“Life-transforming ideas have always come to me through books.” bell hooks
I was in high school when I saw my first real glimpse of how the curriculum had been sanitized and whitewashed to perpetuate a certain narrative. Throughout my years of formal post-secondary education (too many to mention), I continued to notice this tendency in most of my courses. Under the guise of neutrality, most of my professors taught in lockstep with a master narrative designed (consciously or unconsciously) to make us all complicit in the status quo.
Given the reading selections in most of my classes, I realized that, if I was going to get an education that would liberate me from being a willing accomplice in the perpetuation of this status quo, I needed to do a lot of outside reading. Thus began the journey that I am still on today. (And it’s important to remember that it is a journey, because there is always more to learn and room to grow.)
I decided to turn this list into a blog post due to some of the things my students said this semester as well as some of the conversations that have happened on some LIS-related listservs and Facebook groups this year. Several of my students continue to be disheartened by the internal problems they see within the library profession, particularly regarding racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, and transphobia. Based on some of the misguided and microaggressive (if not outright hateful) remarks that have been made by practicing library staff in public forums this year, they are right to be discouraged. How do we begin to address the oppression outside of our physical spaces with the levels of ignorance and toxicity within them? Liberation through reading, learning, and growing.
So, as we head into a new year where we as a society continue to largely ignore the disproportionate suffering and inequity of large swaths of humanity, where the school-to-prison pipeline is being condensed into schools as prisons for all intents and purposes for too many of our children, where hateful racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic rhetoric spews from our media sources, politicians/political candidates, and average citizens, where attempts toward civic and respectful engagement are met with “political correctness” labels, and where we find ourselves in the midst of yet another culture war, let’s continue to read in the name of liberation.
The Booklist* (If you are looking for shorter readings, I recommend starting with Jon Greenberg’s blog post, Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism–from Ferguson to Charleston.)
Alexander, Michelle. (2012). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Rev. ed.). New York: The New Press.
Allen, Paula Gunn. (1999). Off the reservation: Reflections on boundary-busting, border-crossing loose canons. Boston: Beacon Press. (Originally published 1998).
Angelou, Maya. (1969). I know why the caged bird sings. New York: Random House.
Anzaldúa, Gloria. (1987). Borderlands/la frontera: The new mestiza. San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Books.
Baca, Jimmy Santiago. (2001). A place to stand: The making of a poet. New York: Grove.
Baldwin, James. (1984). Notes of a native son. Boston: Beacon Press. (Originally published 1955).
Baptist, Edward E. (2014). The half has never been told: Slavery and the making of American capitalism. New York: Basic Books.
Bell, Jr., Derrick A. (1987). And we are not saved: The elusive quest for racial justice. New York: Basic Books.
Blackmon, Douglas A. (2008). Slavery by another name: The re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. New York: Doubleday.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. (2013). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in America (4th ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Brown, Claude. (1965). Manchild in the promised land. New York: Macmillan.
Burciaga, José Antonio. (1992/3). Drink cultura: Chicanismo. Santa Barbara: Joshua Odell/Capra Press.
Cepeda, Raquel. (2013). Bird of paradise: How I became Latina. New York: Atria.
Chacón, Justin Akers & Davis, Mike. (2006). No one is illegal: Fighting racism and state violence on the U.S.-Mexico Border. Chicago: Haymarket Books.
Chasteen, John Charles. (2011). Born in blood & fire: A concise history of Latin America (3rd ed.). New York: Norton.
Child, Brenda J. (2012). Holding our world together: Ojibwe women and the survival of the community. New York: Viking.
Cisneros, Sandra. (2015). A house of my own: Stories from my life. New York: Knopf.
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. (2015). Between the world and me. New York: Spiegel & Grau.
Coulthard, Glen Sean. (2014). Red skin, white masks: Rejecting the colonial politics of recognition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Crow Dog, Mary. (1990). Lakota woman. New York: Grove Weidenfeld.
Deloria, Jr., Vine. (1988). Custer died for your sins: An Indian manifesto. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. (Originally published 1969).
Douglass, Frederick. (1995). Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass. New York: Dover. (Originally published 1845).
