Books for talking about race and racism

In aftermath of tragedies, we hear from patrons and parents who want to find resources to help explore these topics. Here are a selection of books available that explore race and racism. These books are recommended by our librarians and Arlington’s Diversity Task Group.  This list is just a selection and we welcome your recommendations in the comments.

Books for Children
Our Children’s Department recommends these books for kids and/or for parents and kids to read together:
The Day of Ahmed’s Secret” by Florence Parry Heide
The Other Side” by Jacqueline Woodson
Amazing Grace” by Mary Hoffman
Colors of Us” by Karen Katz
The Day of Ahmed's SecretThe Other SideAmazing GraceThe Colors of Us

Blog posts:
60+ Resources for Talking to Kids About Racism from 0 to 12
Raising Race Conscious Children

Young Adult
Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Ms. Marvel comic series
Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (for adults too)
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights” by Steve Sheinkin

Head over to our teen blog for more recommendations. We put together a read-alike list in support of the 2016 Arlington Reads Together.

Brown Girl DreamingAll American BoysMs. Marvel - No NormalBetween the World and MeThe Port Chicago 50 : Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights
Blog posts:
From Code Switch: Seeking Wonderful Young Adult Novels That Deal With Race

Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria” by Beverly Daniel Tatum
The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander
Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People” by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald
Waking Up White: and finding myself in the story of race” by Debby Irving
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? : Revised EditionThe New Jim Crow : Mass Incarceration in the Age of ColorblindnessBlindspot : Hidden Biases of Good PeopleWaking up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race

Facing History and Ourselves: Their mission is to “engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry.” Some topics they explore include religion intolerance, human rights, immigration and race in US history.


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6 Responses to Books for talking about race and racism

  1. Serena Bray says:

    I so appreciate this posting. I have a suggestion…as a mom of little ones, that frequently scans the shelves for books that reflect how my kids might identify themselves, it’s been hard. I’ve scoured the Beginning Readers Books and more in the children’s library for books that have diversity that my kids are willing to read. Any chance we could seriously increase those selections and perhaps have them as available as quick picks (please see link to other books below)?


    • maura says:

      Hello Serena,

      Thank you for taking the time to share feedback on your experience at the library. We will share this with the Children’s department. The quick picks suggestion is a good one- I am sure other parents would appreciate them as well.

      • Hi Maura and the Robbins Community.

        I’m writing to shamelessly, but also sincerely make you aware of my own book about understanding, talking about, and reconciling our challenges related to race. It’s called The Arc of a Bad Idea: Understanding and Transcending Race, published in February 2016 by Oxford University Press. Arc takes up the origin and evolution of race and considers the themes presented by Tatum and the the other authors on your recommendation list (race as social construct, race as very real in its effects, racial identity development, race and justice, etc.), and it advocates for an alternative approach to our society’s tortured history and the tragic current state of affairs regarding race.

        Being an Arlington resident, I’d be happy and honored to talk with community members who might be interested to read and discuss the book. I’d also be happy to bring a copy to the library, if you don’t yet have any in stock.

        More information about the book and my work can be found at and Oxford University Press’ video and blog sites.

        Thanks for considering this.


        Carlos Hoyt, PhD, LICSW
        Assistant Professor of Social Work, Wheelock College
        Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advocate, The Chestnut Hill School

      • maura says:

        Hello Carlos,

        Thank you for reaching out to us and sharing your book! We should have this in our collection. I look forward to continuing our conversation and will reach out to you.


  2. Pam Watts says:

    Hi Serena (et al),
    Thanks for sharing the fabulous diversity book list – it’s a great one and all of the books on the list are owned by the libraries. If it helps, we also have a Diverse Children’s Books list that will help you locate some the books on the Common Sense list plus a whole lot more! We’re always looking for great suggestions to add more to our collection so thank you for yours!!
    Head of Children’s Services

  3. Tucker Walton says:

    Hi Maura,
    I’ve read Carlos’ book and would definitely recommend it to others who are interested in understanding race and in moving beyond race as a meaningful way to classify and understand others and ourselves.
    Hope you get a copy for our library.

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