The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead. A smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.
Sweat, by Lynn Nottage. A nuanced yet powerful drama that reminds audiences of the stacked deck still facing workers searching for the American dream.
Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, by Heather Ann Thompson. A narrative history that sets high standards for scholarly judgment and tenacity of inquiry in seeking truth about the 1971 Attica Prison riots.
Biography or Autobiography
Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, by Hisham Matar. A first-person elegy for home and father that examines with controlled emotion the past and present of an embattled region.
Olio, by Tyehimba Jess. A distinctive work that melds performance art with the deeper art of poetry to explore collective memory and challenge contemporary notions of race and identity.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond. A deeply researched expose that showed how mass evictions after the 2008 economic crash were less a consequence than a cause of poverty.