What are the best anti-racism books ever released? We are now experiencing a time when tragedy and injustice seem to be everywhere.
A call to indignation and action is warranted by the wrongful killings of Brianna Taylor, George Floyd, Elijah McClain, and many more at the hands of racist, unregulated institutions in the United States.
It is our duty as citizens and readers to force ourselves to read. This list was curated with a focus on providing a platform for eloquent voices from underrepresented populations to discuss the realities and stresses of being a minority in the United States.
Please read carefully and attentively; your attention is appreciated.
Citizen, Rankine’s sixth poetry collection, feels like the work of a poet who has her finger on the pulse.
Rankine focuses on race and the creative process, probing the revolutionary possibilities of poetically expressing the lived Black experience via a documentarian’s eye.
These poems have been compared to Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” suggesting that Citizen, one of the best anti-racism books, has the potential to become another seminal work in American poetry.
2. Heaviness Is Heavy
As Laymon said, “the more abusive portions of our country compulsively disregard yesterday while trading in potential,” he identified the issue at the heart of the American imagination long before debates emerged about the usefulness or even the questionable motives of antiracist reading lists.
Heavy, one of the best anti-racism books, doesn’t give its readers the luxury of willful ignorance, as I recalled that we got here by refusing to honestly remember together.
Laymon is a bright voice that begs for concentration due to the beauty of his words, even apart from the weight of the knowledge it conveys.
3. If Beale Street Could Talk
The longer time passes, the more valid Baldwin’s research and fiction become, and this is particularly true today.
Young Black couple Fonny and Tish are chasing their love story in Harlem in the newly adapted film If Beale Street Could Talk, directed by Barry Jenkins, and also one of the best anti-racism books.
However, their world is shattered when Fonny is wrongfully convicted of rape. Baldwin vividly illustrates the ripple effect of a single vicious charge, the suffering it causes across society, and the tremendous human ability to love one another through overwhelming adversity.
4. Sister Outsider
If you’ve recently seen the tweet “the master’s tools will never deconstruct the master’s home,” it’s time to pay tribute to Audre Lorde, a Black feminist thinker who continuously raises the bar for creative expression and scholarly achievement.
Like the title suggests, the pieces in Sister Outsider are mostly concerned with the author’s perspective as an outcast.
Lorde is a must-read for any budding scholar interested in social justice and self-awareness because of the simplicity and clarity with which she examines the interconnected social circumstances of race, class, sexuality, age, and ability.
5. The New Jim Crow
Followers of Ava DuVernay’s 13th will recognize Michelle Alexander. The notion that slavery ended in the United States with the Emancipation Proclamation has been stripped away as The New Jim Crow examines the evolving nature of American institutionalized racism.
Alexander, using legal, historical, and sociological analyses, debunks common misconceptions about the American justice system and confirms its role in producing the new prison population. The New Jim Crow has proven to be one of the best anti-racism books in this collection.
6. The Color of Law
The color of Law is also one of the best anti-racism books ever released. The effects of certain of FDR’s initiatives continue to have a negative impact on society even if his reputation portrays him as one of the most progressive American presidents.
Redlining is the systematic denial of government services, and this book tracks the repercussions of that rejection, primarily as they pertain to homeownership and the availability of mortgage loans and insurance.
As most Americans’ wealth is tied to their homes, Rothstein provides a devastating study of the areas that were denied the benefits of federally guaranteed loans during the Depression market collapse on the basis of race, resulting in a housing and wealth imbalance that continues to this day.
7. The Warmth of Other Suns
In her book, “The Color of Water,” Isabel Wilkerson, the first Black woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism, chronicles the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North of the United States between 1916 and 1970.
Wilkerson lifts the curtain on this massive migration, which is mostly unknown, by using the first-person accounts of genuine individuals who set out to build new lives for themselves throughout the vast landscape of this nation.
Come for the detailed tales of grit and tenacity, and stay for the deep immersion in the concept of home.
8. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Accountability
The United States is now experiencing a reckoning regarding white supremacy, and this process is reflected in more complex discussions of race and class than can be reduced to a simple dichotomy.
Foregrounding how Asian Americans’ status keeps them both displaced and used as pawns within a wider war controlling the boundaries and barriers of whiteness, Cathy Park Hong explains the precarious position of Asian Americans in America:
According to her, “Asian Americans inhabit a vague purgatorial status, distrusted by African Americans, ignored by whites unless we’re being used by whites to keep the black man down.”
9. Fighting for Our Lives
Saeed Jones is a talented multi-instrumentalist who can completely devastate you with only a few lines. Critics had dismissed Jones’s concept of publishing a memoir at such a young age.
With his creativity, it is no surprise that Fighting For our Lives is listed among the best anti-racism books in this article.
Despite this, his depiction of his life as a black homosexual man in a society and neighborhood predisposed to reject him left them speechless. To read Jones is to be equally held awake by the strength of his words; don’t miss it.
10. American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin
Hayes, in a collection of poems published following Donald Trump’s election as president, utilizes the constraints of the poetry form to release his anguish and indignation over the numerous ways in which violence threatens Black males in the United States.
Hayes flips among lynch mobs, white ladies with cameras, and even himself as potential assassins in this nation during the course of these tightly wrapped sonnets.
These poems seethe with inquiries and burble into deep realizations, demonstrating the author’s mastery of compressing lyric tensions: “You are lovely with your melancholy, / You would be more beautiful without your dread.”
11. Don’t Say We’re Dead
Danez Smith doesn’t spare the rod. An influential figure in the American spoken word scene, Smith, has a grasp of the English language matched only by the depth of feeling conveyed in their own personal stories.
A winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, Smith’s work demands your attention for its vitality — by no means is their verse dead in any way. So it is just natural that his book, Don’t Say We’re Dead, is one of the best anti-racism books released by Danez Smith.
Their poems cover a wide range of topics, from police brutality to HIV/AIDS positivity, often blending elements of both to describe their lived experience under both conditions.
- By Tressie McMillan Cottom
Cottom’s essays occupy a middle ground between personal nonfiction and rigorous scholarship, and they excel at both. The reader’s mind is constantly being flooded with emotional truths and encyclopedic knowledge.
Cottom spouts facts that refuse to appease any detractors inside or outside of her communities, whether they be related to the politics of beauty and race or the difficulties of OB/GYN care for Black women. Thick is also one of the best anti-racism books authored by Tressie McMillan Cotton.
You can find Cottom on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus or online if you want to learn anything in the method that seems most natural to you, like having a conversation with a great professor over coffee while picking up some of their pearls of wisdom.