Not precisely a book by a PoC, since it is a book of essays, and some of them (by no means the majority) are by apparently-white people. Nonetheless, very relevant to this community.
I picked up Edward Said: A Legacy of Emancipation and Representation,
edited by Adel Iskandar and Hakem Rustom, in a free box in my neighborhood. This is way outside my comfort zone for reading: it was published (and largely written) after Said's death in 2002, and it consists of 29 varyingly academic essays, many of them by Arabs and Muslims, many by women, many by people who come from colonized cultures. Something about finding a nearly-new copy in a free box made me feel compelled to give it a try.
I knew Said was important; I deeply appreciated Orientalism
, the only book of his that I have read. However, I had no idea of the length and scope of his intellectual life, let alone the substantial number of controversies and criticisms that center around his various beliefs and positions. The book took me about a month to read. I especially appreciated (among others) the interviews with Noam Chomsky and Daniel Barenboim, the chance to read some Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, whom I've always been curious about, the specific essays on Palestinian policy and history, including "Said and the Palestinian Diaspora: A Personal Reflection" by Ghada Karmi,
Some of the things this book made me think about, either for the first time or in a deeper and more nuanced fashion than I had before:
- the concept of "filiation" (identifying with one's family or nation) and "affiliation" (identifying across perceived gaps in family or nation) and the implications of thinking that way
- the failures of secular humanism as a philosophy, what has "replaced" it, and what if anything can be restored from it;
- Arab women writers (in particular, Ahdaf Soueif, of whom I had never heard);
- "late style," or how people's creativity changes when they are old enough to be forced to face mortality;
- the difference between the philosophy of the academy and the politics of the world;
- the tension between simply fighting the colonizer and understanding the colonizer while continuing to fight;
- the role of exile in a person's perspective, and the difference between kinds of exile;
- Joseph Conrad (a passion of Said's);
- music, and intercultural musical initiatives (another passion of Said, who created a Jewish-Palestinian young people's orchestra with Daniel Barenboim);
- the irony of authors with extremely ponderous academic high-jargon styles writing with approval about Said's insistence on clear communication (and thus, Robertson Davies' thoughts about "plain style")
- the specific, detailed failures of the Oslo "accords," and Said's journey from supporting a two-state solution to a one-state solution;
- the amazing richness of Said's life, mind, and journeys
That's an incomplete list, but it helps me understand why I stuck with the book even when I was at my most frustrated (although I am not quite sure why I finished Abdirahman A. Hussein's really dense and jargon-y essay, "A New "Copernican" Revolution: Said's Critique of Metaphysics and Theology." I did skip the essay on comparative literature, and I was way out of my depth in the essay on Said's contributions/relationship to anthropology.
I doubt that very many people have really sat down and read this book; it's more intended for graduate students to cherry-pick, for people with specific interests to browse through. So many times, I considered stopping, taking what I had gotten along the way and reading something else. In the end, however, I'm really glad I stuck with it. Ideas from it, roads to follow, ways of thinking will bounce around in my head for many years to come.