Yes, you! The one who is like me, a well-meaning white person who is all for social justice and working on being an ally. I have something for you. Actually, four somethings. Four incredible reads by wonderful authors who are members of a few communities we may claim to want to ally ourselves with. If you are like me, if you truly wish to work for the better of others, then one of the (many) ways you can do this is read. Devour books and articles by those who live the reality you are trying to change and see what it is they have to say needs to be done. And listen. Even better, speak with actual real life people in your community and ask them what you can do. Then listen.
To get you started, here are four recommended reads. Don’t view them as end all, be alls or that each of these writers are tokens for their communities. Realize that these are just four books and there maybe others that are just as good, perhaps better. Know that I understand there are many other communities that are represented by these choices, but again, this is a start.
Between the World and Me by Ta’Nehisi Coates – This is a beautiful and short read set up, in part, as a letter to the author’s son, a young black man, and all the advice and wishes a father might have for a son in such precarious position. It is both beautiful and heartbreaking, capturing the love and fear a parent has for a child, particularly for a child preparing to enter a world that may not accept them as completely as other children.
My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem – This memoir captures the essence of the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s, as Steinem recounts her role in pivotal events and her travels. (Note: Yes, I’m a white lady, just like Gloria, a feminist, too, but there’s a chance you, dear reader, are not. Also, please feel free to leave me recommendations for books about or by feminists of different backgrounds.)
George by Alex Gino – Though actually a children’s book that I’m currently reading with my daughter, George is the story of a fourth grader named George who knows she’s a girl, but was born a boy. It follows George’s journey from secretly (and anxiously) wondering about her gender identity to finally being able to start being herself (and even having others call her Melissa, the name she’s always wanted). Told well and simply, it clearly establishes what it might be like for some kids, or even adults, who are transgender, while still telling a story about a very relatable kid. My daughter and I have been really loving it.
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie – Admittedly, I’m not that far into this one, but already I have read so many lines that just seize my heart and shine light on some places in the world that make me feel uncomfortable (which is often how I know I’m growing). If you aren’t familiar with Alexie’s writing, get. on. it. He is brilliant. He is one of those rare writers who is able to write things that are equally sacred and irreverent, which is totally my thing. This memoir, like much of his other writing, manages to elevate both the beautiful and the horrific of native life in America, bringing forth hard truths for us white folks to grapple with and hopefully being cathartic in some ways for those who have lived as Alexie and his family has. And he does all this while making you laugh and not feel guilty for it.
So, these are my suggestions. As I said above, this is not an end all, be all list, and there is so much out there. If you have suggestions for other reads that are of similar veins, please, please, please, leave them in the comments.