January Virtual Book Discussion: Social Injustice and Antiracist Books

Throughout the month of January
For adults and older teens

To celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and to prepare for Black History Month, let’s read about civil rights and discuss. Choose a book, fiction or nonfiction, which covers a topic such as race or social injustice. This post serves as our discussion thread for you to post which book you read and what you learned. You may also reply to other’s comments with your own thoughts. Any offensive comments will not be approved.

Need some book recommendations? Here is a list to get you started. Click on the title to view the item in our catalog.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston (also on Hoopla)
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (also on Hoopla)
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (also available on Hoopla)
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi (Young Adult)
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

5 thoughts on “January Virtual Book Discussion: Social Injustice and Antiracist Books

  1. Doblecki

    I am reading “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson on my Kindle.
    I’m only a third through the book. it is nonfiction and describes the establishment of castes in different societies with emphasis on India and particularly the US. The establishment of castes in the US begins in 1619 with the arrival of African Americans as property for the wealthy landowners. They are not even included in the first Census over a 100 years later as they are not considered individuals.
    It’s a compelling, well researched book by the author.

  2. Sylvia Baird

    Thank you for the reviews. I am currently reading the Coldest Winter Ever by Sista Souljah. A book recommended by my daughter who hates to read lol. One Souljah’s older works but I believe she has another coming out soon.

  3. Marjorie Winslow

    Thank you. Interesting review. Will try to get a copy of book. Have lots of time to read.

  4. Marj

    “The Outer Banks” by Diann Ducharme takes place several years after the Civil War, 1863, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was an interesting read for me since I had vacationed in a town named Duck in the Outer Banks several summers ago.

    The main character is a sheltered, bright young teenager named Abigail Sinclair. The Sinclair family (five members plus three black slaves) has left their plantation in Edenton to vacation in the family’s newly built summer cottage on the ocean in the town of Nags Head. Most of the story takes place at the cottage and Roanoke Island’s Freedmen’s Colony where blacks had a settlement.

    The story begins with Abigail, per request of her parents, to teach a local man, Benjamin, who serves as her father’s fishing/hunting guide, to read and write. During the hours of tutoring, unbeknownst to her family, the couple become romantically close. However, Abigail has been promised to an upcoming medical doctor from Edenton.

    During the summer months, Ben takes Abigail on numerous scouting trips. The trip to the Freedmen’s county of black folks sparked an interest to her. During this time she learned the need for a teacher. Until then, the Preacher Elijah was teaching the children afternoons as parents were working.

    Abigail, being a strong-minded young teen decided to take it upon herself this enormously needy task. Due to the necessity to keep it secret from family, she planned to teach both children and adults in late evening. It was on one of these trips, that the class was visited by men dressed in red robes with masks and horns. Unknown to Abigail, she learned that Ben had identified the pastor to her father by a branded B on his shoulder. To Abigail’s surprise, anger, fear one of the men was her father. These men were racists followers of the KKK. Their mission being to kill the pastor for a misdeed (the murder of his owners). The school panicked, pastor removed and murdered.

    It was after this time that Abigail and her mother became close. Her mother, a lover of books, encouraged her to continue the teaching and traveled with her to Roanoke. Since the summer was ending and Abigail would be leaving, she promised the Freedmen’s a teacher and supplies.

    Returning to the cottage, Abigail is visited by Ben’s father. He takes her to see what Ben has been doing—that of building a one-room cottage with porch, view of the ocean and hammock. Abigail is a lost for words. Ben appears and need I say more.

    More that 150 years later and our country is struggling with BLACK

  5. Elaine

    I read The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. I chose this book because it has been on the New York Times bestseller list for weeks and it seems to be well-liked. I also wanted to choose a fiction book because I usually read nonfiction. This is a novel that follows the lives of two twin girls, so light-skinned black they can pass as white. As children, their father is murdered by a group of white men. They run away from home as teenagers and have vastly differing adult lives. One twin, Desiree, marries a very dark-skinned black man, while the other, Stella, pretends to be white and marries a white man. Stella takes care to make sure she is never found by her old family because she is terrified of being discovered to be a black woman.
    This novel brings in the theme of identity not only with race, but it has characters that embody the idea of becoming another person. There is a drag queen, a transgendered man, and an actress. Reading about these characters made me think: do you choose your own identity, or is it something chosen for you? Can you truly become another person, and what makes you another person: your race, your family, your social standing, your gender? Stella did change her racial identity but at what cost? She is always looking over her shoulder to make sure the truth never comes out. If she had a family she could be honest with, she would have a better support network and ultimately would have probably led a more relaxed life. Desiree, who as an adult goes back to live with her mother, seems to have a more fulfilled life even though she ends up back at the place she ran away from. Her daughter also seems happier and more grounded than Stella’s daughter, who is constantly questioning her mother’s lies and grappling with the idea of who she is.
    I felt this was an important read, especially for someone who is white, to help see what it feels like to be defined by race alone. As transgendered people become more prominently featured in our media, I liked that the novel included a transgendered character since as a cis-gendered woman I had no concept of what it must feel like to have a body that doesn’t match you. The novel is mostly character-driven instead of plot-driven but it doesn’t feel slow at all. I enjoyed reading it.
    Has anyone else read this book? I’d be curious to know what you thought!

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