Books that Promote Diversity and Inclusivity
Our staff-led Equity & Inclusion Committee recently formed book clubs in which every CCPL employee took part. The selections focused on books authored by diverse voices that promote inclusiveness.
The book clubs met in January to discuss the picks and how we can improve as a library to be more inclusive for all. Below is what some of our staff members had to say about what they read.
(Quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.)
Stamped by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
“Stamped was such an informative book! Our group appreciated Jason Reynolds’ accessible and conversational approach to the history of racism, as explained by historian Ibram X. Kendi. Everyone learned something new, which led to a broader discussion of how the history we learned in school only touched upon much of the information conveyed in Stamped. Reynolds and Kendi were able to connect the complicated elements of racism and bring a deeper understanding of how ingrained it is in our society.”
-Beth Eifler, Collection Services Coordinator
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
“The non-linear structure mixed with an emotionally-charged story made for a compelling book that hooks the reader. The story revolves around the main character, Marin, and her emotional journey from the past into the present and future.
The best aspect of the discussion was how safe of an environment it was… The book deals with serious matters including grief, depression (and other mental illnesses) and sexuality. I vocalized my own thoughts on how I thought such topics were presented, which led to candid conversations about mental health and how mental illnesses can present in others. I was able to confront my own biases and left the discussion with a new level of empathy and understanding for how others experience mental health issues.”
-Noah Bartel, Alexandria Branch Supervisor
New Kid by Jerry Craft
“Through highly expressive art and unflinchingly honest dialogue about race and class, this graphic novel follows the journey of Jordan Banks as he navigates his first year at Riverdale Academy, a predominantly white, upper-class private school. Jordan is a completely relatable character, thanks in part to Craft’s masterful use of comedy to present difficult issues. It’s the first graphic novel to win both the Newbery and Coretta Scott King Award.
Folks in the book club really enjoyed New Kid. We explored particular issues with some depth, like unconscious bias, white privilege, racism, colorism and classism. The book itself presented issues that relate to library services, and we discussed providing sensitive reader’s advisory to people of color, expanding representation in library collections and increasing diversity in library staff.”
-Joyce Emery, Carrico/Fort Thomas Branch Children’s Services Programmer
57 Bus by Dashka Slater
“This was a very compelling and thought-provoking book. I couldn’t put it down. The 57 Bus did a fantastic job of outlining the issues of racial inequality within the judicial and juvenile detention systems, as well as explaining the terms associated with and the struggles faced by gender-nonconforming people. We had a great discussion about how we could use these examples from the book to help us better aid our patrons in everyday interactions and what kinds of programs we could have at the library to increase awareness on these topics.”
-Danielle Heiert, Cold Spring Branch Patron Services Assistant
Me & White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
“I found Me and White Supremacy to be a very informative and life-changing read. Layla F. Saad points out all the ways that white people benefit from white supremacy, often in ways that go unnoticed by the perpetrators. A very eye-opening point that made me pause was the idea of color blindness being destructive. She says:
‘When it comes to racial color blindness, what begins as a seemingly noble purpose (eradicating racism by going beyond the idea of race) quickly reveals itself as a magic trick designed to absolve people with white privilege from having to own their complicity in upholding white supremacy.’
If you want to actively work to dismantle racism and white supremacy, I highly recommend this book.”
-Lisa Kuhn, Newport Branch Patron Services Assistant
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
“I enjoyed reading Just Mercy. While it is horrible to think someone can spend so much time in prison convicted of a crime they did not commit, the book also shows how there are those in our country who work tirelessly in order to free them. Our book club discussion was very interesting. I always love to hear other people’s opinions and experiences on hard topics like the ones in this book. Our discussion really made me reflect on my own thoughts about our country’s legal system.”
-Carol Freytag, Outreach Services Coordinator
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
“In Sister Outsider, Lorde writes in-depth about the oppression of Black women, who are the lowest-paid demographic in the nation by both gender and race. She discussed how they are often only considered when seen as taking jobs and benefits away from Black men. On this topic, she writes: “Energy is wasted on fighting each other over the pitifully few crumbs allowed them, rather than joining forces for change.”
In our book group, we talked about the differences between anger and hate. Lorde writes: “If I speak to you in anger, at least I have spoken to you.” I would never have chosen this book without the encouragement of the group book discussions. I’m really glad that I read it and I will share it with my three daughters. In reflection on her writings, I agree with her line of thinking. The book represents real-world issues and is a tool in learning and moving forward in social justice.”
-Dawna Haupt, MBA, CPA, Library Accountant