this book are supplicant yet seething—they want nothing more than to survive. But how does a woman survive? One’s own healthy body helps, but illness is one of the masters of this book.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

Master Suffering pendulates between yield and command; the bodies of this book are supplicant yet seething—they want nothing more than to survive. But how does a woman survive? One’s own healthy body helps, but illness is one of the masters of this book. Faith can be a salve for the inscrutable ailments of the body, but God is unreliable in these poems. The female bodies of Master Suffering want power; they want to control and to correct the suffering they witness and withstand.

Twice Alive

In the searing poems of his new collection, Twice Alive, the Pulitzer Prize-winner Forrest Gander addresses the exigencies of our historical moment and the intimacies, personal and environmental, that bind us to others and to the world.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

In the searing poems of his new collection, Twice Alive, the Pulitzer Prize-winner Forrest Gander addresses the exigencies of our historical moment and the intimacies, personal and environmental, that bind us to others and to the world. Drawing from his training in geology and his immersion in Sangam literary traditions, Gander invests these poems with an emotional intensity that illuminates our deep-tangled interrelations.

While conducting fieldwork with a celebrated mycologist, Gander links human intimacy with the transformative collaborations between species that compose lichens. Throughout Twice Alive, Gander addresses personal and ecological trauma—several poems focus on the devastation wrought by wildfires in California, where he lives—but his tone is overwhelmingly celebratory. Twice Alive is a book charged with exultation and tenderness.

The Wild Fox of Yemen

By turns aggressively reckless and fiercely protective, always guided by faith and ancestry, Threa Almontaser’s incendiary debut asks how mistranslation can be a form of self-knowledge and survival.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

By turns aggressively reckless and fiercely protective, always guided by faith and ancestry, Threa Almontaser’s incendiary debut asks how mistranslation can be a form of self-knowledge and survival. A love letter to the country and people of Yemen, a portrait of young Muslim womanhood in New York after 9/11, and an extraordinarily composed examination of what it means to carry in the body the echoes of what came before, Almontaser’s polyvocal collection sneaks artifacts to and from worlds, repurposing language and adapting to the space between cultures. Half-crunk and hungry, speakers move with the force of what cannot be contained by the limits of the American imagination, and instead invest in troublemaking and trickery, navigate imperial violence across multiple accents and anthems, and apply gang signs in henna, utilizing any means necessary to form a semblance of home. In doing so, The Wild Fox of Yemen fearlessly rides the tension between carnality and tenderness in the unruly human spirit.

Waiting for the Waters to Rise

Babakar is a doctor living alone, with only the memories of his childhood in Mali. In his dreams, he receives visits from his blue-eyed mother and his ex-lover Azelia, both now gone, as are the hopes and aspirations he’s carried with him since his arrival in Guadeloupe.

Translated from the French

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

Babakar is a doctor living alone, with only the memories of his childhood in Mali. In his dreams, he receives visits from his blue-eyed mother and his ex-lover Azelia, both now gone, as are the hopes and aspirations he’s carried with him since his arrival in Guadeloupe. Until, one day, the child Anaïs comes into his life, forcing him to abandon his solitude. Anaïs’s Haitian mother died in childbirth, leaving her daughter destitute—now Babakar is all she has, and he wants to offer this little girl a future. Together they fly to Haiti, a beautiful, mysterious island plagued by violence, government corruption, and rebellion. Once there, Babakar and his two friends, the Haitian Movar and the Palestinian Fouad, three different identities looking for a more compassionate world, begin a desperate search for Anaïs’s family.

Rabbit Island: Stories

These eleven stories combine gritty surrealism with explosive interior meditations, traversing the fickle, often terrifying terrain between madness and freedom. In the title story, a so-called “non-inventor” brings snow-white rabbits to an island inhabited exclusively by birds, with horrific results.

Translated from the Spanish

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

These eleven stories combine gritty surrealism with explosive interior meditations, traversing the fickle, often terrifying terrain between madness and freedom. In the title story, a so-called “non-inventor” brings snow-white rabbits to an island inhabited exclusively by birds, with horrific results. In “Myotragus” a privileged man’s understanding of the world is violently disrupted by the sight of a creature long thought extinct. Elsewhere in these stories that map dingy hotel rooms, shape-shifting cities, and graveyards, an unsightly “paw” grows from a writer’s earlobe and a grandmother floats silently in the corner of the room.

An Inventory of Losses

Each disparate object described in this book—a Caspar David Friedrich painting, a species of tiger, a villa in Rome, a Greek love poem, an island in the Pacific—shares a common fate: it no longer exists, except as the dead end of a paper trail.

Translated from the German

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

Each disparate object described in this book—a Caspar David Friedrich painting, a species of tiger, a villa in Rome, a Greek love poem, an island in the Pacific—shares a common fate: it no longer exists, except as the dead end of a paper trail. Recalling the works of W. G. Sebald, Bruce Chatwin, and Rebecca Solnit, An Inventory of Losses is a beautiful evocation of twelve specific treasures that have been lost to the world forever, and that, taken as a whole, open mesmerizing new vistas of how to think about extinction and loss.

With meticulous research and a vivid awareness of why we should care about these losses, Judith Schalansky, the acclaimed author of Atlas of Remote Islands, lets these objects speak for themselves: she ventriloquizes the tone of other sources, burrows into the language of contemporaneous accounts, and deeply interrogates the very notion of memory.