BOOKS: OPEN HEART, OPEN ARMS

IN A PROVOCATIVE NEW COLLECTION OF ESSAYS ON BLACK CULTURE, MICHAEL ERIC DYSON SEES HOPE AND ARGUES FOR INCLUSION

SOCIAL CRITICS SHOULD be wary of proximity. Examining a volatile issue--sex, class, race--from too far away can make the resulting work seem bloodless. Standing too close puts the observer at risk of being sucked into the overly confessional world of daytime talk shows. In his new essay collection, Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture (Oxford; $23; 218 pages), Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, as well as a Baptist minister, gets the distance just right. In his prose one hears the fervor of a Sunday sermon; in...

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