Now more than ever, we are talking about race. As a white woman, I am often sheltered from the realities of the experiences of those different from myself.
This is not how my world should be structured and I am aiming to change that. I want to shape my viewpoint of the world through the perspectives of others. Here I have assembled a list for you to do the same.
The best way for me to do this is to simply listen to the experiences of others who are facing racial, social and political injustice, something that I do not face myself. One of the best ways to do that is to read from authors who have undergone the experiences themselves. They are educated in many ways that I am not.
“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie traces the journey of Ifemelu and Obinze, a young couple in love, from Nigeria to the western parts of the world. Ifemelu immigrated to America to attend university, while Obinze is forced into the U.K., after the occurrence of September 11 in America. Separated from each other and their homeland, the two must navigate their new lives.
More of a commentary on race, identity and nationality than it is a story of star-crossed lovers, “Americanah” is one of the most valuable books you can read to educate yourself on the Black experience in America. Ifemelu and Obinze, the two main characters, become background to what Adichie wants to say about race and for that, it’s worth it.
“The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America,” Adichie wrote.
Adichie speaks on these intricacies of race throughout the novel.
She’s a powerful writer and, though many might disagree with me on this, all 588 pages are worth the read, simply because of Adichie’s complex and frank statements about what it means to be Black.
“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi follows a pair of half-sisters’ descendants through eight generations, beginning at the Gold Coast and finishing in Harlem. It is about what and who shapes history.
An elegant story, this novel is worth reading to educate yourself on the Black experience. Each chapter is from a different perspective and a different character, but it still relates to the chapter before it. It’s an avenue to see the way history was shaped, and who shaped it.
“How many times could he pick himself off the dirty floor of a jail cell?” Gyasi wrote. “How many hours could he spend marching? How many bruises could he collect from the police? How many letters to the mayor, governor, president could he send? How many more days would it take to get something to change? And when it changed, would it change? Would America be any different, or would it be mostly the same?”
Gyasi wrote a telling and striking story about the history of being Black.
“Purple Hibiscus” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is about a pair of siblings’ strict religious upbringing in Nigeria. When they are allowed a trip outside of their hometown to visit family, the siblings discover a new world and new parts of themselves they didn’t think possible.
Very different from “Americanah”, but still just as valuable as a book on the Black experience, “Purple Hibiscus” is an actual story, rather than Adichie’s outright thoughts. She takes readers through a journey of the siblings’ self-discovery of their race, spirituality, love of family and strength.
We see their growth as human beings as they slowly escape their rigorous schedule and abusive father. The siblings become who they were meant to be without the confines of their home; in other words, they become well-developed people, not just children of their father. It is a wonderful, moving book about the growth and change of a person.
There is importance in learning about different experiences. With the value of learning something new, one becomes a more educated individual.