For this week’s Staff Pick I asked our staff to send me titles that have helped them learn about race and racism. All these items are available through the TNRL; you can place a hold on them by clicking on the links added to each summary. For other anti-racism titles available at the TNRL check out our newest list: https://bit.ly/3dYZiNj
Between the World and Me
Between the World and Me is written as a letter to the author’s teenage son. The book brings a better understanding of the experiences of Black Americans and what they face in today’s society. It speaks of their history, family relations, and the racism they experience daily. This book shines a light on their past struggles, confronts our current situation, and tries to offer a vision of what the future could be.
A must read for anyone wanting a better understanding of the daily struggle people of colour face today, and hopefully an awakening for anyone who doesn’t believe anything needs changing.
77 Fragments of a Familiar Ruin
A powerful book of poems intended as a eulogy for all that has been destroyed, punishment for what has occurred and hope for what could still be. This book discusses the acts that have been seen due to greed and intolerance, and offers a reflection of mortality and longing.
Recommended for those who want a deeper understanding of what Indigenous people face and are interested in what can still be done.
Bud, Not Buddy
Christopher Paul Curtis
Set in the Great Depression this is the story of Bud, a 10 year old boy living in foster care. Bud runs away in search of his father, who he believes is the renowned bandleader H.E. Calloway of Grand Rapids.
Recommended for those looking for a fictionalized version of this era that still strongly emphasizes the struggles that a Black child would have experienced.
Even this Page is White
A book of poetry, each one a glimpse of what it’s like to live as a person of colour. The book focuses on the origins, functions, and limitations of being a person of colour as well as the barriers that prevent understanding of what it means to be racialized.
For those looking for a deeper understanding of what it is to live like as a minority, this is a strongly recommended read!
I am Still Your Negro: an Homage to James Baldwin
This book is written with vivid imagery exploring the harsh reality people of colour live with every day and have lived with for thousands of years. Poems range from the beginnings of the African Diaspora to the wide impact of the Me Too movement, as well as touching on topics such as entrapment, sexual assault and addictive behaviors.
Recommended for anyone looking to expand their awareness of social justice issues.
Roots: The Saga of an American Family
The story begins in the 1700s when Kunta Kinte is kidnapped by slave traders and brought to America in the bowels of a stinking slave ship. Kinte then takes it upon himself to become the storyteller of all his descendants and this moves down through all generations until it gets to the author, Alex Haley.
Recommended for those looking for a personalized (fictionalized) account of slavery and the challenges that continue to effect later generations.
The Book of Negroes
(Also published as Someone Knows My Name)
After being abducted at the age of 11 from West Africa and marching in a long line of slaves for 3 months to the coast, Aminata is then sold to an indigo plantation owner in South Carolina. When she is finally sent to Nova Scotia to be “freed” she discovers that although no longer a slave, she still hasn’t escaped the prejudice, fear and hatred those around her feel about those of colour.
Based on a true story, this book paints a vivid picture of the horrors slaves encountered and demonstrates their strength and resiliency.
Dreams of Joy
When Joy runs off to Shanghai in 1957 to meet her father she quickly throws herself into the New Society of Red China, dismissing dangers in the Communist regime. Joy’s mother Pearl is determined to save her daughter no matter what the cost. Both face unimaginable struggles, and when their paths do finally cross their lives are threatened by the most tragic event in China’s history.
A recommended read for those interested in historical fiction surrounding the Great Leap Forward from 1958-1962.
This is book 2 in the May and Pearl series.
All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward
Talaga argues that the alarming increase in youth suicides within the Indigenous community is the disturbing result of the cultural genocide that was experienced by many not very long ago. She presents research and offers insight into the tragic reality of why some youth feel death is their only option and how others are intrigued by the idea of dying.
Recommended for those wanting a clear understanding of the crisis these communities are dealing with and resources to try and overcome these tragedies.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
This book is written to describe the frustration felt when those who are unaffected by racism are the ones leading the discussions but are also the ones that are not willing to listen or have conversations with those directly affected. It touches on issues ranging from eradicated black history and political white dominance, to the inextricable link between race and class.
This is a great read for anyone looking to actively see, acknowledge, and counter racism.
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America
Eric Michael Dyson
Through narrative directed straight at the reader, Dyson highlights his family’s experiences in the USA and includes a discussion of the election of the current US President.
