Readings to Understand Racism
Long before former President Obama put out his annual reading list, my librarian friend, Clara, sent me her annual reading list in her holiday greeting. It’s a wonderful tradition and one I have gladly adopted.
What we read and recommend to others helps tell our own story. My story of last year was a search for understanding racism—in my own life, in my faith community of the Religious Society of Friends, and in our country. It was a search for knowing more about global warming, refugees and immigration, and religious freedom. It included novels, memoirs, history, and spiritual reading for sustenance—to find writing that “spoke to my condition” of frustration, uncertainty, and the search for truth.
A lot of my daily reading includes Twitter, the New York Times, the Washington Post and The Atlantic—as well as the incisive policy analysis and prompting for legislative action that comes from FCNL’s own staff. I appreciate the letters and insight we see from colleagues here in Washington and the notes, queries and requests we receive from FCNL supporters across the country.
But I get a deeper satisfaction when I sit down to read a book. The longer form opens new insights, prompts me to reflect, and helps me make meaning in a constantly changing world. And, I love the sheer joy that comes from brilliant writing, appreciating the creativity and labor of authors.
Here’s my list from 2019—roughly in chronological order, although I tend to be in the middle of three to four books at a time. With some Quaker or other religious writers, I return every couple of months to read chapters as a way of spiritual practice.
My 2019 Book List:
- Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship by Vanessa Julye and Donna McDaniel
- East, West by Moshid Hamiel
- Walk Humbly, Serve Boldly: Modern Quakers as Everyday Prophets by Marjorie Post Abbott
- Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl
- Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
- A Language for the Inward Landscape: Spiritual Wisdom from the Quaker Movement by Bryan Drayton and William P. Taber
- An Unlikely Journey by Julian Castro
- The Truth We Hold-An American Journey by Kamala Harris
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- There, There by Tommy Orange
- The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat
- Sacred Liberty, America’s Long, Bloody and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom by Steven Waldman
- Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming edited by Paul Hawken
- The Tao of Raven by Ernestine Hayes
- Women Talking by Miriam Towes
- Educated, A Memoir by Tara Westover
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
- Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler -- Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art by Mary Gabriel
- The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu
- Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
- How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi