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So You Want to Talk About Race
Cover of So You Want to Talk About Race
So You Want to Talk About Race
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In this New York Times bestseller, Ijeoma Oluo offers a hard-hitting but user-friendly examination of race in America


Widespread reporting on aspects of white supremacy—from police brutality to the mass incarceration of African Americans—have made it impossible to ignore the issue of race. Still, it is a difficult subject to talk about. How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair—and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend?


In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to "model minorities" in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.


"Oluo gives us—both white people and people of color—that language to engage in clear, constructive, and confident dialogue with each other about how to deal with racial prejudices and biases."

—National Book Review


"Generous and empathetic, yet usefully blunt . . . it's for anyone who wants to be smarter and more empathetic about matters of race and engage in more productive anti-racist action."

Salon (Required Reading)

In this New York Times bestseller, Ijeoma Oluo offers a hard-hitting but user-friendly examination of race in America


Widespread reporting on aspects of white supremacy—from police brutality to the mass incarceration of African Americans—have made it impossible to ignore the issue of race. Still, it is a difficult subject to talk about. How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair—and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend?


In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to "model minorities" in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.


"Oluo gives us—both white people and people of color—that language to engage in clear, constructive, and confident dialogue with each other about how to deal with racial prejudices and biases."

—National Book Review


"Generous and empathetic, yet usefully blunt . . . it's for anyone who wants to be smarter and more empathetic about matters of race and engage in more productive anti-racist action."

Salon (Required Reading)

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About the Author-
  • Ijeoma Oluo is the author of the New York Times bestseller So You Want to Talk About Race. Her work on race has been featured in the New York Times and the Washington Post. She has twice been named to the Root 100, and she received the 2018 Feminist Humanist Award from the American Humanist Association. She lives in Seattle, Washington.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 13, 2017
    Oluo, an editor at large at the Establishment, assesses the racial landscape of contemporary America in thoughtful essays geared toward facilitating difficult conversations about race. Drawing on her perspective as a black woman raised by a white mother, she shows how race is so interwoven into America’s social, political, and economic systems that it is hard for most people, even Oluo’s well-intentioned mother, to see when they are being oblivious to racism. Oluo gives readers general advice for better dialogue, such as not getting defensive, stating their intentions, and staying on topic. She addresses a range of tough issues—police brutality, the n word, affirmative action, microaggressions—and offers ways to discuss them while acknowledging that they’re a problem. For example, Oluo writes that the common phrase “check your privilege” is an ineffective weapon for winning an argument, as few people really understand the concept of privilege, which is integral to many of the issues of race in America. She concludes by urging people of all colors to fear unexamined racism, instead of fearing the person “who bring that oppression to light.” She’s insightful and trenchant but not preachy, and her advice is valid. For some it may be eye-opening. It’s a topical book in a time when racial tensions are on the rise.

  • Kirkus

    November 1, 2017
    Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a "white supremacist country." The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as "one of the most defining forces" in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism "in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves." "Is it really about race?" she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. "Is police brutality really about race?" "What is cultural appropriation?" and "What is the model minority myth?" Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, "when somebody asks you to 'check your privilege' they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you've had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing." She unpacks the complicated term "intersectionality": the idea that social justice must consider "a myriad of identities--our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more--that inform our experiences in life." She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, "they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you" and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make "diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority."A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    December 1, 2017

    In her first book, writer and activist Oluo offers direct advice on how to have a conversation about race. She analyzes topics that may lead to contentious conversations, such as cultural appropriation, affirmative action, police brutality, the N-word, microaggressions, and the model minority myth. In doing so, Oluo provides background information on each topic and talking points to allow for having more constructive conversations. With a clever approach that uses anecdotes, facts, and a little humor, the author challenges all readers to assess their own beliefs and perceptions while clearly looking at polarizing issues. She encourages us to overcome the idea of debating someone else without the ability to listen to other perspectives. Most relevant is a sobering and enlightening chapter on checking and recognizing one's privilege. VERDICT A timely and engaging book that offers an entry point and a hopeful approach toward more productive dialog around tough topics. Highly recommended for those interested in race, ethnicity, and social commentary, and anyone wishing to have more insightful conversations.--Tiffeni Fontno, Boston Coll.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • School Library Journal

    May 1, 2018

    "You are going to screw this up royally. More than once," notes writer and editor Oluo in this slim but potent guide to discussing race. Nevertheless, she urges readers to push past their discomfort; to do otherwise is to accept a society entrenched in systemic racism. The author knows all too well the consequences of ignorance about race. A black queer woman, she not only experiences prejudice but also endures the additional burden of educating those who are skeptical about her oppression. Precise, poignant, and edifying, this primer gives readers much-needed tools, explaining academic concepts such as privilege and intersectionality, debunking harmful myths, and offering concrete ways to confront racism. Blending personal accounts and meticulously cited research, Oluo demonstrates how racism permeates every aspect of society, from education to the police force. She writes with empathy for her readers yet laudably refuses to let those who haven't grappled with their white privilege off the hook-"Don't force people to acknowledge your good intentions," she advises those who have inadvertently offended a person of color. VERDICT Profound yet deeply accessible, this is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand and combat institutional racism.-Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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