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Summary and book reviews of So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

So You Want to Talk About Race

by Ijeoma Oluo

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo X
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2018, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2019, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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About this Book

Book Summary

In this New York Times bestseller, Ijeoma Oluo offers a hard-hitting but user-friendly examination of race in America

Widespread reporting on aspects of white supremacy--from police brutality to the mass incarceration of Black Americans--has put a media spotlight on racism in our society. Still, it is a difficult subject to talk about. How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair--and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend?

In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to "model minorities" in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.

Excerpt
So You Want to Talk About Race

As a black Woman, race has always been a prominent part of my life. I have never been able to escape the fact that I am a black woman in a white supremacist country. My blackness is woven into how I dress each morning, what bars I feel comfortable going to, what music I enjoy, what neighborhoods I hang out in. The realities of race have not always been welcome in my life, but they have always been there. When I was a young child it was the constant questions of why I was so dark while my mom was so white—was I adopted? Where did I come from? When I became older it was the clothes not cut for my shape and the snide comments about my hair and lips and the teen idols that would never ever find a girl like me beautiful. Then it was the clerks who would follow me around stores and the jobs that were hiring until I walked in the door and then they were not. And it was the bosses who told me that I was too "loud," the complaints that my hair was too ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Guidelines
  1. If you are in a majority white space, talk with people of color in advance—in a private, safe setting—to hear their concerns about the upcoming discussion. Ask what subjects they are eager to discuss, and if there are subjects they do not want to discuss. Ask what would make them feel safe and comfortable. Then, incorporate these needs and boundaries into the agreed-upon parameters of the discussion. Be prepared to enforce them instead of waiting on the few people of color in the group to risk ostracization by speaking out
  2. Be aware of who in the group is given the most space to talk and try to center the conversation around voices of color—and, in particular, nonmale voices of color.
  3. Ask all attendees what...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Though Oluo makes a point of not sugar-coating justice issues or the amount of work they require, So You Want to Talk About Race is warm, personal and sometimes funny. The author introduces concepts through anecdotes from her own experiences, which range from infuriating to hilarious to sobering. She takes serious topics out of an academic context and places them in a conversational one. The book succeeds in being exactly what it intends to be: an insightful and honest guide for people struggling to talk to their family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers about race...continued

Full Review Members Only (807 words).

(Reviewed by Elisabeth Cook).

Media Reviews

Vogue.com
Impassioned and unflinching.

National Book Review
Oluo gives us--both white people and people of color--that language to engage in clear, constructive, and confident dialogue with each other about how to deal with racial prejudices and biases.

Harper's Bazaar, "One of 10 Books to Read in 2018"
Read it, then recommend it to everyone you know.

Salon (Required Reading)
Generous and empathetic, yet usefully blunt ... it's for anyone who wants to be smarter and more empathetic about matters of race and engage in more productive anti-racist action.

Kirkus Reviews
A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Publishers Weekly
[Oluo is] insightful and trenchant but not preachy, and her advice is valid. For some it may be eye-opening. It’s a topical book in a time when racial tensions are on the rise.

Author Blurb Franchesca Ramsey, host and executive producer of MTV's Decoded and author of Well, That Escalated Quickly
So You Want to Talk About Race strikes the perfect balance of direct and brutally honest without being preachy or, worse, condescending. Regardless of your comfort level, educational background, or experience when it comes to talking about race, Ijeoma has created a wonderful tool to help broach these conversations and help us work toward a better world for people of color from all walks of life.

Author Blurb Lindy West, New York Times-bestselling author of Shrill
I don't think I've ever seen a writer have such an instant, visceral, electric impact on readers. Ijeoma Oluo's intellectual clarity and moral sure-footedness make her the kind of unstoppable force that obliterates the very concept of immovable objects.

Author Blurb Phoebe Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of You Can't Touch My Hair and Everything's Trash, But It's Okay
Simply put: Ijeoma Oluo is a necessary voice and intellectual for these times, and any time, truth be told. Her ability to write so smartly and honestly with strokes of humor about race in America is heaven sent and demonstrates just how desperately we all need to be talking about race, and perhaps, more importantly, this insightful book shows those in power or privilege how they need to listen."

Author Blurb Darnell L. Moore, author of No Ashes in the Fire
Ijeoma Oluo's So You Want to Talk About Race is a welcome gift to us all -- a critical offering during a moment when the hard work of social transformation is hampered by the inability of anyone who benefits from systemic racism to reckon with its costs. Oluo's mandate is clear and powerful: change will not come unless we are brave enough to name and remove the many forces at work strangling freedom. Racial supremacy is but one of those forces.

Author Blurb Nicole Chung, author of All You Can Ever Know
Ijeoma Oluo-writing on any subject-is compassionate brilliance personified, and I am so grateful for her work and her voice. She is the first writer I name when anyone asks who they should read to help them think about and navigate issues of race and identity, help them understand what solidarity means and what it requires of all of us. So You Want to Talk About Race is a book for everyone, but especially for people of color who need to feel seen and heard.

Author Blurb Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation and author of What's My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States
So You Want To Talk About Race is a landmark book for our times. Oluo does more than deliver tough, blunt truths about the realities of racism, power and oppression. She also, in bracing fashion, offers a vision of hope; a message that through dialogue and struggle, we can emancipate ourselves from what she calls 'the nation's oldest pyramid scheme: white supremacy.' That is why I don't think this is merely one of the most important books of the last decade. It is also one of the most optimistic. To write such a book in these difficult times is in and of itself, a daring and beautiful act.

Author Blurb Andy Richter, writer and actor
You are not going to find a more user-friendly examination of race in America than Ijeoma Oluo's fantastic new book. The writing is elegantly simple, which is a real feat when tackling such a thorny issue. Think of it as Race for the Willing-to-Listen.

Author Blurb Feminista Jones, author of Reclaiming Our Space
What Ijeoma Oluo has done, and continues to do, is nothing short of revolutionary -- she has created a conversational guide and laid out a movement-building blueprint for people of all races who are invested in self-assessment, open to being challenged, and committed to collective progress. One of the most important voices of our time, Oluo encourages us to be the conversation starters in our own lives and to keep talking ? someone who needs to hear us is listening.

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Beyond the Book

Microaggressions

In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo devotes a chapter to racial microaggressions, or everyday instances of racism. As opposed to macroaggressions, which encompass obvious racist behavior such as the use of racial slurs, microaggressions are subtle, sometimes unconscious and often seemingly unremarkable actions that contribute to stereotypes, bias or other types of harm against marginalized groups. Any person who is marginalized on the basis of race, gender, sexuality or other factors may experience microaggressions, but the term is most often applied to words and actions that affect people of color, and this is the context in which it is used in Oluo's book.

The word "microaggression" was first coined in the 1970s by the ...

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