Superintendent’s Reading List for the ASD Community
Disclaimer: There is an inexhaustible supply of powerful books, articles, and other media on the topic of race and culture. The following list is a sample from my bookshelf, resources I use in ASD’s Race, Culture, and Human Rights course, and only includes those that I have personally read and can recommend.
A note on age-appropriateness: These books and articles are geared toward adults, due to subject matter and complexity, but each could also be appropriate for high school students interested in this subject matter. If you are unsure, please dig a little deeper into its descriptions on the web.
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” (Thich Naht Hahn)
NONFICTION BOOKS (Links and descriptions from goodreads.com)
How To Be An Active Antiracist (Ibram X. Kendi)
Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America–but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it. In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.
Between the World and Me (Ta-nehisi Coates)
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
Born a Crime (Trevor Noah)
The memoir of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed. Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap (Gish Jen)
A provocative and important study of the different ideas Easterners and Westerners have about the self and society and what this means for current debates in art, education, geopolitics, and business. Never have East and West come as close as they are today, yet we are still baffled by one another. Is our mantra “To thine own self be true”? Or do we believe we belong to something larger than ourselves–a family, a religion, a troop–that claims our first allegiance? Gish Jen–drawing on a treasure trove of stories and personal anecdotes, as well as cutting-edge research in cultural psychology–reveals how this difference shapes what we perceive and remember, what we say and do and make–how it shapes everything from our ideas about copying and talking in class to the difference between Apple and Alibaba. As engaging as it is illuminating, this is a book that stands to profoundly enrich our understanding of ourselves and of our world.
The Warmth of Other Suns (Isabel Wilkerson)
In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander)
As the United States celebrates the nation’s “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status–much like their grandparents before them. In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community–and all of us–to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.
FICTION BOOKS (Links and descriptions from goodreads.com)
Disgraced: A Play (Ayad Akhtar)
The story of Amir Kapoor (Aasif Mandvi), a successful Pakistani-American lawyer who is rapidly moving up the corporate ladder while distancing himself from his cultural roots. When Amir and his wife Emily (Heidi Armbruster), a white artist influenced by Islamic imagery, host a dinner party, what starts out as a friendly conversation escalates into something far more damaging.
The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead)
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
The Water Dancer (Ta-nehisi Coates)
Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her — but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known. So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by (Peggy McIntosh)
Talking About Race (National Museum of African-American History website)
I Can Fix It (damali ayo)
Talking to Kids About Racism (NY Times)
The Near Certainty of Anti-Police Violence (Ta-nehisi Coates)
Who Can Say (the N-Word)? (Dr. Randall Kennedy)
Letter from Birmingham Jail (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro (Frederick Douglass)
The Case for Reparations (Ta-nehisi Coates)
WEBSITES & OTHER RESOURCES
Harvard University Project Implicit
Take this test to measure your implicit attitude bias (unconscious prejudice) on a number of issues
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations)
The Power of an Illusion (California PBS documentary)
The story of the social creation of race in America.
Eyes on the Prize (documentary)
The story of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement (1950s-1960s)
A Class Divided (Frontline documentary)
Classic experiment on prejudice in a Grade 3 classroom in Iowa (1968)
Facing History and Ourselves (website)
Empowering teachers & students to think critically about history & to understand the impact of their choices.
Southern Poverty Law Center (website)
Search your area for hate organizations (link)