Books and Articles
The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.
The incredible life story of Haben Girma, the first Deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School, and her amazing journey from isolation to the world stage. Haben defines disability as an opportunity for innovation. She learned non-visual techniques for everything from dancing salsa to handling an electric saw. She developed a text-to-braille communication system that created an exciting new way to connect with people. Haben pioneered her way through obstacles, graduated from Harvard Law, and now uses her talents to advocate for people with disabilities. (Twelve Books)
Acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted the expansion of the US empire. Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative. (Penguin Random House)
Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. Jeffrey C. Stewart offers the definitive biography of the father of the Harlem Renaissance, based on the extant primary sources of his life and on interviews with those who knew him personally. He narrates the education of Locke, including his becoming the first African American Rhodes Scholar and earning a PhD in philosophy at Harvard University, and his long career as a professor at Howard University. (Pulitzer Prize website)
Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize - History. In this remarkable biography, David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historians have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’s newspapers. Blight tells the fascinating story of Douglass’s two marriages and his complex extended family. Douglass was not only an astonishing man of words, but a thinker steeped in Biblical story and theology. (Simon & Schuster)
Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir is, at its core, a mother-daughter story. The mother, Elvira, was hired out as a child, along with her siblings, by their own father to pick cotton in California’s Imperial Valley. The daughter, Cherríe Moraga, is a brilliant, pioneering, queer Latina feminist. The story of these two women, and of their people, is woven together in an intimate memoir of critical reflection and deep personal revelation. (Macmillian)
ABOUT GOOD TALK A bold, wry, and intimate graphic memoir about American identity, interracial families, and the realities that divide us, from the acclaimed author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing. (Penguin Random House)
In Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Umoja Noble challenges the idea that search engines like Google offer an equal playing field for all forms of ideas, identities, and activities. Data discrimination is a real social problem; Noble argues that the combination of private interests in promoting certain sites, along with the monopoly status of a relatively small number of Internet search engines, leads to a biased set of search algorithms that privilege whiteness and discriminate against people of color, specifically women of color. (NYU Press)
SOLITARY: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement. My Story of Transformation and Hope |By Albert Woodfox with Leslie George (NonFiction)
Remarkably self-aware that anger or bitterness would have destroyed him in solitary confinement, sustained by the shared solidarity of two fellow Panthers, Albert Woodfox turned his anger into activism and resistance. The Angola 3, as they became known, resolved never to be broken by the grinding inhumanity and corruption that effectively held them for decades as political prisoners. He survived to give us Solitary, a chronicle of rare power and humanity that proves the better spirits of our nature can thrive against any odds. (Grove Atlantic)
Good Kids. Bad City - A Story of Race and Wrongful Conviction in America | By Kyle Swenson (NonFiction)
rom award-winning investigative journalist Kyle Swenson, Good Kids, Bad City is the true story of the longest wrongful imprisonment in the United States to end in exoneration, and a critical social and political history of Cleveland, the city that convicted them. (Macmillan Publishers)
Autism in Heels - The Untold Story of a Female Life on the Spectrum| By Jennifer Cook O'Toole (NonFiction)
At the age of thirty-five, Jennifer was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, and for the first time in her life, things made sense. Now, Jennifer exposes the constant struggle between carefully crafted persona and authentic existence, editing the autism script with wit, candor, passion, and power. Her journey is one of reverse-self-discovery not only as an Aspie but—more importantly—as a thoroughly modern woman. (Skyhorse Publishing)
The Color of Success Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority | By Ellen D. Wu (NonFiction)
The Color of Success tells of the astonishing transformation of Asians in the United States from the "yellow peril" to "model minorities"--peoples distinct from the white majority but lauded as well-assimilated, upwardly mobile, and exemplars of traditional family values--in the middle decades of the twentieth century. (Princeton University Press)
Accounting for Slavery is a unique contribution to the decades-long effort to understand New World slavery’s complex relationship with capitalism. Through careful analysis of plantation records, Assistant Professor of History at UC Bekeley Caitlin Rosenthal explores the development of quantitative management practices on West Indian and Southern plantations. She shows how planter-capitalists built sophisticated organizational structures and even practiced an early form of scientific management.
