5 Books That Shine A Spotlight on Racial Injustice

June 3, 2020  • Aspen Words

“Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.”  — Toni Morrison

At Aspen Words, we stand with all those fighting racism and injustice. We believe that words, sentences, and stories can lead to shifts in consciousness, to action and to change. Now and always, we hope you will join us in reading, following, sharing, and supporting black authors and poets whose works shine a spotlight on the structural racism and injustice in society. Here are just a few contemporary writers doing vital work through a variety of genres.

Fiction: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

“Evil begets evil. It grows. It transmutes, so that sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home.” — Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing

This multigenerational epic follows the descendants of two half-sisters born in 18th-century Ghana across three centuries and two continents. With ambitious scope, unexpected twists, and astonishing language, Gyasi traces the legacies of slavery and colonization to reveal their longstanding impact on racism in America today.

Non-fiction: So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo 

“To refuse to listen to someone’s cries for justice and equality until the request comes in a language you feel comfortable with is a way of asserting your dominance over them in the situation.” ― Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want To Talk About Race

Olua provides straight-forward and clear discussions around a wide range of topics related to racism, including microaggressions, intersectionality, privilege, cultural appropriation, and affirmative action, while also leaving the reader with concrete steps to help dismantle the systemic racial divide.

Memoir: Heavy by Kiese Laymon

“Our superpower, I was told since I was a child, was perseverance, the ability to survive no matter how much they took from us. I never understood how surviving was our collective superpower when white folk made sure so many of us didn’t survive. And those of us who did survive practiced bending so much that breaking seemed inevitable.” ― Kiese Laymon, Heavy: An American Memoir

Stunning on a sentence by sentence level, this memoir—addressed to Laymon’s mother—is a raw and gut-wrenching account of what it is like to move through the world in a black body, to feel intense shame and trauma, and to find power through language.

Poetry: The Tradition by Jericho Brown

“I want you / To heed that I’m still here / Just beneath your skin and in / Each organ / The way anger dwells in a man / Who studies the history of his nation. / If I can’t leave you / Dead, I’ll have / You vexed.” — from the poem “The Virus,” The Tradition

Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize, this poetry collection interrogates a culture that has normalized violence, at both an individual and societal level. In their exploration of love, sexuality, racism, gender, and history, these poems contain pain and sadness, but also an undercurrent of hope and a call to action.

Essays: Black is the Body by Emily Bernard

“In my family, race was not a construction, or a theory, or an outdated consequence of history, but the active, living foundation of our reality. Race determined the contours of every choice we made; every mundane public act we performed was a project with a name.” — Emily Bernard, Black Is The Body

Written with honesty and vulnerability, the essays in Emily Bernard’s collection explore the author’s experience of race in the myriad situations that comprise her life: growing up black in the South, surviving a random stabbing, marrying a white man, and adopting Ethiopian children.

You can find and purchase these books at our Bookshop page.

Racial Equity
We Must Keep Their Names Alive
June 2, 2020 • Douglas Wood