My (current) anti-racist reading list & recommendations


Kath's Bookshelf / Monday, June 15th, 2020

With the recent harrowing and tragic murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police brutality, the world has been forced to take a hard, overdue look in the mirror. To understand that ‘not being racist’ doesn’t cut it, and that it never did. To accept ignorance isn’t bliss and that actively learning and being anti-racist and an ally is a life-long journey that won’t be ‘completed’ after reading a few articles or signing a petition. To read about all names and, importantly, people, who have been killed, hurt and attacked in the face of racism and prejudice.

There are a plethora of incredible people, accounts and platforms out there to follow in order to absorb, utilise and understand their voices, experiences, resources, information and insight. Below I have provided a brief list of platforms I have been going to and people I have been learning from and listening to recently:

  • gal-dem.com | An online magazine that shares stories from women and non-binary people of colour
  • Black Lives Matter | A global organisation that aims to eradicate white supremacy and campaign against violence and systemic racism towards the Black community
  • Black Lives Matter carrd | A really great initial stop for some instant action you can take and guidance you can follow
  • wastefreemarie | Marie’s Instagram account is a brilliant account for learning about anti-racism and how to be an ally (she is generally just a very brilliant person to follow on social media, particularly for her thoughts and action regarding sustainability and the planet)
  • About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge | A podcast that features key voices from the last few decades of anti-racist activism in Britain

I aim to absorb history, information and experiences across any and every format but, as a bookworm, the first place I go is my bookshelf. Reading books about Black people’s experience, whether that be in fiction or non-fiction, as well as reading and supporting black authors’ work in general, is the absolute least I can do to educate myself and support the Black community. Throughout this post I have detailed my current reading list and some recommendations.

These are just nine books that I have read and will soon read, therefore a very small snapshot of the reading around anti-racism and the Black community’s experience I will do in my life. This list is the furthest from exhaustive a list could be, but simply where a journey I should have immersed myself in a long time ago will start.

THE (CURRENT) READING LIST

Below I have detailed four books I have on my reading list for the next couple of months that are written by Black authors; a mixture of non-fiction, memoir and fiction. Whilst I am excited to have these four books written by four different women waiting on my bookshelf, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the fact I need to be purchasing books that span as much of the Black experience as possible and four books simply can’t achieve that goal. I know these four authors will provide me with four very different experiences but I am aware I need to be reading books written by as many different Black authors, all with unique voices and experiences.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I am currently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama, America’s former and first African-American First Lady’s memoir. Becoming is the story of how Michelle Obama became who she is today; taking the reader through her life, from childhood to adulthood. I am a few chapters in and so far I have read about how she came to sitting at a piano for the first time, stories about the determined, competitive spirit she has always owned and little moments where a young Michelle learns about racism and prejudice.

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

In the critically acclaimed Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a ‘new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism’. Eddo-Lodge provides readers with an insight into what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today. With so much of the media and resources I am consuming having a focus on Black people’s experience in America, ignorance leads to many believing the UK has ‘solved’ racism. From now on I am constantly on the look out for books and articles and podcasts that will educate me on the Black community’s experience, both now and in the past, all over the world.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

I am beyond excited to finally read Girl, Woman, Other, winner of The Booker Prize 2019. This is a novel that follows twelve characters in Britain that are intertwined somehow. I don’t know too much about what story Evaristo tells in Girl, Woman, Other but I’ll be finding out soon!

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad

Last on my current anti-racist reading list (that I’ll be adding to very soon) is Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad. Me and White Supremacy aims to spread awareness and understanding, and encourage white people to own up and address their racist behaviours. I have recently realised it is important I am constantly learning about and understanding my own white privilege. It’s a step that is necessary in order to become a genuine ally.

Saad also hosts the Good Ancestor Podcast, a podcast that explores ‘what it means to be a good ancestor’; it is the next show I want to check out.

THE RECOMMENDATIONS

Below I have detailed five books I have read and loved; all books where I have learnt about racism, police brutality and white privilege to some degree.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give was one of my favourite books of 2018. It is a young adult novel that puts police brutality in the spotlight. It follows Starr, a Black teenager who witnesses the death of her best friend, Khalil, a young Black man who is shot dead despite being unarmed and cooperating with the police. The Hate U Give challenges everything from the unjust treatment of Black people in the hands of the law to an upsettingly familiar response to a Black person being killed by the police: “He was a thug and would have ended up dead anyway.” It’s the first book that showed me a narrative and an experience that made it painfully clear I had a lot of ignorance to combat with education.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams is as hilarious as promised, with many moments that rung true as a reader of a similar age to the titular character and so many more moments that I could, because of my privilege, not relate to as a white reader; like the language used by people around her when talking to her and about her. Queenie is a joyous, poignant and disarming addition to my library that explores womanhood as a Black British female and also Queenie’s struggles with mental health. It is a quick-to-digest novel that leaves a sour but honest taste in your mouth.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid follows the relationship of Emira and Alix. Emira is a young Black woman who babysits for Alix. When Emira is accused of ‘kidnapping’ Alix’s Eldest, Briar, in a supermarket, Alix wants to forge a more meaningful relationship with her babysitter. I found it to be a heartfelt read sewn together by female friendship and the sweet relationship between Emira and Briar, but also a read that is intelligently and subtly interrupted by white privilege.

wow, no thank you by Samantha Irby

In wow, no thank you, Samantha Irby writes hilarious and self-deprecating essays on topics ranging from getting ready for a night out she wants to cancel, to making new friends (and encountering awkward situations when making new friends), to racist neighbours. This book made me chortle all the way through and is a great pick if you’re looking for a light-hearted read with a book full of sparkling essays that can sometimes bring to the reader some really serious topics.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage is the most recent book I have finished and maybe my favourite book I have ever read. An American Marriage follows Roy and Celestial, ‘the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South’. Until Roy is arrested and convicted for a crime he didn’t commit. The book provides the reader with Roy and Celestial’s past and the letters exchanged between them throughout Roy’s sentence. The book explores family, experience, racism, love and life. Tayari Jones’ writing is like nothing I have ever read; I paused so many times throughout this book to take a picture of a page, not wanting to ever forget so many of the ways she put words together. Below I have typed out a few of my favourites:

  • “A love letter is supposed to be like music or like Shakespeare, but I don’t know anything about Shakespeare. But for real, I want to tell you what you mean to me, but it’s like trying to count the seconds of a day on your fingers and toes.”
  • “He reminds me that it could be worse. Many people have run-ins with the law and they don’t live to tell the tale. There’s no appealing a cop’s bullet.”
  • “Even when I’m happy, there is something in between me and whatever good news comes my way. It’s like eating a butterscotch still sealed in the wrapper.”

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” – Desmond Tutu.

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