Last month, a parade of politicians, commentators, and parody decorated the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Now that the spotlight is elsewhere, our Twitter book club @1book140 is taking a month to discuss race in the United States.
Our vote has been compiled from suggestions by writers, entrepreneurs, and comedians who talk about race: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Latoya Peterson, Baratunde Thurston, and Katelin Hansen. Read more about their work below.
Voting closes Monday at noon, Eastern time. After the vote, I'll announce the results and post a schedule here at The Atlantic and on our Twitter hashtag, #1book140.
Vote on Books About Race in the United States:
"Stupendous," writes Ta-Nehisi about The Warmth of Other Suns by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson. It's the story of six million African Americans who migrated away from the former confederate states in the 20th century. Wilkerson's book compares this migration to European immigration, showcasing Americans' "heroic determination to roll the dice for a better future," according to David Oshinsky in the New York Times.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander is Katelin's pick. This book argues that the criminal justice system in the United States has created the equivalent of a caste system. NPR's Fresh Air summarizes the book: "millions of blacks arrested for minor crimes remain marginalized and disfranchised, trapped by a criminal justice system that has forever branded them as felons and denied them basic rights and opportunities." A strongly argued book, it's not all intellect; Alexander keeps the style lively with stories and personal anecdotes.
I'm ignoring Baratunde's fantastic recommendations because his 2012 book How to Be Black is very funny and should be on this list. Part memoir, part satirical user manual, How to Be Black will teach you how to tell how black you are, how to be the black friend, and how to be a black employee. Don't let the title deceive you; the book is for white people too. If we vote for this one, make sure to read it on public transportation.
One treasure of reading is its capacity to expose us to diverse experiences. Colonize This! edited by Daisy Hernandez and S. Bushra Rehman, is a collection of personal essays about feminism by young women of color. "Race is never just about race—it's a social construct that has to be navigated on multiple levels," writes Latoya, who suggested it. The essays include a variety of racial identities and genders, including Sri-Lankan, queer, African American, South Asian Muslim, and Pakistani voices .
About the Contributors
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a senior editor at The Atlantic and author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.