The recent killing of George Floyd has once again shooked America to its very core. There are riots and looting across cities indicating that the Blacks have had enough. From hundreds of donation drives to signing of petitions to trending hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter on various platforms, the young emerging generation, through more than ever-connected world, has now a good idea of persistent racial discrimination in the United States. We’re also realising that the issue is not restricted to America but is present all over the world, in every country.
Here, TSA recommends you 5 must-read books to widen the horizon of your minds, to further educate yourself on a subject as sensitive as racism, and to know better than just follow headlines. Buy a copy yourself, share with your friends, and learn to learn and unlearn.
1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Simply one of the most profound books ever written on issues surrounding gender and racial discrimination. The book was a literary sensation at its time of release and if you are even a little into books, chances are you might’ve heard of it. It has shaped generations and has helped informed young minds about the persistent racial inequality in the US. Undoubtedly, the very wise Atticus Finch taught me one of my earliest lessons regarding empathy. The book went on to bag a Pulitzer and is widely taught in high schools all over the world. The author has literally blessed us with some inspiring characters to highlight civil rights and racism in the segregated southern United States of the 1930s.
2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This very poignant book deals with a black woman’s struggle to free herself from a position of suppression in a male-dominated society. Apart from the wonderful protagonist Celie, there are many other inspiring women that we come to love by every page that we turn such as Nettie, Sophia, Shug Avery. Each of them must fight their own battle against repression and prejudice, each of them must help themselves and each other. Sometimes funny, most heartbreaking, and yet having a fairytale charm to it, The Color Purple bravely tackles social issues and should be required reading for all, and especially those who still choose to turn a blind eye to the abuses and violence perpetrated on account of sexism and racism.
3. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
This gem of a book by James Baldwin is an angry and sometimes brutal love story set in the Bronx, New York. The tragically beautiful novel follows the lives of Tish who’s 19 and pregnant and her partner, Fonny. Childhood friends, Tish, and Fonny had fallen in love and were busy building a life together. With meagre income and youthful naivety, they were never going to have it easy.
When Fonny is falsely accused of rape by a hate-mongering white cop and thrown into jail, we quickly come to see the picture Baldwin was painting for us that of a racist New York City where the colour of your skin could be crime enough to convict an innocent man of wrongdoing. Through his characters, we feel the authors rage at the considerable injustices of this system, of this time in America and rightly so. Fonny is one of the more fortunate ones though. He has a support system in Tish and her family. Not every young black man had such sustenance. Full of suspense and pain, the short novel brings to life the unbearable human toll of racism in America.
4. Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kandi
I just read this last month and regret not doing so earlier. It has given me so much information that I couldn’t fathom earlier. Kendi here argues that racist ideas in America have had a long and lingering history, one in which every great thinker is complicit. It is very dense, with a lot of information and one should go into it with a thirst for knowledge to learn or unlearn what you think you know and should know about America’s racist past. I loved how the author shed light on racist ideas and at the same time moves on to a more anti-racist society all the while offering tools to expose the breeding hate. The book traces racist ideas from the beginnings of chattel slavery in Africa through its history in the United States. Must read for a beginner.
5. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
“The whites came to this land for a fresh start and to escape the tyranny of their masters, just as the freeman had fled theirs, but the ideals they held up for themselves, they denied others.”
The main character is a young woman slave who hates her missing mother for having escaped when she was a child. A young man plans to escape from the Georgia plantation and invites her to go with him, partly because he thinks shees good luck because of her mother’s escape. The main story becomes one of a cat and mouse game with a brutal slave hunter on their tail. There is a real underground railroad running in tunnels. While on the run, she has a variety of experiences formulated to give us a view into slave life at the time, say the early 1800s. The story portrays the wide variety of abuses that blacks were vulnerable to, the daily abuses, and even the killings of slaves. But it’s not just the story of harsh work-life and evil slave masters, but the hunting down of freed slaves, the lies of masters who promised freedom and then turned their backs. Haunting and deeply personal, this Pulitzer winner will shake you from inside as to why some people don’t have it easy just because of their skin colour.
Also Checkout: Top 5 Book Recommendations By Warren Buffett
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