As people in cities across the nation are in a state of protest, we would like to acknowledge and honor the lives taken through our country’s legacy of violence toward BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) by our white supremacist systems of power. Our Black friends and colleagues have told us they are in pain, exhausted, and frightened. To them we say: We see you; we hear you; we will hold space for you in our hearts and in our work. We also acknowledge our place of privilege as a majority white-run organization, and we pledge to work toward addressing and dismantling systems of oppression in our society.
We know that these words are hollow without actions to accompany them. So, as we try to educate ourselves to take on this effort, and help our white patrons find resources to do the same, we want to make sure not to place that burden on the BIPOC community. As Book-It looks for ways to do more, do better, do something, our first thought is always “find the book.” Below is a list of books (and other resources), some we’ve read and some we have in our library queues or on delivery order, that seem apt for this moment.
Here is a short list of books not only about race/racism but also by Black authors and about Black experiences of life, imagination, and joy. Descriptions below are from Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery, a Black woman-owned book shop in Chicago; links to their site included.
HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST by Ibram X. Kendi
Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At it’s core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilites—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their posionous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.
BINTI by Nnedi Okorafor
Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.
Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.
If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself—but first she has to make it there, alive.
WHITE FRAGILITY by Robin DiAngelo
In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.
BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
WELL-READ BLACK GIRL by Glory Edim
Remember that moment when you first encountered a character who seemed to be written just for you? That feeling of belonging remains with readers the rest of their lives—but not everyone regularly sees themselves in the pages of a book. In this timely anthology, Glory Edim brings together original essays by some of our best black women writers to shine a light on how important it is that we all—regardless of gender, race, religion, or ability—have the opportunity to find ourselves in literature.
Contributors include Jesmyn Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing), Lynn Nottage (Sweat), Jacqueline Woodson (Another Brooklyn), Gabourey Sidibe (This Is Just My Face), Morgan Jerkins (This Will Be My Undoing), Tayari Jones (An American Marriage), Rebecca Walker (Black, White and Jewish), and Barbara Smith (Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology).
THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations.
Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County is a grassroots, volunteer-run, social-justice nonprofit organization focused on the empowerment and liberation of Blacks and other people of color through advocacy and direct action. BLM Seattle centers leadership on Black femmes, women, and queer people organizing and taking direct action to dismantle anti-black systems and policies of oppression.
Find and contact your elected officials and let them know you want action, not just words, to bring about change: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
Watch on Netflix: 13th, Dear White People, When They See Us
Shop local Black owned businesses (be sure to check if they are working during COVID-19): https://intentionalist.com/b/tag/black-owned/
1619: In August of 1619, a ship carrying more than 20 enslaved Africans arrived in the English colony of Virginia. America was not yet America, but this was the moment it began. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the 250 years of slavery that followed. On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is time to tell the story.“1619” is a New York Times audio series hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones. You can find more information about it at nytimes.com/1619podcast.
The Stoop: Stories about Black life that aren’t talked about enough. Hosts Leila Day and Hana Baba combine journalism and storytelling to dig deep into conversations about the Black diaspora.
Identity Politics: Featuring new stories and perspectives about race, gender, and Muslim life in America. From pop culture to politics, each episode, co-hosts Ikhlas Saleem and Makkah Ali invite guests to talk about issues impacting their lives as Muslims at the intersection of multiple identities.
Code Switch: Fearless conversations about race that you’ve been waiting for! Hosted by journalists of color, this podcast tackles the subject of race head-on. Exploring how it impacts every part of society—from politics and pop culture to history, sports, and everything in between. This podcast makes ALL OF US part of the conversation— because we’re all part of the story.
The Nod: Stories of Black life that don’t get told anywhere else, from an explanation of how purple drink became associated with Black culture to the story of how an interracial drag troupe traveled the nation in the 1940s. They celebrate the genius, the innovation, and the resilience that is so particular to being Black—in America, and around the world.