The quintessential story of what it means to be the first generation to live two lives across one border, The House of Broken Angels is Pulitzer Prize finalist Luis Alberto Urrea’s unforgettable portrait of the De La Cruz family as they celebrate the lives of two of their most beloved members over the course of one raucous and bittersweet weekend. (Little, Brown and Company)
In this powerful and provocative memoir, genre-bending essayist and novelist Kiese Laymon explores what the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a black body, a black family, and a nation teetering on the brink of moral collapse. (Schribner
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America From 1890 to Present | By David Treuer (Ojibwe) Nonfiction
In The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, Treuer melds history with reportage and memoir. Beginning with the tribes' devastating loss of land and the forced assimilation of their children at government-run boarding schools, he shows how the period of greatest adversity also helped to incubate a unifying Native identity.
Jenny Xie’s award-winning debut, Eye Level, takes us far and near, to Phnom Penh, Corfu, Hanoi, New York, and elsewhere, as we travel closer and closer to the acutely felt solitude that centers this searching, moving collection. Animated by a restless inner questioning, these poems meditate on the forces that moor the self and set it in motion, from immigration to travel to estranging losses and departures. (Graywolf Press)
Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to the NMAI | By Dean Rader (NonFiction)
Profusely illustrated with more than one hundred images, this is the first book that focuses on how Native Americans have used artistic expression to both engage with and resist Anglo culture while asserting deeply held ethical values. (University of Texas Press)
Winner of the 2017 Pultizer Prize for Poetry. Part fact, part fiction, Jess's much anticipated second book weaves sonnet, song, and narrative to examine the lives of mostly unrecorded African American performers directly before and after the Civil War up to World War I. Olio is an effort to understand how they met, resisted, complicated, co-opted, and sometimes defeated attempts to minstrelize them.
In gripping essays, Bayoumi exposes how contemporary politics, movies, novels, media experts and more have together produced a culture of fear and suspicion that not only willfully forgets the Muslim-American past, but also threatens all of our civil liberties in the present. (NYU Press)
For Francisco Cantú, the border is in the blood: his mother, a park ranger and daughter of a Mexican immigrant, raised him in the scrublands of the Southwest. Driven to understand the hard realities of the landscape he loves, Cantú joins the Border Patrol. Plagued by a growing awareness of his complicity in a dehumanizing enterprise, he abandons the Patrol for civilian life. But when an immigrant friend travels to Mexico to visit his dying mother and does not return, Cantú discovers that the border has migrated with him, and now he must know the full extent of the violence it wreaks, on both sides of the line. (Penguin Random House)
First published in 1903, this collection of 15 essays dared to describe the racism that prevailed at that time in America—and to demand an end to it. Du Bois’ writing draws on his early experiences, from teaching in the hills of Tennessee, to the death of his infant son, to his historic break with the conciliatory position of Booker T. Washington.
The Round House won the National Book Award for fiction. Transporting readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota, this exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family. (Harper Colins Publisher)
Eula Biss explores race in America through the experiences chronicled in these essays—teaching in a Harlem school on the morning of 9/11, reporting from an African American newspaper in San Diego, watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina from a college town in Iowa, and rereading Laura Ingalls Wilder in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. What she reveals is how families, schools, communities, and our country participate in preserving white privilege. (Graywolf Press)
A newly published (2018) work from the author of the American classic Their Eyes Were Watching God. In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, just outside Mobile, to interview 86-year-old Cudjo Lewis. Of the millions of men, women, and children transported from Africa to America as slaves, Cudjo was then the only person alive to tell the story of this integral part of the nation’s history. Hurston was there to record Cudjo’s firsthand account of the raid that led to his capture and bondage fifty years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the U.S. (Harper Collins).