Du Bois, W.E.B. (1996). The souls of black folk. New York: Penguin. (First published 1903 by A.C. McClurg & Company).
Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. (2014). An Indigenous Peoples' history of the United States. Boston: Beacon.
Dyson, Michael Eric. (2006). Come hell or high water: Hurricane Katrina & the color of disaster. New York: Basic Civitas.
Eastman, Charles .A. (2003). The soul of the Indian. New York: Dover. (Originally published in 1911 by Houghton Mifflin).
Ellison, Ralph. (1995). Shadow and act. New York: Vintage. (Originally published 1964 by Random House).
Erdrich, Louise. (2014). Books and islands in Ojibwe Country: Traveling through the land of my ancestors. New York: Harper Perennial. (Originally published in 2003 by National Geographic Society).
Fields, Karen E., & Fields, Barbara J. (2012). Racecraft: The soul of inequality in American life. London: Verso.
Flaherty, Jordan. (2010). Floodlines: Community and resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six. Chicago: Haymarket.
Giovanni, Nikki. (1994). Racism 101. New York: W. Morrow.
Glancy, Diane, & Truesdale, C.W. (eds.). (1996). Two worlds walking: Short stories, essays, and poetry by writers of mixed heritages. Moorhead, MN: New Rivers Press.
Goeman, Mishuana. (2013). Mark my words: Native women mapping our nations. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press.
Gonzalez, Juan. (2011). Harvest of empire: A history of Latinos in America (Rev. ed.). New York: Penguin.
Gould, Stephen Jay. (2008). The Mismeasure of man (Revised and expanded ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. (Originally published 1996).
Hale, Janet Campbell. (1998). Bloodlines: Odyssey of a Native daughter. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. (Originally published 1993).
Haley, Alex. (1993). The autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Ballentine. (Originally published 1964).
Harjo, Joy. (2012). Crazy brave: A memoir. New York: Norton.
Harris-Perry, Melissa V. (2011). Sister Citizen: Shame, stereotypes, & Black women in America. New Haven: Yale UP.
Hijuelos, Oscar. (2011). Thoughts without cigarettes. New York: Gotham.
Hill Collins, Patricia. (1998). Fighting words: Black women and the search for justice. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Holloway, Karla FC. (2006). BookMarks: Reading in black and white: A memoir. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP.
hooks, bell. (2000). Feminism is for everybody: Passionate politics. Cambridge, MA: South End.
Iyer, Deepa. (2015). We too sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh immigrants shape our multiracial future. New York: The New Press.
Johnson, Kevin R. (1999). How did you get to be Mexican? A White/Brown man’s search for identity. Philadelphia: Temple UP.
Joseph, Jamal. (2012). Panther baby: A life of rebellion and reinvention. Chapel Hill: Algonquin.
Kingston, Maxine Hong. (1976). The woman warrior: Memoirs of a girlhood among ghosts. New York: Knopf.
Kohl, Herbert R. (1996). Should we burn Babar? Essays on children’s literature and the power of stories (1st ed.). New York: The New Press. (Contains Rosa Parks essay not in later edition.)
Ladson-Billings, Gloria. (2009). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
LaDuke, Winona. (2012). The militarization of Indian Country. East Lansing, MI: Makwa Enewed.
Lee, Erika. (2015). The making of Asian America. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Lipsitz, George. (2006). The possessive investment in Whiteness: How White people profit from identity politics (Rev. & exp. ed.). Philadelphia: Temple UP.
Loewen, James W. (2007). Lies my teacher told me: Everything your American history textbook got wrong. New York: The New Press.
Lorde, Audre. (1984). Sister outsider: Essays and speeches. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press.
Marable, Manning. (1992). Black America: Multicultural democracy in the age of Clarence Thomas, David Duke, and the LA uprisings. Westfield, NJ: Open Media.
Mathews, John Joseph. (2012). Twenty thousand mornings: An autobiography. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Momaday, N.Scott. (1998). The man made of words: Essays, stories, passages. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. (Originally published 1997).
Moore, MariJo. (ed.). (2003). Genocide of the mind: New Native American writing. New York: Nation Books.
