THE GROUND BREAKING: An American City and Its Search for Justice, by Scott Ellsworth. (Dutton, $28.) On May 31 and June 1, 1921, white mobs descended on the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Okla., shooting and pillaging their way through a vibrant and prosperous Black enclave, reducing it to rubble. Ellsworth’s book begins by recreating the bloody events of 100 years ago in a propulsive present tense. Ellsworth then goes on to trace the story of what has happened since, from silence and cover-up to sustained attempts to learn the full history. The book is “candid and self-aware, undergirded by Ellsworth’s earnest efforts to get at this history, and to get it right,” our critic Jennifer Szalai writes. “Part of what makes this book so riveting is Ellsworth’s skillful narration, his impeccable sense for when to reveal a piece of information and when to hold something back.”
THE SECOND: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America, by Carol Anderson. (Bloomsbury, $28.) A provocative look at the racial context for Americans’ right to bear arms, Anderson’s forcefully argued new book contends that the Second Amendment was inspired by “fear of Black people” — a desire to ensure that whites could suppress slave rebellions. Anderson “recounts how Blacks have been disabled repeatedly from defending themselves by authorities who evince enthusiasm for the rights of gun owners when they are white, indifference when they are Black and outright hostility when they are dissident African Americans committed to challenging the racial status quo,” Randall Kennedy writes in his review. The book, he adds, is “written with verve, painted with broad strokes and dotted with memorable anecdotes and vivid quotations.”
AMERICA ON FIRE: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s, by Elizabeth Hinton. (Liveright, $29.95.) Hinton documents hundreds of often violent urban protests by Black Americans beginning in the mid-1960s, as policing grew increasingly aggressive. Such protests must be understood, she posits, not as riots but as “rebellions” against racial injustice. Peniel E. Joseph, reviewing it, calls her book “a groundbreaking, deeply researched and profoundly heart-rending account of the origins of our national crisis of police violence against Black America. … One of this book’s many virtues is the way it contextualizes the emergence not just of the Black Lives Matter protests but of our larger contemporary moment.”
WINNING INDEPENDENCE: The Decisive Years of the Revolutionary War, 1778-1781, by John Ferling. (Bloomsbury, $40.) This substantial work, written with admirable clarity, seeks to redeem the reputation of Sir Henry Clinton, the general who lost the war to the Americans, while describing a military situation that became a “quagmire” for the British. Reviewing the book in his latest military history column, Thomas E. Ricks notes the conventional view that Clinton was indecisive and blinkered, and writes that “the enjoyment of reading this huge volume is watching Ferling make his case that Clinton was instead ‘an accomplished, diligent and thoughtful commander’” who was undermined by his insubordinate subordinate Gen. Charles Cornwallis.
THINGS WE LOST TO THE WATER, by Eric Nguyen. (Knopf, $26.95.) In this debut novel set in New Orleans, surrounding a Vietnamese family of four that very quickly becomes three, there’s also the memory of the city they left behind: Saigon. The book is vast in scale and ambition, while luscious and inviting in its intimacy. “The question of how to define home persists throughout,” Bryan Washington writes in his review. “Is it a place? A person? A state of mind? While unanswerable, these wonderings are made approachable through Nguyen’s multiple perspectives. … It’s a rare novel that conveys the vertigo of a journey without demystifying its individual turns, but Nguyen is an able captain, and the path he charts for us is illuminating.”