Following requests for suggested reading, and in response to our own sense of a need to keep educating ourselves, the staff and students of English Literature at Portsmouth have put together this reading list of informative works regarding ‘race’. These are works that we have read, that have moved us and that have motivated our discussions in classrooms and our curriculum. Situated in Southern England, as a diverse community of many cultures and ethnicities, we have varying experiences of racism. We are aware of our geographical distance from the events taking place in the United States, yet also that there are many similarities to the experiences of those who receive racist treatment in our home communities – whether they are strangers, neighbours, friends, colleagues, family or ourselves.
Novels, poetry and plays from the Early Modern period through to our contemporary times have returned to this subject over and over again. The disturbing truths that are revealed by the writers on this list, reflecting what we see in the images projected from around the world, remind us that there is so much work to be done to overcome racism and its consequences. The responsibility of literary scholars is to read, to interpret, to understand and to apply our knowledge to the way we reimagine and react to the world around us.
A special thank you to our remarkable students for their contributions to this collaborative list. Many of these books are a part of the English Literature curriculum and others are suggestions from additional reading. These are a tiny sample of the extraordinary books that are available that address the topic of racism. I hope this list helps you to find some guidance and understanding where you are seeking it and gives you a starting point for your continued reading.
Non-Fiction — Autobiographies
Maya Angelou I know Why the Caged Bird Sings (and sequels)
Malcolm X The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Richard Wright Black Boy
Frederick Douglass Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
Harriet Jacobs Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Olaudah Equiano The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano: or, Gustavus Vassa, the African
Jamaica Kincaid Lucy
Ralph Ellison Invisible Man
Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Are Watching God
Toni Morrison The Bluest Eye
Toni Morrison Beloved
(In fact, anything by Toni Morrison!)
Bernadine Evaristo Girl Woman Other
James Baldwin Go Tell it on the Mountain
Zadie Smith White Teeth
Colson Whithead The Underground Railroad
Colson Whithead The Nickel Boys
Alice Walker The Colour Purple
Okorafor, N. (2015). Binti. (in fact the Binti series)
Non-fiction – Commentary, Theory and Criticism
Speeches of Malcolm X
Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me
W E B DuBois The Souls of Black Folk
Afua Hirsch Brit(ish): on race, identity and belonging
Akala Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire
David Chariandy I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to my Daughter
Ibram X Kendi How to be an Anti-Racist
Angela Davis If They Come in the Morning…: Voices of Resistance
W E B DuBois Darkwater: Voices from within the Veil
Michele Wallace Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory
Collins, P. H. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment
Eddo-Lodge, R. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race.
Hobbs, A. A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life.
bell hooks, ‘Postmodern Blackness’
Toni Morrison,The Origin of Others.
Nelson, A. (2018). ‘AfroFuturism: Past-Present Visions’
Rattansi, A. Racism: A Very Short Introduction.
Layla F. Saad Me and White Supremacy
Poetry of Yosef Komunyakaa
Poetry of Langston Hughes
Poetry of Maya Angelou (especially ‘And Still I Rise’)
Poetry of Audre Lourde
Poetry of Dionne Brand
Nnedi Okorafor: Sci-fi stories that imagine a future Africa | TED Talk. (n.d.). Retrieved 28 March 2019, from https://www.ted.com/talks/nnedi_okorafor_sci_fi_stories_that_imagine_a_future_africa?language=en
https://acmrs.asu.edu/RaceB4Race — Race in Early Modern/Premodern Times