From autobiographies on inspirational women to fictional novels set in African tribal nations, reading these books will provide you with a variety of diverse perspectives. Thought-provoking and reflective, these books will lead you to think more deeply about race-related issues and provide an opportunity to connect with a story unlike — or perhaps not so unsimilar to — your own.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
If you haven’t had the chance to read Michelle Obama’s debut memoir, then this summer is definitely the time for you to feel motivated by our former First Lady’s life and legacy. Try listening to it as an audiobook, available on many streaming services, if you’re looking to read it on the go.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This book, which was recently adapted to the big screen, is a powerful read for people of all ages. Don’t let the “Young Adult” label discourage you from picking up this must-read. Not only does the novel delve into heavier subjects like racism and gun violence, but it also tells a heartwarming story about the power of family and community.
More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say) by Elaine Welteroth
The autobiography of a former Teen Vogue editor is a must-read for those uncertain of their journey and path in life. Released in June, “More Than Enough,” discusses the challenges Welteroth faced as a young black woman climbing the ranks of the fashion magazine industry. Under her editorship, Teen Vogue famously transformed from a fashion tabloid to a magazine that reflects the voice of the current generation.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Abeche
Chinua Abeche’s “Things Fall Apart” is revolutionary in that it sheds perspective on African tribal life before the arrival of white colonists. It details the life of an Igbo chieftain named Obi who ruled over his tribe using cultural traditions he had learned from generations of chiefs before him. Towards the end of the book, British forces arrive, and Obi sees the lifestyle they bring erode the culture and fabric of his people.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer and social justice advocate, represented Walter McMillian, a black man from Alabama, who was falsely accused and arrested for the murder of a young white woman. Throughout the book, we learn more about McMillian’s personal life and history as a member of the community in Monroeville, Alabama. “Just Mercy” is ultimately a story of redemption in the face of racial adversity – after spending years on death row, McMillian walks out of prison a free man because of support from lawyers like Stevenson.
Adapted into a Disney movie in 2016, Tim Crothers’s novel follows the story of a young girl named Phiona living in a slum of Uganda called Katwe. Her life is changed once she meets a missionary who teaches her how to play chess. Phiona later competes in chess tournaments and advances to become a top player, lending her the opportunity to escape the slums. An inspirational book for girls everywhere, this novel showcases the story of someone from an impoverished background rising above her circumstances.
Waking Up White: and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
Debby Irving discusses her life growing up in a predominantly white and upper-class suburb of Massachusetts. She details instances in her childhood in which she makes discoveries about race and how she “wakes up” to her own whiteness. Along the way, Irving makes important realizations about white privilege, writing in her introduction: “I thought white was the raceless race — just plain, normal, the one against which all others were measured.” If you are still unsure why race is such an important issue or how American culture privileges whiteness, then this is the book for you.