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Bookshelf

Book recommendations for Balfour Scholars

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The Poet X

Elizabeth Acevedo

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems. Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Michelle Alexander

The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement. Since its publication in 2010, the book has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year; been dubbed the “secular bible of a new social movement” by numerous commentators, including Cornel West; and has led to consciousness-raising efforts in universities, churches, community centers, re-entry centers, and prisons nationwide. The New Jim Crow tells a truth our nation has been reluctant to face.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

Austin Channing Brown

In a time when nearly all institutions (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claim to value "diversity" in their mission statements, I'M STILL HERE is a powerful account of how and why our actions so often fall short of our words. Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice, in stories that bear witness to the complexity of America's social fabric--from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.

Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation's history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of "race," a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men--bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

The Skin I'm In

Sharon G. Flake

So begins the story of Maleeka Madison, a child burdened with the low self-esteem that many black girls face when they're darker skinned. When Maleeka lays eyes on her new teacher, Miss Saunders, she encounters someone who, she feels, is worse off than she is. But Miss Saunders' skin, which is blotched with a rare skin condition, comes to serve as a mirror to Maleeka's struggle. Miss Saunders is tough -- she doesn't stand for the snickers and shouts that her students hurl at her. Through this example, Maleeka learns that she can stand up to tough-talking Charlese. And, over time, she can even accept Caleb's friendship, the unconditional acceptance he's been showing her from the get-go. Sharon Flake, an exceptional new talent, weaves a stunning tale of finding one's place in a world that judges others at face value.

The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table

Minda Harts

Harts provides career advice guide for women of color specifically, rejecting the one-size-fits-all approach of business books that lump together women across races. She covers factors that keep women of color from getting the proverbial seat at the table in corporate America: micro-aggressions, systemic racism, white privilege, and so forth. Harts addresses these issues head on, and provides a roadmap to help women of color and their allies make real change to the system.

Stamped from the Beginning:  The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Ibram X. Kendi

Some Americans cling desperately to the myth that we are living in a post-racial society, that the election of the first Black president spelled the doom of racism. In fact, racist thought is alive and well in America - more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, if we have any hope of grappling with this stark reality, we must first understand how racist ideas were developed, disseminated, and enshrined in American society.

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Audre Lorde

Sister Outsider presents essential writings of black poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, an influential voice in 20th century literature. In this varied collection of essays, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, offering a message of struggle but also of hope. This commemorative edition is, in Lorde's own words, a call to "never close our eyes to the terror, to the chaos which is Black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy which is. . . ."

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools

Monique W. Morris

In a work that Lisa Delpit calls "imperative reading," Monique W. Morris (Black Stats, Too Beautiful for Words) chronicles the experiences of Black girls across the country whose intricate lives are misunderstood, highly judged—by teachers, administrators, and the justice system—and degraded by the very institutions charged with helping them flourish. Called "compelling" and "thought-provoking" by Kirkus Reviews, Pushout exposes a world of confined potential and supports the rising movement to challenge the policies, practices, and cultural illiteracy that push countless students out of school and into unhealthy, unstable, and often unsafe futures.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Erika L. Sánchez

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents' house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family. But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga's role. Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed. But it's not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out.

Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice

Bryan Stevenson

In this young adult adaptation of the acclaimed bestselling Just Mercy, which the New York Times calls "as compelling as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so," Bryan Stevenson delves deep into the broken U.S. justice system, detailing from his personal experience his many challenges and efforts as a lawyer and social advocate, especially on behalf of America's most rejected and marginalized people. In this very personal work--proceeds of which will go to charity--Bryan Stevenson recounts many and varied stories of his work as a lawyer in the U.S. criminal justice system on behalf of those in society who have experienced some type of discrimination and/or have been wrongly accused of a crime and who deserve a powerful advocate and due justice under the law.

