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What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America
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What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  181 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews

A stunning follow up to New York Times bestseller Tears We Cannot Stop, a timely exploration of America's tortured racial politics


In 2015 BLM activist Julius Jones confronted Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with an urgent query: “What in your heart has changed that’s going to change the direction of this country?” “I don’t believe you just change hearts,” she prot

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Kindle Edition, 306 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by St. Martin's Press
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Didi
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: race relations in America
Click the link for my review. http://browngirlreading.com/2018/06/...
Patrice Hoffman
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What the truth sounds like, and is for me as I sit here and write this review is that I don't know how to review books such as this. Part of me wants to offer a review that strictly focuses on the writing. That (cowardly) part wants to remain neutral in all works that are social hot topics such as politics and race. I don't want to take a side. As reviewer, I feel it's a duty of sorts not to take a side. But another part, a bigger part of me knows I can't be honest and not share my opinions on t ...more
Andre
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There was a meeting in 1963 between Robert F. Kennedy and James Baldwin and a few of Baldwin’s friends. When you think of an example of speaking truth to power, that meeting as described by Dyson here, will indeed standout as definitive.

Dyson writes “I heard over the years how explosive it was, how it brought together other folk I had admired, including Harry Belafonte. The gathering pitted an earnest if defensive white liberal against a raging phalanx of thinkers, activists, and entertainers w
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Kusaimamekirai
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it
I’m not sure how I feel about this book. It’s nominal premise is based on a little known meeting in late May 1963 between then Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Black intellectuals, activists and entertainers ranging from James Baldwin to Lena Horne to Lorraine Hansberry. It was a stunning collection of prominent Black cultural figures and Kennedy was meeting was to collect suggestions as to the best course the government should take in pursuit of Civil Rights. It did not go well.
As Dyson wr
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Andre
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There was a meeting in 1963 between Robert F. Kennedy and James Baldwin and a few of Baldwin’s friends. When you think of an example of speaking truth to power, that meeting as described by Dyson here, will indeed standout as definitive.

Dyson writes “I heard over the years how explosive it was, how it brought together other folk I had admired, including Harry Belafonte. The gathering pitted an earnest if defensive white liberal against a raging phalanx of thinkers, activists, and entertainers w
...more
Dustin
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent follow-up to Tears We Cannot Stop. Just as timely, too. I appreciated Dyson’s discussion of Bobby Kennedy’s meeting with James Baldwin and other African-American artists and intellectuals, and showed it as his turning point in advocating for great social justice. He compares it nicely to Hillary Clinton’s progression with race matters. From “super-predators” to sympathizing with BLM, he says “Hillary seems to hear the activists even if they did not hear her.” He shows that everyone ...more
Ethan
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An exploration of the black experience of America in terms of a meeting between RFK and many notable members of the black community in 1963.