Moraga, Cherie, & Anzaldúa, Gloria. (Eds.). (2015). This bridge called my back: Writings by radical women of color (4th ed.). Albany: SUNY Press.
Nam, Vickie. (2001). Yell-oh girls! Emerging voices explore culture, identity, and growing up Asian American. New York: Quill.
Nazario, Sonia. (2006). Enrique’s journey: The story of a boy’s dangerous odyssey to reunite with his mother. New York: Random House.
Painter, Nell Irvin. (2010). The history of White people. New York: Norton.
Parrish, Tim. (2013). Fear and what follows: The violent education of a Christian racist. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.
Rankine, Claudia. (2014). Citizen: An American lyric. Minneapolis: Graywolf.
Roberts, Dorothy. (2011). Fatal invention: How science, politics, and big business re-create race in the twenty-first century. New York: The New Press.
Rodriguez, Luis J. (2011). It calls you back: An odyssey through love, addiction, revolutions and healing. New York: Touchstone.
Roediger, David .R. & Esch, Elizabeth D. (2012). The production of difference: Race and the management of labor in U.S. history. New York: Oxford UP.
Santiago, Esmeralda. (1994). When I was Puerto Rican. New York: Vintage.
Shaheen, Jack. (2014). Reel bad Arabs: How Hollywood vilifies a people (Updated ed.). Northampton, MA: Olive Branch.
Silko, Leslie Marmon. (2011). The turquoise ledge: A memoir. New York: Penguin. (Originally published 2010).
Skloot, Rebecca. (2010). The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Crown.
Smith, Paul Chaat. (2009). Everything you know about Indians is wrong. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Stephen, Lynn. (2007). Transborder lives: Indigenous Oaxacans in Mexico, California, and Oregon. Durham, NC: Duke UP.
Stevenson, Bryan. (2014). Just mercy: A story of justice and redemption. New York: Spiegel & Grau.
Takaki, Ronald T. (1989). Strangers from a different shore: A history of Asian Americans. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.
Takaki, Ronald T. (2008). A different mirror: A history of multicultural America (Rev. ed.). Boston: Back Bay Books.
Tatum, Beverly .D. (2003). “Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” And other conversations about race. New York: Basic Books.
Urrea, Luis Alberto. (2002). Nobody’s son: Notes from an American life. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Ward, Jesmyn. (2013). Men we reaped. New York: Bloomsbury.
Welch, James. (1994). Killing Custer: The Battle of the Little Bighorn and the fate of the Plains Indians. New York: Norton.
Wilder, Craig Steven. (2013). Ebony and ivy: Race, slavery, and the troubled history of America's universities. New York: Bloomsbury.
Wilkerson, Isabel. (2010). The warmth of other suns: The epic story of America’s great migration. New York: Vintage.
Wise, Tim. (2008). White like me: Reflections on race from a privileged son (Revised and updated ed.). Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press.
Wu, Frank. (2001). Yellow: Race in America beyond black and white. New York: Basic Books.
Zia, Helen. (2000). Asian American dreams: The emergence of an American people. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Zinn, Howard. (2003) A people’s history of the United States: 1492-2001. New York: HarperCollins.
*Note: The list above is meant as more of a starting point. It is incomplete and has gaps, particularly Arab, Middle Eastern, and Muslim coverage. Also, in an effort to keep the list shorter, I have only included most authors once, remaining hopeful that the included title would be a good springboard into that writer’s other works. Because my journey began with African American and Latinx research, more of the titles have a focus on one of these two areas or on race and racism in general. The original list grew out of my dissertation research and then evolved as part of the long-form book review assignment for students in my multicultural LIS course. As there are already a number of fiction titles the entire class reads, this list is primarily nonfiction and (auto)biography. Most of these readings are more accessible than some of the more theoretical readings in the course, although I do highly recommend the book I use as the course textbook if you are interested in specific theories (Lemert, C. (Ed.). (2013). Social theory: The multicultural, global, and classical readings (5th ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.).
If you have suggestions of nonfiction and (auto)biographical titles that have helped to liberate your ideas around race and racism, please leave them in the comments.