I’ve had a few requests for book suggestions this last week so I’ve put a list together below. As a white woman in America I need to do my own work of listening and learning and books provide just such an avenue. So over the last 4 years I have been broadening the voices in my personal library by intentionally purchasing and reading authors of color. But, as a colleague, Rev. Salim Kaderbhai eloquently explained, “Reading a book and watching a movie will not make it so that you too have something to lose when things like this happen. Build relationships and get to know, deeply, people who are losing and being beaten down by the system right now. You say this is important, so make time for it.” So, even as I write this list and as you will read it, it is imperative that we understand that reading books isn’t enough. We need to read, listen, learn AND we need to build real, deep and lasting relationships.
If you do chose to read one of these or another book on race, consider purchasing it if you are able. Part of changing systemic racism in America is to help change the publishing world. It is SUPER RACIST (in case you were unaware). Purchasing and supporting, in this case, Black authors matters. We are putting money where our mouth is and paying a fair wage for their creative work from which we benefit. If you don’t have the means, you don’t have the means, and in that case beg, borrow or get it from the library. But if you have the means and are longing to do something, do something and purchase the books. Support these creatives.
So HERE WE GO!
My Top 4
These are a mix between fiction and non-fiction. I’m Still Here and Between the World and Me are shorter and very manageable reads. They are written by Americans who are living the Black experience right now and writing about it. The Hate U Give is an incredible YA novel of a young girl’s experience with a police shooting and Parable of the Sower is classic speculative fiction that comments deeply on America’s political, social and religious structures.
The following are ranked in a very subjective order of my taste and which I think would be appealing to a wide audience …so please take it for what it’s worth.
- Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper
- Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice by Willie Parker
- In Search of Our Mother’s Garden by Alice Walker
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi
- The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
- Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
- Gifts of Power: The Writings of Rebecca Jackson, Black Visionary, Shaker Eldress by Jean M. Humez
I am a strong believer that fiction shares experience just as much as non-fiction. If you are a fiction lover, START HERE! It will serve you well and start proving you an empathetic lens to read the non-fiction.
P.S. This was very hard for me to “rate” so….
- Binti Series by Nnedi Okorafor
- The Broken Earth Triology by N.K. Jemisin
- The Changeling by Victor LaValle
- Sing, Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward
- Destroyer by Victor LaValle (graphic novel)
- Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- An Unkindness of Ghosts by River Solomon
- Pride by Ibi Zoboi
- The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (all her books are great)
You know I love me my YA fiction, so I divided it out…
- Legacy of Orïsha Series by Tomi Adeyemi
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
- The Belles Series by Dhonielle Clayton
So this list speaks directly to racism and the church and/or theology.
- The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone
- Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
- Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the Us by Lenny Duncan
- The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby
- Bipolar Faith: A Black Woman’s Journey with Depression and Faith by Monica A. Coleman
This might seem odd but I kid you not, if you enjoy poetry or want to dive into the more emotive side of the Black experience do not undervalue poetry…ever.
Whites on Race
There are only two books written by white authors that I would ever recommend and I would only do so alongside a book written by a person of color. So promise me; don’t let one of these be the only book you read about race, deal?
- Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
- Who Lynched Willie Earles: Preaching to Confront Racism by William H. Williamon
Additional Reading Lists
These are a couple lists that I have saved to refer back to periodically. They include a lot of children’s suggestions which I don’t go into above.
- Do the work: an anti-racist reading list
- 24 Children’s Books To Read To Your Kids In Honor Of Black History Month
- 29 BLACK AUTHORS TO SUPPORT DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH AND BEYOND
- Voices of Change in YA Literature
- Top 154 Recommended African-American Children’s Books
- 12 Books to Keep Your Feminism Intersectional
My Current “To-Read” List
In case you are interested…I am currently re-reading, Last Black Unicorn right now and Just Mercy is on the docket for next month’s book club. These others are ones I will be picking up this year for sure.
- When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Asha Bandele
- Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements Ed. Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha
- The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis
- Ain’t I a Womanist Too?: Third-Wave Womanist Religious Thought ed. by Monica A. Coleman
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
- They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
- and many others….