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5 Must-Read Books by Black Female Authors: Relevant Reads on Racism

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5 Must-Read Books by Black Female Authors: Relevant Reads on Racism

By Ashley Shelton

The uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement has recently spurred necessary action, noise, and global change. Due to large protests and the Black community making their voices heard on social media, the world (i.e. other races) is being woken up to the history of systemic police brutality – within the Black community as well as among other communities of colour – and centuries of ingrained racism and white supremacy within humans. 

In a time like this, it’s vital to educate ourselves and grow as better neighbours. While there is a multitude of resources to take advantage of, we believe learning from what Black female authors have to say about the cause is our top priority.

On that note, Irvetta has compiled a list of five must-read books discussing topics such as race, mass incarceration, white privilege, sexuality, and white supremacy. All five books are written by Black female authors. Included below each description are links to purchase from Black-owned bookstores accompanied by locations with in-store availability (these being Black-owned bookstores as well).

 

On Mass Incarceration and Policy in America…

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/05/two-recognized-for-excellence-and-sensitivity-in-teaching-undergrads/

From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America by Elizabeth Hinton

In her latest book, Hinton discusses how implementations of racially-biased federal law enforcement programs during the ‘60s kick-started the era of mass incarceration for Blacks and President Ronald Reagan’s War on Drugs – a publicized “war” that hid the reality of police brutality and torture in America. Elizabeth Hinton is an American historian and Associate Professor in the Department of History and the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Her research focuses on the persistence of poverty and racial inequality in the 20th century United States.

Hinton argues, “The long mobilization of the War on Crime was not a return to an old racial caste system in a new guise — ‘A New Jim Crow.’ ­Rather, the effort to control and contain...produced a new and historically distinct ­phenomenon.” From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America is well-researched, with chronologically and thematically organized chapters. A quote from the Introduction reads, “The seemingly neutral statistical and sociological “truth” of black criminality concealed the racist thinking that guided the strategies federal policymakers developed…”

Links to purchase:
Eso Won Books, Los Angeles, CA 
Bookshop.org 
Available in-store: 
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books, Philadelphia, PA
The Lit Bar, The Bronx, NY

 

On Covert Racism in Britain…


https://twitter.com/WomensPrize/status/974379712779882498

Eddo-Lodge is a renown Black British author and journalist, primarily focusing on feminism and structural racism. She is also the first Black British author to top UK book charts with her latest debut, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. One may be quite familiar with the title, as it took the world by storm and immediately sparked a nationwide conversation on covert racism, white privilege, and white denial. 

Primarily focused on race relations in Britain, Eddo-Lodge directly confronts readers on the inextricable link between class and race and what it means to have a meaningful and informative conversation between two people of opposing colours. In her blog post and now book preface, Reni states, “I’m no longer engaging with white people on the topic of race. Not all white people, just the vast majority who refuse to accept the existence of structural racism and its symptoms.” This book is essential for anyone willing to understand the nature of racial disconnects, particularly in Britain.  

Links to purchase:
New Beacon Books, London, UK
Sevenoaks Bookshop, Sevenoaks, UK 
Booklove, travelling UK bookstore
Eso Won Books, Los Angeles, CA 
Bookshop.org 

Available in-store:
My Bookbasket Store, Birmingham, UK
The Lit. Bar, The Bronx, NY
Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery, Chicago, IL
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, Philadelphia, PA


On White Supremacy in the Media…

https://nowtoronto.com/culture/books/ijeoma-oluo-so-you-want-to-talk-about-race/

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

This New York Times Best-Seller is a much-needed comprehensive, user-friendly, conversation guide on white supremacy in America. Oluo is a Nigerian-American writer based in Seattle. Her writing covers multiple topics such as intersectionality, online harassment, and social justice. Being a Seattle-based writer and speaker, Ijeoma Oluo is surrounded by nationally recognised technological organizations. Thus, the main concept in her book covers how the media negatively portrays race, racism, and the justice system in society. 

The book aims to have readers engage in honest conversations with one another – from topics on police brutality to mass incarceration – and how social media plays a role in distributing information to the public: “These last few years, the rise of voices of colour, coupled with the widespread dissemination of video proof of brutality and injustice against people of colour, has brought the urgency of racism in America to the forefront of our collective consciousness.” In regards to race and racism on the internet, Oluo argues, “we absolutely have to be looking at it politically and socially as to how it’s contributing to the way in which we look and deal with each other and politically how we address issues of inequality and injustice.” In essence, there is no better time or platform to have these discussions.

