White Teacher Question: Are these race and social justice books enough?

Send me your contemporary social justice book suggestions

I ordered these books for fall 2020 because I’m focusing on the power of literature to effect social change. Of course, recent events in response to the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd make me wonder if there are more topical books I should have ordered instead of or in addition to these.

In other words, what about newer lit?

As educator Kelly Gallagher suggested, I should consider how and to what extent my ELA teaching incorporates Black Lives Matter at Schools.

All my students know I love Frederick Douglass’ powerful narrative and think he is the greatest unsung American hero, but the book was written in 1845.

In addition, according to legend, President Lincoln said that Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe started the Civil War.

But again, that was 1861.

I support the enduring power of historical literature, but what about newer lit? Leave a comment with your thoughts and book suggestions.

Thank you.

Published by Marilyn Yung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

7 thoughts on “White Teacher Question: Are these race and social justice books enough?

  1. There are lots of great lessons on being an upstander available from Facing History and Teaching Tolerance. You’ll also find links to literature and nonfiction. I would ask that teachers think beyond just the US and realise that these issues are bigger than any 1 nation.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! Yes, I am familiar and have used materials from both those resources. I will need to review their offerings for what’s new in light of recent events. Your point that this is truly a global issue opens up new possibilities for teaching. I appreciate your continued feedback!!!

  2. I am not as sure about contemporary essays and autobiographies as I would be about novels but here are a few suggestions from different mediums. A while ago PBS did a whole video series on race. I think it was called Race: The Power of Illusion. There are some other, more recent shows there, as well.

    Trevor Noah on the The Daily Show, did a piece related to the situation in Minneapolis that was very good, a definite door to increased understanding. unfortunately, I do not know what day last week it was. I saw it as a facebook post. Found it! It is a facebook link but you can probably find it on the show’s website if you do not have fb access. https://www.facebook.com/thedailyshow/videos/271504123969416/

    You might also find his memoir Born a Crime to have some good connections for students. I have not read it myself to know if there are passages that would be inappropriate for.your students but I have heard him interviewed several times. He was born in South Africa with one parent who was white and one who was black which created several challenges for their family life..

    I also suggest going to New York Public Library, the American Library Association, and some of those institutions that do reviews and recommendations for books. They often have topic-specific lists for different grade levels.

    Have you seen this video about privilege and running a race? https://youtu.be/4K5fbQ1-zps

    Another contemporary resource could be some TED talks and I know there are NPR(National Public Radio) and PRX (Public Radio Exchange). shows that have had episodes about the topic of race. I am thinking these shows are good possibilities: The Moth, This American Life, Snap Judgement, Story Corps, Fresh Air Idid a Trevor Noah interview). My public radio station has a youth internship program “RadioActive” that could have something…

    This just showed up in my fb feed while I am looking for another resource that I saw there yesterday, Might be worth checking out: https://blacklivesmatteratschool.com/teaching-materials/
    and this https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/books/review/antiracist-reading-list-ibram-x-kendi.html?fbclid=IwAR0IEyA4WKfGz6cCcRraGR2fDVKi_lH_gtpKOtjOG2v4URuXEpW1czjEzcY

    I will try to find my way back here and share them.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a detailed response. I am familiar with the “black lives matter at schools” curriculum and will be using parts of it in the fall. I’m very curious about the PBS series and will watch it soon. The Life of Privilege video was powerful and will start some deep discussions I’m sure. Thank you, Cathy, for your generosity in sharing these resources and your time. I can see any of these being used in tandem with the books I have on order.

    2. Cathi, thanks for sharing the privilege race video. I will likely write about it in a future post and I will definitely give a shout out to you for sharing it to me.

  3. My library just posted a list of resources. Because it is are closed, they list audio and ebook versions but it would give you another place to start:
    Everett Public Library
    If you’re looking to explore racism and racial equity, we have e-books and e-audiobooks to help you explore from a variety of perspectives: https://bit.ly/36SsUKI
    Artwork by Jane Mount (@jane_mount on Instagram).

    1. What a resource! This is great and I will research it further. So I would just need to purchase a library membership and then create an account to access?

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