My name is Emily Grayson, and I live in Evanston with my daughter and husband in a very cool six-unit building with some of my dearest friends. I hold a variety of great jobs around Evanston and Chicago: I work professionally as an actor and singer, I’m a standardized patient at the Feinberg School of Medicine, and I’ve been a massage therapist for the past 16 years and currently see clients at the Evanston Athletic Club. In my spare time, I can often be found knitting, sewing, singing or drinking coffee at various Evanston locales.
1) The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (2010)
This was the first in a series of books I read for a Black Lives Matter reading group I started last January. It began a year-long discussion about race in America and the conversation has never been dull and has often been humbling. Wilkerson’s book and its first-person accounts of the three migrants at the center helped to give us context for our subsequent reads, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
2) Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)
With Wilkerson’s foundational perspective to ground us in historical facts, this next deep dive into the truth of the black experience made a huge impact on me. I read it twice and bought copies for several friends. Coates talks about the “Dream” of white America, and in our current political climate, there’s nothing that speaks to the persistence and intensity of that dream quite like this book.
3) Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (2014)
Departing from the more straightforward narratives of our other reads, our group loved this book—if you can love a meditation on the daily, hourly, moment-to-moment microaggressions that affect people of color. Similar to Coates, Rankine explores both the political and personal (and the cross-section thereof) of race but her poetic style made this a most devastating and galvanizing read.
4) Notes from No-Man’s Land by Eula Biss (2009)
We are so fortunate to have Eula Biss as a member of our Evanston community. She is a beautiful writer whose prose is searing and straightforward, constantly taking me by surprise and holding a mirror to what it means to be considered white in our country. She mines everyday circumstances (living in a college town) and symbols (you’ll never consider telephone polls the same way again) to stunning effect.