 

Links to purchase:
Eso Won Books, Los Angeles, CA
Bookshop.org
Mahogany Books, Washington, DC 
Booklove, travelling UK bookstore 
 
Available in-store:
Semicolon Bookstore and Gallery, Chicago, IL
Source Booksellers, Detroit, MI
The Lit. Bar, The Bronx, NY
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, Philadelphia, PA
New Beacon Books, London, UK

 

On Race, Sexuality, and Gender in Great Britain…

 https://www.ft.com/content/755d24f8-f02a-11e9-bfa4-b25f11f42901

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Bernadine Evaristo is a British novelist, playwright and activist based in the UK. She’s an advocate for the inclusion of writers and artists of colour and won the Booker Prize in 2019. Commonly known as a ‘fusion fiction’ novel, Girl, Woman, Other tells the simultaneous stories of twelve adult British African American women (all of different cultural, sexual, class, and occupational backgrounds) as they explore their own non-conforming identities throughout the decades. One of the characters, Courtney, “only fancies black men and is likely going to have mixed-race children, her ‘white privilege’ is, in any case, going to be seriously dented, like at least 50% of it, and it’s incredible in this day and age that she’d never met any black people in the flesh before she came to the university from Dartingford which is entirely white except for three Asians.”

These intertwined, intergenerational and collective experiences raise questions on Black feminism, race, sexuality and gender in Great Britain. As Micha Frazer-Carroll so eloquently said in a review by The Guardian, “For many readers, it’s not a familiar world – this is a Britain less often depicted in fiction. But that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not a world that is possible, and worth celebrating.” This ‘fusion fiction’ novel is a necessary resource for those interested in seeing racial minorities in a different light. 

 

Links to purchase:
Eso Won Books, Los Angeles, CA 
Bookshop.org
Available in-store:
New Beacon Books, London, UK
Sevenoaks Bookshop, Sevenoaks, UK
Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery, Chicago, IL
The Lit. Bar, The Bronx, NY
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, Philadelphia, PA

 

On Understanding White Privilege…

https://www.marieclaire.co.uk/opinion/layla-f-saad-problem-with-race-684765

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor  by Layla F Saad

White women: Are you aware of your white privilege? In Me and White Supremacy, Layla Saad urges readers to realise and understand the plethora of ways in which their unconscious white privilege upholds an oppressive law enforcement system against Blacks. This book helps you to take the necessary action of becoming aware of your own privilege, dismantling biases, and restructuring your day-to-day motives in aid of Black lives. In the preface, Saad advises, “If you go deep, if you tell the real, raw, ugly truths so you can get to the rotten core of your internalized white supremacy, what you get out of this work and put out into the world will be beyond transformational.”

Layla Saad is an East African, Arab, British, Black, Muslim woman who was born and grew up in the West and lives in the Middle East. In addition, she’s a New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author, anti-racism educator, international speaker, and podcast host. Speaking on the internal work that must be done, Saad believes, “there has to be something that’s greater than just pain and shame to motivate this work. You need love, because this work is really hard. And then you need commitment.” Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World is an inherent call to action for white people and a valuable educational resource for creating change within ourselves and our surrounding community

 

Links to purchase:
Eso Won Books, Los Angeles, CA 
Bookshop.org 
Booklove, travelling UK bookstore
 
Available in-store:
The Lit. Bar, The Bronx, NY
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, Philadelphia, PA
Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery, Chicago, IL
Sevenoaks Bookshop, Sevenoaks, UK

 

In today’s media-literate society, it’s important for all of us to take the time to learn from Black literature, support Black female authors and bookstore owners, and take small steps towards creating a more inclusive, diverse culture. Although these reads may be uncomfortable for some, it’s necessary to dismantle our own racial biases and have deep, essential conversations with one another – particularly friends and family. 

Taking small steps that have a large impact is essential to cultivating and continuing a movement. While we educate ourselves, we must commit to doing better every day; because centuries of racism calls for long-term, sustainable change.