Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 – Edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha Blaine

I am so glad I selected the audiobook because hearing this book spoken by the talented cast was unforgettable. (I did then research the table of contents to make sure I remember the writers and their topics since I have no print copy.) This brainchild of Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha Blaine, editors, is a compendium of essays and poems written in 10 forty-year parts. The essays cover specific topics relevant to each five-year segment of African American History from 1619 to the present. At the end, of each part is a poem, capturing the essence of the forty years covered by that part. This book of diverse perspectives and approaches to the task hangs together well, without pretending to be exhaustive. It is consistently interesting, even if you have made efforts to learn African American history over the years. Old stories are told well. It is the rare person that will not learn new stories. It is an entertaining read. In fact, this is one of my favorite books ever. Each of the ninety essayists and poets was selective enough to give us a flavor of the period assigned to them, without trying to do too much, which, in turn, lent depth to their words. The “least” well-written piece is very good, the vast majority are out of this world. And the audiobook production and decision to use many voices to present these essays and poems were inspired. Again, a couple of monotone performances but all that meant was I had to concentrate harder on content for those particular readings or go back to catch everything. They were not bad readings. They were just not as good. Most of the performances and pieces are so engrossing, I did not want my four-hour drive to end and regretted I did not plan a longer trip. While the audiobook is over 14 hours long, I knew I wanted to hear every word, without the temptation to skim. No regrets!

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