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Read Woke: Books about protest and social justice

Read Woke: Books about protest and social justice

Throughout the Library’s Read Woke program, our librarians have been interviewing community members and collecting book recommendations designed to challenge people to educate themselves about others through deliberate, thoughtful reading. 

For the “Read Woke: Policing and Protest” program, African American Museum of Iowa Executive Director LaNisha Cassell discussed the museum, how the museum’s “Unwavering: 21st Century Activism” exhibit addresses racial justice movements and how young people can get involved in making change their communities.

Here are some books that can help teens and adults alike think about taking on issues of protest and social justice.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You
by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

This reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.

This book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas–and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives

Steal This Country
by Alexandra Styron

Styron’s lively primer on-how-to-make a difference opens with a personal essay and a historic look at activism and civil disobedience in America, followed by chapters on key issues such as climate change, racial justice, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, immigration, and religious understanding. A substantive section of how-to advice starts with an explanation of why activism matters and continues with practical information about group activities such as organizing, marching, rallying, and petitioning and individual actions like voting with your wallet, volunteering, talking with relatives with different viewpoints, and using social activism to get out a progressive message.

Nevertheless, We Persisted
edited by In This Together Media

A powerful collection of essays from actors, activists, athletes, politicians, musicians, writers, and teens, including Senator Amy Klobuchar, actress Alia Shawkat, actor Maulik Pancholy, poet Azure Antoinette, teen activist Gavin Grimm, and many, many others, each writing about a time in their youth when they were held back because of their race, gender, or sexual identity—but persisted.

We Say #Never Again: Reporting by Parkland Student Journalists
edited by Melissa Falkowski

This timely and media-driven approach to the Parkland shooting, as reported by teens in the journalism and broadcasting programs and in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas newspaper, is an inside look at that tragic day and the events that followed that only they could tell.

It showcases how the teens have become media savvy and the skills they have learned and honed–harnessing social media, speaking to the press, and writing effective op-eds. Students share specific insight into what it has been like being approached by the press and how that has informed the way they interview their own subjects.

On the Other Side of Freedom
by DeRay Mckesson

From the internationally recognized civil rights activist/organizer and host of the podcast Pod Save the People, a meditation on resistance, justice, and freedom, and an intimate portrait of a movement from the front lines.

In August 2014, twenty-nine-year-old activist DeRay Mckesson stood with hundreds of others on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to push a message of justice and accountability. These protests, and others like them in cities across the country, resulted in the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, in his first book, Mckesson lays down the intellectual, pragmatic, and political framework for a new liberation movement. 

What is Read Woke?

School librarian Cicely Lewis created Read Woke in 2017. She determined a “Woke” book must meet one of these criteria:

  • Challenge a social norm
  • Give voice to the voiceless
  • Provide information about a group that has been disenfranchised
  • Seek to challenge the status quo
  • Have a protagonist from an underrepresented or oppressed group

Ready to start reading woke? Sign up through Beanstack to start earning badges in the Read Woke challenge, and watch our Facebook events for future book discussions.

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