(Ben the Illustrator)
The current movement against racism and police brutality has sparked an urgent reckoning in support of Black Lives Matter. Statutes are pushed into the sea, CEOs are falling all over themselves to distance their companies from insidious attitudes, and white people espousing racist sentiments are losing jobs faster than Trump’s declining poll numbers.
Almost no industry has been immune from the fallout in reaction to America’s reckoning on racism. Backlash in the publishing world is no different.
Publishers and agents are suddenly on a tear to recognize black writers. More than 1,100 people from the Big Five publishing companies took the day off, participating in a protest and donating their pay to a fundraiser of their choice directed towards fighting white supremacy. The goal was to disrupt a system that has disproportionately showcased the voices of white people, calling to diversify their workplaces and publish more black authors.
Around the world, booksellers and agents share reading lists of black authors, independent stores owned by black booksellers, and offers of help following protests, while the Twitter handle, #PublishingPaidMe, highlighted disparities in book advances between white and black authors.
The fallout from BLM has been swift and merciless. As it should be. Perhaps there is hope that centuries of willful systemic racism will at last be addressed. Perhaps the tide is finally turning to redress the wrongs black people have so long endured.
As I mentioned last time, I need to educate myself to better understand the issues. I hope to learn how we have come to this place in time and, most importantly, how to be better. As a white woman of privilege, I have much to learn.
In this week’s blog, I offer an anti-racist reading list for those interested in educating themselves. This is just a smattering of books on the subject, but a good place to start. Check them out and let me know what you’ve read, what you’d recommend, and your thoughts on the issue.
From the Canadian front, must reads by Black Canadian authors:
Fifteen Dogs - Andre Alexis
Have You Met Nora? - Nicole Blades
What We All Long For - Dionne Brand
The Polished Hoe - Austin Clarke
Half-Blood Blues - Esi Edugyan
The Alchemists of Kush - Minister Faust
Independence - Cecil Foster
Any Known Blood - Lawrence Hill
The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill
Brown Girl in the Ring - Naldo Hopkinson
No Crystal Stair - Mairuth Sarsfield
The Heart Does Not Bend - Makemake Silvera
Frying Plaintain - Zalika Reid-Benita
How She Read - Chantal Gibson
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager - Ben Philippe
Black Writers Matter - Whitney French, editor
Black Like Who? 20th Anniversary Edition - Rinaldo Walcott
The Black Notes: Fresh Writing by Black Women and Girls - Althea Prince, editor
Queer Returns: Essays on Multiculturalism, Diaspora, and Black Studies - Rinaldo Walcott
In the Black: New African Canadian Literature - Althea Prince, editor
Pink Icing and other Stories - Pamela Mordecai
From our friends to the south:
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America - Ibram X. Kendi
How to be an Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi
White Fragility – Robin Diangelo
So You Want to Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo
The Burning House – Anders Walker
The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander
The Condemnation of Blackness – Khalil Gibran Muhammad
Dying of Whiteness – Jonathan M. Metzel
A Different Mirror – Ronald Takaki
Everywhere You Don’t Belong – Gabriel Bump
Between the World & Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
We Were Eight Years in Power – Ta Nehisi Coates
Raising White Kids – Jennifer Harvey
Breathe: A Letter to my Sons – Imani Perry
The Fire This Time – Jesmyn Ward
The Wretched of the Earth – Frantz Fanon
Women, Race & Class – Angela Y. Davis
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
Democracy in Black – Eddie S. Glaude
We Speak for Ourselves – D. Watkins
Stony the Road – Henry Louis Gates
Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria – Beverly Daniel Tatum
The Warmth of Other Suns – Isabel Wilkerson
The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett
Real Life – Brandon Taylor
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice & Redemption – Bryan Stevenson
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot – Mikki Kendall
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
When They Call You a Terrorist – Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Despite denial from a few privileged people in power, Canada is hardly immune. Our colonial past and continued treatment of Indigenous people can’t be ignored. I’ll put out a list of books from these authors soon.
As writer Ijeoma Oluo said, “The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”
To know better, is to do better. After all, if Nascar, the very essence of good ‘ol boy culture, can gain enlightenment, so can we.
Until next time, happy reading!