Happy Monday, Shelfies. Today’s post is the second in my little series of Miami Book Fair highlights. It’s about one of my favorite parts of the fair. Enjoy!
After the Exchange for Change presentation I chronicled in my previous post, I was in great spirits for my next stop: a panel featuring National Book Award Finalists in Non-fiction. While all three authors and books were phenomenal and deserve their own spotlight, Dr. Carol Anderson and her book, One Person, No Vote, stood out to me the most. Dr. Anderson is a dynamic, engaging speaker, and her book, while political, tells the story of a moment in time with passion and vivid detail I didn’t expect from the genre.
One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy focuses on
the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Anderson explains how voter suppression works, charts the passing and enacting of voter suppression laws since this ruling (known as the Shelby ruling), and explores the activism and organizing geared toward restoring the basic right to vote to all Americans in the lead up to the 2018 mid-term elections.
Since this talk was occurring shortly after the midterm elections had taken place (though Florida was still doing recounts. Sigh), Dr. Anderson’s book opened the discussion. Dr. Anderson’s opening was good; so good, in fact, the whole room burst into spontaneous applause after she read a passage from her book detailing the 2017 special senate election in Alabama.
I have to be honest: when I first heard the title of this book, I groaned inwardly. I was (and am) suffering from political news fatigue. I’m not an activist; in fact, I ended up in a heated discussion around the 2016 election because I said I had no intention of marching or protesting. I read books to escape into fictional worlds, deep dive into intimate stories of someone’s life, and learn something new, not to ingest more of the distressing political climate. Add to my political news fatigue the fact most books on history, even recent history, give me unpleasant flashbacks to a horrible Honors American History class that nearly shattered my liking of the subject, and you have a huge bowl of No Thanks I’ll Pass.
However, there were a few things about Dr. Anderson’s book that made me buy a copy.
1)Her writing style. She didn’t write the dry political discourse I was expecting, but a nuanced look at an issue that isn’t being openly addressed. As someone who’s been named a Guggenheim Fellow in Constitutional Studies, and is the chair of African American Studies at Emory, Dr. Anderson knows this subject. She has the intellectual pedigree to write intelligently on voter suppression, but more importantly, she has the skill to bring to life the personalities and events shaping this discussion. She found the story, and she tells it well.
2) As a citizen of the United States who regularly exercises my right to vote, I was appalled at all the things I didn’t know were being used to hinder others from doing the same. I had no idea the Shelby ruling had such an impact on the protections afforded under the Voting Rights Act. I have family members in the states she cited as habitual offenders when it comes to voter suppression. I’ve heard them complain about many of the things she wrote in her book, but I never thought of these inconveniences as voter suppression. As Dr. Anderson pointed out, many of the tactics used are worded or presented to seem perfectly reasonable until you step back and see the intended effect. As someone who hates being uninformed, especially about one of my constitutional rights, I felt compelled to by this book and educate myself on what’s happening.
If you’re interested in constitutional law, voter suppression, politics, or one of the major issues that influenced the recent mid-term elections, Dr. Anderson’s book might be a good starting place. You can grab a copy at the links below.
Your Turn: Have you read a book on a topic or in a genre you usually avoid? Were you pleased with your decision or did you regret it?