The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth (Patterson and Fosse, ed.)

Patterson, this year’s winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award (, and Fosse have put together an outstanding collection of essays based on the goal implied by the title they gave the collection – how are we to understand black youth by understanding questions of culture?

Many of the contributors here ask powerful questions. One essay turns a familiar statement (why is there so much violence in certain neighborhoods?) on its head and asks – why isn’t there more violence? Others examine fundamental questions of culture and research efforts made to modify culture.

Though it takes some persistence, there’s a lot of thought-provoking material here. The problem is, who is going to read it? Other academics? The authors here do little to make their essays accessible to those who would benefit from them a great deal. There’s too much that self-referential and some of the pages of statistical analysis made my eyes glaze over.

Non-fiction is reaching a much wider audience these days because of its emphasis on narrative. Think Seabiscuit and The Warmth of Other Suns. Sociologists could take a lesson from them.

So get it and read it. Slowly. One essay at a time. And then come explain the statistics to me.

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