Anti-racism book club

The PART Anti-Racism Book Club has now transitioned to Anti-Racism Reads and has a permanent home with the Library and the W Store. Please visit the Library’s website for information on upcoming events. 

A key deliverable of PART is to promote education, awareness and a deeper understanding of race, culture and ethnicity across campus. Members of PART have carefully curated a list of 12 books, available that it recommends for this purpose (see appendix).  From July 2021 to June 2022, we will guide you on the complexities of several relevant and important subjects such as white fragility, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in Canada, the Indian Act, and the equity myth.

Led by various members of our campus community, a book will be selected from this list each month for a group review and discussion, until most or all the books have been reviewed. View the full list of books below.

Reading list

1. Cole, Desmond. The Skin We’re in: a Year of Black Resistance and Power. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2020. 

In his 2015 cover story for Toronto Life magazine, Desmond Cole exposed the racist actions of the Toronto police force, detailing the dozens of times he had been stopped and interrogated under the controversial practice of carding. The story quickly came to national prominence, shaking the country to its core and catapulting its author into the public sphere.

Both Cole’s activism and journalism find vibrant expression in his first book, The Skin We’re In. Puncturing the bubble of Canadian smugness and naive assumptions of a post-racial nation, Cole chronicles just one year—2017—in the struggle against racism in this country. It was a year that saw calls for tighter borders when Black refugees braved frigid temperatures to cross into Manitoba from the States, Indigenous land and water protectors resisting the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, police across the country rallying around an officer accused of murder, and more.The year also witnessed the profound personal and professional ramifications of Desmond Cole’s unwavering determination to combat injustice.

Urgent, controversial, and unsparingly honest, The Skin We’re In is destined to become a vital text for anti-racist and social justice movements in Canada, as well as a potent antidote to the all-too-present complacency of many white Canadians.

Library link

2. Kendi, Ibram X. How to Be an Anti-racist. First edition. New York: One World, 2019. 

At its core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their poisonous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves. 

Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society. 

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3. DiAngelo, Robin, and Michael Eric Dyson. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. Beacon Press, 2018. 

Diangelo, a race scholar and professional diversity trainer, delivers a thoughtful, instructive, and comprehensive book on challenging racism by understanding and working against what she terms "white fragility.” She explains that the book is primarily intended for white audiences to aid in "building our stamina" for tolerating these discussions in order to challenge racism. Diangelo brings together personal experiences, extensive research, and real-world examples-including missteps she herself has made to demonstrate how entrenched racism remains a societal norm. Her analysis effectively challenges the widespread notion that "only intentionally mean people can participate in racism"; rather, she explains, racism is "deeply embedded in the fabric of our society."

This slim book is impressive in its scope and complexity; Diangelo provides a powerful lens for examining, and practical tools for grappling with, racism today. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. 

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4. King, Thomas. The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. Toronto: Anchor Canada, 2013. 

The Inconvenient Indian distills the insights gleaned from Thomas King's critical and personal meditation on what it means to be "Indian" in North America. It is a curiously circular tale of the centuries-old relationship between non-Natives and Natives. King refashions stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands. 

This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope. It is for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, who are seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future. 

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5. Manuel George: The Fourth World: AN Indian Reality, University of Minnesota Press, 2018. 

A foundational work of radical anticolonialism, back in print. Originally published in 1974, The Fourth World is a critical work of Indigenous political activism that has long been out of print. George Manuel, a leader in the North American Indian movement at that time, with coauthor journalist Michael Posluns, presents a rich historical document that traces the struggle for Indigenous survival as a nation, a culture, and a reality.

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6. Bob Joseph, 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality, Indigenous Relations Press, 2018. 

Based on a viral article, 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act is the essential guide to understanding the legal document and its repercussion on generations of Indigenous Peoples, written by a leading cultural sensitivity trainer. 