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria

Beverly Daniel Tatum

Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see black youth seated together in the cafeteria. Of course, it's not just the black kids sitting together--the white, Latino, Asian Pacific, and, in some regions, American Indian youth are clustered in their own groups, too. The same phenomenon can be observed in college dining halls, faculty lounges, and corporate cafeterias. What is going on here? Is this self-segregation a problem we should try to fix, or a coping strategy we should support? How can we get past our reluctance to talk about racial issues to even discuss it?

The Presumed Alliance:  The Unspoken Conflict Between Latinos and Blacks and What It Means for America

Nicolás C. Vaca

As Latinos and African Americans increasingly live side by side in large urban centers as well as in suburban clusters, the idealized concept of a "rainbow coalition" would suggest that these two disenfranchised groups are natural political allies. Such a notion would be based on the presumption of a commonality between the two groups that serves as the glue for forming political and economic alliances on a mass level. However, contrary to this theoretical approach stands evidence that few formal or even informal coalitions exist between Latinos and African Americans.

Monster

Walter Dean Myers

Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. A Harlem drugstore owner was shot and killed in his store, and the word is that Steve served as the lookout. Guilty or innocent, Steve becomes a pawn in the hands of "the system," cluttered with cynical authority figures and unscrupulous inmates, who will turn in anyone to shorten their own sentences. For the first time, Steve is forced to think about who he is as he faces prison, where he may spend all the tomorrows of his life.

American Street

Ibi Zoboi

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie -- a good life. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola's mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit's west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own. Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

Letters to My Sisters and Brothers:  Practical Advice to Successfully Navigate Academia as a Student of Color

Nelson Zounlome

This is a workbook specifically designed with culturally relevant advice and evidence-based exercises to help students of color thrive. Students of color face several obstacles while in college and/or graduate school: low levels of institutional support, discrimination, and feeling unwelcome on campus. These factors negatively impact students' academic performance, mental health, retention, and graduation rates. Completing this workbook is a pivotal step towards overcoming these barriers and achieving academic success.

Book recommendations for all audiences

The Campus Color Line: College Presidents and the Struggle for Black Freedom

Eddie R. Cole

Although it is commonly known that college students and other activists, as well as politicians, actively participated in the fight for and against civil rights in the middle decades of the twentieth century, historical accounts have not adequately focused on the roles that the nation’s college presidents played in the debates concerning racism. Based on archival research conducted at a range of colleges and universities across the United States, The Campus Color Line sheds light on the important place of college presidents in the struggle for racial parity.

How to Be an Antiracist

Ibram X. Kendi

Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. 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.

Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., isolated himself from the demands of the civil rights movement, rented a house in Jamaica with no telephone, and labored over his final manuscript. In this important work, which has been unavailable for more than ten years, we find King’s acute analysis of American race relations and the state of the movement after a decade of civil rights efforts.

We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom

Bettina Love

Drawing on her life’s work of teaching and researching in urban schools, Bettina Love persuasively argues that educators must teach students about racial violence, oppression, and how to make sustainable change in their communities through radical civic initiatives and movements. She argues that the US educational system is maintained by and profits from the suffering of children of color. Instead of trying to repair a flawed system, educational reformers offer survival tactics in the forms of test-taking skills, acronyms, grit labs, and character education, which Love calls the educational survival complex.

Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy

Gholdy Muhammad

In Cultivating Genius, Dr. Gholdy E. Muhammad presents a four-layered equity framework--one that is grounded in history and restores excellence in literacy education. This framework, which she names, Historically Responsive Literacy, was derived from the study of literacy development within 19th-century Black literacy societies. The framework is essential and universal for all students, especially youth of color, who traditionally have been marginalized in learning standards, school policies, and classroom practices.

The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America

Khalil Gibran Muhammad

The Idea of Black Criminality was crucial to the making of modern urban America. Khalil Gibran Muhammad chronicles how, when, and why modern notions of black people as an exceptionally dangerous race of criminals first emerged. Well known are the lynch mobs and racist criminal justice practices in the South that stoked white fears of black crime and shaped the contours of the New South. In this illuminating book, Muhammad shifts our attention to the urban North as a crucial but overlooked site for the production and dissemination of those ideas and practices.

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