The author begins by describing the meeting between RFK, James Baldwin, and many other prominent black artists and intellectuals in 1963. RFK was looking for validation but heard the deep pain and anguish regarding the condition of black people in America. At the time RFK did not truly hear it; as time went on it seemed he internalized some of what he learne
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Tim
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dyson elaborates on this book in numerous YouTube videos - all highly engaging as he's a compelling speaker. Striking is how many parallels there are between the 60s and today and how little empathy we've practiced as a nation in hearing pain. Today's art is denial although that's becoming less of an option with Trump. Also striking is how a meeting like this could never even come about in the current administration - can you imagine Trump sitting down with a bunch of BLM or other African Americ ...more
Corvus
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
When I began Michael Eric Dyson's "What Truth Sounds Like," I found myself wondering if this book was going to be for me. I was previously unfamiliar with Dyson's work and the first passage of the book seemingly speaks of heroes and patriotic martyrs. I worried I was walking into another neoliberal revisionist telling of important histories of racial struggle and justice in the United States. You know, the kind where we hear things like Rosa Parks was just a tired woman on the bus and not a radi ...more
Reading in Black & White
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s no secret that I absolutely adore Michael Eric Dyson. I adore that he is unapologetically black at all times without reservation and the love he has has for his people is shining bright in his latest work. There are many highlighted passages and things I’ve learned in What Truth Sounds Like but what I enjoyed most is that Dyson brings other activists & writers to the forefront. I am left with a long list of folks that I will now check out thanks to Dr. Dyson which makes this a book that ...more
Michelle
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was fascinating--I did not know about this meeting at all, and Dyson even draws his discussion forward to current black artists, intellectuals, and even sports stars. All in his trademark beautiful style. I agree with Dyson's conclusion that we need to finish this conversation about race--the hard thing is we have intelligent and eloquent people like Dyson on one side, and Trump And His Tiki Torch Parade on the other. Yeesh.
Pamela
Especially enjoyed the chapter on activist athletes ("Activists 2"): a really great section and discussion of 'white privilege' reality in final section "Even If" (Wakanda Forever).
MGF
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
An insightful, enjoyable read that is much-needed. I learned a ton and highly recommend. I loved the Wakanda chapter.
Jamey
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is not a review. Reviews are what you write when you've finished reading the book. I just started reading this one, and the only way I'm going to make it from page 20 to the end is by venting the frustration and disappointment I'm feeling at the quality of the prose. This book's ideas and its deep currents of pain are much more important than the style. Of course they are; the moral urgency of the book's subject makes such merely stylistic concerns seem trivial. And yet, even in apocalyptic ...more
Yanira
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was such a good reading experience, I don’t know if my review would give it justice. In 1963 General Robert Kennedy reached out to Baldwin to put together a group that might help him to understand the black American experience. This book recounts that meeting & much more. This deep insight into the 1900s and political figures today and of the past was fascinating. He also makes a case for Hilary Clinton that is both complex and insightful.
Ruby
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: june
"Baldwin understood that policy could never make white people think differently. The perception of black people often shapes how and when the law is applied. The moral dimensions of race exert a profound influence on how we distribute social goods, apply public policy and laws, and determine the worth and value of human life. It is already against the law for the police to unjustly murder black folk."

"It was common for white folk to tell their views to black folk: black people constantly, endles
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Jeff Scott
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Whatever his faults, or limits, Bobby Kennedy was committed to getting into a room and wrestling with the demons of race. Over fifty years later, we find it hard to follow this example, and our failure dooms us to untold suffering."

As we observe the 50th anniversary of the assassination of MLK and RFK, we are still wrestling with the same problems and the same questions. Michael Eric Dyson takes a conversation about race that happened five years before their deaths in 1963. The Baldwin-Kennedy
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Jeri Rowe
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pleasure-read
Michael Eric Dyson's follow-up to "Tears We Cannot Stop" uses a 1963 meeting between Bobby Kennedy and James Baldwin as a touchstone to talk about the racism we as a country today. In a word -- or two -- Dyson's follow-up is pretty damn powerful. He writes:

"Race is the big thing, and Shelby Foote’s acknowledgement of its role in national life should be the starting place for any history of the Civil War – and not just that war, but the bigger war, the war for the soul of a nation that needs far
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Adam Shields
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short Review: This is the fourth book I have read by Michael Eric Dyson in just over a year. Dyson is a cultural critic, essayist, theologian, and professor. What Truth Sounds Like is a follow up from his earlier Tears We Cannot Stop. That earlier book was a direct theological argument toward White Christians about the importance of racial justice.

