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June 10, 2020

Summer Reading List: Racism and Racial Inequality

The start of this summer has been unlike any other we’ve experienced. Honestly, 2020 is a year of many surprises we haven’t expected. These challenges have been learning experiences for many individuals to share their compassion and expand their understanding.

During this time, many have turned to books to escape what’s happening in the world. Some want to educate themselves, and others want to walk in someone else’s shoes for a moment.

Reading provides a valuable look at the past and opens the reader’s eyes to experiences they may have never encountered. Reading also helps us process and learn about topics we do not understand or have a hard time dissecting.

To help those who would like to educate themselves more on the topic of racism and inequality, we’ve gathered a variety of nonfiction, fiction, and children’s novels to help break down the topic.

Nonfiction

For patrons looking for resources to talk about race or research the history and importance of black figures, we selected titles recommended by experts below.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

In February of 2014, award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote a blog post titled "Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race". In a book based on that blog post, Reni Eddo-Lodge explores issues ranging from white dominance in politics to the links between class and race. Within this book, Eddo-Lodge touches on themes that are sure to resonate with people of color everywhere and shed a light for those who have not experienced such challenges.

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo

The New York Times best-selling book White Fragility addresses the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged and how these reactions maintain racial inequality. Robin DiAngelo, author and anti-racist educator, takes on this hot and emotionally charged topic and examines how white fragility develops, how it can be hurtful for racial equality, and what can be done to engage more constructively.

Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women That The Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall

In a collection of essays, Mikki Kendall addresses the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement, arguing that it has consistently failed to address the needs of all but a few women. Drawing on her own experiences with hunger, violence, and hypersexualization, along with incisive commentary on politics, pop culture, the stigma of mental health, and more, Hood Feminism delivers an irrefutable indictment of a movement in flux. In this unforgettable debut, Kendall has written a ferocious clarion call to all would-be feminists to live out the true mandate of the movement in thought and indeed.
More books to check out:

  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do" by Jennifer L. Eberhardt
  • Raising White Kids by Jennifer Harvey
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America's Law Enforcement by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, And A New Era In America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery
  • Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks
  • Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People by Ben Crump
  • From Slavery To Freedom: A History of African Americans by John Hope Franklin
  • The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and William Barber II
  • Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You" by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander

Fiction from Black Authors

Black authors have made notable contributions to literature throughout history. Take a look at these books written by black authors that address real-world issues.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

This is a story of poverty, love, grief, loss, abuse, brutality, race, injustice, family, addiction, and ghosts. A winner of the National Book Award for Fiction, Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing chronicles the tense dynamics of a family in a fictional rural town in Mississippi. It follows a biracial 13-year-old boy named Jojo—who struggles to understand manhood—plus his drug-addicted mother Leonie and his white father, who is newly released from prison.
More fiction from black authors:

  • For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Passing by Nella Larsen
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • The Mothers by Brit Bennett
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Children’s Books to Teach about Race

It can be tough explaining complex world issues to young children. Books can be a thoughtful way to create a conversation about race and racial injustice.

I Am Enough by Grace Byers

This is a storybook for children about self-empowerment. It is a simple, easy to read story about everything you can be and do because you are different. This book takes important life concepts and makes it easy for children to understand.
More children's books:
  • The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
  • Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester
  • The Skin I’m In: A First Look at Racism by Pat Thomas
  • Sesame Street's "We're Different, We're the Same by Bobbi Jane Kates
  • Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard
  • Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin and Lauren Tobia
  • Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes
  • Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey
  • Daddy Why Am I Brown?: A healthy conversation about skin color and family by Bedford F. Palmer
  • A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret Holmes
  • Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi
Books for Teens:
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
  • This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work by Tiffany Jewell and Aurelia Durand
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Dear White People by Justin Simien
 
Looking for more resources? Download our free Black History Month posters to continue the conversation at your library.

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