Henry Louis Gates’ Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008 spans nearly 500 years in as many pages. So, it’s understandable if reading about the Middle Passage, post-Civil War Reconstruction, and the Rodney King riots might get exhausting. There’s also the fact that Gates wrote his tome free of any centralized argument. While such an approach is likely the best for the brutal and multilayered story that is the history of African-American life, it places the onus of interpretation on the reader. But one should expect a formidable challenge from Gates, who’s renowned for his literary criticism and currently serves as director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Fortunately, Life Upon These Shores also boasts a wonderfully extensive number of visual accompaniments: The included maps, cartoons, and photographs might say as much about the African diaspora in America as Gates’ prose. Gates reads and signs his book at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose Bookstore. Free. (Alex Baca)
Electro-pop ensemble Digitalism played to a small, late-night crowd at the 9:30 Club in August. This time around, the German act is wisely going with the cozier room (and earlier timeslot) at U Street Music Hall. Those huge, poppy choruses are going to be hugging the walls. Data Romance and Craig Sopo open. $12 in advance, $15 at door. 9 p.m.
Tori Amos! Tori Amos! Believe it or not, tickets are still available for her show at DAR Constitution Hall tonight. 8 p.m. $45 plus fees.
It’s not Emily Dickinson’s 181st birthday until Saturday, but the Folger Shakespeare Library is too excited to wait: Aracelis Girmay, a poet and assistant professor at my alma mater, Hampshire College, will read Dickinson’s works—-and some of her own—-at the library’s annual Dickinson birthday celebration tonight. 7:30 p.m. $15.