• Lucy Irwin

What I'm Reading to Become a Better Ally

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

This summer is a learning experience for a lot of White people, and with the global pandemic, we all have a lot more time to read and reflect. So, I have compiled a list of books that I’ve read/am reading that are helping me shape my thought process around being a better White ally.

Educating yourself is a key to becoming a better ally and a better, more empathetic person in general, and it is certainly a privilege to be able to read books about racism instead of experiencing it. Reading the right stuff is one crucial step in an ongoing process that also requires getting involved in other ways like donating money and joining your community in protest.

It's also important to note that becoming a better ally is an ongoing process-- seeking out and engaging in matters of social justice and human rights is a choice that has to be made again and again!

Publication year: 2019

Thick by Tressie Cottom

(Nonfiction/Sociology/ Essays/Memoir)

272 pages

When I began putting together this list, this is the first book that came to mind. I read this for a sociology seminar on social stratification and it’s one of my All Time Favorite Books. Written in plain, to-the-point language, Cottom challenges the highfalutin academic writing standards and opts for a boldly frank tone. This intense, funny, and raw read is a collection of essays that detail Cottom’s life as a Black woman in postmodern America. She unpacks the biases of the capitalist beauty industry, the medical community, the struggles of Black women in academia, and more.

Publication year: 2015

Between the World and Me

by Tanehisi Coates

(Nonfiction/ Autobiography/ Memoir)

256 pages

A powerful letter from father to son that lays out the painful truth of what it is to grow up in America from Black child to Black man. Coates writes of the fear and threat of police brutality, having to work twice as hard to get half as far, and the dysfunctional distribution of power and wealth in America. The lines of fatherly advice and loving guidance are a testament to America’s grim reality. Not only does the author leave the reader with a powerful narrative of how family, education, and social surroundings shape people, but even more he demonstrates how critically different these formative experiences and environments are for Black people.

Publication year: 2010

The New Jim Crow

by Michelle Alexander

(Nonfiction/History/ Politics/Sociology)

290 pages

This book illustrates how the American justice system in America is built to discriminate against Black people. Alexander lays out a clear parallel between the way that Jim Crow laws controlled and subjugated the Black community and the way that modern mass incarceration does the same. Her assessment of the war on crime is backed by historical analysis and is an enlightening investigation of the complicity of the American legal system in institutional racism.

Publication year: 2015

Don’t Touch My Hair

by Emma Dabiri

(Nonfiction/History/ Politics)

256 pages

Irishwoman Emma Dabiri draws from her own life as a mixed woman in Dublin (her father is Nigerian and her mother Irish) in this blend of historical analysis and sociological writing. As the title suggests, much of the book discusses the cultural and social history of how Black and African cultures value their hair and the social meaning of tradition, appearance, and difference. Dabiri's brilliant and accessible writing gives her readers access to game-changing ideas on the race and gender- based oppression embedded in our society, now and then.

Publication year: 2018

White Fragility

by Robin DiAngelo

(Nonfiction/Social Justice/Antiracist)

192 pages

In this book, sociologist DiAngelo sets out to address every facet of White fragility, guilt, and shame. She unwaveringly lays out the ways in which-- and the reasons why-- White people in general tend to be so unbelievably bad at talking about racism. From White solidarity, or the excuses White people tend to make for the racist behavior of White people, to the “Colorblind” argument, this book takes a methodical and hard-eyed look at some ugly inner truths White people hold and fear acknowledging as their own. Perhaps a bitter pill to swallow, this book is an essential guide to understanding the hidden ways in which White people uphold the racist superstructures of our society on a day to day basis.

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