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So You Want to Talk About Race

If you want to understand and discuss race and racism, particularly in the U.S., this could be the how-to manual you've wished for. Ijeoma Oluo is a writer, editor and public speaker from Seattle with years of experience in such conversations. So You Want to Talk About Race is a well-organized, well-argued and lively collection of essays that may be read straight through, relied on as a reference and used for group discussions.

Oluo is persuasive, sympathetic and funny. She is also direct: "We have a real problem of racial inequity and injustice in our society, and we cannot wish it away. We have to tackle this problem with real action, and we will not know what needs to be done if we are not willing to talk about it." Some sections are addressed to white readers, some to people of color, and Oluo offers three basic rules for determining if an issue is about race. She devotes chapters to dealing with being called racist, police brutality, affirmative action, the school-to-prison pipeline, the N-word, cultural appropriation, intersectionality, the model minority myth, hair touching, microaggressions and definitions of racism. So You Want to Talk About Race combines memoir, history and statistics to illustrate points. Oluo also provides lists of questions to consider alone or with others, and tips to "increase your chances of conversation success, or at least decrease your chance of conversation disaster."

Fear, she says, is a natural response to talking about race and racism in the U.S. However, "we have to let go of some of that fear. We have to be able to look racism in the eye wherever we encounter it." With her advice, it may be a little bit easier. --Sara Catterall