Recommended Reading: Best Books on Racism, Privilege & Immigration
Our team of diversity specialists have been busy as ever devouring new content on diversity and inclusion. In this blog, we share our latest reading recommendations and staff reviews of books on racism, privilege and immigration.
Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World, Layla F Saad
Me and White Supremacy is a fantastic read for anyone who is looking to take the next step in their own anti-racism work – particularly those who hold white privilege. Saad’s book serves more as a workbook, based on her 2018 Instagram challenge, where readers are tasked with a series of short lessons or reflections on various topics and then asked to complete their own reflective journal entries based on those lessons.
Rather than serve as passive readers who sit back and learn from Saad’s writing (which is fantastic), Saad pushes her readers to look inward and actively engage in personal reflection as to how they have benefitted from and perpetuated white supremacy in their own lives. These reflections are intentionally uncomfortable and designed to ensure readers gain a deeper understanding of the role white supremacy has played in their lives, while also beginning to discover tangible ways they can combat racism and white supremacy on a day-to-day basis. This is the perfect book for anyone who is ready to deepen their commitment to anti-racism and level-up their understanding of their own role in combating systems of oppression.
Reviewed by Samantha Goober
The Good Immigrant, Nikesh Shukla
The Good Immigrant is a collection of stories and reflections from various British diasporas, including Indian, Nigerian, Chinese, and a host of other countries that people have left behind for the British Isles. Each author paints a picture of their experience growing up in Britain, when their differences were most apparent, the moments they believed they could assimilate and be seen as “good”, as well as the legacy of their parents and grandparents that gave up their lives to start again.
The stories contained within represent the incredible strength and resilience it takes to leave your homeland and become an “immigrant” in another place. An outsider, a recipient of the insufferably elongated “But…where are you…. from?”, excluded from screens big and small and told it’s because “there were no ethnic people here in the 1700s”, with no question of why that era has become ever prominent in British television.
Authors range from Reni Eddo Lodge, journalist and author of “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” to Riz Ahmed, an Emmy award winning actor. Regardless of the profession or ethnicity, common threads emerge throughout this book. Untangling the hangovers of colonisation, inside themselves and amongst their families, returning to the “homeland” and what that word means, as well as living in and feeling “from” a country that no one ever believes you have a claim to. The Good Immigrant offers perspectives on these issues in a diverse and thoughtful way, making for an eye-opening read.
Reviewed by Tola Sokoya
One of Them: An Eton College Memoir, Musa Okwonga
In this book, Musa shares his experiences as the child of a family of Ugandan refugees and the struggles they faced creating a new life in the UK, and their experiences of racism and privilege. Having seen a documentary on Eton, Musa becomes determined to go there and his mother helps him make it a reality. The book is written almost in chronological order and as a diary of different thought pieces.
There are so many lessons about how privilege works in this book. Just one of many examples mentions how the teachers at Eton stay at the school for decades, a stark contrast to the staff recruitment challenges schools in deprived areas contend with. Musa says of his fellow alumni:
“The world works for them just as it is.”
The world is full of different challenges for Musa and he describes dealing with the stereotypes that young black men face. He worries he hasn’t made money like his contemporaries; I would love to meet him and tell him that he has succeeded and done something more important – he has shone a light.
Reviewed by Teresa Norman
My Name is Why, Lemn Sissay
Born in Lancashire, the son of a young Ethiopian student who had recently arrived in England, Sissay was placed by his mother’s social worker with foster parents against her wishes. Sissay subsequently spent a broken childhood navigating deep injustice and suffering in long-term foster care and abusive institutions.
My Name Is Why is a chronological account of Sissay’s experiences, interspersed with poetry and social workers’ reports and letters. Sissay writes about ultimately finding hope and determination through creativity, but My Name Is Why is nevertheless a damning indictment of the British Care system at the time. In Amharic, ‘Lemn’ means ‘Why?’. The reader’s journey through Sissay’s memoir is an exploration of this question in his attempt to rationalise the chaos of his childhood:
“I had been on earth for fourteen summers. And to ask me not to ‘build my hopes up’ was heartbreaking, given that all I had was hope. I needed an answer to the question, why?”
My Name Is Why is a story about identity that explores the institutional care system, race and family. It is a story about representation – how important it is to be seen, and to see oneself represented in society, including at work.
Reviewed by Catherine Manser
What do we know and what should we do about immigration, Professor Jonanthan Portes
My personal interpretation of the answer to the question posed in this wonderful book’s title is ‘embrace it’. The book combines recent history, the latest economic research, contemporary politics and some speculation.
Given the topic, you might expect this book to be a difficult read, but it isn’t at all. It is very enjoyable and sometimes fascinatingly counter-intuitive. I found some of his points particularly enlightening:
“Immigration has made us more prosperous, productive and dynamic.”
If you want to be able to have evidence-based arguments about the benefits of migration, this is your go-to book.
Reviewed by Teresa Norman