A galvanizing meditation on the power of art and culture to illuminate America’s unresolved problem with race, from Pulitzer-prize finalist, New York Times bestselling author and poet, and president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Elizabeth Alexander.
In the midst of civil unrest in the summer of 2020 and following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Elizabeth Alexander—one of the great literary voices of our time—turned a mother's eye to her sons’ and students’ generation and wrote a celebrated and moving reflection on the challenges facing young Black America. Originally published in the New Yorker, the essay incisively and lovingly observed the experiences, attitudes, and cultural expressions of what she referred to as the Trayvon Generation, who even as children could not be shielded from the brutality that has affected the lives of so many Black people.
The Trayvon Generation expands the viral essay that spoke so resonantly to the persistence of race as an ongoing issue at the center of the American experience. Alexander looks both to our past and our future with profound insight, brilliant analysis, and mighty heart, interweaving her voice with groundbreaking works of art by some of our most extraordinary artists. At this crucial time in American history when we reckon with who we are as a nation and how we move forward, Alexander's lyrical prose gives us perspective informed by historical understanding, her lifelong devotion to education, and an intimate grasp of the visioning power of art.
This breathtaking book is essential reading and an expression of both the tragedies and hopes for the young people of this era that is sure to be embraced by those who are leading the movement for change and anyone rising to meet the moment.
About the Author
Elizabeth Alexander is a prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author, renowned American poet, educator, scholar, and cultural advocate. Her memoir, The Light of the World, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Awards. She composed and recited “Praise Song for the Day” for President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration and is currently president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest funder in the arts, culture, and humanities.
Praise for Elizabeth Alexander and The Light of the World:
"[Alexander] seems much like Walt Whitman. She sings the American song."—Maya Angelou
"Magnificent."— First Lady Michelle Obama, from an interview in The Skimm
"She shows us how feeding your family and remembering to be aware of the small details of everyday life are the bedrocks of true connection. In this book of prose, each page is a poem."—O, The Oprah Magazine
"Elizabeth Alexander creates intellectual magic."—The New York Times Book Review
"Elizabeth Alexander is a student, and dare I say, master of the craft. Her work is inspirational in a way that The Great Gatsby...is inspirational, in that it just says so much about who we are."—The Atlantic
"This is a gorgeous love story, written by one of America's greatest contemporary poets... Elizabeth Alexander is a prose writer of deep talent and affecting skill."—James McBride, National Book Award-winning author of The Good Lord Bird and #1 New York Times bestseller The Color of Water
"Alexander explores tensions inherent in gender and race and expresses the ambivalence of motherhood in jazz-inflected tones."—ELLE
"The Light of the World is crushing, lovely, painful, and above all powerful. It is difficult to believe that anyone who has suffered loss will remain unaffected by this marvelous book."—New York Journal of Books
"Professor Alexander is a virtuosic writer and a shrewd analyst of American letters, a polyglot who moves fluently from essay to sonnet, from free verse to drama--and in her teaching, traces equally diverse themes."—The Root
"It is both raw and exquisitely crafted, mercilessly direct and sometimes lavishly metaphorical... The Light of the World is, quite simply, a miracle."—Boston Sunday Globe