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Professor Carla Shedd’s Unequal City Makes ZORA’s 100 Greatest Books List

Professor Carla Shedd (Credit: The Graduate Center, CUNY, Rachel Ramirez)

Professor Carla Shedd (Sociology, Urban Education) is among the prominent authors who made the cut for The ZORA Canon, a list of the 100 greatest books by African American women. Shedd’s book, Unequal City: Race, Schools, and Perceptions of Injustice, is listed alongside works by Zora Neale Hurston, Ida B. Wells, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and 95 other distinguished writers. 

“To be amongst all of my literary ‘SHEros’ is a great honor,” said Shedd, “and many of these works mark distinct moments in my life as a black woman, both personally and professionally. This is a moment of both legacy and inheritance for me that has filled my heart and inspired me to keep doing the work I do!”

Shedd’s research focuses on criminal justice; race, law, and society; social inequality; and urban policy. Unequal City, which explores obstacles facing urban adolescents in Chicago, was previously recognized with the 2015 C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems and the 2016 Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Book Award Presented by the American Sociological Association’s Section on Race, Gender, and Class.

ZORA, the digital magazine named for author Zora Neale Hurston, calls the ZORA Canon, to its knowledge, the first comprehensive list that features the finest literary works by African American women authors. The 100 masterworks cover 160 years of African American women’s literature.  

ZORA’s editors say that, “Taken together, the works don’t just make up a novel canon; they form a revealing mosaic of the Black American experience during the time period. They’re also just great reads."

To create the list, ZORA gathered a “blue-ribbon panel of authorities on African American women’s literature,” including Malaika Adero, a former vice president and senior editor for Atria Books at Simon & Schuster; Margo Jefferson, a Pulitzer Prize–winning critic and professor; Ayana Mathis, a professor and New York Times bestselling author; Tressie McMillan Cottom, an author and sociologist; Imani Perry, a professor of African American studies and an author; and Jesmyn Ward, an author and English professor.

Cottom described Unequal City as a “very important book about how ideas of ‘justice’ and ‘injustice’ are mediated and mitigated through schools to unfairly target, marginalize, and funnel Black students into the criminal justice system.”

Shedd said that many of the authors honored by ZORA were inspirations for her work. “From Margaret Walker’s, Jubilee (She was my late mother’s mentor/teacher.), Alice Walker’s, The Color Purple, and Hurston’s, Their Eyes Were Watching God, I learned what it meant to come of age in America as a southern black girl. My contemporary influences are all there, especially Mary Pattillo’s, Black Picket Fences, since she is my friend and was my dissertation co-chair at Northwestern. I am now writing my second book about young people coming of age in New York City schools and juvenile justice settings, and am motivated by the brilliance and beauty of Saidiya Hartman’s, Wayward Lives and Ruha Benjamin’s, Race After Technology.”

Submitted on: JAN 9, 2020

Category: Diversity | Faculty | GCstories | General GC News | Sociology | Urban Education