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KSL.com Book Club: 5 books about race we read in July

By Yvette Cruz, KSL.com | Posted - Jul. 31, 2020 at 4:05 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — For months, protests decrying police brutality and racial injustices and inequalities have flooded cities across the U.S. and world.

The demonstrations began following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody in May. But Floyd’s death isn’t the sole reason for the movement that’s taken shape, rather it was the catalyst for a call for systemic and institutional change that has been long overdue in America.

The current movement has forced many to reflect on their own roles in systemic racism and seek ways for real change. This month, some of the KSL.com team members each read a book on race in hopes of gaining better understanding on the topic.

Welcome back to the KSL.com Book Club. It’s a book club with a twist where some of the KSL.com team members read a different book and then recap our picks on the last Friday of each month.

This month's KSL.com Book Club features book picks from social media manager Yvette Cruz, reporter Carter Williams, content producers Jen Riess and Katie Workman and news director Whitney Evans. If you think of a book one of us might like based on our book choices and reviews, feel free to let us know!

Yvette’s pick: "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me is an open letter to the author's teenage son in which he attempts to answer what it’s like to inhabit a Black body in America.

This book is an intimate, at times heartbreaking, conversation between a father and son as Ta-Nehisi Coates shares his own awakening to his place in the world over the course of his life.

If any non-Black person who says they “don’t see color” has ever wondered how their lives differ from Black Americans, Coates answers that in many ways throughout the book using examples of history and his own experiences as a boy, a college student and a father.

Coates uses the past and present to confront America’s racial history and reminds his son, and anyone who thinks the nation has truly reckoned with its dark past, that the enslavement of Black people “was not destined to end.”

“Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains — whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains,” he writes.

Through vulnerability and the love Coates expresses for his son, he also offers a vision for a way to move forward.

Between the World and Me is honest and powerful, and a necessary read.

Genre: Nonfiction, Race, Memoir

Who would like this book? Anyone who wants to learn more about different Black experiences. Those who love beautiful writing that evokes emotion will also like this book.

My next read: I just started "Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot" by Mikki Kendall

Carter's pick: "The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America" by Richard Rothstein

This book details how private, local and federal housing policies in everywhere from Long Island to Baltimore, St. Louis, San Francisco and even Montana — aimed to thwart racial integration in communities, epecially during the first half of the 20th Century.

While the book earned acclaim for its explanations of redlining — policies that left minority groups, especially Black Americans, almost exclusively out of desired neighborhoods — it goes into detail some of the lengths agencies went to continue that practice until it was deemed unconstitutional in the 1960s.

It doesn’t stop there, as Rothstein continues into explaining how “reverse redlining” by banks and creditors in recent decades forced minority borrowers into predatory subprime mortgages and loans. This practice ultimately was blamed as a key factor of the infamous housing market collapse in the late 2000s.

Written just three years ago, it helps create a clearer understanding into how policies created decades ago still factor in racial divides we hear and see today.

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Race

Who would like this book? Those seeking better comprehension into aspects of the protests of the past few months. Rothstein offers important insight into a salient facet of American experience. The thorough research into housing history makes this book even more relevant today as conversations about systemic racism have reopened at extensive levels over the past two months. That alone makes taking the time to read it more valuable.

My next read: Anything that continues to explore hidden forces behind the divisions we see or experience on a daily level.

Jen's pick: "So You Want To Talk About Race" by Ijeoma Oluo

It all starts with a conversation. However, oftentimes trying to discuss race gets the same reaction as going up to someone at a Harry Potter convention and yelling “Voldemort!”

I encourage doing both.

Ijeoma Oluo’s “So You Want To Talk About Race” covers a wide range of how racism in in every fiber of our society in this all-inclusive guide to having an honest conversation about racism.

Oluo is a writer, speaker and self-proclaimed “internet yeller.” Her conversational storytelling is backed with unique experience as a Black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman and multiple studies/articles. Basically, she knows what she’s talking about.

“So You Want To Talk About Race” answers just about every question you might ask. From the basic definition of racism, to whether or not you can say the “N” word (spoiler, you can’t), and yes, it is weird to touch someone’s hair. At its core, the best advice is when talking about race to someone who has experienced racial injustice is to not talk. Just listen.

If you identify as a racial minority, this book will make you feel seen. If you’re white, this book will broaden your perspective for the better.

Genre: Race, Social Justice

Who would like this book? Anyone interested in the everyday experience of American minorities and wants to discuss race without sounding stupid.

My next book: "The Returned" by Jason Mott

Katie's pick: "The Hidden Rules of Race: Barriers to an Inclusive Economy" by Andrea Flynn, Dorian T. Warren, Felicia J. Wong and Susan R. Holmberg

This book focuses on African Americans and explains the historic ties between class and race into present disparities. The Hidden Rules of Race does an excellent job of explaining the similarities and differences between poverty and race-influenced poverty using hundreds of studies compiled by Cambridge University.

This book contextualizes shifts from the 1400s to modern times and definitively explain how the Civil Rights Movement didn’t end disparities, and how in terms of some measures of wealth inequality, African Americans are worse off than the 1960’s. This book has taught me more life-changing facts than most written texts, and regardless of how much or little you know about race, it can teach you something too.

Genre: Economics, Race, Sociology

Who would like this book? While this book does center on data and economics, which can be dense or daunting, it’s is a perfect read for someone who wants to learn more about race but likes learning through facts and statistics instead of more personal narratives. It’s also still an accessible read and explains itself well.

My next read: Feel free to recommend my next read to me at kworkman@deseretdigital.com

Whitney's pick: "The Nickel Boys" Colson Whitehead

I couldn't put this book down. Whitehead did a masterful job of weaving a story of abuse, corruption and redemption in this novel. The protagonist, Elwood Curtis, was smart, motivated and had an eye toward a more equitable world. He was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., and seemed destined toward greatness.

Set in Florida in the 1960s, it follows Elwood's time at a reform school where he landed as a teenager after he accepted a ride to his university classes in a vehicle he later learned was stolen. Despite his innocence, Elwood remained at the school. One of the most powerful themes of the book was that of the wasted humanity and potential of these boys in large part because of the corrupt systems they were in.

The book is based on the real-life Dozier School for Boys that closed in 2011 after federal and local investigations looked into reports that spanned decades of rape, abuse and murder of students by those who worked at the school.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Race

Who would like this book? If you're interested in books that make you want to make the world better, expose injustice and learn more about history, you'd like this book. Anyone who is a fan of Colson Whitehead would like this.

Note: There are vague descriptions of abuse throughout the book, so be mindful of that if those are topics that are triggering or difficult for you to handle.

My next read: I am almost finished with "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver, and in the middle of "Their Eyes were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston

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