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Reading and Racism

In a time of turmoil, books are a resource, not a refuge.

by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds

From the July, 2020 issue

"We can't keep books on racism and antiracism in stock--they're flying off the shelves," says Linda Goodman, who handles children's books at Nicola's. As protests spread around the world in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, parents snapped up titles such as Innosanto Nagara's alphabet book A is for Activist and the Caldecott Medal-winning picture book The Undefeated, by Kwame Alexander. A book for middle-years readers, Enough! 20 Protesters Who Changed America, by Emily Easton and Ziyue Chen, sold out almost immediately.

Grown-ups are reading, too. "We've had amazing numbers of requests for suggestions about antiracism books and a gratifying number of orders," says Jack Gillard, who handles adult titles at Nicola's. "We're waiting for the publishers to reprint quite a few titles. There's definitely a major buzz."

When Barnes & Noble reopened in June, "we were hit with a deluge of requests for antiracism books right out of the gate," says manager Gabrielle, who requested her last name not be used. "Almost immediately, we sold out our inventory of a number of titles," among them So You Want to Talk About Race (Ijeoma Oluo), How to Be an Antiracist (Ibram X. Kendi), and White Fragility (Robin DiAngelo).

"Antiracism books are definitely what people are looking to buy right now," agrees Literati co-owner Hilary Gustafson. "But people are also ordering fiction by black authors," such as Brit Bennett's new novel The Vanishing Half, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead.     (end of article)

[Originally published in July, 2020.]


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