Anti-Racist Reading List

With black lives matters this week, I’ve seen countless anti-racist reading lists and I wanted to share some of the books that I’ve read by black and ethnic minority authors, as well as insightful texts about racism.

As a white woman, I’m aware of the privileges I have. I will never fully understand racism and I have the privilege of only learning about racism as opposed to being subjected to it.  

I have attached a brief synopsis with each book or play. The ones listed below are some of my absolute favourites.

Anti-Racist Reading List:

Desdemona by Toni Morrison (play)

The story of Desdemona from Shakespeare’s Othello is re-imagined by Toni Morrison, Malian singer and songwriter Rokia Traoré, and Director Peter Sellars.

Morrison gives voice and depth to the female characters, letting them speak and sing in the fullness of their hearts. Desdemona is an extraordinary narrative of words, music and song about Shakespeare’s doomed heroine, who speaks from the grave about the traumas of race, class, gender, war and the transformative power of love.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo (fiction)

From Newcastle to Cornwall, from the birth of the twentieth century to the teens of the twenty-first, Girl, Woman, Other follows a cast of twelve characters on their personal journeys through this country and the last hundred years.

They’re each looking for something – a shared past, an unexpected future, a place to call home, somewhere to fit in, a lover, a missed mother, a lost father, even just a touch of hope

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (fiction)

Meet Queenie. She just can’t cut a break. Well, apart from one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That’s just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Stuck between a boss who doesn’t seem to see her, a family who don’t seem to listen (if it’s not Jesus or water rates, they’re not interested), and trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her, it’s no wonder she’s struggling.

She was named to be queen of everything. So why is she finding it so hard to rule her own life?

A darkly comic and bitingly subversive take on life, love, race and family, Queenie will have you nodding in recognition, crying in solidarity and rooting for this unforgettable character every step of the way.

My sister the serial killer by Oyikan Braithwaite (fiction)

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away.

She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (talk/lecture)

You can read this lecture or watch it here in the Ted Talk:

I am not your baby mother by Candice Brathwaite (non-fiction)

It’s about time we made motherhood more diverse…

When Candice fell pregnant and stepped into the motherhood playing field, she found her experience bore little resemblance to the glossy magazine photos of women in horizontal stripe tops and the pinned discussions on mumsnet about what pushchair to buy. Leafing through the piles of prenatal paraphernalia, she found herself wondering: “Where are all the black mothers?”.

Candice started blogging about motherhood in 2016 after making the simple but powerful observation that the way motherhood is portrayed in the British media is wholly unrepresentative of our society at large. 

The result is this thought-provoking, urgent and inspirational guide to life as a black mother. It explores the various stages in between pregnancy and waving your child off at the gates of primary school, while facing hurdles such as white privilege, racial micro-aggression and unconscious bias at every point. Candice does so with her trademark sense of humour and refreshing straight-talking, and the result is a call-to-arms that will allow mums like her to take control, scrapping the parenting rulebook to mother their own way.

White fragility: why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism by Robin DiAngelo (non-fiction)

Anger. Fear. Guilt. Denial. Silence. These are the ways in which ordinary white people react when it is pointed out to them that they have done or said something that has – unintentionally – caused racial offence or hurt. After, all, a racist is the worst thing a person can be, right? But these reactions only serve to silence people of colour, who cannot give honest feedback to ‘liberal’ white people lest they provoke a dangerous emotional reaction. 

Robin DiAngelo coined the term ‘White Fragility’ in 2011 to describe this process and is here to show us how it serves to uphold the system of white supremacy. Using knowledge and insight gained over decades of running racial awareness workshops and working on this idea as a Professor of Whiteness Studies, she shows us how we can start having more honest conversations, listen to each other better and react to feedback with grace and humility. It is not enough to simply hold abstract progressive views and condemn the obvious racists on social media – change starts with us all at a practical, granular level, and it is time for all white people to take responsibility for relinquishing their own racial supremacy.

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (non-fiction)

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley, one girl fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, 9 October 2012, she almost paid the ultimate price when she was shot in the head at point-blank range.

Malala Yousafzai’s extraordinary journey has taken her from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations. She has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and is the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

I Am Malala will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world.

The Colour Purple by Alice Walker (fiction)

Set in the deep American South between the wars, The Color Purple is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (fiction)

Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman (fiction)

Sephy is a Cross: she lives a life of privilege and power. But she’s lonely, and burns with injustice at the world she sees around her. 

Callum is a nought: he’s considered to be less than nothing – a blanker, there to serve Crosses – but he dreams of a better life. 

They’ve been friends since they were children, and they both know that’s as far as it can ever go. Noughts and Crosses are fated to be bitter enemies – love is out of the question. 

Then – in spite of a world that is fiercely against them – these star-crossed lovers choose each other. 

But this is love story that will lead both of them into terrible danger . . . and which will have shocking repercussions for generations to come.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (fiction)

‘Shoot all the Bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird.’

A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, an anti-racist novel, a historical drama of the Great Depression and a sublime example of the Southern writing tradition.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (YA fantasy fiction)

Read the explosive New York Times bestselling debut that’s captivated readers worldwide. Set to be a major motion picture, An Ember in the Ashes is the book everyone is talking about.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death.

When Laia’s grandparents are brutally murdered and her brother arrested for treason by the empire, the only people she has left to turn to are the rebels.

But in exchange for their help in saving her brother, they demand that Laia spy on the ruthless Commandant of Blackcliff, the Empire’s greatest military academy. Should she fail it’s more than her brother’s freedom at risk . . . Laia’s very life is at stake.

There, she meets Elias, the academy’s finest soldier. But Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined – and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou (non-fiction/autobiography)

Maya Angelou’s seven volumes of autobiography are a testament to the talents and resilience of this extraordinary writer. Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a black woman she has known discrimination and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration. The fourth volume of her enthralling autobiography finds Maya Angelou immersed in the world of black writers and artists in Harlem, working in the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King.

What a Time to Be Alone by Chidera Eggerue (non-fiction)

In What A Time To Be Alone, The Slumflower will be your life guru, confidante and best friend. She’ll show you that being alone is not just okay: it’s just about the best freaking thing that’s ever happened to you. As she says, ‘You’re bad as hell and you were made with intention.’ It’s about time you realised.

Peppered with insightful Igbo proverbs from Chidera’s Nigerian mother and full of her own original artwork, What A Time To Be Alone will help you navigate the modern world. We can all decide our own fates and Chidera shows us how, using a three-part approach filled with sass, wisdom and charm.

How to get over a boy by by Chidera Eggerue (non-fiction)

In How to Get Over a Boy, bestselling author Chidera Eggerue will show you, once and for all, how to reframe the stale goal of finding a man. She will equip you with tangible and applicable solutions for every part of your dating life, helping you recognise that men hold as much power in our romantic lives as we grant them.

Up next on my list to read are:

What other books are on your anti-racist reading list?

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  • Hannah says:

    I always thought To Kill A Mockingbird would be an incredibly dull book seeing as it is on almost every school’s reading list but when I finally read it in year 10, I was honestly so surprised at just how good the book is! It brought up some interesting discussions in the class regarding race and rape and the justice system and I would highly recommend reading it to anyone. Thank you for sharing your list – there are definitely a lot of books I need to check-out as I have only read a few of these. xx

    • Jess Bacon says:

      I also read it in Year 10! I was absolutely captivated by it. That’s great, I think everyone just needs to compile a long list and work through the books xx

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