A Brief Anti-Racist Reading List to Educate Yourself and Your Friends

Like many people, anti-black racism has always been on my periphery.

It’s something I’ve studied briefly at university and always been aware of. However, I’ve never invested considerable time into dismantling my own prejudices.

I’ve read *some* books, watched *some* films and amplified *some* black voices on my social media platforms. But this is not enough.

I need to spend more time learning about racism in order to chip away at my conscious and unconscious biases.

And it’s something I encourage all non-black people to do too.

Educating yourself about anti-black racism is the first step to being an anti-racist.

But equally, don’t place this burden on black people – it’s not their job to answer your questions. There are countless books to read, films to see and podcasts to listen to. Even better, there are countless free resources online if you’re struggling for cash in the pandemic.

There are, of course, problems with these kinds of lists.

Writing in Vulture, Lauren Michele Jackson states that: “between giving and receiving [an anti-racist reading list], lies a great gulf. No one can quite account for what happens. Reading, hopefully, but you never can be sure.”

I’ve put a star next to the titles I own in this list. If you’re in the Sheffield area, I can post them to you. All I ask in return is that you donate the money you would’ve spent to an anti-racist charity (£10 suggestion). Browsing this list alone is not enough to educate yourself – go out there and read, watch, listen and think.

Another thing: try to think beyond their educational value. These lists run the risk of creating a “gooey mass” of texts that are defined as ‘anti-racist books’ only. They’re much more than this.

Think about language, form, and style. These works don’t just exist to educate non-black people – they’re pieces of art in their own right, comprising of several genres and forms. Only appreciating them as educational tools does them a disservice.

Below are some top picks to get you started. It’s by no means exhaustive – in fact, it’s probably the bare minimum and only covers UK/US authors. But hopefully it’ll set you off on a path to educating yourself and your family, friends and colleagues.

Non-Fiction Books (UK)

  • *The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla. A series of essays edited by Nikesh Shuklah about race and immigration.
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. An accessible introduction to race in Britain.
  • Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala. A look into Britain’s colonial past, which is often ignored in the UK history syllabus.
  • Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging by Afua Hirsch. A memoir/investigation hybrid about Britishness and race.
  • Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga. Traces black people’s role in British history from the Roman Empire.
  • Mother Country edited by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff. 22 stories from the Windrush generation.
  • Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini. Exposes the groups using science to perpetuate biological racism.
  • I Will Not Be Erased from gal-dem. A collection of essays about growing up in the UK from the award-winning magazine.
  • White Privilege: The Myth of a Post-Racial Society by Kalwant Bhopal. A great introduction to the link between privilege and politics.

Fiction Books (UK)

  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo. The Man Booker Prize-winning book comprising of 12 interconnecting stories of black people in the UK.
  • Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. A funny novel about being a black woman in the 21st century.
  • Ordinary People by Diana Evans. This novel follows the lives of two couples in South London and their marital crises.
  • Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola. Pre-order this reimagining of popular love stories and mythical tales from around the world.
  • Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez. A brand new book for 2020 about a black British teenager coming to terms with his race, religion and sexuality.

Non-Fiction Books (US)

  • How To Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. A powerful book from one of America’s leading voices on civil rights.
  • White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. A great book for beginning to interrogate your own privilege.
  • When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Cullors. A book about the death of black Americans at the hands of law enforcement by one of the founders of Black Lives Matter.
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Answers key questions like ‘What is a microaggression?’
  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. A series of essays by the leading writer, feminist and civil rights activist.
  • The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain by Langston Hughes. A seminal essay from one of America’s most important black writers.
  • Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves edited by Glory Edim. A useful text about black feminism.

Fiction Books (US)

  • *Citizen by Claudia Rankine. A powerful and fascinating hybrid of poetry, prose and multimedia.
  • *Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. The story of a black family hit by hurricane Katrina.
  • *Coal by Audre Lorde. Collection of poetry by the black feminist author and activist.
  • *Thomas and Beulah by Rita Dove. The Pulitzer Prize winning poetry collection that combines lyricism with history and politics.
  • *I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. A confessional work about growing up black in America in the 20th century.
  • *Selected Poems by Langston Hughes. An iconic collection of Hughes’ poems from the Harlem Renaissance.
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin. The black queer writer’s novel about a couple torn apart by an unjust prison sentence. Last year was turned into a film by Barry Jenkins of Moonlight fame.

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