Books for White Folks Part 5: The Memoirs & Personal Accounts

Book cover for When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
We know that stories are often more convincing than statistics and straightforward facts.  Memoirs and personal accounts are a powerful means of capturing the big systemic issues that permeate our culture’s white supremacy problem.  These books, all the way back to the 1800s the present provide powerful first-hand accounts about what it means to not be white in a culture that privileges white identity.  Each one speaks to things that many white folks never truly understand or even pause to consider in our lives.  

With so many to choose from, I still did not hesitate with When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors.  Khan-Cullors is one of the founding members of Black Lives Matter.  When I hear her story and the personal, familial, and social challenges that pushed her to be a founding member, it is moving and powerful and pushes me to be a better person that fights against injustice.  Despite how the media portrays the Black Lives Matter movement, what you will find in Khan-Cullors’ story is love, compassion, and understanding.  Something, we all need. 

The Recommendations
  • Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • War Dances by Sherman Alexie 
  • The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement by William J. Barber II 
  • The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6' 4", African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama's Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian by W. Kamau Bell
  • United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good by Cory Booker
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass 
  • How to Make White People Laugh by Negin Farsad
  • Letters to a Young Muslim by Omar Saif Ghobash
  • Revolution 2:0: A Memoir and Call to Action by Wael Ghonim
  • Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
  • All the Agents and Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands by Stephanie Elizondo Griest
  • Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World by Suzy Hansen
  • The Butler: A Witness to History by Wil Haygood
  • Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him by David Henry 
  • Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption-from South Central to Hollywood by Ice-T
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs
  • When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
  • Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America by Jonathan Kozol
  • Letters to a Young Teacher by Jonatha Kozol
  • The American Journey of Barack Obama by LIFE Magazine
  • Making Gumbo in the University by Rupert Nacoste
  • Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
  • The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • White American Youth: My Descent into America's Most Violent Hate Movement—and How I Got Out by Christian Picciolini
  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
  • Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man's Education by Mychal Denzel Smith
  • White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise
You can find the full list of books in the genre of race, identity, and privilege on Goodreads.  For all posts in this series, check out:
  1. The Introduction
  2. The Ambassadors
  3. The Fiction
  4. The Classics
  5. The Memoirs and Personal Accounts
  6. The Comics
  7. The Histories
  8. Education
  9. Identities and American Culture
  10. The Systematic Critiques
  11. The Peripherals
  12. Since I Started...


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