This is the first of four books I am reading for the class I am TAing, Introduction to American Politics. The professor I am working with wanted to try something new in this summer session, assigning current critiques of American political culture to inspire critical thinking about what we believe, why and what the future of our core political values might hold.
Most of this book was a provocative and harsh critique of the invisibility of the black poor in this country who became visible when the government they trust to help them through a “natural” disaster failed them. There were some tangential issues that, while interesting in their own right, had little to do with the original thesis of the book. Dyson weaves a tight narrative of the events leading up to and during the Hurricane Katrina incident, with heartbreaking detail. Some of the anecdotes are almost laughable in their absurdity, except most of the time, someone died because the right papers weren’t signed or someone didn’t have the right credentials and there’s nothing funny about that. I will remember the doctor, who wasn’t a licensed FEMA physician and was made to stop doing chest compressions on a dying man because of that fact. While I may not agree with all of Dyson’s points (and in fact, I think he missed a big one with his lack of exploration into the white and non-white labels in regards to class), but this book will stay with me for a long time and I highly recommend it.