There have been many books recommended recently to help people understand the roots of racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. An important part of the movement is becoming empowered and aware - reading facts, studying history and allowing yourself to drink the information in, distill it, digest it and grow from it.
Nonfiction is a great way to grow on your terms. You can read and then re-read complicated sections and use the bibliography to find more sources. I gravitate towards narrative nonfiction that yanks me through the bulk of facts and statistics, using a central story or character. These types of nonfiction books read like fiction, but are based in facts. I recently finished the narrative nonfiction book Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Just Mercy follows Stevenson’s battle for equal justice with regard to the death penalty. It was filled with compelling facts and additional sources. I became very familiar with the highlighting feature in Overdrive. I could follow my highlighting trail to come back to the information that stunned me.
But sometimes, I need fiction. Sometimes I crave a book that whispers to my heart, invites me to fall in love with the protagonists – or despise the villains, allows me to imagine the landscape and gasp at the drama. Fiction is often related through multiple characters' perspectives. In other words, I get both sides of the situation, through a shifting point-of-view. As a reader I can internalize the voice of each character, feel their fear and exhaustion, or experience their joy or resignation.
Some fantastic, issue-oriented fiction has surfaced in the last few years that has stirred within me a deeper consciousness of racial injustice. These books wrestle with different aspects of racism through imaginary characters and situations. So I experimented with our beloved readers advisory database, “Novelist,” and discovered that many of these books are searchable using the phrase “facing racism." What inspired me to write this blog post is a recent New York Times bestseller titled A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler. The theme is described by Novelist as "facing racism." While Fowler’s story is fictional, and the author is a white woman, it elucidates the racial inequality that is at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement. The enraging plot twist got me thinking that fiction, too, can be an inlet to flood our awareness with empathy.
If you find that picking up nonfiction book is hard for you because it is summer, or because you are overwhelmed, I challenge you to pick up a title from the list below. Be prepared to be hurt. Be prepared to be moved. Be prepared to be changed. -- Nanette, Cascade Township Branch.