Book recommendations on language, law, race, and politics for LLMs coming to the Washington, DC area

Post by Prof. Stephen Horowitz, Legal English Lecturer

Are you an LLM student who will be studying (or has studied) at Georgetown Law, George Washington Law, American University Washington College of Law, University of Maryland Law, George Mason Scalia Law, University of Virginia Law or any other law school in the greater Washington, DC metro area?

Here are three books that may be interesting and helpful reads for better gaining background knowledge on language, legal, racial and political topics in the DC area. Even if you never read these books, just reading a little bit about them will go a long way towards giving you useful cultural perspectives, not to mention relevant conversation topics for engaging with classmates, professors, and others.

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1. The Black Side of the River: Race, Language, and Belonging in Washington, DC

by Jessica A. Grieser

“In The Black Side of the River, sociolinguist Jessi Grieser draws on ten years of interviews with dozens of residents of Anacostia, a historically Black neighborhood in Washington, DC, to explore these ideas through the lens of language use. Grieser finds that residents use certain speech features to create connections among racial, place, and class identities; reject negative characterizations of place from those outside the community; and negotiate ideas of belonging. In a neighborhood undergoing substantial class gentrification while remaining decisively Black, Grieser finds that Anacostians use language to assert a positive, hopeful place identity that is inextricably intertwined with their racial one.”

And here’s a book review by HillRag which provides additional insight on the book.

Politics & Prose Presents Rosa Brooks on "TANGLED UP IN ...

2. Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City

by Rosa Brooks (Georgetown Law professor and former Dean of the Office of Graduate Studies, i.e., for a couple of years she was in charge of LLM programs at Georgetown Law)

Why Professor Rosa Brooks Added Police Officer to Her ...
Georgetown Law Professor Rosa Brooks

From Goodreads:

Journalist and law professor Rosa Brooks goes beyond the blue wall of silence in this radical inside examination of American policing

In her forties, with two children, a spouse, a dog, a mortgage, and a full-time job as a tenured law professor at Georgetown University, Rosa Brooks decided to become a cop. A liberal academic and journalist with an enduring interest in law’s troubled relationship with violence, Brooks wanted the kind of insider experience that would help her understand how police officers make sense of their world–and whether that world can be changed. In 2015, against the advice of everyone she knew, she applied to become a sworn, armed reserve police officer with the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department.

Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D ...

3. Dream City: Race, Power and the Decline Revival(?) of Washington, DC (20th Anniversary Edition)

By Harry S. Jaffe and Tom Sherwood

The title is potentially misleading. The book was published in 1994 and much has changed since then as DC (and many other cities in the US) are flourishing economically. So make sure to read the 20th Anniversary Edition with all of its updates.

But it provides great insight into the modern history of a major city (Washington, CD) without a state. The US Congress is actually in charge of DC and didn’t even allow it a mayor until 1978. And that’s when things get really crazy.

Marion Barry, Former Washington DC Mayor, Dies At 78 ...
Marion Barry next to a poster for the movie made about him.

It’s also the political history of Mayor Marion Barry, a true character in the modern history of Washington, DC. You need to get to know Barry to truly understand Washington, DC. Also, mentioning Mayor Barry is a great way to get any Washingtonian talking with you if you’re ever trying to make conversation. Everyone has an opinion, a story, a reaction.

The book is also offers great insights and perspectives on corruption. In fact, a former LLM student of mine from Italy who had written about corruption and organized crime in Italy greatly enjoyed and appreciated the book after I suggested it to him.

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