The recent events in America have made me aware of just how little I know about the struggle, discrimination and fear faced by Black people in every single day. Growing up, going to school and living in a white, middle class area means I am essentially clueless and to be honest I am angry at myself for living like this for so long.
I have compiled a list of recommended reads about race, Black Lives Matter and some fiction books by POC authors. Watching “Dear White People” and “Black Lightning” on Netflix is no longer enough.
If you have any recommendations please comment below or connect with me on social media!
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1. How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
In this rousing and deeply empathetic book, Ibram X. Kendi, founding director of the Antiracism Research and Policy Center, shows that when it comes to racism, neutrality is not an option: until we become part of the solution, we can only be part of the problem.
Using his extraordinary gifts as a teacher and story-teller, Kendi helps us recognise that everyone is, at times, complicit in racism whether they realise it or not, and by describing with moving humility his own journey from racism to antiracism, he shows us how instead to be a force for good. Along the way, Kendi punctures all the myths and taboos that so often cloud our understanding, from arguments about what race is and whether racial differences exist to the complications that arise when race intersects with ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality.
In the process he demolishes the myth of the post-racial society and builds from the ground up a vital new understanding of racism – what it is, where it is hidden, how to identify it and what to do about it.
2. So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo
In So You Want to Talk About Race, Editor at Large of The Establishment Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word.
Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans.
Oluo is an exceptional writer with a rare ability to be straightforward, funny, and effective in her coverage of sensitive, hyper-charged issues in America. Her messages are passionate but finely tuned, and crystalize ideas that would otherwise be vague by empowering them with aha-moment clarity. Her writing brings to mind voices like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay, and Jessica Valenti in Full Frontal Feminism, and a young Gloria Naylor, particularly in Naylor’s seminal essay “The Meaning of a Word.”
3. Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
An attempt to answer questions about race in America, in the form of a letter to the Author’s 14 year old son.
A bold and beautifully written exploration of America’s fraught racial history and its contemporary echoes that will redefine wider understanding of race and the roots of American identity.
In the 150 years since the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment (the abolition of slavery), the story of race and America has remained a brutally simple one, written on flesh: it is the story of the black body, exploited to create the country’s foundational wealth, violently segregated to unite a nation after a civil war and, today, still disproportionately threatened, locked up and killed in the streets. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can America reckon with its fraught racial history?
Coates shares with his son – and readers – the story of his own awakening to the truth about history and race through a series of revelatory experiences: immersion in nationalist mythology as a child; engagement with history, poetry and love at Howard University; travels to Civil War battlefields and the South Side of Chicago; a journey to France that reorients his sense of the world; and pilgrimages to the homes of mothers whose children’s lives have been taken as American plunder. Masterfully woven from lyrical personal narrative, reimagined history and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME offers a powerful new framework for understanding America’s history and current crisis, and a transcendent vision for a way forward.
4. They Can't Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery
A deeply reported book on the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement, offering unparalleled insight into the reality of police violence in America, and an intimate, moving portrait of those working to end it.
In over a year of on-the-ground reportage, Washington Post writer Wesley Lowery travelled across the US to uncover life inside the most heavily policed, if otherwise neglected, corners of America today.
In an effort to grasp the scale of the response to Michael Brown’s death and understand the magnitude of the problem police violence represents, Lowery conducted hundreds of interviews with the families of victims of police brutality, as well as with local activists working to stop it. Lowery investigates the cumulative effect of decades of racially biased policing in segregated neighbourhoods with constant discrimination, failing schools, crumbling infrastructure and too few jobs.
Offering a historically informed look at the standoff between the police and those they are sworn to protect, “They Can’t Kill Us All” demonstrates that civil unrest is just one tool of resistance in the broader struggle for justice. And at the end of President Obama’s tenure, it grapples with a worrying and largely un-examined aspect of his legacy: the failure to deliver tangible security and opportunity to the marginalised Americans most in need of it.
5. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
“Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent. This book is an attempt to speak”
The book that sparked a national conversation. Exploring everything from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is the essential handbook for anyone who wants to understand race relations in Britain today.
6. Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements by Charlene Carruthers
A manifesto from one of America’s most influential activists which disrupts political, economic, and social norms by reimagining the Black Radical Tradition.
Drawing on Black intellectual and grassroots organising traditions, including the Haitian Revolution, the US civil rights movement, and LGBTQ rights and feminist movements, Unapologetic challenges all of us engaged in the social justice struggle to make the movement for Black liberation more radical, more queer, and more feminist. This book provides a vision for how social justice movements can become sharper and more effective through principled struggle, healing justice, and leadership development.
It also offers a flexible model of what deeply effective organising can be, anchored in the Chicago model of activism, which features long-term commitment, cultural sensitivity, creative strategizing, and multiple cross-group alliances. And Unapologetic provides a clear framework for activists committed to building trans-formative power, encouraging young people to see themselves as visionaries and leaders.
7. On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope By DeRay Mckesson
In August 2014, twenty-nine-year-old activist DeRay Mckesson stood with hundreds of others on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to push a message of justice and accountability. These protests, and others like them in cities across the country, resulted in the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, in his first book, Mckesson lays down the intellectual, pragmatic, and political framework for a new liberation movement. Continuing a conversation about activism, resistance, and justice that embraces our nation’s complex history, he dissects how deliberate oppression persists, how racial injustice strips our lives of promise, and how technology has added a new dimension to mass action and social change. He argues that our best efforts to combat injustice have been stunted by the belief that racism’s wounds are history, and suggests that intellectual purity has curtailed optimistic realism. The book offers a new framework and language for understanding the nature of oppression. With it, we can begin charting a course to dismantle the obvious and subtle structures that limit freedom.
Honest, courageous, and imaginative, On the Other Side of Freedom is a work brimming with hope. Drawing from his own experiences as an activist, organizer, educator, and public official, Mckesson exhorts all Americans to work to dismantle the legacy of racism and to imagine the best of what is possible. Honoring the voices of a new generation of activists, On the Other Side of Freedom is a visionary’s call to take responsibility for imagining, and then building, the world we want to live in.
8. Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America By Jennifer Harvey
American kids are living in a world of ongoing public debates about race, daily displays of racial injustice, and for some, an increased awareness surrounding diversity and inclusion. In this heated context, sociologist Margaret A. Hagerman zeroes in on affluent, white kids to observe how they make sense of privilege, unequal educational opportunities, and police violence. In fascinating detail, Hagerman considers the role that they and their families play in the reproduction of racism and racial inequality in America.
White Kids, based on two years of research involving in-depth interviews with white kids and their families, is a clear-eyed and sometimes shocking account of how white kids learn about race. In doing so, this book explores questions such as, “How do white kids learn about race when they grow up in families that do not talk openly about race or acknowledge its impact?” and “What about children growing up in families with parents who consider themselves to be ‘anti-racist’?”
Featuring the actual voices of young, affluent white kids and what they think about race, racism, inequality, and privilege, White Kids illuminates how white racial socialization is much more dynamic, complex, and varied than previously recognized. It is a process that stretches beyond white parents’ explicit conversations with their white children and includes not only the choices parents make about neighborhoods, schools, peer groups, extracurricular activities, and media, but also the choices made by the kids themselves. By interviewing kids who are growing up in different racial contexts―from racially segregated to meaningfully integrated and from politically progressive to conservative―this important book documents key differences in the outcomes of white racial socialization across families. And by observing families in their everyday lives, this book explores the extent to which white families, even those with anti-racist intentions, reproduce and reinforce the forms of inequality they say they reject.
9. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness is an unflinching dissection of the racial biases built into the American prison system. Named after the laws that enforced racial segregation in the southern United States until the mid-1960s, The New Jim Crow argues that while America is now legally a colorblind society – treating all races equally under the law – many factors combine to build profound racial weighting into the legal system.
