This is book is a mind-opener! Irving grew up in a upper middle class suburb of Boston in the 60s and 70s. Well-educated and self-identified as a “good person,” she writes a brutally honest assessment of how she grew to become a person who takes action to contribute to racial justice rather than mindlessly letting things stay at the status quo. When younger, she never realized that she had a race. Being white (and in her case WASP) was simply the norm and not much to ponder about. Issues of race and unfairness in American culture were not discussed in her suburban bubble. She was admonished to be nice and helpful to people less fortunate. Nothing was said that was overtly racist, and she grew up naively believing that hard work and confidence were the keys to success for everyone. But as a young adult, confronted with the realities of the racial divide in the real world, Irving began a years-long journey of exploring how to change herself, how to recognize all the micro aggressions people of color experience at the hands of white people, and how terribly un-level the playing field is for most minorities. There are many books these days that tackle the thorny issues of racism and equity in America. This one is a good place to start if you grew up like she did in a bubble of white privilege.
It’s the summer before her freshmen year in high school in 1965. Sophie is planning on writing, hanging out with friends and just having a good time, but life and the rest of the world starts to get in the way her plans. First, the reality of racism really starts to set in for Sophie as she continually encounters prejudice in her almost all-white community; from being uninvited to pool parties to being accused of stealing. Her parents aren’t much help because they’re busy with their own lives and trying to salvage their marriage. Luckily, her older sister has always has her back, but that will change at the end of the summer when her sister leaves for college. Suddenly life isn’t as clear cut as she thought it was and once a close friend is arrested for no reason Sophie finds herself questioning things even more. An excellent piece of historical fiction that rings very true in today’s world.
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.
My name is Stacey Gibson. I’m a parent, educator, and Evanston resident who enjoys a well-crafted story and the sun.
1) John Crow’s Devil by Marlon James (2005)
James peppers the pages with anvil heavy Jamaican patois, mystical practices of redemption, and sweeping battles where good and evil masquerade with and as the other. Continue reading “Stacey Gibson’s Best Reads of 2016”
My name is Michelle Cohen. I live in Evanston with my husband and two children. When I’m not designing lush gardens and landscapes for my clients, I can usually be found reading a book, or at the very least, talking about them.
1) Notes From No Man’s Land by Eula Biss (2009)
Intimate and nuanced essays about living in a racist society. Essential reading.
My name is Chris Skoglund, and I am the librarian at Willard Elementary School in Evanston, where I have worked for almost thirteen years. I am an avid reader of books for both children and adults (which made picking only five books really difficult), so I consider myself to have the best job in the world!
1) Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)
An extraordinary mix of historical fiction and science fiction, this novel drew me in and would not let me go. Full of elegant imagery and characters that will linger in your mind long after the story is finished, each element worked seamlessly together.
My name is Marcus Campbell. I am the Assistant Superintendent and Principal at Evanston Township High School. I have been at ETHS for 15 years and started my career there teaching English. I love to read and enjoy the food scene.
1) The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Dubois (1903)
I always read something each year from the list of canonical black texts. I find these readings informative in that many of these texts written long ago are still applicable today.
Dr. Michelle M. Wright is an Associate Professor of African American Studies at Northwestern University and the author of the forthcoming book The Physics of Blackness: Rethinking the African Diaspora in the Postwar Era. On Tuesday, October 8th, she will discuss her new book and related topics when she visits EPL’s 1st Floor Community Meeting Room at 7 p.m. as part of the Evanston Northwestern Humanities Lecture Series. Titled “Blackness When You Least Expect It: Understanding Racial Diversity in the 21st Century,” Dr. Wright’s lecture will center on what it means to be “Black” and how Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and gravity influence our modern understanding of race. In anticipation of her visit, we recently spoke with her via email about the practical problems of undefined “Blackness”, the Middle Passage, Newton, identity as performance, and equality amidst diversity.