The gruesome murder of George Floyd caught on video has justifiably caused an uprising across America and the world. I think we all agree that his murder, and any murder like it, is wrong and intolerable. What many of us non-black Americans do not fully understand is how prevalent systemic racism is in our country. We have to make an effort to bridge the gap, to know the stories of what it means to black in America, and to become an active part of the solution.
Below is a short list of books that confront these very important issues. These books are all powerful, difficult to read, and are intimate reminders of the work we still have in front of us to create a peaceful, just, and fair society for everyone.
Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson
One of the most important books I’ve ever read. Keep your tissues handy. Bryan Stevenson has been called a young Nelson Mandela. True story about confronting injustice and people Equal Justice Initiative has represented. It’s a New York Times best seller and has been recently adapted into a feature film staring Michael Joran and Jamie Foxx.
Ghettoside, Jill Leovy
LA Times reporter Jill Leovy embeds with detectives investigating murders in the more violent neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Homicide remains the No. 1 cause of death for African-American males ages 15 to 34 — and solving these crimes should be a top priority for any police force yet according to her findings, only 10% are actually every solved.
American Prison, Shane Bauer
The story of Shane Bauer posing undercover as a guard for a private-for profit prison while also weaving in historical accounts of the prison system in America.
Heavy, Kiese Laymon
This memoir should be required reading for every American. Not only is Keise Laymon one of the most talented writers today, his story is so profoundly moving and honest, you will feel the weight and violence throughout the story. It’s the only book I’ve ever finished reading and immediately began again.
The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead
An examination of America’s history of violence based on a true story about a boys’ reformatory school in Florida in the 1960s.