With the recent events on campus and the overall current political climate, it is important to not only stay informed about what is going on, but also to continue to expand your own world views and perspectives. One avenue to achieve that is through reading, as books offer some of the deepest, most thought-provoking meditations on issues like race, politics, and inequality. To get you started, here are five books that will change the way you see the world.
Claudia Rankine, Citizen
If you haven’t read Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, you’re missing out. Written in 2014, Rankine tackles racial aggressions and ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century life and media. The form alternates between different types of prose and poetry, and includes multimedia artworks and visual images to discuss racial injustice. Rankine covers everything from events as large as racist stereotyping of tennis star Serena Williams’s behavior on the court to everyday microaggressions. Insightful and profound, Citizen will open your eyes to both the large and small impacts of racism within our society.
Alice Goffman, On the Run
While many of us have heard about the rising incarceration rates in the US, often this knowledge is not understood through a personal or first hand account. This is exactly what you get in Goffman’s book, which follows Goffman, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, as she spends six years living in an impoverished urban neighborhood in Philadelphia. Goffman absorbs the culture of this neighborhood, and writes about the extremely detrimental effects of the prison system from a view on the inside. She exposes the inner workings and culture of this “surveillance state” community, which is ruled by fear of the police. Arrest quotas and high tech surveillance criminalize entire communities, and transform all areas of family and community life. Her book is a very interesting anthropological account of the American prison system and its many failures, as the reader feels as if they themselves are a part of this community.
Tamara Winfrey Harris, The Sisters are Alright
The Sisters Are Alright works to change the broken narrative surrounding black girls and women within the US. It confronts stereotypes that black women face, exposing propaganda that has been supported through mainstream media and culture. Harris discusses everything from marriage, to motherhood, to health, to sexuality, to beauty. Her work dispels these stereotypes, challenging and overcoming these prejudices.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
Coates’s book has gained much acclaim, labeled as “required reading” by Toni Morrison and climbing to the top spot on the New York Times best-seller list. In his book, Coates writes a letter to his young son in an attempt to answer some of the biggest questions surrounding the history of racism and the current status of race in America. Coates shares his own experiences with race, and his awakening to the truth about his place in the world. His work combines personal narrative with past events, and beautifully weaves them together.
NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names
We Need New Names is a wonderfully raw book about the trials of what it means to be different from those around you. Written by Cornell MFA grad NoViolet Bulawayo, the book is told from the viewpoint of Darling, a ten year old girl who must navigate her increasingly violent and unstable Zimbabwean community as a result of colonial intervention. Political unrest forces Darling to move and live with her aunt in America, where her expectations of what America would be and what it actually is are very different. The viewpoint of a young girl creates a narrative filled with innocence, as it is both comical and heartbreaking to view the world from her eyes.
The most important way to be involved is to stay educated – and these five books are a great place to start.