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The Five Minute Book Review: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

‘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 neighbourhoods I hang out in. The realities of race have not always been welcome in my life, but they have always been there.”

– The opening lines of ‘So You want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

So, what’s this one about?

So You Want To Talk About Race is a book that confronts the difficult questions about race and racism that too often go ignored or are inadequately answered in public and private conversations. A well written primer on race, the book  offers insightful and accessible answers to questions such as ‘What is racism?’, ‘What is intersectionality and why do I need it?’ and ‘What are microagressions?’.

Who’s it by?

So You Want To Talk About Race is the work of Ijeoma Oluo, a thirty-seven year old Seattle based writer and speaker. Ijeoma is also editor at large of The Establishment, a media site funded and run by women. Her writing on topics including race, feminism and social has appeared in publications such as The Guardian, The Stranger, New York Magazine and Jezebel and has garnered her over 118,000 Twitter followers.

Why should I read it?

So You Want to Talk About Race deals with some of the most important and prominent issues of our time. Ijeoma takes the time at various points throughout the book to directly and specifically address black and people-of-color readers, and then white readers, in turn. For Ijeoma, this is important and necessary:

“We’d like to act as if everyone comes into these discussions based on an even playing field, but that’s not true. The system doesn’t treat everyone the same way, so when we’re trying to come to a solution, why would we think that we all have the same role, or even the same amount of power?”

This book is useful tool for facilitating difficult conversations. If you have some of these questions, or find yourself having to answer them or deal with their implications time and time again, this book is definitely for you. The book does not stop at definitions, for example, in one place Ijeoma offers an action plan for confronting microagressions in other people: “State what actually happened. Ask some uncomfortable questions…. Remember, you are not crazy and you have every right to bring this up.” She then offers steps for the white people who may be guilty of them: “Pause. Ask yourself: ‘Do I really know why I said/did that?’ Ask yourself: ‘Would I have said this to somebody of my race? Is it something I say to people of my race?’ ”

In this way Ijeoma makes the book much more than a collection of essays on race – it is an action plan for having the conversations and taking the actions necessary to achieve social justice.

When is it out?

So You Want To Talk About Race was released earlier this week, Tuesday 16th January 2018.


Where can I get a copy?

So You Want To Talk About Race is available on Amazon and in all good bookshops.


What do you think?

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    The Five Minute Book Review: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo