Women, Race & Racism: Recommended Reading

Here is a non-exhaustive list of books by women that approach issues of race and racism from a variety of perspectives. The ones with asterisks have been read and recommended by participants in the Feminist Reading Group, a project of the Women’s Committee of We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos with the crucial support of the West Tisbury Free Public Library.

  • Note #1: I am thrilled that so many of the books published by feminist presses in the 1980s are still in print. These are the works that shaped my own thinking about feminism, race, sex, class, and all the rest of it.
  • Note #2: While looking up publishers, I found several new-to-me titles that are now on my to-read list.
  • Note #3: Needless to say, male writers have written excellent books exploring these issues. I particularly recommend anything by James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates (especially Between the World and Me), and Ibram X. Kendi (especially How to Be an Antiracist).

Please feel free to recommend titles that have been important to you. You can either leave a comment (if you don’t want your comment published on the site, let us know) or use the contact form at the end of this post.

— Susanna J. Sturgis

Akasha (Gloria T.) Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith, (All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men) But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies (1982; Feminist Press at CUNY, 2015)

Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens: Womanist Prose (1983; Mariner Books, 2004)

Angela Davis, Women, Race, and Class (1981; Vintage, 2011)

Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider (1984, Crossing Press Feminist Series; Penguin Classics, 2019)

Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (Persephone Press, 1982)

*Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness (Convergent, 2018)

Barbara Smith, editor, Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (originally Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, reprinted by Rutgers University Press, 2000)

bell hooks, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1981, South End Press; Routledge, 2015)

Beverly Guy-Sheftall, editor, Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought (The New Press, 1995)

Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (Bloomsbury, 2016)

Charlene Carruthers, Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements (Beacon, 2018)

Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, editors, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (originally published by Persephone Press in 1981, reprinted by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 4th ed. now available from SUNY Press, 2015)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (Anchor, 2017)

*Debby Irvine, Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race (Elephant Room Press, 2014)

Donna Brazile,Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry, and Minyon Moore, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics (St. Martin’s, 2018)

Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987; Aunt Lute Books, 2012)

Gloria Anzaldúa, editor, Making Face, Making Soul; Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color (Aunt Lute, 1990)

Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861; Dover, 2001)

*Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race (Seal Press, 2018)

Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Random House, 2010)

Keyanga-Yamahtta Taylor, How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective (Haymarket, 2017)

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969; Ballantine, 2009). This was followed by six subsequent books of memoir: Gather Together in My Name (1974), Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976), The Heart of a Woman (1981), All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986), A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002), and Mom & Me & Mom (2013).

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2012)

Michelle Cliff, The Land of Look-Behind (Firebrand Books, 1985)

Michelle Obama, Becoming (Crown, 2018)

Morgan Jerkins, This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America (Convergent, 2018)

Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought (Routledge, 2008)

Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America (1984; HarperPerennial, 2002)

*Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (2018)

Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South (Yale University Press, 2019)

Toni Morrison — anything, but consider starting with her first two novels, The Bluest Eye and Sula

Zora Neale Hurston, I Love Myself When I Am Laughing — and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive, edited by Alice Walker (1979; Feminist Press, 1993)

Suggestions for additional readings?

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