Read this book to understand why there is a need to question whiteness and to gather an understanding of white privilege.
The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row
Anthony Ray Hinton
This book is an immersion into the life of an innocent man on death row because of mass incarceration and racism in the American justice system, what led him there, and the fight for his freedom.
Both interesting and shocking, this book addresses the fear and emotions felt by those on death row and demonstrates Hinton’s incredible forgiveness and positivity in light of what he faced.
How We Fight for Our Lives: a Memoir
Through a series of vignettes of his life and as an homage to his mother Jones talks about his experience being black, gay, and southern. The book talks about inter-sectional identities and how he must fight to become himself.
Letter to My Daughter
Maya doesn’t have daughters, but she sees the women of the world around her as her daughters. This letter to them is a beautiful telling of her life’s experiences and her advice to them.
The Hate You Give & On the Come Up
We previously recommended The Hate You Give in our #staffpick for May 27th. In 2019 Thomas released On the Come Up. Set in the fictional American neighbourhood of Garden Heights, both novels highlight the emotions, personal impacts, and lives of Black American teens.
Discussing biased justice and social service systems, the killing of young Black men by police, addiction, gang violence, social justice and more, these two novels are must-reads for everyone.
Jasmine Guillory is the author of five novels and counting. Set in California these fun contemporary romance novels follow the lives of a group of friends. The main characters are people of colour and small moments in every novel highlight the assumptions and biases we walk around with every day.
Available in print, eAudiobook and eBook formats
Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Set in Nigeria in the 1960s this novel follows five characters through the Biafran-Nigerian War. Bonds are formed between the characters as their lives are drastically changed by the outbreak of civil war.
This novel highlights the impacts of colonialism, race, and class as a nation grapples with how to become something new after being divided arbitrarily.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown
After almost dying, Chloe has come up with 7 ways to help her “get a life”. While the 7th item on her list is to, “do something bad”, she is realizing it’s not that easy even when you have written out guidelines. When she asks for some help she doesn’t expect the prejudice and resentment that comes with it.
A great choice for anyone who loves a good romance novel!
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Scientists knew her as HeLa but her name was Henrietta Lacks, and she was a poor southern tobacco farmer. Henrietta had her cells taken from her without her knowledge, and not only did they become one of the most important tools in medicine, they are still alive today. Her cells have been extremely important in the development of vaccines, unveiling secrets, and important medical advances. Yet Henrietta herself remains virtually unknown. Skloot exposes the story of Lacks’ story both past and present, the experiments that were done on African Americans, and the legal battles over whether we have control over what we’re made of.
Recommended for those that are interested in both the history of slavery as well as an interest in science.
Without becoming a political memoir, Michelle tells her story growing up in Chicago and her identities as a Black girl and woman, lawyer, mother, wife of the president, first lady of the USA, activist and role model.
This book is a peek into life at the White House and what it means to be the first Black family.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
This book follows Noah growing up in apartheid South Africa. Many of the tales are of funny exploits between children and families but the book is a hard-hitting look at the systematic creation of racism. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a Black Xhosa mother at a time when their union was punishable by five years in prison. Trevor was kept indoors in the early years of his life, bound by extreme measures to hide him from a government that would steal him away. The comedic account of a man who struggles to find himself in a world he was never supposed to exist, you follow Trevor in this compelling coming of age story from South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show.
Hilarious, dramatic and deeply affecting, this is a true story of the resilience of the human spirit – even under the most arduous and oppressive conditions.
With the Fire on High
Ever since Emoni Santiago got pregnant freshman year, her entire life has been dedicated to her daughter and her abuela. The one place she is able to let down her guard and truly do something for her is when she is in the kitchen. That is until she is ready to graduate and looks to becoming a full time chef and realizes the lack of time and money she has to put into it.
This book is for those who are familiar with making tough decisions and doing what is right.
Chimamanda Ngzoi Adichie: The Power of a Single Story
Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explains the importance of waiting to hear more than one story or doing more research yourself before forming an opinion or idea about something or someone. Adichie gives great examples of how easily people form an immediate opinion after hearing only one thing, such as in her case when people heard she was from Africa and immediately assumed she was poor and spoke another language. There is always more than one story and it is important we aren’t missing something vital before forming an opinion.