Former President Barack Obama recommended many books during his two-term presidency. Business Insider culled through his top picks and found 21 titles that deal directly with race relations. Thanks to Margarite Ward who wrote the article. This adds more books to my I-need-to-read list.
“Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson
In this young adult read comprised of seven poems, Woodson shares her story of what it was like growing up African American in an era where Jim Crow’s effects could still be felt and the Civil Rights movement was growing.
“American Prison” by Shane Bauer
In 2014, journalist Shane Bauer took a job as a prison guard at a private prison in Louisiana for an undercover article that would spark a national conversation on for-profit prisons. In “American Prison,” Bauer digs deeper, explaining private prisons and their role in a post-slavery US.
“Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Du Bois
“The Souls of Black Folk” by Du Bois, a historian, a civil rights activist, and sociologist, is a crucial work of African American literary history and sociology.
“Finding My Voice” by Valerie Jarrett
In this memoir, the former Obama senior adviser, documents her decades-long relationship with Michelle and Barack Obama, from interviewing a young Michelle for a job in Chicago to becoming the couple’s trusted political go-to and confidante.
“In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History” by Mitch Landrieu
The mayor of New Orleans , who removed multiple Confederate statues from the city, talks about racism in the US and argues for white Americans to confront the country’s past.
I certainly don’t compare myself to the former President in terms of understanding but I would like to add three books to this list that have contributed to my education:
"Waking up White and finding myself in the story of race" by Debby Irving
by Warren Bull
Debby’s honest and unflinching story of how her best efforts to understand the gulf between the races reminded me of my own stumbling attempts and my unknown assumptions that interfered with my understanding. I cringed and laughed, recognizing my errors and my formerly unacknowledged privileges as a white male.
“The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander
By Warren Bull
Michelle Alexander’s scholarly and searing work describes how the caste system of race still exists in the US criminal justice system. Her information about differences in how drugs are viewed by lawmakers when 0ne is primarily abused by whites and another is mostly associated with black is just one example of the way a permanent underclass is brought into existence within our allegedly “colorblind” society.
“Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
By Warren Bull
J.D. Vance wrote the story of his family that gives a picture of the white working class without condescension or idolization. He talked about strengths and weaknesses of an often-invisible section of the nation. When I read it, I thought to myself of people I have known who live in the situations he described and who behaved in a manner that made no sense to me. I am grateful for his honesty and courage.