Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: This book traces racist ideas and their impact on African American and other Black lives in the US from the earliest arrival of European settlers through today. Okay, so I have one problem with this book: the subtitle. Not a lot of time is given to other people of color in the US and, realistically, one book couldn’t do that and probably shouldn’t try. I definitely don’t want to diminish the impact of the book-I think it’s very well done and important. To me the subtitle is a little misleading, but maybe it’s just me.
What made me pick it up: It won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction, and I’m trying to make sure that I read all of the winners.
My favorite things: This book is meticulously researched and incredibly thorough. Kendi breaks down racist belief systems into a variety of often conflicting ideas. He identifies assimilationist and segregationist thoughts that have sometimes been used to promote civil rights, and contrasts them with truly antiracist ideas. Kendi does a great job of illustrating the ways these ideas have been built upon over time and how we have arrived in the current moment with some voices declaring a “post-racial” society while others point out clear racial tensions and divisions.
Who it’s great for: People who want to understand where the Black Lives Matter movement came from and why it seems so divisive. History buffs interested in a different focus than they may be used to reading. Readers interested in racial justice and civil rights.