reading-list-grapple-with-race-3A Reading List To Help Students Begin To Grapple With Race

by Terry Heick

Because that’s what it is–grappling.

Anything involving something as far-reaching and historically-entrenched as race is more or less resistant to “quick looks” or even mere discussions. We can hope to be “dialogic” and “come to terms” with what we feel or what they said or who, in fact, “they” are, but race is, if nothing else, a logical, ethical, and political puzzle–or rather a human one with logical, ethical, and political perspectives.

Which is where the following list comes in. I teach English, so in light of the events in Ferguson (I had to go back and delete #ferguson), I thought it might be useful to share a reading list that might help students (probably those in grades 7-12, now that I look at the list) begin to make sense of race relations in the United States between “whites” and “blacks.”

  • Some of these–in fact most, probably–are pretty obvious.
  • Some aren’t directly about race–Howl and The Wasteland, for example–but rather human expression, folly, angst, and survival.
  • Most are books or poems, but I also have a speech and a couple of songs. And all can be accessed in some way, shape, or form through digital media.
  • You personally may not like some of the selections–that’s okay. This is all subjective.
  • Some of it has some rough language and may not be useful to anyone outside of a university. Caveat emptor. The world isn’t as clean as academia seeks to stay.
  • Some of the links aren’t to the media itself, but an article about the media. (If you’re a teacher, I trust you can hunt down an actual licensed copy of said work that won’t get your librarian in an uproar.)
  • If you want to read a white man’s struggle to come to terms with his own sense of race/racism, start with “The Hidden Wound,” by Wendell Berry.

If you have any you’d like to add, leave a note in the comments below. I considered opening this list to all races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, etc.  (“The House On Mango Street,” for example), but as Ferguson is (at least most immediately) related to the “whites” and “blacks” (here are two more terms that probably need washing from our vernacular), I thought we could start there. If this kind of curricula-style content is useful, we can do more, no?

I purposefully left out the “how and why you should teach this” part for each title. I can add it if that’s helpful.

A(n Insufficent) Reading List To Help Students Begin To Grapple With Race

  1. A Dream Deferred, by Langston Hughes
  2. The Hidden Wound, by Wendell Berry
  3. By The Time I Get To Arizona, by Public Enemy (Language)
  4. Howl, by Alan Ginsberg
  5. Black Rage, Lauryn Hill
  6. The House Negro & The Field Negro, by Malcolm X
  7. Everything That Rises Must Converge, by Flannery O’Connor
  8. We Real Cool, by Gwendolyn Brooks
  9. The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  10. Why We Can’t Wait, by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  11. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  12. The White Man’s Burden, by Rudyard Kipling
  13. The Wasteland, by T.S. Eliot
  14. Los Angeles Notebook, by Joan Didion
  15. F*ck The Police, by NWA
  16. King Lear, by William Shakespeare
  17. Barn Burning, by William Faulkner
  18. I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes



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Reading List To Help Students Begin To Grapple With Race