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Books to Deepen Our Understanding of the Black Experience in America

Books on how to be actively anti-racist and a better ally
Posted at 11:05 AM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 08:40:26-04

Lots of people are reading important and necessary books right now about how to be an anti-racist and how white people can be allies in the Black Lives Matter Movement. Joining us to share different books that help build bridges and create better allies is Author and English Professor Carole Barrowman and The Assistant Director of Student Success at Alverno College Tifene Brown.

1. "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration" by Isabel Wilkerson - Tifene's family was part of the Great Migration, so this book is particularly meaningful to her. Wilkerson’s book made many Books of the Decade lists last year and it won the Pulitzer Prize when it first came out. It chronicles the great migration north of Blacks from the South between 1920-1970. It’s a migration that changed America’s landscape and yet many people don’t know much about it.

2. "Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America" by Candacy Taylor - This book explores group economics and travel in the black community, particularly the use of the Green Book. Taylor is an award-winning author, photographer and cultural documentarian. According to the official website for the Overground Railroad book, Taylor is working on a multidisciplinary project based on the Green Book.

3. "Citizen" by Claudia Rankine - Sometimes poets are our best philosophers. Rankine explores the pervasiveness of racism in our culture in this compassionate lyrical poem, challenging us to change the way we live and think about what it means to be an American citizen. Part essay, poetry, and image, it’s a meditation on racism in small details and big cultural moments, from the challenges Selena Williams has faced on the tennis court to subtle incidents in a grocery story. Citizen won many of the most acclaimed literary awards when it was published in 2014, and is even more relevant and urgent right now.

4. Toni Morrison’s "Song of Solomon" - I’m suggesting this book because it’s often overlooked [The Bluest Eye is taught widely in high schools and Oprah Winfrey championed Beloved]. Song of Solomon is the first Morrison novel I taught and it remains in my top five favorite novels of all time. Morrison was the first black woman to win the Novel Prize for literature in 1993 and any of her novels bring readers into a rich Black experience. Her characters are diverse and she is often inverting cultural myths and fables in her stories. Song of Solomon partners nicely with The Warmth of Other Suns because it’s a coming of age story that takes Milkman Dead in the opposite direction from the Great Migration. He travels to the South from the North to find family.