A Personal List of Books About Racism to Read in 2020

The last week has been turbulent for Americans. But wait………hasn’t this been going on forever?! If you think this is new, think again. Racism has been a struggle in America before this land we stand on was called America.

Many people wonder what they can do right now. There was an incredible peaceful protest in my small town this past weekend ending in prayer by people of all races.

As a teacher, I always want to educate myself and others.

One way I think we can educate ourselves is by reading.

This is a list of some books that I’ve read for my own enjoyment and some books I’ve taught to my students over the years. There is valuable information and experiences in each and every book I chose for my list.

  1. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

I reviewed this book back in January. I loved this book that was chosen for Reese Witherspoon’s January book. It is current and so real, and it will show you how some people don’t intend to offend others, but they absolutely do. It made me cringe at times at the white privilege by one of the main characters. I listened to a portion on Audible as well and the narration is amazing! This was Kiley Reid’s debut novel, and I cannot wait to read more from her!

2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This young adult book was another debut novel. This book is from the perspective of Starr Carter who is 16 years old and comes from a low income neighborhood, but she attends an upper class private school that is mostly white. Starr is a witness to a white police officer shooting and killing one of her friends. She becomes the part of a national story surrounding the events.

3. Beloved by Toni Morrison

The loss of Toni Morrison last year was a tragedy for anyone who loves to read as much as I do. Beloved takes place in the 1800s following Sethe throughout her life as a slave in Kentucky to her days in Ohio. It is beautifully written by combining flashbacks in with the current events of Sethe’s life.

4. Monster by Walter Dean Myers

This book remains close to my heart because I read this when I took my favorite class in my journey to acquire my Master’s in Literacy. This class was “Adolescent Literature.” Some of my favorite books are books I read in this course. Monster is told from the perspective of Steve Harmon who is a 16 year old boy living in Harlem. Steve is charged with the murder of a store clerk during a robbery in a drug store. The plot examines the legal system from the eyes of an African American teenager accused of murder.

5. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

Since I started teaching college writing to first year students, I have been having my students read the section in The Autobiography of Malcolm X entitled “Learning to Read.” We been by watching a biography on Malcolm X. I am surprised every single semester that usually only about 25% of my class knows anything about Malcolm X! One of my students even asked me why they don’t learn anything about Malcolm X in high school. Malcolm X’s autobiography and the growth he had as a human being from being a child to an adult is an incredible lesson for anyone to read.

6. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

After hearing Bryan Stevenson on Oprah Winfrey’s podcast “Supersoul Conversations,” I was so intrigued by his story of defending those who are in need of good legal representation and cannot afford it. It examines the racial bias and problems that occur in the justice system. It is a frustrating read regarding our justice system, but it is also uplifting to see what he has done for so many people in need.

7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

My freshman year of college, we were asked to read this novel to discuss in our freshman convocation class. At the time, I thought it was tragic, but I didn’t quite get the full grasp of the meaning and symbolism until I was older. This novel is a coming of age memoir of Maya’s life. Her writing is pure artistry and beautiful. She reveals her torturous experience being attacked by an older man that causes lifelong turmoil for her. If you’ve never read any books by Maya Angelou, this is a perfect time to pick up a copy of this book. Mine is yellow and weathered over the years of using excerpts from it to teach and read over again.

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