An Anti-Racism Reading Guide for Bookish Allies

Reading is an incredible tool when it comes to education. Many readers are currently seeking out books that will help them in their journey to being actively anti-racist, and we’ve rounded up a few important titles to start with. We encourage you to order these through Black-owned bookstores, or if the stores are currently sold out, turn to your local library or for the audiobook. If you’re looking for a list of bookstores, as well as other ways to support the Black community, you’ll find more resources here.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

This book tasks readers with imagining an anti-racist society and then actively working towards building it. Ibram X. Kendi shares how racism impacts everything from ethics to laws to science, the consequences of that, and how readers can fight against it.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Combating your own internalized racism starts with honest conversations with yourself and others, and this guide from Ijeoma Oluo covers both the importance of having these talks and suggested ways to discuss privilege, intersectionality, race, and more.

When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

When They Call You a Terrorist chronicles the beginnings of the Black Lives Matter movement, introducing readers to its founding members, as well as sharing the creation of the hashtag and amplifying the messages behind it.

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

Feminism must be intersectional or it is not feminism, period. In this book, Mikki Kendall reveals the failings of the modern feminist movement, highlights those it left behind, and offers a way forward.

Citizen by Claudia Rankine

This is a slim but powerful book. Through essays and poetry, Claudia Rankine looks at microaggressions (ranging from those experienced by average citizens to ones done to Black celebrities such as Serena Williams), racism, and police brutality in modern America.

White Rage by Carol Anderson

In 2014, historian Carol Anderson wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post about the white rage behind the events in Ferguson, Missouri. This book further explores the ways that rage shapes politics and leads to violence against Black Americans.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

This book explores the connection between racial discrimination and mass incarceration, while showing the damaging effects of a color-blind mindset. We recommend pairing this with Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.

Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper

Brittney Cooper, a professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies, shares her journey through feminism while dismantling the stereotypes around Black women’s anger.

Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Two authors come together to share the history of racist ideas in America, taking readers on a journey through the past to show how it impacts our present. A reimagining of Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning, this volume and it’s predecessor are invaluable.

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo, foreword by Michael Eric Dyson

If you find it difficult to talk about race but are committed to being anti-racist, prepare to get uncomfortable. This book explores the defensive responses white people have when confronted with their privilege and the incredible harm it does.

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

An extension of an essay from journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge centered on her frustrations with the discussion of racism from those who are unaffected, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race explores whitewashing discussions of feminism, history, and politics.

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum

Beverly Daniel Tatum discusses the psychology of racism through the lens of a high school cafeteria in this book. Tatum argues that being more open in how we discuss our own racial identities can help us engage across racial divides.

In light of recent events, the books here are specifically focused on understanding, dismantling, and fighting the persistent and violent racism against the Black community. These books are exclusively nonfiction to educate readers on real experiences and the history that has shaped our world. And remember, reading is just a start. Raven Book Store summed it up this way: “Reading won’t solve problems like systemic racism or police brutality… But reading books, especially vital anti-racist books like these, builds empathy and knowledge that can be a foundation for working towards solutions.” 

When thinking about your own reading habits, we encourage you to ask yourself the following questions regarding how you engage with books by both members of the Black community and other marginalized communities:

How often are you reading books by authors of color?

How many books do you own by authors of color?

What are you doing to better understand the systems in place that bring white stories to the forefront and fail to support stories from marginalized communities?

Are you more often reading books featuring characters of color written by white authors, and do you understand how those books take opportunities away from those who deserve the right to tell their own stories?

Are the books that you’re reading intersectional (involving overlapping identities that add to the discrimination a person faces, for example, a Black transgender woman can face racism, sexism, and homophobia)?

Do you use your money to support businesses (such as bookstores) owned by people of color?

Are you only diversifying your reading through fiction, and not engaging directly with nonfiction, such as history and memoir?

Is your reading limited to stories of tragedy and pain faced by communities of color, or are you also reading stories of joy, success, and happiness?

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