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Anti-Racism Books We’ve Actually Read

June 16, 2020

As promised, we will not be done discussing racism and police brutality in this country (and globally!) until we see a more just system built. The sad reality is that this will be a long process, which probably won’t see a conclusion in my generation. Deconstructing 400 years of racism in this country takes time, so making antiracism education and learning a part of my daily practice is how I am choosing to be an ally with the Black community. There are so many platforms and ways in which to educate yourself but as a voracious reader my choice has always been books. It’s no secret that I love to read so I thought I would share the anti-racism books I have actually read.

ALSO – there’s an incredible movement running until June 20th to encourage people to buy TWO books by Black authors to show their publishing clout and talent and takeover all the bestsellers lists! So buy at least two of these (minus White Fragility which was written by a White woman) by this Saturday. That is all!

We’ve seen so many lists of book suggestions, but they’re often long and it’s hard to figure out where to start. My hope is by offering some of the titles I have actually read that you can feel empowered to do the same. I’m also sharing both non-fiction and fiction titles. I find I can learn a lot from fiction books even if they’re not packed with facts. They humanize the experience and help to integrate the facts you’re learning from the non-fiction books.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but offers a personal look at the antiracism books I have actually read and what my takeaways were.

Anti-Racism Books I’ve Actually Read

NON-FICTION

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo – This should be a starting book for any White person who plans to be an ally to the Black community. Written by a White woman for White folx, White Fragility looks at why it is so hard for White people to discuss race and how we’ve become blind to most aspects of our privilege.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo – Another great starting point for White people wanting to start digging into and having discussions about race. Ijeoma gives practical examples to not only have conversations in your own circles but also at a larger, systemic level.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer questions of what it means to be Black in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences. It’s emotional and educational all at the same time.

Becoming by Michelle Obama – Though Michelle Obama’s autobiography doesn’t directly look at race relations in America, her story simply cannot be told without looking at them. From her upbringing on the south side of Chicago to the implications of being America’s first Black First Lady, Michelle Obama’s autobiography takes a candid look at the obstacles she faced as well as the hurdles she overcame.

FICTION

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill – I read this book when it was released in 2007 and as a Canadian (and 17 year old) it was my first true look at the implications of slavery in America. It tells the story of Aminata Diallo, the daughter of a jeweller and a midwife, that is kidnapped at the age of 11 from her village Bayo, Niger in West Africa and forced into a slave ship to South Carolina. The story is historical fiction but includes non-fiction events like the creation of The Book of Negroes.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Truly one of the best books I have ever read and I’ve non-stop recommended this to people since I read it in 2018. It tells the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, two Nigerians who fall in love in Lagos, Nigeria as young adults. Their stories diverge as Ifemelu moves to America and explores what it means to have grown up in Africa and how it differs from the experience of African Americans. It’s a love story, cultural exploration and takes a deep look at race relations in America and Africa.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – In full transparency, it took me a while to get into this book but I realized it was because I skipped over the family tree on my kindle which made me a little lost. BUT once I figured it out, this book absolutely blew me away. It traces the descendants of two sisters across three hundred years in Ghana and America, including how one lineage’s story completely changed with the result of African enslavement to America.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas- I read this book before the movie came out and I’m glad I did. While I’d also recommend watching the movie the book goes into more detail and gives you a perspective of what police brutality looks and feels like for Black families. Of course, I cannot claim to even begin to understand but Starr’s story and the death of her best friend at the hands of the police will change you once you’ve heard it.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – I read this book just a few months ago but it’s a particularly poignant story as it looks at issues of race and white privilege and the implications of it on Black people in America. On a very superficial level, I related to one of the protagonists (she’s a blogger/Instagram influencer) but the story examines her relationship with her babysitter (Emira) and how their race and privilege have impacted their life trajectories.

On My List: Red at the Bone, Stamped from the Beginning, Me and White Supremacy, The New Jim Crow, On Beauty (and basically every other Zadie Smith book!) and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

*Please note: I’ve included affiliate links for all of these books. Any books purchased through these links will have the funds donated to Equal Justice Initiative. Alternatively you can purchase books through any of these Black-owned bookstores in your state.

SOME OTHER READS:

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  • Reply
    Liz
    June 16, 2020 at 8:00 am

    Love this list. Had most of these on my “must read in order to educate myself” list, but there are several new-to-me titles here! Thank you for putting this together.

  • Reply
    Jen
    June 17, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    I am so excited to get White Fragility in the mail! I feel so empowered to learn and make a difference! Thanks so much for sharing your list. I’ve got some new ones to add, for sure!

  • Reply
    Janalou
    June 17, 2020 at 3:44 pm

    Really, really appreciate this list. As a previous comment mentioned, some of these were on my radar as books I wanted to read. I had not heard of the economic impact movement, and am very happy to support that! So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo is a book I’m excited to get, I heard an interview with her last week on NPR that was eye-opening. She was funny and blunt in that, can’t wait to read the book. I used your links for both my choices, you rock as always.

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