Finkel tells the story of the men of 2-16 Infantry Battalion as they reintegrate "as they return home from the front-lines of Baghdad and struggle to reintegrate--both into their family lives and into American society at large."
Winner of the 2019 PEN/Hemingway Award. Jacquie Red Feather and her sister Opal grew up together, relying on each other during their unsettled childhood. As adults they were driven apart, but Jacquie is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. That’s why she is there. Dene is there because he has been collecting stories to honour his uncle's death. Edwin is looking for his true father. Opal came to watch her boy Orvil dance. All of them are connected by bonds they may not yet understand. (Penguin Books)
This book is about lying and being forced to lie to get by; about passing as an American and as a contributing citizen; about families, keeping them together, and having to make new ones when you can’t. This book is about constantly hiding from the government and, in the process, hiding from ourselves. This book is about what it means to not have a home.
In So You Want to Talk About Race, Editor at Large of The Establishment Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word. Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans. (Seal Press)
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Time of Colorblindness | By Michelle Alexander (Nonfiction)
Michelle ALexander's stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.
Jeff Chang looks at the recent tragedies and widespread protests that have shaken the country. He explores the rise and fall of the idea of “diversity”, the roots of student protest, changing ideas about Asian Americanness, and the impact of a century of racial separation in housing.
Finalist 2017 National Book Award. “The Whereas Statements lay bare the realities and contrasts of Long Soldier’s life and her role as an Oglala Lakota poet, mother, and daughter. There are moments of beautiful intimacy, connection, and forgiveness; there is also an awareness of separation, and acknowledgment of the difficulty (sometimes, impossibility) of repair.”—The Atlantic
Renowned social justice advocate john a. powell persuasively argues that we have not achieved a post-racial society and that there is much work to do to redeem the American promise of inclusive democracy. Culled from a decade of writing about social justice and spirituality, these meditations on race, identity, and social policy provide an outline for laying claim to our shared humanity and a way toward healing ourselves and securing our future.
With the warmth and lucidity that have made him one of our most important public voices, UC Berkeley professor Robert B. Reich makes the case for a generous, inclusive understanding of the American project, centering on the moral obligations of citizenship. Rooting his argument in everyday reality and common sense, Reich demonstrates the existence of a common good, and argues that it is this that defines a society or a nation.
In American Hate: Survivors Speak Out, survivors tell their stories in their own words and describe how the bigoted rhetoric and policies of the Trump administration have intensified bullying, discrimination, and even violence toward them and their communities. You will hear from immigrants and refugees weighing whether to stay in this country, from parents grappling with how to explain the surge in hostility to their children, and from families mourning the loss of a loved one.
A survey of poetry by queer poets of color throughout U.S. history, including literary legends such as Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, June Jordan, Ai, and Pat Parker alongside contemporaries such as Natalie Diaz, Ocean Vuong, Danez Smith, and Joshua Jennifer Espinoza
In recent years, America’s criminal justice system has become the subject of an increasingly urgent debate. Critics have assailed the rise of mass incarceration, emphasizing its disproportionate impact on people of color. As James Forman, Jr., points out, however, the war on crime that began in the 1970s was supported by many African American leaders in the nation’s urban centers. In Locking Up Our Own, he seeks to understand why. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
An anthology of flash memoir, personal essays, and poetry edited by the adult child of an immigrant born and raised in the United States. The collection contains contributions from sixty-five writers who were either born and/or raised in the United States by one or more immigrant parent. (Red Hen Press)
In the last decade, public discussions of transgender issues have increased exponentially. However, with this increased visibility has come not just power, but regulation, both in favor of and against trans people. What was once regarded as an unusual or even unfortunate disorder has become an accepted articulation of gendered embodiment as well as a new site for political activism and political recognition. In Trans*, Jack Halberstam explores these recent shifts in the meaning of the gendered body and representation, and explores the possibilities of a nongendered, gender-optional, or gender-queer future. (UC Press)
Anthropologist Jason De León sheds light on one of the most pressing political issues of our time—the human consequences of US immigration policy. The Land of Open Graves reveals the suffering and deaths that occur daily in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona as thousands of undocumented migrants attempting to cross the border from Mexico into the United States.
