So You Want to Read About Race

So You Want to Read About Race

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With the interest in books about race and anti-racism surging nationwide, many S&H readers are interested in books on those topics specifically. Here are some independent book sellers you can order from who support issues such as social justice and diverse voices.

Spirituality & Health readers love books, devouring at least a book a month. And with the interest in books about race and anti-racism surging nationwide, many S&H readers are interested in books on those topics specifically. Rather than ordering from the 900-pound gorilla seller, I went in search of independent book vendors who support social justice and diverse voices.

A few thoughts. One, this is obviously but a mere sample of the plethora of books available on these topics, and many of these bookstores have lists of further suggested readings.

Second, if you are a white person, ordering books can’t be the only action. What’s inside the books has to be processed, and insights put into practice. As author Jason Reynolds told The New York Times recently about his book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: “I’m grateful that people are working to seek out information to help them better understand what’s happening in our country. I hope it’s not a knee-jerk reaction due to shame and guilt and not wanting to be on the outside. I hope people understand that this book is the beginning of a journey of a lifetime.”

Here are a few books to start the journey:

The book: So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo

Why: Bustle calls it a “must-read primer on the politics of American racism.”

Where to buy? Washington, DC-based MahoganyBooks is self-described on its website as “an online bookstore that believes in social entrepreneurship. We take a leadership role in the African American community by promoting reading, writing, and cultural awareness.”

Go deeper: MahoganyBooks offers author interviews, a yearly book club reading list and book club discounts.

The book: White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo, PhD

Why: A No. 1 The New York Times bestseller, this book has been a huge topic of discussion in past weeks. DiAngelo has been a consultant, educator, and facilitator for over 20 years on issues of racial and social justice. As she states on her website, “I grew up poor and white. While my class oppression has been relatively visible to me, my race privilege has not. In my efforts to uncover how race has shaped my life, I have gained deeper insight by placing race in the center of my analysis and asking how each of my other group locations have socialized me to collude with racism.”

Where to buy? Tiny Beacon Press originally published it in 2018, but due to current high demand, it’s out of stock. Beacon Press recommends IndieBound instead.

Go deeper: DiAngelo has a free reading guide on her author’s site that you can download here to support formal and informal discussions of the book.

The book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander

Why: Written by a highly acclaimed civil rights attorney, this book was called “the most important book published in this century about the U.S.” by The Birmingham News and won the NAACP Image Award.

Buying it here to support: Charis Books & More, the South’s oldest independent feminist bookstore. Its mission: social justice and the expression of diverse and marginalized voices. It has a well-curated list of suggestions called “Understanding and Dismantling Racism: A Booklist for White Readers.”

Go deeper: Keep an eye on the events page, where you’ll find (currently online) conversations with fascinating authors, such as psychologist Dr. Rheeda Walker of The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health: Navigate an Unequal System, Learn Tools for Emotional Wellness and Get the Help You Deserve.

The Book: White Rage, by Carol Anderson

Why: Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor and Chair of African American Studies at Emory University. This book has been on multiple book-of-the-year and best book lists, including Chicago Review of Books, The New York Times, and Boston Globe. Anderson uses historical points in American history and connects how, behind motions to supposedly protect against “fraud” or “fiscal responsibility” or “war on drugs” lies, guess what? The brutal suppression of any gains of the advancements of African Americans. A must read.

Buying it here to support: Pyramid Books, operating in Boynton Beach, Florida, since 1993. The African American owned business carries all types of books, and is focused on African-centered and African diaspora books. It also specializes in hard-to-find and out-of-stock books.

Go deeper: Explore the bookstore’s list of 365 black history authors, one for each day of the year.

And for the next generation...

The Book: Antiracist Baby, a board book by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky

Why: How to Be an Antiracist by Kendi is sold out just about … everywhere. But, hey, he’s got a new book coming out on June 16. This is a board book for babies ages 0 to 3—and their grown-ups—from the highly acclaimed author. He also wrote the 2016 National Book Award-winner for Nonfiction, Stamped From the Beginning.

In this children’s book, Kendi introduces the concepts and language necessary to begin conversations about having a just and equitable world from the very beginning of life. Illustrator Lukashevsky specializes in joyful, colorful visual art as a way of creating social change, racial and climate justice, climate justice, and all sorts of other cool stuff. So check out her website, too.

Buying it here to support: EyeSeeMe, founded by Pamela and Jeffrey Blair in a suburb of St. Louis as “a resource to parents, teachers, and schools in providing the very best children’s books on the market that promote positive images and stories about African American culture and history.” The Blairs note on their site that “African American children will benefit by seeing themselves respectfully represented in the literature they read. Non-African American children will benefit by helping to dispel negative and inaccurate stereotypical images of people of color and that, despite our many differences, all people share common feelings and aspirations.”

Go deeper: Gift a kid in your life with a subscription book box based on the child’s age (options range from 0–2, up through 14–18), delivering positive African American children’s books each month to build a young reader’s home library.

Want more? Check out Sarah Bowen’s story on Fierce Singing.

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