What Truth Sounds Like is a different approach roughly based on an actual meeting with Robert Kennedy in 1963 that was arranged by James Baldwin. Jame
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Barbaraleah
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an amazing, edifying read - especially to me - a white American who teaches high school African American students; especially to me who is devastated over how trump is denigrating our great country. The foundation of Dyson's book is a meeting between Bobby Kennedy, James (Jimmy) Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Lena Horne, Harry Belafonte, social psychologist Kenneth Clark and perhaps most importantly, Jerome Smith, a Freedom Rider. The "celebrities" deferred to Smith as he had experienced, ...more
Darian Jones
Jun 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I am struggling with what Dr. Dyson's latest work adds to the discourse save a cursory walk through the last 50ish years of our issues of race and some of the inner conversations. It seemed at times as an apologetic treatise for the failures of Obama and how great Hiliary was through a type of posthumous lens of James Baldwin and Bobby Kennedy... while the backstories are fascinating - they are equally as instructive about the willful capitulation of the black democrats to satiate themselves whi ...more
Rachel
Jul 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been wanting to reads this book since I heard Michael Eric Dyson interview on the view. The story centers around a meeting that took place in civil rights era between Bobby Kennedy, James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, and other well known black activist at the time. Dyson states in his book that RFK changed during this meeting. He had to face up to his own prejudice and hear some hard truths from the black community. The meeting ultimately changed his views on race and elevated his place in h ...more
Mary Sisney
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dyson modestly does not present himself as the true heir to James Baldwin (not Ta-Nehisi Coates and certainly not Cornel West), but I believe he is. Like Baldwin, he knows how to eloquently preach to his readers, probably because he is a preacher as Baldwin was before he became a writer. But more effectively than Baldwin he connects politics, literature, and pop culture, using a 1963 meeting between Bobby Kennedy, Baldwin, Harry Belafonte as well as other black artists, intellectuals, and activi ...more
Nicole
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Unfortunately this was a DNF for me, which is too bad. I had been looking forward to reading this book after I recently read Dyson's "Tears We Cannot Stop," since I've become a big fan of both Baldwin and RFK in the last few years, and was excited to read about this meeting that I've heard a little bit about. But this book wasn't quite what I was expecting, at least up to the part I stopped at (in the middle of "The Artists" chapter).

There was one relatively short chapter on the meeting itself,
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Byron
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
It's been a minute since we've had a true entry in the Michael Eric Dyson Book o' the Month Club. Yeah, Tears We Can't Stop was probably thrown together over the course of two consecutive weekends, as if it were one of my own books, but it works like gangbusters. It's a much more satisfying read than the kinda disappointing Black Presidency.

What Truth Sounds Like, on the other hand? Not so much. You learn almost nothing (certainly not anything useful) about the titular meeting between RFK and Ja
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Phil
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating read! Exploring the tension between policy and witness through Bobby Kennedy and James Baldwin's little known but impactful meeting in 1963, Dyson shows us just how far we haven't come in 55 years. Kennedy left angry at the assembled group 'not getting the pragmatic politics'. But it drove the change in his heart and his commitment to share the pain and the riches. Dyson pulls no punches in explaining how important bearing witness is to the moral life of a democracy. Politicians sh ...more
Jennifer
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compelling yet somewhat disheartening
My first read of Dr.Dyson’s writing. I am sure the meeting between RFK and Baldwin and his associates was more eye-opening and ultimately more productive than any meeting between current African-American thought leaders and the current Federal administration if it was to take place would be. There must be a willingness to acknowledge and not discount the pain and anger of African-Americans before a real dialogue can take place. I appreciate how Dyson brings
...more
Bernadette Dvorscak
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In May 1963, Robert Kennedy met with James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Leno Horne, Harry Belafonte, Kenneth Clark and several others including Jerome Smith, a Freedom Rider, at the Kennedy family apartment in Manhattan. Kennedy wanted their views on the civil rights struggle. His guests spent the next several hours giving their candid and searing accounts. Kennedy's first reaction was anger, but overtime he came to recognize the truth. Dyson relates that meeting and the contributions that enter ...more
Jennifer
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compelling yet somewhat disheartening
My first read of Dr.Dyson’s writing. I am sure the meeting between RFK and Baldwin and his associates was more eye-opening and ultimately more productive than any meeting between current African-American thought leaders and the current Federal administration if it was to take place would be. There must be a willingness to acknowledge and not discount the pain and anger of African-Americans before a real dialogue can take place. I appreciate how Dyson brings
...more
Jonathan Monnet
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Mr. Dyson's books are always a great read. Although he is uberliberal he makes a great argument for his beliefs and the way he sees society. The meeting that he describes was educational, especially his relating the impact on the movement for black citizen's human rights in the United States. He also goes into how certain segments of black society the martyrs, artists, intellectuals and activists each have a distinctive role in achieving that objective. I always learn from Mr. Dyson's work and I ...more
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Michael Eric Dyson is an American academic, author, and radio host. He is a professor of sociology at Georgetown University.
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