• Kara Cushway

5 Anti-Racist Books on my TBR List

Here’s what’s been on my mind all week: (the most recent surge of) the Black Lives Matter movement. Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others whom I’ve heard about on social media and the radio, who have been killed or injured due to police brutality. Black Instagrammers (my preferred social media platform). Oddly, seeing as I don’t have kids, but maybe not surprisingly, seeing as how half my Instagram feed is Montessori-themed: how to raise kids who are anti-racist (hint: it starts at home, with the parents and family).

On the topic of following black Instagrammers, I’ve absolutely slammed the follow button on so many black influencers this week, and I’ve come across so many different messages from everyone – not just the accounts I’ve newly followed – that, yes, at first it felt a bit overwhelming. So does everything, when you’re first starting to learn about it. But learning to be anti-racist isn’t like learning math. We can’t just give up because we’re “bad at it” or we don’t like it. And the more I embraced trying to learn and do better, the better I did, and the more I enjoyed the process of learning.

In case that last part was unclear: I want to do better. It’s almost a cliché at this point, but the last couple weeks have really opened my eyes to the fact that I, as a white woman, have enjoyed an incomprehensibly more privileged life than black men and women do. To use the words of the popular quote going around, “I understand that I will NEVER understand. However, I stand.”

And as you may have figured out by now, I like books. So my preferred way to educate myself on a topic that I haven’t delved into nearly as much as I should have before now, I plan to remedy that by getting my feet wet with these 5 books that are either considered anti-racist literature or were written by black authors. To be totally clear, these are 5 books that I HAVE NOT read, but that are going on my TBR (to be read) list for 2020.

No Ashes in the Fire by Darnell L. Moore

A young man (spoiler: it’s the author) is nearly burned alive by hateful neighbor kids. This book follows his journey from that event to where he is today: a successful author and Black Lives Matter activist.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I know it’s a “popular book” but it *has* been on my TBR list for a while, so what better time than now to read it?

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

I’m always in the mood for some humor, and rumor has it that Roxane Gay is one funny lady. I’m looking forward to reading her essays on American culture and society, and of course, feminism.

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen

The author, James W. Loewen, is not black. But this book has literally won the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship, and I mean to take advantage of that by reading this one ASAP.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Just from reading the back matter on this book, it seems like it’s going to be an insightful and straightforward read for someone like me (read: a middle-upper-class white millennial) hoping to educate her damn self.

There is SO MUCH great anti-racist literature out there, and there are others that I want to read as well, but these are my top five. I have particular topics that interest me, as we all do; they show up anytime we pick a book to read or a movie to watch, or what radio station to listen to. For myself, education and feminism are two topics I always like to know more about, which is why I picked Bad Feminist and Lies My Teacher Told Me for my list. What I’m saying is, there’s a plethora to choose from, so if you’re in the process of beefing up your TBR list with books by black authors and other anti-racist literature, don’t be afraid to be discerning and choose the books that you know you’re going to read well, the stories that will connect with you and spark understanding, empathy, and hopefully, change.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments: have you read any of these books, or do you plan to? Do you have any black literature that you recommend? Thanks so much for stopping by!


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