Since its creation in 1876, the Indian Act has shaped, controlled, and constrained the lives and opportunities of Indigenous Peoples, and is at the root of many enduring stereotypes. Joseph explains how Indigenous Peoples can step out from under the Indian Act and return to self-government, self-determination, and self-reliance—and why doing so would result in a better country for every Canadian. He dissects the complex issues around truth and reconciliation, and clearly demonstrates why learning about the Indian Act’s cruel, enduring legacy is essential for the country to move toward true reconciliation. 

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7. Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth.  Pref. by Jean-Paul Sartre.  Translated [from the French] by Constance Farrington. New York, Grove Press, 1968. 

First published in 1961, Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth is an interrogation of race, colonialism, psychological trauma, and revolutionary struggle. In 2020, it found a new readership in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests and the works of Black writers. The book incisively attacks the twin perils of post-independence colonial politics: the disenfranchisement of the masses by the elites on the one hand, and intertribal and interfaith animosities on the other. A landmark text for revolutionaries and activists, The Wretched of the Earth is an eternal touchstone for civil rights, anti-colonialism, psychiatric studies, and Black consciousness movements around the world.

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8. Eddo-Lodge, Reni. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. London: Bloomsbury Circus, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2017 

Award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge was frustrated with the way that discussions of race and racism are so often led by those blind to it, by those willfully ignorant of its legacy. This book transformed that conversation both in Britain and around the world. Examining everything from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, from whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge, and counter racism. This is an essential handbook for anyone looking to understand how structural racism works. 

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9. Young, Vershawn Ashanti. Your Average Nigga: Performing Race, Literacy, and Masculinity. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2007. 

In Your Average Nigga, Vershawn Ashanti Young disputes the belief that speaking Standard English and giving up Black English Vernacular helps black students succeed academically. Young argues that this assumption not only exaggerates the differences between two compatible varieties of English but forces black males to choose between an education and their masculinity, by choosing to act either white or black. Young shares his own experiences as he exposes the factors that make black racial identity irreconcilable with literacy for blacks, especially black males. 

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10. Wagamese, Richard. One Drum: Stories and Ceremonies for a Planet.  Madeira Park, BC, 2019. 

One Drum draws from the foundational Grandfather Teachings of Ojibway tradition. Focussing specifically on the lessons of humility, respect and courage, One Drum contains simple ceremonies that anyone anywhere can do, alone or in a group, to foster harmony and connection. 

Writing of neglect, abuse and loss of identity, Wagamese recalls the feeling of hope he gained from connecting with the spiritual ways of his people. He expressed the belief that ceremony has the power to unify and to heal for people of all backgrounds. “When that happens,” he wrote, “we truly become one song and one drum beating together in a common purpose—and we are on the path to being healed.” 

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11. Richard Wagamese (2017) Embers: One Obijway’s Mediation 

In this carefully curated selection of everyday reflections, Richard Wagamese finds lessons in both the mundane and sublime as he muses on the universe. Honest, evocative and articulate, he explores the various manifestations of grief, joy, recovery, beauty, gratitude, physicality and spirituality--concepts many find hard to express. Within these pages, readers will find hard-won and concrete wisdom on how to feel the joy in the everyday things. Wagamese does not seek to be a teacher or guru, but these observations made along his own journey to become, as he says, "a spiritual bad-ass," make inspiring reading. 

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12. Henry, Frances, Carl E. James, Peter S. Li, Audrey Lynn Kobayashi, Malinda S. Smith, Howard Ramos, and Dua Enakshi. The Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities. Vancouver, [British Columbia]: UBC Press, 2017. 

Challenging the myth of equity in higher education, this book brings together leading scholars who scrutinize what universities have done and question the effectiveness of their equity programs. The authors draw on a rich body of survey data and interviews to examine the experiences of racialized faculty members across Canada who – despite diversity initiatives in their respective institutions – have yet to see changes in everyday working conditions. They also make important recommendations as to how universities can address racialization and fulfill the promise of equity in higher education. 

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