Monday, June 8, 2020

Reflections Through Reading

It's a secret to a grand total of zero humans how much I love reading and how I look to books for so many things in my world. As I wanted to deepen my understanding and awareness of what's happening in our country around race, I immediately turned to books to begin and continue that journey. 

If you've been around my reviews for awhile, you know I blog in quartets. I felt that it was important right now to not wait until I had four books. Rather I wanted to share what I read initially as I know there are people who look to me for what they could and should be reading.

I share these reads and my perspectives from my own identity as a white woman reading to understand the black experience. You'll also notice I've titled this post as reflections versus reviews,  and I would note that was intentional as my objective in reading this round was different than when I pick up a book most of the time.

I would also note these books are a starting point for me. They are a starting point in that I want and need to read more, and they are also a starting point as I determine actionable steps from here. 

I've also noted below what I have yet to read. I'd welcome the opportunity to process and discuss if anyone is in search of that space. I'd also love additional recommendations of what else I could and should read - I've started with nonfiction, but would love recommendations of fiction, YA, middle grade reads, and/or anything that's especially worth an audiobook listen. 

Here are the first two books I found my way to.

I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown was part memoir, part reflection on a journey, and part exploration of how race and racism truly show up. This book centers the author's journey as a black woman in predominantly white spaces. She reflects on this part of her experience, and she then shares her relationship with her blackness and how this has evolved. She also names how whiteness shows up in problematic and harmful ways, including an exploration of "good" people and "nice" people. What I found powerful in this read was how she named how racism can and does show up. She delineated this from the concept of a racist and refocused on the systemic nature of actions and behaviors. Throughout she named concepts and happenings in a powerful and important way. I found myself highlighting many of her reflections as ones I wanted to return to and reference often. This is also a relatively short read (<200 pages), but in those pages, there is so much emotion in the reflections she offers. Finally, I should note I finished this one just before Reese Witherspoon selected this for her book club. I've not participated in her club at all, but if that's been your jam, I would definitely encourage you to engage as you do for this specific book.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi is the "YA version" of the nonfiction/history text by Ibram X. Kendi. This is my first time trying a YA adaption. I chose to go this route first and foremost because I love the writing of Jason Reynolds. Secondly, I know my own struggles to read nonfiction/history texts, and I felt this was going to allow me to better take in the content. That said, I cannot recommend this version enough. Jason Reynolds is this incredible lyrical writer, and the way he crafts narratives is absolutely masterful. He was clearly writing in a tone for teens, but I was also drawn in by how he made history so accessible and easy to understand. This book is truly from the beginning as the title says in that it begins with the 1400s and goes through the present. The book is then chunked by years and significant happenings. Throughout, this explores historical events that are shared in US History classes, but explains that all is not what it seems by a longshot. In this way, this book is a re-learning of what systems were created, broken down and then re-created in another way. This also looks at policies and their impact - some of which are long, long, long term. Seeing the ongoing connections, threads and proliferations of happenings and people and polices was eye-opening for me to have a better understanding of the roots of systems. This is one I've been recommending to all since reading, and I also plan to buy a copy once it becomes available again. Y'all this should be required reading in US history classes.

So, that's where my reading has started. I'm working my way through Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad. I say "working my way through" as this is a book that explains terms, then asks you to explore your own relationship and experiences through journal prompts. With that, it takes some time, and I appreciate that it forces me to not just read, but engage with the terms and how they show up for me. I've also got a copy of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo to get through. Finally, I'm waiting to receive my copy of So, You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and a volunteer committee I'm on is going to be reading that one together. As I said, if anyone is looking for a processing buddy as you read, you know where to find me.

Onto the next ones!