Today’s prompt for Armchair BEA is “Tell us about the books that transported you to a different world, taught you about a different culture, and/or helped you step into the shoes of someone different from you.” Diversity is a timely topic since the first-ever BookCon, a public day at the end of BEA, stirred up the controversy that led to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign.
For readers looking for books to diversify their experience, I thought I’d round up my Diversity Book Club posts. Diversity Book Club is actually a kind of short-hand for a local book club (with a less descriptive name) that formed after a shooting tragedy in my community. We began to talk about books that help us discuss the grim history and hard reality of race in America in order to create better understanding that, we hope, will lead to a brighter future. I told the story of our beginning most completely in this post about the fifth anniversary of the Kirkwood City Hall shooting and in this post about my favorite nonfiction.
Our annual book selection and potluck meeting is in September each year. Before last year’s meeting, I made a list of all 45 books we read to that point, because we’re starting to forget what we’ve already read. Everyone brings books they want us to consider and we throw them all on the table to pass around and talk about. Then we vote on them to come up with the 8 to 10 titles that we can fit into a year. For the last three years, I made lists of all the books we brought and the titles that we chose:
I don’t review all the books we read — sometimes talking about them is enough — but here are the ones I have reviewed:
- Sugar in the Blood by Andrea Stuart
- TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston
- Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America by Lerone Bennett Jr.
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- How to be Black by Baratunde Thurston
- The Good Food Revolution by Will Allen
- At the Dark End of the Street by Danielle L. McGuire
- Unbowed by Wangari Maathai
- Sister Citizen by Melissa V. Harris-Perry
- Never Been a Time by Harper Barnes
- Little X by Sonsyrea Tate
- The Grace of Silence by Michele Norris
- The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
- The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
The Armchair BEA prompt also asked about books to recommend to readers who are just starting to read a bit more widely. Since I just listed an overwhelming number of books, that might be an excellent way to end this post! I’m going to go with The Grace of Silence by Michele Norris and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson as the most accessible for people encountering this topic for the first time on their own. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander make terrific companion reads. By then, you’ll be ready for the humor of Baratunde Thurston and the activism of Melissa V. Harris-Perry.
Do you have books to suggest for our book club? I’ve already started a list of books to suggest in September. I added I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou last night.