Widespread protests against police brutality have led many people to ask how they can better understand the systems behind the disparities in our society.
There are dozens of great resources out there. Nerdette host Greta Johnsen and NPR books editor Barrie Hardymon offer a few recommendations of the books they’ve found helpful.
Books for this moment
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Greta Johnsen: This is a book written by a white woman for white people. And it essentially unpacks a lot of the defense mechanisms that we have built for ourselves to avoid talking about the uncomfortable subject that is race and racism, especially in the U.S.
Johnsen: A lot of what I’ve learned has come from sci-fi fantasy authors N.K. Jemisin and Tomi Adeyemi, both of whom have written beautiful series that really helped me understand what racism does through allegory and metaphor — and also quite literally.
How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Johnsen: I kind of feel like that title says it all.
Poetry for this moment
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Barrie Hardymon: Citizen is a book of poems, which are so gorgeously written and also a real eye-opener to some of the issues that Robin DiAngelo talks about. They’re about this idea of how white institutions perpetuate a kind of cheating that is the basis of white supremacy and systemic racism.
Homie by Danez Smith
Hardymon: Those poems — which are about being black, being queer, being other but also very much about friendships and the experience of relating to other human beings — are just so wonderful to read.
Young adult books for this moment
Booked by Kwame Alexander
Hardymon: The thing I really love about his books are: Yes, they have young black protagonists. Yes, racism plays a role in many of his books, and in Booked, too. But they’re also just psychologically realistic fiction for young people about divorce and soccer and getting along with your friends and all of those kinds of things that kids need to read about at any age.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Hardymon: It’s about a young girl during the civil rights movement. And it is another book that takes this protagonist and makes her really live for kids in a way that I think is just unique.
Other summer reads
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Hardymon: It follows two light-skinned, black sisters who are twins. And their lives take extremely different paths. While it is really emotional and is definitely going to be a book that makes you think about race and children and about raising young people, it’s also just really propulsive. Because the way that these sisters lives and their children’s lives intersect, there are real moments where you drop the book and sort of do a gasp, which is the gold standard in reading. Did I have to put the book down in order to get oxygen to my brain? This one has at least two moments like that.
Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory
Hardymon: She is now just truly the queen of romantic fiction. Go get all her books. They’re so lovely.
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
Johnsen: The main character is a plus-size, Instagram influencer, and she loves a trashy reality TV show that’s essentially The Bachelor. And she writes this amazing, epic Twitter takedown one day of all of the reasons why the show is not truly feminist and diverse, and the executive producer of the show decides that she should be the next bachelorette.
It is hot. It is sweet. A lot of it is her just figuring out how to be a vulnerable human being. It’s so deeply satisfying and great.
Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby
Hardymon: This is a real fun mystery. It has some scenes in it that are just so visual, really heart-pounding, heart-thumping. If you are missing going to the movie theater to see something on the big screen, this is the book for you.
The story revolves around the one, can’t-miss, last heist. And it is so good. Take it to the beach. And sit six feet away from people at that beach.
The conversation was lightly edited for clarity and brevity. Press the “play” button to hear the full episode.