This is the most important and (surprisingly) hopeful book I’ve yet to read about the current crisis of white nationalism. Saslow deftly and evenhandedly reports the story of Derek Black, raised to inherit the white power throne, who finds his beliefs challenged by friends and strangers alike when his family history is outed at his university. Derek’s journey to overcoming (and eventually speaking against) the racist rhetoric he grew up with highlights the work we need to do as a society to address extremism and the conditions that breed it. Recommended By Madeline S., Powells.com
I cannot stress this enough: This book is important and necessary. Anyone concerned about the deep divides in American politics must read this book. Saslow is a brilliant reporter and the story of how a young leader of the white nationalist movement was engaged, befriended, challenged, and ultimately changed by college friends who deeply disagreed with his politics is an example of the rays of hope that we need right now. It's also a terrifying portrait of the committed white nationalist movement and the shift of rage-fueled racism into the mainstream. Reading this I was deeply disturbed, sickened, and scared. I was also moved by the compassion and relentless engagement across political divides. There are real heroes here who will amaze and inspire. Please read it. Please give copies to all those who feel they have lost their voices, who aren't heard, or are made inarticulate by fear. Recommended By Kathi K., Powells.com
Eli Saslow pens a riveting tale of the white nationalist, Derek Black, who was tapped as the "heir apparent" to the leadership of the KKK, but eventually rejected that role. Growing up, Derek's father was a grand wizard for the KKK, and his mother was once married to David Duke. Accepting this political stance was just normal for Derek, but things began to change when he enrolled in a liberal arts college and was confronted with ideas that were opposite to his own. Saslow does an impeccable job of describing the inner micro-adjustments that occurred daily for Derek, and his long, slow slide to the left is a thing of beauty. Do not miss this superbly profound study in human nature, politics, racism, and family. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
From a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the powerful story of how a prominent white supremacist changed his heart and mind
Derek Black grew up at the epicenter of white nationalism. His father founded Stormfront, the largest racist community on the Internet. His godfather, David Duke, was a KKK Grand Wizard. By the time Derek turned nineteen, he had become an elected politician with his own daily radio show – already regarded as the “the leading light” of the burgeoning white nationalist movement. “We can infiltrate,” Derek once told a crowd of white nationalists. “We can take the country back.”
Then he went to college. Derek had been home-schooled by his parents, steeped in the culture of white supremacy, and he had rarely encountered diverse perspectives or direct outrage against his beliefs. At New College of Florida, he continued to broadcast his radio show in secret each morning, living a double life until a classmate uncovered his identity and sent an email to the entire school. “Derek Black…white supremacist, radio host…New College student???”
The ensuing uproar overtook one of the most liberal colleges in the country. Some students protested Derek’s presence on campus, forcing him to reconcile for the first time with the ugliness his beliefs. Other students found the courage to reach out to him, including an Orthodox Jew who invited Derek to attend weekly Shabbat dinners. It was because of those dinners – and the wide-ranging relationships formed at that table – that Derek started to question the science, history and prejudices behind his worldview. As white nationalism infiltrated the political mainstream, Derek decided to confront the damage he had done.
Rising Out of Hatred tells the story of how white-supremacist ideas migrated from the far-right fringe to the White House through the intensely personal saga of one man who eventually disavowed everything he was taught to believe, at tremendous personal cost. With great empathy and narrative verve, Eli Saslow asks what Derek’s story can tell us about America’s increasingly divided nature. This is a book to help us understand the American moment and to help us better understand one another.
“Rising Out of Hatred is an unforgettable story – fair, humane, unflinching, and brimming with insights about American racism and the white nationalist movement. Saslow has given us an instant classic of narrative writing and reporting.” Steve Coll, New York Times bestselling author of Directorate S. and Ghost Wars, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“This is a beautiful and important book. I am a changed person for having read it. If my father were still alive, there would be no book I’d rather discuss with him than this. There are gorgeous, brilliant souls at work in this powerfully told story, and they are everything that’s right and promising about our future.” Elisha Wiesel, son of Elie and Marion Wiesel and chairman of the WVN Elie Wiesel Award
“The story of Derek Black is the human being at his gutsy, self-reflecting, revolutionary best, told by one of America’s best storytellers at his very best. Rising Out of Hatred proclaims if the successor to the white nationalist movement can forsake his ideological upbringing, can rebirth himself in antiracism, then we can too no matter the personal cost. This book is an inspiration.” Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
“No one can match Eli Saslow’s skill at telling the most improbable, humane, and riveting tales of our time. Anyone despairing at the hate that has fueled so much of America’s politics ought to read this unforgettable story.” Jane Mayer, New York Times bestselling author of Dark Money
“This is a double portrait: of a worse America, and of a better one. Neither of them has yet come to pass, but each of them might. Thanks to reporting that is both truthful and humane, we see in one young man’s decision a guide to the choices that face a generation and a country.” Timothy Snyder, New York Times bestselling author of On Tyranny and The Road to Unfreedom
About the Author
Eli Saslow is a staff writer for the Washington Post and a contributor to ESPN The Magazine. He has won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting and a George Polk Award for national reporting, and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing. His works include Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President and American Hunger: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Washington Post Series. He lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with his wife and two daughters.