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Diversifying My Bookshelves

As the newest team member at KWT Global, my first few weeks coincided with arguably the most important social justice movement of our generation. When our leadership team announced we’d be closing the KWT Global offices on Friday, June 12th for an agency-wide day of reflection, education and action in the wake of the global protests against systemic racism and police brutality, I knew exactly how I’d be spending my day: surrounded by books.

Books were my obvious outlet for several reasons. I always have and will be the most avid of readers. Perhaps more importantly, prior to joining KWT I was working in book marketing and publishing–an industry that has undergone an especially large reckoning around race and representation this year. A lack of diversity in publishing is nothing new and leaders in the community have long been calling for reform, but social media movements like #PublishingPaidMe and #BlackoutBestsellerList have given me a snapshot at just how deep-seeded the systemic biases are across the industry, from the disparaging pay gaps for BIPOC authors all the way down to who gets the biggest marketing campaigns.

For so many of us, books are a means of entertainment and an escape from reality. However, they are also a tool for knowledge and education. Looking at my bookshelves with a new critical lens, I saw a clear lack of representation in my own reading habits.

I will never fully understand the Black experience, but I can read the stories of Black Americans. I can listen, unlearn and relearn. I’ve compiled a short list of anti-racist books that have made a profound impact on me and a few that are next on my list–and I hope might reach you too.

5 Impactful Anti-Racism Books to Read Now:

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor  by Layla F. Saad

I had the incredible opportunity of working on the digital marketing campaign for this book launch in January 2020 and it’s been so rewarding to see it top all the bestseller lists. Layla has been championing anti-racism long before it was trending in the news and is one of the best teachers we have on the subject of white supremacy and racial injustice. Me and White Supremacy challenges readers to embark on a journey to do the necessary and vital work to become an ally and improve race relations in our country.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

There’s a reason you’ve seen this book all over Instagram and on top of the New York Times bestseller list for the past three weeksas been all over Instagram & on the top of the NYT bestseller list for the past 3 weeks–because it’s really good at helping readers examine how racism isn’t restricted to only ‘bad people.’ The book explores how the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged maintain racial inequality.

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall

As a feminist, I felt particularly drawn to this incredible work and was far from disappointed. In her collection of essays, Mikki challenges the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement arguing how it’s failed to address the needs of all but a few women. It’s a rousing call to action for feminists everywhere and should be required reading for all.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Full disclosure: I haven’t gotten to read this book yet but it’s next on my list. That said, I’ve heard nothing but glowing reviews about this hard-hitting yet imploring examination of race in America and why it’s for so long it’s been a taboo topic of discussion. If you read and loved it, Ijeoma has a new book publishing later this year so be sure to pre-order your copy as that’s one of the best possible ways to support an author doing this important work.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

This book has been recommended to me more than all of the others combined from my friends in the publishing community. The book has a good cover and a great title–so great you might have been taken aback when you first read it. The goal of this book is to  provoke discussion and is essential reading for anyone who is invested in social justice and the state of our society.

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