Take even a cursory look at my profile picture and you can see I’m a white woman. What you might not know is that I’m a member of a transracial family. In the past few years, being a part of this family has profoundly enriched, challenged and transformed my previous, homogenous life. I’ve made it a point not to talk much about my family in my professional life; I respect and protect their privacy. But know that being a part of this family has made me the writer and the reader I am today.
One of the reasons I read is to learn about the world. To explore different perspectives, to understand how the past shapes the present, to see things through other eyes and other experiences. I write to make sense of the world as I continue to explore it. Reading (and writing) about race has been one of the bigger ways I’ve sought to understand how the past has informed my present family, as well as to chart the issues and opportunities that lie ahead.
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy, I’m sharing a few of the books that have influenced and informed me over the past few years.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Michelle Alexander.
- I was
obsessing overtalking with friends about Netflix’s Making a Murderer. “It will make you so angry,” one of my friends said, “so be prepared for that.” “I’m guessing it will make me at least as angry as reading The New Jim Crow,” I answered. So be prepared. And be prepared to talk about reforming the criminal justice system.
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Powerful, searing, complex and personal. I know it’s a book I will return to again and again over the coming years, as so many of the questions Coates raises are ones that affect my family.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration – Isabel Wilkerson
- I read this book over a series of summer afternoons as I lounged on my front porch. It is riveting. I don’t usually read nonfiction, but I couldn’t put this down. I also learned how little Black history I learned in school. Books like these are even more important, considering those embarrassing gaps in our educational system, at least the ones of the mid 80s & 90s.
- I do read a lot of fiction and have been intentionally reading a diverse set of authors in the past years. I also traditionally read a lot of speculative fiction – I’m a huge Octavia Butler fan and am currently devouring N. K. Jemisin‘s The Fifth Kingdom. This anthology offers a beautiful collection of stories from voices that have traditionally been ignored and forgotten.
These are just a few favorites. What are others to add to the list?