Anti-Racist Reading Lists

Anti-Racist Reading Lists

George Floyd's murder by police officers has sparked protests across the country while renewing conversations about racial injustice. In our department, that conversation has included a request from an undergraduate English major for faculty to compile and share a list of recommended works that shed light on our moment and center Black voices.


Below we offer some selections from the book lists we use in our literature graduate program to help equip PhD students to study and teach race and ethnicity in US literature. We also include recommendations from English faculty grouped by genre. 


A Note About This List and List Like This: 


Because such lists have proliferated recently all over the web, we want to identify ours as an expression of the faculty members who make up our English department and, as such, likely to change as our colleagues contribute materials. 


If you are interested in the larger debate about the value of these kinds of reading lists, one bracing place to start is Northwestern University English and African American studies Professor Lauren Jackson’s column in New York magazine, where she argues that “For such a list to do good, something keener than ‘anti-racism’ must be sought.” 


As for the differences among our recommendations below, you’ll note that the department’s graduate exam lists cover a field. Some faculty recommendations privilege the centering of Black voices. Others recommend readings that focus on specific topics including public protest, rebellion, and/or policing in our era and in the past. 


This web page is not a syllabus, for it is not accompanied with teaching. That matters, because the books UC Davis English faculty recommend may challenge their readers to break down often widely-held worldviews. As a result, they can be hard to read on one’s own. Many of these books have been and will again be taught in our classrooms, and we hope that our students will encounter them there. 


As faculty who believe that reading such books as those listed below is a learned (and teachable!) skill, we look forward to engaging in classroom discussion with our students about how to read and what to do with these materials. For now, though, we recommend them. 


Without further ado, here are some recommendations: 


---For those seeking scholarly background, we commend two recent books by our own faculty: Racial Worldmaking by Mark Jerng, which considers how and when racial description becomes racism, and The Black Middle Ages by Matthew Vernon, which delves into the question of how the literature we study serves both racist and anti-racist endeavors. 


---Here are five books from the UC Davis English Literature Graduate Program Race and Ethnicity Studies list (the complete list appears at the bottom of this page):


Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks (1952)

Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider (1984)

Williams, Patricia. The Alchemy of Race and Rights (1991)

Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark (1992)

Cornel West, Race Matters (1993)        


---Here are six books from the UC Davis English Literature Graduate Program US Literature Readings lists: 

McKay, Claude. Harlem Shadows (1922)

Toomer, Jean. Cane (1923)

Hughes, Langston, and Zora Neale Hurston. The Mule Bone (1930)

Mackey, Nathaniel. Eroding Witness (1987)

Butler, Octavia. Parable of the Sower (1993)
Smith, Anna Deveare. Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 (1994)


---Here are recommendations submitted by UC Davis English Department faculty members, grouped by genre. 


--------Novels and Short Fiction:

Acevedo, Elizabeth. The Poet X (2018)

Baldwin, James. "Sonny's Blues" (1957)

Chesnutt, Charles. The Marrow of Tradition (1901)

Delany, Martin. Blake; or, The Huts of America (1859)

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man (1952)

Gaines, Ernest J. A Lesson Before Dying (1993)

Himes, Chester. A Rage in Harlem (1957)

Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

Lippard, George. The Killers (1849)

Melville, Herman. Benito Cereno (1855)

Morrison, Toni. Sula (1973)

Mosely, Walter. Little Scarlet (2004)

Okorafor, Nnedi. Akata Witch (2011) (young adult)

Thomas, Piri. Down These Mean Streets (1967)

Twain, Mark. Puddn'head Wilson (1895)

Webb, Frank J. The Garies and Their Friends (1857)

Wright, Richard. Native Son (1940)


--------Collections of Poetry:

Laviera, Tato. Bencidición: The Complete Poetry of Tato Laviera (2014) 

Perdomo, Willie. Smoking Lovely (2004)

Rankine, Claudia. Citizen (2014)


--------Non-fiction and Memoir:

Chambers, Veronica. Mama's Girl (1997)

Turner, Nat (T.R. Gray). The Confession of Nat Turner (1831)

Wideman, John. Brothers and Keepers (1984)


--------Anthologies and Criticism:

Dzidzienyo and Oboler, eds. Neither Enemies nor Friends: Latinos, Blacks, Afro-Latinos (2005)

Jiménez Román and Flores, eds. The Afro-Latino Reader: History and Culture in the United States (2010)

Redpath, James, ed. Echoes of Harper's Ferry (1860)


The complete UC Davis English Graduate Program list in Race and Ethnicity Studies

Anzaldúa, Gloria, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Arendt, Hannah, “Reflections on Little Rock” or “stateless persons” from Origins of Totalitarianism

Balibar, Etienne and Immanuel Wallerstein, Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities

Carby, Hazel, Reconstructing Womanhood

Chin, Frank, “Come All Ye Asian American Writers of the Real and the Fake”

Christian, Barbara, “The Race for Theory”

Comparative Racialization, ed. Shu-Mei Shih, special issue of PMLA 123.5

Crenshaw, Kimberlé, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color”

Du Bois, W.E.B., The Souls of Black Folk

Edwards, Brent Hayes, The Practice of Diaspora

Espiritu, Yến Lê, Asian American Panethnicity

Fanon, Frantz, Black Skin, White Masks

Foucault, Michel. “Society Must Be Defended.” 

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., ed., “Race,” Writing, and Difference

Gilmore, Ruth Wilson, “Fatal Couplings of Power and Difference”

Gilroy, Paul, The Black Atlantic

Goldberg, David Theo, The Threat of Race

Hall, Stuart, “Race, Articulation, and Societies Structured in Dominance,” “New Ethnicities,” “Gramsci’s Relevance for the Study of Race and Ethnicity”

Harris, Cheryl, “Whiteness as Property”

Hartman, Saidiya, Scenes of Subjection and “Venus”

Hegel, G.W.F., “Lordship and Bondage” from Phenomenology of Spirit

James, C.L.R., Black Jacobins or Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways

Lorde, Audre, Sister Outsider

Lott, Eric, Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class

Lowe, Lisa, Immigrant Acts and “The Intimacies of Four Continents”

Lye, Colleen, America’s Asia

Moraga, Cherríe and Gloria Anzaldúa, This Bridge Called My Back

Morrison, Toni, Playing in the Dark

Ngai, Mae, Impossible Subjects

Omi, Michael and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s

Park, Robert, “The Nature of Race Relations.”

Postone, Moishe, Anti-Semitism and National Socialism.

Roediger, David, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class.

Saldívar, José David, The Dialectics of Our America

Saldívar, Ramón, Chicano Narrative or The Borderlands of America

Smith, Barbara, “Towards a Black Feminist Criticism”

Spillers, Hortense, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe”

Weaver, Womack, and Allen, American Indian Literary Nationalism.

Cornel West, Race Matters

Williams, Patricia, The Alchemy of Race and Rights