6 books about race and racism worth reading to become a better ally 3 months ago

6 books about race and racism worth reading to become a better ally

As #BlackoutTuesday continues, it's worth remembering that not all action can be committed online.

There are countless novels, books, and personal essays out there created by people of colour, detailing their own experiences in their own words.

Raising awareness is necessary, but it's the words of those who know oppression first hand that will appropriately educate those of us who have not experienced it.

So, here are six books us white people can, and should, read to inform ourselves on systematic racism - and hopefully become better allies in the process.

1. Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race - Reni Eddo-Lodge

What started as a blog post has become an international bestseller. In her essential book, British writer Eddo-Lodge details the prevalence of structural racism in the UK and the "gulf of emotional disconnect" that white people often display when confronted by a person of colour sharing their experience.

"You can see their eyes shut down and harden," she wrote on her blog in 2014. "It’s like treacle is poured into their ears, blocking up their ear canals. It’s like they can no longer hear us."

You can order a copy here. 

2. Citizen: An American Lyric - Claudia Rankine 

'Citizen' doesn't just mean belonging to a country, it means having a responsibility towards those who live in that country too.

In her book-length poem, Rankine considers what it truly means to be a citizen in the United States of America - and what others deem unacceptable when it comes to an individual's state of belonging.

Using a combination of images and essays, Rankine displays the racism and aggression still directed towards people of colour in contemporary society and asks whether this hate, discrimination, and disregard truly makes the oppressor a citizen at all.

You can order a copy here. 

3. Girl, Woman, Other - Bernardine Evaristo

A fiction triumph, Girl, Woman, Other follows the experiences of 12 people living in the UK, the majority of whom are female and black.

The novel portrays the non-white female experiences as one that is not all-encompassing, but constant and rife with struggle as well as strength.

Evaristo's seventh novel, Girl, Woman, Other won last year's Booker Prize and has since received twenty-five Book of the Year and Book of the Decade honours.

You can order a copy here. 

4. Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“The only reason you say that race is not an issue is because you wish it was not."

Touching, engrossing, and incredible important reading, Americanah tells the story of Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who immigrates to the US to attend university.

Following Ifemelu's life both in her native Lagos and later in the US, Adichie's novel explores her experience as she discovers that since her move, she has become a "black person."

A TV adaption of Americanah starring Lupita Nyong'o is currently in the works, and is due to debut on HBO Max some time later this year.

You can order a copy of the book here. 

5. Freedom Is A Constant Struggle - Angela Davis

A collection of essays on black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism, Davis's book considers the likes of the South Africa anti-apartheid movement and the Black Freedom Movement, and how they have aimed to liberate those who have been repeatedly oppressed by racism around the word.

Davis's book examines the struggles that people of colour have faced in Ferguson and the injustices that have been done in Palestine, all the while reminding the reader that "freedom is a constant struggle."

Countless quotes from Davis have gone viral since George Floyd's death last week, making her work just as important now as it has been for decades.

You can order a copy here. 

Beloved - Toni Morrison 

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Morrison's Beloved is an empathetic, moving, and utterly incredible account of the trauma left over from slavery and how this affected slaves in the US, as well as their descendants.

The novel tells the story of Sethe, a slave who manages to escape from her plantation and move to Ohio to begin a new live.

Sethe is, understandably, traumatised by her experiences and literally haunted by her past as she struggles to move on in a post civil war world.

You can order a copy here.