Spanning more than two hundred years, this much-anticipated book is a revolutionary, politically charged narrative history, arguing that the “Global South” was crucial to the development of America as we know it. Scholar and activist Paul Ortiz challenges the notion of westward progress as exalted by widely taught formulations like “manifest destiny” and “Jacksonian democracy,” and shows how placing African American, Latinx, and Indigenous voices unapologetically front and center transforms US history into one of the working class organizing against imperialism. (Beacon Press)
Stand Up! How to Get Involved, Speak Out, and Win in a World on Fire | By Gordon Whitman (Nonfiction)
This book is for those frustrated by what they see happening in the world but not sure what they can do about it. Veteran organizer Gordon Whitman shows that we have the power we need to create a racially and economically just society. But it won't happen if we stay on the sidelines sharing social media posts and signing online petitions. (Berrett-Koehler Publishers)
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation's history and current crisis. National Book Award Winner 2015.
The Color of Law - The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America | By Richard Rothstein (Nonfiction)
Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation; and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods.
Citizens But Not Americans: Race and Belonging Among Latino Millennials | By Nilda Flores-Gonzalez (Nonfiction)
examines how Latino millennials understand race, experience race, and develop notions of belonging. Based on nearly one hundred interviews, the author argues that though these young Latina/os are U.S. citizens by birth, they do not feel they are part of the “American project,” and are forever at the margins looking in. (NYU Press)
From one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time comes an unforgettable true story about the redeeming potential of mercy. Bryan Stevenson was a gifted young attorney when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned, and those trapped in the furthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man sentenced to die for a notorious murder he didn't commit. The case drew Stevenson into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship - and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.-- Back cover.
The book succinctly explores a host of issues presented by hate speech, including legal theories for regulating it, the harms it causes, and policy arguments pro and con suppressing it. Particular attention is devoted to hate on the Internet, talk radio, and to the role of white supremacist groups in disseminating it.
For the past four years, award-winning photographer Gabriela Herman, whose mother came out when Herman was in high school and was married in one of Massachusetts’s first legal same-sex unions, has been photographing and interviewing children and young adults in America with one or more parent who identifies as lesbian, gay, trans, or queer. These parents and children juggled silence and solitude with a need to defend their families on the playground, at church, and at holiday gatherings.
Elsewhere, Within Here: Immigration, Refugeeism and the Boundary Event | Trinh T. Minh-ha (Nonfiction)
UC Berkeley Professor of Gender & Women's Studies and Rhetoric looks at travel across national borders--as a foreigner, a tourist, an immigrant, a refugee—in a pre- and post-9/11 world as she examines the cultural meaning and complexities of travel, immigration, home, and exile.
Selected by Professor Tina Sacks | Berkeley Social Welfare. "I am particularly drawn to Audre Lorde because she represents the kind of bravery I'm trying to cultivate in my own life and to inspire in my students.She reminds us that we have to speak up and walk boldly into our strengths, individually and collectively. And she also speaks in other essays in the book about engaging in struggle with love. This really resonates with me because so often we get angry at each other for very good reasons and forget that we are all fighting our own individual battles and that being human is hard. We can fight hard and still hold a space for love."
“It was as if Hamid knew what was going to happen to America and the world, and gave us a roadmap to our future… At once terrifying and … oddly hopeful.” –Ayelet Waldman, The New York Times Book Review
"The first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor has become an instant American icon. Now, with a candor and intimacy never undertaken by a sitting Justice, she recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a journey that offers an inspiring testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself."
