4 Stars Reviews

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

Ijeoma Oluo answers the questions about race that you were afraid to ask, in the hopes that by beginning to talk about these issues, people will eventually do more than talk, and start to act. If you’ve ever wondered what it means to have privilege, what micro-aggressions are, and what it means to be intersectional, this is the book for you.

If you live in this system of white supremacy, you are either fighting the system or you are complicit.

Like I hope many people have been doing the past few weeks, and I hope will continue to do so, I’ve been making an effort to learn more about how to be an anti-racist, and how to effect change as an individual. Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race has been on my TBR for far too long, and recent events gave me the push to pick it up.

Oluo’s debut is an excellent introduction to the topic of race; it covers everything from microagressions to the prison industrial complex, looking at every day acts of racism on a person-to-person micro level as well as wider systemic racism that permeates national insitutions. Each chapter covers a different topic, posed as a question from the reader, such as ‘Why can’t I touch your hair?’ or ‘What is cultural appropriation?’ The latter, and other chapters too, acknowledge that such issues effect more than just black people. Oluo doesn’t try to speak for others but does point out, for example, that black people are not alone in earning less than their white counterparts, or being more likely to be subject to a search. Oluo’s book is very much focused on the issues that black Americans face, but she resolutely acknowledges that these problems are part of a wider issue of white supremacy and thus can and often do effect all people of colour.

This is definitely a great first read for anyone looking to educate themselves in the wake of the recent protests, but even those who have read plenty on the topic should be able to learn something new from Oluo’s book. For me, this was the chapter on the model minority myth; something I had never heard of yet once explained to me, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t realised it before, and further, realised how damaging such views could be.

So You Want to Talk About Race currently sits in a well-deserved high spot on the New York Times bestseller list (though the fact that it is below a book with a similar premise but by a white women leaves a bitter taste in my mouth), so here’s hoping this excellent introduction to race will spur readers to read more.

Rating: 4 stars

Some further reading and resources:

Emma Dabiri on Instagram: What White People Can Do Next
Holiday Phillips on Instagram: 5 things that aren’t allyship (and what you can do instead)
10 anti-racism charities in the UK you can donate to (The Independent)
blacklivesmatters.carrd.co (ways to help)
blacklivesmatter.carrd.co (more resources)
I also shared my recommendations for books about race a few weeks back

2 thoughts on “Book Review: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo”

  1. Great review! I’m currently waiting for my copy to arrive, and happy to hear that it sounds like such a good source of information. I’m glad you found it useful, and looking forward to checking it out myself!

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