Books About Race Recommended by Black Bookstore Owners

As well as protesting and donating, many of us have been reading to learn about race and anti-racism after George Floyd’s death at the hands of police galvanized the fight for equality around the world. We asked five black bookstore owners to suggest some essential reading to help educate ourselves in the battle against racism.


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Shionka McGlory, founder of Mocha Books in Tulsa, Oklahoma, says I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin is “hands down” her recommendation, along with the supporting film directed by Raoul Peck. She says: “It is a piece of work I recommend often because Baldwin shares an actual account of his experience with racism and the civil rights movement. As a black writer within the movement I feel that his words are of great value.”


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Rachela Ladd, manager at Harambee Books and Artworks in Alexandria, Virginia, recommends six books to “lead a constructive dialogue about race and anti-racism.”

Her suggestions are White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo; How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi; The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander; So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo; Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad and How We Fight White Supremacy: A Field Guide to Black Resistance by Akiba Solomon and Kenrya Rankin.


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Paul Fugate, co-owner of Eso Won Books in Los Angeles, California, calls Choke Hold: Policing Black Men by Paul Butler “the best book on race in the last 15 to 20 years.” Butler, a former federal prosecutor, examines the devastating impact of the current criminal justice system on black men.


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Derrick Young, co-founder of Mahogany Books in Washington, DC, recommends What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays by Damon Young. He says: “This book breaks down some of the stereotypes about black men, where the author talks about all of his vulnerabilities, self-esteem issues and how he deals with confronting what the world has told him he is. Black men are dealing with this mask that has been forced on us, and that’s not who we are.” Derrick’s wife and Mahogany Books co-founder Ramunda Young suggests Conversations in Black: On Politics, Power and Leadership by journalist Ed Gordon, who brought together prominent black American voices to discuss the future of black leadership. She says: “This book is a great opportunity to be a fly on the wall in a conversation amongst over 40 different leaders, entertainers and entrepreneurs. People can get a real holistic sense of the topics we engage with all the time.”

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