Talking to our children about race is difficult on many levels, one being—we sometimes don’t understand exactly how we feel, or what we know ourselves. The adult books listed here will help you fill in the gaps in your understanding and enable you to feel more confident when talking to your children.
Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New Press, 2020.
Michelle Alexander’s book has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists motivated by her unforgettable argument that we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.
Ashley, Bronson Po & Merryman. Nurture Shock New Thinking about Children. Hachette Book Group, 2009.
Nurture Shock offers a revolutionary new perspective on children that upends a library’s worth of conventional wisdom.
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.
Documents the history and origin of the Ku Klux Klan from its beginning in Pulaski, Tennessee, and provides personal accounts, congressional documents, diaries, and more.
Baxley, Traci. Social Justice Parenting: How to Raise Compassionate, Anti-Racist, Justice-Minded Kids in an Unjust World. Harper Wave, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2021.
This book is for parents who want to discuss racial, social, and economic inequities with their young children in a healthy and beneficial way. She defines a “Social Justice Home”–one that is accountable; grounded in the lives, interests, and experiences of each family member; pro-justice and empathetic; reflective and dialogic; and aware that all of us are in process. Baxley theorizes the social justice approach to parenting and offers guidance for turning philosophy into practice.
Colby, Tanner. Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America. Penguin Books, 2013.
Chronicles America’s troubling relationship with race through four interrelated stories: the transformation of a once-racist Birmingham school system; a Kansas City neighborhood’s fight against housing discrimination; the curious racial divide of the Madison Avenue ad world; and a Louisiana Catholic parish’s forty-year effort to build an integrated church.
Derman-Sparks, Louise, and Julie Olsen Edwards. Anti-Bias Education: For Young Children and Ourselves. National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2010.
Becoming a skilled anti-bias teacher/parent is a journey. With this volume’s practical guidance, you’ll grow in your ability to identify, confront, and eliminate barriers of prejudice, misinformation, and bias about specific aspects of personal and social identity. Most important, you’ll find tips for helping children learn to respect each other, themselves, and all people.
Derman-Sparks, Louise, and Patricia G. Ramsey. What If All the Kids Are White?: Anti-Bias Multicultural Education with Young Children and Families. Teachers College Press, 2011.
Two distinguished early childhood educators tackle the crucial topic of what White children need and gain from anti-bias and multicultural education. The authors propose seven learning themes to help young White children resist messages of racism and build identity and skills for thriving in a country and world filled with diverse ways of being. This book includes teaching strategies for early childhood settings, activities for families, reflection questions, a record of 20th- and 21st-century White anti-racism activists, and organizational and website resources.
Derman-Sparks, Louise. Leading Anti-Bias Early Childhood Programs: A Guide for Change. Teachers College, Columbia University, 2015.
Louise Derman-Sparks, renowned expert on anti-bias education, together with experienced early childhood directors Debbie LeeKeenan and John Nimmo, explain the structural and individual changes leaders/parents must foster.
DiAngelo, Robin. Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm. Penguin Books, 2022.
DiAngelo unpacks the social dynamics at play in so-called “nice racism,” exploring common strategies white liberals use to center themselves and maintain their own comfort. Nice Racism offers a road map for white liberals to understand their role in upholding white supremacy, and the tools for those liberals to know and do better.
DiAngelo, Robin, and Alex Tatusian. White Fragility. Public Science, 2016.
Antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to bad people. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.
Hagerman, Margaret A. White Kids: Growing up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America. University Press, 2020.
Riveting stories of how affluent, white children learn about race Hagerman zeroes in on affluent, white kids to observe how they make sense of privilege, unequal educational opportunities, and police violence. In fascinating detail, Hagerman considers the role that they and their families play in the reproduction of racism and racial inequality in America.
Harris-Perry, Melissa V. Sister Citizen Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. Yale University Press, 2014.
Sister Citizen explores how African American women understand themselves as citizens and what they expect from political organizing. Harris-Perry shows that the shared struggle to preserve an authentic self and secure recognition as a citizen links together black women in America.
Harvey, Jennifer. Raising White Kids: Bringing up Children in a Racially Unjust America. Abingdon Pr, 2019.
Raising White Kids is a book for families, churches, educators and communities who want to equip their children to be active and able participants in a society that is becoming one of the most racially diverse in the world while remaining full of racial tensions.
Headlee, Celeste Anne. Speaking of Race: Why Everybody Needs to Talk about Racism–and How to Do It. Harper Wave, 2021.
Celeste Headlee aims to give us the tools to fearlessly discuss race issues across a range of perspectives, developing the empathy we need.
Irving, Debby. Waking up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race. Elephant Room Press, 2018.
For twenty-five years, Debby Irving sensed inexplicable racial tensions in her personal and professional relationships. As a colleague and neighbor, she worried about offending people she dearly wanted to befriend. As an arts administrator, she didn’t understand why her diversity efforts lacked traction. As a teacher, she found her best efforts to reach out to students and families of color left her wondering what she was missing. Then, in 2009, one “aha!” moment launched an adventure of discovery and insight that drastically shifted her worldview and upended her life plan. In Waking Up White, Irving tells her often cringe-worthy story with such openness that readers will turn every page rooting for her-and ultimately for all of us.
McGhee, Heather. Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. Profile Books LTD, 2022.
McGhee posits that U.S. disinvestment in civic infrastructure stems from a zero-sum mindset among white people–that if Black people benefit, white people lose. She travels the country to investigate the impact on public hospitals, parks, and schools.
Noah, Trevor. Born a Crime Stories from a South African Childhood. Cornelsen, 2020.
Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
Obear, Kathy. … But I’m Not Racist!: Tools for Well-Meaning Whites. Difference Press, 2017.
Deepen your Resolve to Live as a Change Agent for Racial Justice. Who would you be if you were no longer afraid someone would call you racist? What impact could you have if you had proven tools and techniques to create greater racial justice in your organization? Kathy shares her own personal struggles and the common challenges many whites face as they work to create more equitable, inclusive organizations.
Phillips, Patrick. Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America. W.W. Norton & Company, 2017.
A gripping tale of racial cleansing in Forsyth County, Georgia and … testament to the deep roots of racial violence in America … Patrick Phillips breaks the century-long silence of his hometown and uncovers a history of racial terrorism that continues to shape America in the twenty-first century.
Reynolds, Jason. Long Way Down. Faber & Faber Children’s, 2021.
As Will, fifteen, sets out to avenge his brother Shawn’s fatal shooting, seven ghosts who knew Shawn board the elevator and reveal truths Will needs to know.
Rothstein, Richard. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Liveright, 2018.
This “powerful and disturbing history” exposes how American governments deliberately imposed racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide.
Stevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. Scribe, 2020.
The founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama recounts his experiences as a lawyer working to assist those desperately in need, reflecting on his pursuit of the ideal of compassion in American justice.
Tatum, Beverly Daniel. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? Penguin Books, 2021.
Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides.
Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. Balzer + Bray, 2018.
After witnessing her friend’s death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter’s life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died.
Union, Gabrielle. We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True. Dey St., 2019.
A powerful collection of essays about gender, sexuality, race, beauty, Hollywood, and what it means to be a modern woman.
Wilkerson, Isabel. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. Thorndike Press, a Part of Gale, a Cengage Company, 2021.
In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings. Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate.
Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. Random House, 2020.
In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America.