THE SPLINTERING OF THE AMERICAN MIND: Identity Politics, Inequality, and Community on Today’s College Campuses, by William Egginton. (Bloomsbury, $28.) Egginton, a professor at Johns Hopkins, regards the often militant discourse around identity with sympathy and concern. “The liberal tradition,” Thomas Chatterton Williams writes in a review that also considers “The Coddling of the American Mind” (below), “accessible to all and capable of generating an expansive common narrative that takes note of America in all her tribal guises and evokes sufficient ‘fellow feeling,’ is, for Egginton, our only hope out of the bind.”
THE CODDLING OF THE AMERICAN MIND: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. (Penguin Press, $28.) Expanding on their influential Atlantic article, the authors trace the culture of “safetyism” on campus to a sheltered generation, warning of potentially dire consequences for the country. “Where Egginton sees a threat to democracy in a polity insufficiently and unequally educated in the liberal tradition,” Williams writes in his review, “Lukianoff and Haidt notice something unprecedented and a lot more frightening: a generation, including its most privileged and educated members — especially these members — that has been politically and socially ‘stunted’ by a false and deepening belief in its own fragility.”
IDENTITY: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, by Francis Fukuyama. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) In a sympathetic analysis of identity politics, Fukuyama argues that the sense of being dismissed, rather than material interest, is the current locomotive of human affairs. “He spends the final part of his smart, crisp book exploring how countries can cultivate ‘integrative national identities’ that are rooted in liberal and democratic values,” Anand Giridharadas writes in his review, “identities large enough to be inclusive, but small enough to give people a real sense of agency over their society.”
THE LIES THAT BIND: Rethinking Identity: Creed, Country, Color, Class, Culture, by Kwame Anthony Appiah. (Liveright, $27.95.) Appiah, a cosmopolitan by background and choice, says that we tend to think of ourselves as part of monolithic tribes up against other tribes, whereas we each contain multitudes. Giridharadas reviews the book alongside Fukuyama’s and describes it as “an exploration of why people feel a need to pin identities down — to essentialize — and how to escape the pinning.” Appiah’s writing, he adds, “is often fresh, even beautiful.”
ARTHUR ASHE: A Life, by Raymond Arsenault. (Simon & Schuster, $37.50.) This first major biography of the great tennis champion, written by a civil rights historian, shows that Ashe’s activism was as important as his athletic skill. He belongs on the Mount Rushmore of elite sports figures who changed America. “For those who have long admired Ashe, this close look at his life offers even more evidence that he was more than a great player,” Touré writes, reviewing the book, “he was an extraordinary person.”
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