1. White Fragility by Robin J. DiAngelo
Written by an antiracist educator, this nonfiction book defines the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’” (Claudia Rankine, poet). It was published in 2018 and is a New York Times bestseller. A great read for anyone seeking to expand their knowledge on racial inequality and is ready to approach some difficult conversations.
2. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
This book-length poem by an award winning poet stretches the conventions of traditional lyric poetry by interweaving several forms of text and media into a collective portrait of racial relations in the United States. Citizen, itself, won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2014 and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry in 2015. It is a great read for those who are interested in learning about racism in a more personal, creative way.
3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Since its original publication in 1952, this novel has become a classic in the literary canon of diversity and social justice. Invisible Man chronicles the travels of a young, nameless black man as he moves through the hellish levels of American intolerance and cultural blindness. It is a staple read for many high school and college students, and is a must-read for all.
4. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Another classic novel that is featured on black, LGBT, and feminist shelves—it is a must-read in just about every way. Since it was published in 1982, it has been adapted into a musical and a film. Walker’s masterpiece about the love between women and the unbreakable bond between two sisters separated by the world has won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction.
5. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
This bestselling book tells the true story of the Equal Justice Initiative, the people we represent, and the importance of confronting injustice. It tells Bryan Stevenson’s story as a young lawyer working on Walter McMillians case, the case of a young man who was sentenced to death for a murder he insisted he did not commit. It addresses racial injustice head-on, and is an inspiring story about our criminal justice system.
6. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
In 2017, this black female author and activist published one of the most talked about young adult fiction novels of the year. The plot follows the story of a teenage girl after her friend is shot and killed by a white police officer. Thomas incorporated the idea of code switching and becoming an activist in this emotionally-gripping novel. While written for young adults, this novel is an important read for all. If you haven’t already, definitely give it a read and check out the movie.
7. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
This collection of essays is often featured on LGBT reading lists. Gay, one of the most-watched cultural observers of her generation, writes about politics, criticism, and feminism with a very unique voice. Using humor and poignant insight, she takes readers on the journey of her life as a woman of color. It is an easy read for those interested in exploring the truths of feminism.
8. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
While Atwood’s provocative dystopian novel was published in 1985, its rise on the charts came in 2016. It explored themes of subjugated women in an extremely patriarchal, and disturbing, society [trigger warning: it discusses sexual assault]. Atwood’s incredible story telling and crafting of an alternative society that has troubling parallels to our current society caught the attention of many. In 2017, Hulu adapted The Handmaid’s Tale into a show.
9. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
This underrated novel that is classified as autobiographical fiction, tells the story of a butch lesbian in 1970’s America. It is said to be the bravest, most original account of the complexities of a transgendered existence. Feinberg draws readers in with raw emotion and openness, allowing many to see and feel experiences they otherwise wouldn’t. While it can be hard to read at times [trigger warning: it discusses sexual assault and physical assault], it is a literary work of its own kind.
10. This Is How It’s Always Been by Laurie Frankel
Frankel’s fiction novel tells the story of a little boy who wants to be a girl when they grow up and how their family handles the many difficulties this presents. It is a beautiful story about homosexuality, familial love, coming-of-age, and how one identifies themself to the world. An easy to read, life-changing book.
TV Shows & Movies:
1. Get Out [movie]
This 2017 American horror film was written and directed by Jordan Peel. It stars Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Lil Rel Howery, Bradley Whitford, Caleb, Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Catherine Keener, and Lakeith Stanfield. It is an Academy Award winning film that presents the issue of racism in our society in an unsettling way. Get Out is scary in more ways than one, but definitely worth the watch.
2. Just Mercy [movie]
Adapted from Bryan Stevenson’s nonfiction book in 2019, this American biographical legal drama film has been awarded with various NAACP Image Awards. It stars Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall, and Brie Larson; it was directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and produced by Gil Netter. It is a must-watch not only for its incredible cinematography but for the social justice issues it presents.
3. The Hate U Give [movie]
This is another great film adaptation of Angie Thomas’s young adult novel. Released in 2018, it stars Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, K.J. Apa, and Anthony Mackie. It also won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture. With an emotional and thought provoking plot line, it is a must watch for audiences of all ages.
4. Dear White People [TV show]
Featured on Netflix, this is an American comedy-drama series that follows the lives of several black college students at an Ivy League institution. It touches on many issues surrounding modern American race relations, as well as the typical issues that teenagers face about sexuality and individualism. If you’re interested in watching a series that tackles these complex issues with modern humor, this is the show for you.
5. Moonlight [movie]
In 2019, Barry Jenkins wrote and directed this American coming-of-age drama film based on Tarrel Alvin’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The Guardian listed “love, sex, survival, mother and father figures,” among the many themes this film touches upon. Starring Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali, it is an emotional and eye-catching work of art.
6. Everything Sucks! [TV show]
This comedy-drama can be watched on Netflix, and outlines the lives of a group of outcasts attending the fictional Boring High School. It deals with issues of discovering sexuality, dealing with mental health, and overall growing up. It was created by Ben York Jones and Michael Mohan to parody teen culture in the mid-1990’s. If you’re looking for a laugh-out-loud show that will make you think about queerness and other controversial themes of adolescence, this is a fitting show.
7. Unbelievable [TV show]
In 2019, Susannah Grand, Ayelet Waldman, and Michael Chabon co-created this miniseries about the series of rapes in Washington State and Colorado between 2008 and 2011. Based on true stories, this drama is not an easy watch [trigger warning: it has scenes about sexual assault] but it does an incredible job telling the stories of these girls. If you feel ready to think about this issue, Unbelievable is a great, quick watch.
8. Mrs. America [TV show]
After FX premiered this miniseries on Hulu in 2020, it has received widespread critical acclaim and ten nominations at the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards. Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Uzo Aduba, Elizabeth Banks, Kayli Carter, and many more play the roles of significant figures of the women’s liberation movement in the 1970’s. A must-watch for all feminists, women and men alike.
9. The Handmaid’s Tale [TV show]
Based on Margaret Atwood’s novel, this series was created by Bruce Miller and premiered in 2017 on Hulu. While it is incredibly produced, it does parallel the disturbing dystopian plot of the novel [trigger warning: it has scenes about sexual assault]. Starring Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Stragovski, Alexis Bledel, and Medeline Brewer, it is a thought-provoking watch.
10. Knock Down The House [TV show]
This original Netflix documentary tells the story of four working class women who run for Congress, overcoming adversity to battle powerful political machines in America. It was directed by Rachel Lears and stars Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin. It won a Critics’ Choice Documentary Award in 2019. It is a must-watch for anyone interested in politics and feminism.