Books About Racism

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Racism is a global problem that is at root of a lot of hate crime in the world today. Due to its insidious nature, it can be difficult to address. Its prevalence and impact on every aspect of society and culture has ensured that it is addressed extensively in popular culture. The long history of racism, going back to the days of colonization and slavery till today means that portrayals of racism in books are of a varied nature.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960): This book is set in the state of Alabama in America in the 1930s and revolves around a young girl and the lessons she learns from her father as he defends a black man in court. Set in a deeply racist society, To Kill a Mockingbird raises important questions regarding value systems and how we impart those values to the next generation.
  2. Adventures Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1885): This famous book has created controversy through the ages, most recently due to its use of racial slur. Nevertheless, set on the Mississippi River in the time of slavery chronicling the adventures of the name character and his African-American friend Jim, it explores the issues of race and identity and their perceptions by society.
  3. The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982): This powerful written in the form of letters set in rural Georgia in southern America in the 1930s addresses the challenges faced by African-American women of the time. Adapted into a movie and musical, it has been lauded for its representation of the intersection of gender and race.
  4. The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing (1950): This brilliant book is set in Southern Rhodesia which was a British colony and is now Zimbabwe during the 1940s. It makes use of the incident of a murder of a white woman by a black man to explore racial politics in the country.
  5. Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley (1976): In the book the author traces his family back to his ancestor Kunta Kinte who was sold to slave traders in 1767 and brought to America. The book follows his life and the life of his descendants and in this manner explores racism through the years.
  6. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1977): The book follows the life of an African-American man, Macon “Milkman” Dead III who lives in Michigan. Through the medium of telling his life-story, the author explores the racism and its effect on various characters in the book.
  7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969): This autobiographical book is a coming-of-age story of a young black girl in America. It tells of a young girl dealing with rape and racism in her quest to find independence and personal dignity. It is a scathing critique of race relations in America.
  8. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2013): A contemporary book with a running theme of race, it tells the stories of first-generation immigrants in Britain and America. In a fearlessly honest, sometimes funny but always empathetic book, Adichie explores race in the modern world.
  9. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958): This book addresses the effect of colonization on traditional life by following the story of Okonkwo, a young Igbo man living in rural Nigeria. It is considered the archetypal modern African novel and has received much praise.
  10. Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee (1980): The book is set in colonial times in Africa and is a scathing critique of the relationship between race and power using the story of the changes in a small village and its magistrate when the Empire sends its interrogators there to wage war on the “barbarians”.

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