"My hope is that by sharing my sometimes cringe-worthy struggle to understand racism and racial tensions, I offer a fresh perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners, and tolerance. As I unpack my own long-held beliefs about colorblindness, being a good person, and wanting to help people of color, I reveal how each of these well-intentioned mindsets actually perpetuated my ill-conceived ideas about race."
Through money bail systems, fees and fines, strictly enforced laws and regulations against behavior including trespassing and public urination that largely affect the homeless, and the substitution of prisons and jails for the mental hospitals that have traditionally served the impoverished, in one of the richest countries on Earth we have effectively made it a crime to be poor. (The New Press)
Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer: Undocumented Vignettes from a Pre-American Life | By Alberto Ledesma (Nonfiction)
As a teacher and administrator at University of California, Berkeley, Ledesma doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of the undocumented immigrant. But that’s the point of this book, which is part graphic memoir and part cri de coeur. This is a powerful document of the unspoken anxieties felt by Americans like him who worry that their immigration status and history will overshadow everything else in their lives. (Publishers Weekley)
Suggested by Sadalia Reel | Director - Staff Diversity Initiatives. One of America’s preeminent Black intellectuals, James Baldwin wrote this classic book in part, as a letter to his nephew, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to abolish slavery. It was written just a few years before the Civil Rights movement emerged. “God gave Noah the rainbow sign/ No more water, the fire next time.”
"To cover is to downplay a disfavored trait so as to blend into the mainstream. Though we have come to some consensus against penalizing people for differences based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and disability, we still routinely deny equal treatment to people who refuse to downplay differences along these lines."
Maxine Hong Kingston is a Chinese American author and Professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated with a BA in English in 1962. In her singular voice—both humble and brave, touching and humorous—Kingston gives us a poignant and beautiful memoir-in-verse that captures the wisdom that comes with age. As she reflects on her sixty-five years, she circles from present to past and back, from lunch with a writer friend to the funeral of a Vietnam veteran, from her long marriage to her arrest at a peace march in Washington. (Penguin Random House Publishing)
Making Hispanics: How Activists, Bureaucrats and Media Created a New Ameirca | By G. Christina Mora (Nonfiction)
Professor Mora (UC Berkeley, Sociology) uses an organizational lens and traces how activists, bureaucrats, and media executives in the 1970s and '80s created a new identity category—and by doing so, permanently changed the racial and political landscape of the nation.
Janet Mock relays her experiences of growing up young, multiracial, poor, and trans in America, offering readers accessible language while imparting vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of a marginalized and misunderstood population.
Poetic "assemblages" by the anonymous collective The Blunt Research Group, working with testimonies by and about people held in California's first youth prison and two "asylums”: people "at once," as the Group puts it, "denied work and subjected to its punishing routine."
A university chancellor and a law school dean—both constitutional scholars who teach a course in free speech to undergraduates—argue that campuses must provide supportive learning environments for an increasingly diverse student body but can never restrict the expression of ideas.
Suggested by VC Oscar Dubon. The acclaimed social psychologist offers an insider’s look at his research and groundbreaking findings on stereotypes and identity, sheding new light on American social phenomena from racial and gender gaps in test scores to the belief in the superior athletic prowess of black men, and lays out a plan for mitigating these “stereotype threats” and reshaping American identities.
From the poet, novelist, and cultural icon behind the award-winning and celebrated Broadway play, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. With a clear, raw, and affecting voice, Shange draws from her experience as a feminist black woman in American to craft groundbreaking poetry about pain, beauty, and color.
In The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to lives led between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration. (Grove Atlantic)
Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, the #1 New York Times bestseller from Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.
First published in 1999, this celebrated history of San Francisco traces the exploitation of both local and distant regions by prominent families—the Hearsts, de Youngs, Spreckelses, and others—who gained power through mining, ranching, water and energy, transportation, real estate, weapons, and the mass media. The story uncovered by Gray Brechin is one of greed and ambition on an epic scale.