Human Rights Readings
2019 – 2020 Recommended readings
by Robin DiAngelo
Anti-racism educator Robin DiAngelo shines a light on white fragility and how racism is not a practice exclusive to bad people. DiAngelo explores the emotions of white fragility such as fear, anger, and guilt, expressed through argumentation and silence. Through understanding how white fragility develops and how it protects racial inequality, more constructive engagement of racial inequality is allowed.
The underground railroad
by Colton Whitehead
On a southern plantation, an abandoned slave girl named Cora begins to feel increasingly pressured by her fellow slaves and her masters. Now an outcast after her mother Mabel left her behind, she receives a lifeline from a man named Caeser who proposes a plan of escape. Together, and with the help of an abolitionist, they seek passage aboard the underground trains of the Underground Railroad to a place further North where they can be free. Cora must find a safe refuge for herself in a world of slavery and violence, while dodging elite slave catcher Ridgeway who shares Cora’s resentment for her escapee mother Mabel whom he failed to capture. This historical fiction imagines a literal underground railroad taking escaped slaves along its tracks to various safe harbors.
Missoula – Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
by Jon Krakauer
Missoula, Montana, is a typical college town, with a highly regarded state university, bucolic surroundings, a lively social scene, and an excellent football team — the Grizzlies — with a rabid fan base. The Department of Justice investigated 350 sexual assaults reported to the Missoula police between January 2008 and May 2012. Few of these assaults were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical.
In Missoula, Krakauer chronicles the searing experiences of several women in Missoula — the nights when they were raped; their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them.
by Yaa Gyasi
In this uniquely-formatted historical fiction taking place over a hundred years worth of generations, two connected family lines starting with Asante woman Maame and Fante woman Baaba tell a story that starts in the 1800s in Ghana and ends in the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1900s. This ambitious novel highlights several historical events throughout Ghana’s history, as well as the hardships experienced by its inhabitants and eventually expatriates.
The House on Mango Street
by Sandra Cisneros
A perfect read for Hispanic Heritage Month from Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros, who tells a tale of struggles and coming-of-age for a teenage Latina girl trying to grow up in a Chicano and Puerto Rican neighborhood of Chicago. Esperanza Cordero’s attempts to invent herself in the present and for the future through both heartbreaking and joyous vignettes of her life. This award-winning young adult story is also a staple academic book for public education.
by Sebastian Junger
2018 NIC Recommended Reading: Junger combines history, psychology, and anthropology as he explores what tribal societies can teach us about loyalty, belonging, and humanity’s eternal quest to find meaning. He explains the irony that war feels better than peace, that adversity can turn into a blessing, and that disasters are more often more fondly remembered than the good moments in life. Tribe explains why humans are stronger when we come together and how we can achieve that in our presently divided world.
by Virginia Eubanks
2020 NIC Recommended Reading: A powerful investigative look at data-based discrimination—and how technology affects civil and human rights and economic equity
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Other Recommended readings
The Warmth of Other Suns
by Isabel Wilkerson
Explore America’s migration in our three-part book club meeting for this award-winning book by the first black female Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson. Wilkerson tells the great untold story of the migration of nearly six million black citizens through the eyes of three characters as they uproot and move from the Southern states to the North in search of a better life. This extensively researched story tells not just how these people moved, but how they affected the world around them as they lived.
Black Like Me
by John Howard Griffin
This non-fiction book comes from journalist John Howard Griffin who, during the racial segregation in 1961, underwent a temporary procedure to darken his skin so he could take a six-week journey in racially segregated states and better understand what life on the other side of the color line was like. Along with photographer Don Rutledge, Griffin accrued a trove of photos and 188 pages in his diary detailing his experiences. His book went on to sell millions of copies, and opened the eyes of many Americans to the realities of racial segregation.
Waking Up White
by Debby Irving
Irving tells the story of her 25 years sensing racial tension in personal and professional relationships, and her worries as a colleague and neighbor that she would offend those she wanted to befriend. As an arts administrator she did not understand why her diversity efforts lacked traction, and as a teacher she found her best efforts to reach out to students and families of color were missing something. After a revelatory moment in 2009, Irving launched an adventure of discovery and insight that would drastically shift her world view. Irving shares both the good and cringe-worthy moments of her story.
by J.D. Vance
J.D. Vance reveals the decline of America’s white working class through the lens of his own family, which ascended to a middle class status after his grandparents fled to Ohio to escape the dreadful poverty in the Appalachian Mountain regions of Kentucky, and the difficulties that came along with their uplifting. As a Marine and Yale Law school graduate, Vance solidified the upward mobility of his family over the generations, but the abuse, trauma, alcoholism, and effects of poverty continued to haunt both his family and Vance himself while his parents, especially his mother, struggled to meet the demands of their new middle class lifestyle. Through this memoir on the chaos that followed Vance’s family he shares how the American Dream has become lost to a portion of the country, and how poverty can cripple a family through generations.
We Should All be Feminists
by Chimanda Ngozi Adichi
As an adaptation of her Tedx talk of the same name, Nigerian writer Chimanda Ngozi Adichie asks what feminism means in today’s world. This essay explores not just blatant discrimination, but insidious and institutionalized behaviors that marginalize women across the globe, and helps her readers understand the sometimes subtle realities of sexual politics. Her experiences in Nigeria and in the United States give her a strong insight into the gender divide and how it harms not just women, but men as well. Adichie, a best-selling author known for Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun, brings her style of humor and wit intermixed with serious observations into the field of feminism, and offers her unique definition of feminism which calls for inclusion and awareness. She artfully explains not just what it means to be a woman today, but why we should all be feminists.
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Suggested Books for Teens
Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today
by Lori M. Carlson
Ten short stories about contemporary native American teens by members of tribes of the United States and Canada, including Louise Erdrich and Joseph Bruchac.
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the reservation to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
When the Rain Sings
Poems by Young Native Americans
When the Rain Sings: Poems by Young Native Americans was created in partnership with Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers and includes some of the notable talents from Wordcraft’s Mentoring Initiative, a national program created to cultivate the writing abilities of Native youth. NMAI, with support from Wordcraft’s founding director Lee Francis (Laguna Pueblo), asked Native participants from Mentoring Initiatives throughout the United States to use objects and historic images from the museum’s unparalleled collections to spark their imagination. The uplifting, sometimes aching, responses of these poets, who range in age from nine to seventeen, invite readers into a world colored by joy, sadness, and memory.
Great Human Rights Books
Mulicultural Books by Age Group
Books that bring us together
This booklet includes over 60 multicultural books for all age groups. You will find something for the whole family!