The US now has the world’s highest rate of incarceration, and a disproportionate percentage of the prison population is comprised of African-American men. Alexander’s argument is that different legal factors have combined to mean both that African-Americans are more likely to be targeted by police, and to receive long jail sentences for their crimes. While many of Alexander’s arguments and statistics are to be found in other books and authors’ work, The New Jim Crow is a masterful example of the reasoning skills that communicate arguments persuasively. Alexander’s skills are those fundamental to critical thinking reasoning: organizing evidence, examining other sides of the question, and synthesizing points to create an overall argument that is as watertight as it is persuasive.
10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
11. A More Beautiful and Terrible History by Jeanne Theoharis
Examines the uses and misuses of civil rights history in the present.
The civil rights movement has become national legend, lauded by presidents from Reagan to Obama to Trump, as proof of the power of American democracy. This national fable has shuttered the movement firmly in the past, diminished its scope, obscured the work it took and the diversity of people who lead it, papered over the forces that stood in its way, and used it to chastise present-day movements. In this book, historian Jeanne Theoharis examines and challenges this national myth-making, taking on many of the accepted stories of the movement to show them in a much different light. Theoharis challenges eight key aspects of the fable to show us the much broader vision the movement had, the work it took, the diversity of people who lead it the North and South, and the immense and persistent barriers and repression the activists faced.
12. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
13. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
14. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
Set in the deep American South between the wars, The Color Purple is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.
15. Beloved by Toni Morrison
16. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.
17. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
The compelling, inspiring, (often comic) coming-of-age story of Trevor Noah, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.
One of the comedy world’s brightest new voices, Trevor Noah is a light-footed but sharp-minded observer of the absurdities of politics, race and identity, sharing jokes and insights drawn from the wealth of experience acquired in his relatively young life. As host of the US hit show The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, he provides viewers around the globe with their nightly dose of biting satire, but here Noah turns his focus inward, giving readers a deeply personal, heartfelt and humorous look at the world that shaped him.
Noah was born a crime, son of a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother, at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the first years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, take him away.
A collection of eighteen personal stories, Born a Crime tells the story of a mischievous young boy growing into a restless young man as he struggles to find his place in a world where he was never supposed to exist. Born a Crime is equally the story of that young man’s fearless, rebellious and fervently religious mother – a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence and abuse that ultimately threatens her own life.
Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Noah illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and an unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a personal portrait of an unlikely childhood in a dangerous time, as moving and unforgettable as the very best memoirs and as funny as Noah’s own hilarious stand-up. Born a Crime is a must read.
18. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
#1 New York Times bestseller Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity.
The book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. Milk and Honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.
19. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Namesake’ is the story of a boy brought up Indian in America.
‘When her grandmother learned of Ashima’s pregnancy, she was particularly thrilled at the prospect of naming the family’s first sahib. And so Ashima and Ashoke have agreed to put off the decision of what to name the baby until a letter comes…’
For now, the label on his hospital cot reads simply BABY BOY GANGULI. But as time passes and still no letter arrives from India, American bureaucracy takes over and demands that ‘baby boy Ganguli’ be given a name. In a panic, his father decides to nickname him ‘Gogol’ – after his favourite writer.
Brought up as an Indian in suburban America, Gogol Ganguli soon finds himself itching to cast off his awkward name, just as he longs to leave behind the inherited values of his Bengali parents. And so he sets off on his own path through life, a path strewn with conflicting loyalties, love and loss…
Spanning three decades and crossing continents, Jhumpa Lahiri’s much-anticipated first novel is a triumph of humane story-telling. Elegant, subtle and moving, ‘The Namesake’ is for everyone who loved the clarity, sympathy and grace of Lahiri’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut story collection, ‘Interpreter of Maladies’.
20. The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez
When Alma Rivera arrives in Delaware she is full of the promise and possibilities of her new home. Hope that her daughter Maribel will be helped by the specialist support US education can provide, and faith that her husband Arturo will flourish in a country that celebrates the hard-working. But life without status, money, family and friends soon becomes unmanageable and violent.
Told through a range of perspectives written with compassion and grace, Cristina Henríquez gives voice to the displaced and the unknown, and shows what it means to uproot your life in search of something better.