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  • Writer's pictureMaileen Hamto

Welcome to Book Roundups! Featuring Mary-Frances Winters, Daralyse Lyons and Ijeoma Oluo

In at least two of my courses during my doctoral studies, each student was tasked to identify a journal that accepted book reviews. This practice was part of training emerging scholars and researchers to immerse in and react to the works of other thinkers. It was vitally important to stay on top of the latest knowledge and leading-edge theories and praxis.

Developing a comprehensive literature review was another benefit of the book review assignments. I identified opportunities to work with booksellers and publishers to acquire advance review copies or new releases. In exchange for a free hard or electronic copy of the book, I provided an honest review.

It is the best volunteer gig for any bibliophile/book hoarder. And a hobby that helped keep me organized and sane during the uncertain times of the global pandemic.

This post is the start of book review roundups published in my Colors of Influence blog over the last couple of years. Each book featured deals with racial equity or DEI issues My goal is to highlight two or three practitioner volumes in each roundup.

By Daralyse Lyons, published in 2020 by Loving Healing Press

The power of personal stories in contentious culturally diverse interactions is paramount in Daralyse Lyons’ Demystifying Diversity: Embracing Our Shared Humanity, as she invites readers to do the hard work of enhancing self-awareness and countering long- and firmly held biases. Throughout the book, Lyons models the self-scrutiny required to advance antiracism and social justice beyond polite platitudes. As a biracial woman raised by a White mother, Lyons delves into the complexity of racial identity in the U.S. to interrogate the supremacy of the Black-White binary in racial discourse.

During a time when the call for racial reckoning highlights the experiences of Black Americans amid widespread systemic racism, Lyons reminds readers about the many fronts in the perpetual battle against institutional discrimination and disenfranchisement. Lyons confronts the divisive rhetoric encouraged by the Trump administration, giving rise to White Nationalism and its grievances against Black Americans, LGBTQIA+, Muslims, people with disabilities, and undocumented immigrants, among others. Lyons shares powerful narratives telling heartfelt and painful stories of hate and oppression. She offers actionable templates for how people should interrupt everyday microaggressions and exclusionary attitudes. In her call to action, Lyons encourages more of us to develop “upstander” skills, as people empowered to actively use our privilege to take a stand against oppression, toward justice and equity.

By Mary-Frances Winters, published in 2020 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Anyone who’s serious about making a real and lasting change toward a more racially just and equitable future should read Mary-Frances Winters’s latest book, Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind, Body and Spirit.

Racism is real in America. Black American communities have endured and thrived through persistent struggle against systemic racism on many fronts. Intergenerational trauma has caused “repeated variations of stress,” contributing to Black fatigue, the collective exhaustion over the ongoing need to assert the dignity and value of Black lives.

Winters illustrates the many ways that “sublime ignorance” props up white supremacist attitudes that impact Black Americans’ access to educational, economic, workplace, leadership, and other opportunities. She combines key learnings from social sciences research with personal narratives that showcase her expertise in diversity and inclusion. Winters offers volumes of evidence of race-based trauma while highlighting awareness about intersectionality, noting the damaging effects of overlapping systems of oppression such as racism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia. Winters leverages her deep background in advising top leaders to focus on solutions as she gifts the reader with actionable ways for white people and non-Black people of color to acknowledge and understand their privilege in order to interrogate and change racist systems.

By Ijeoma Oluo, published in 2020 by Seal Press

Ijeoma Oluo follows her best-selling book So You Want to Talk About Race? with an equally compelling and unflinching critique of the intersections of race, gender, and power in Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America. Well-researched, thoughtful, and unapologetic, Oluo’s latest release addresses the fragility of white masculinity, which threatens communities and institutions.

Oluo directly addresses gendered and racialized power by offering historical and contemporary examples. She argues that in an individualistic and patriarchal society, women are expected to be above reproach, while men can be “mediocre.” She highlights white male entitlement and frustration over the perceived advantages of women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and members of other marginalized communities, critiquing the troublesome trend of anti-intellectualism and the rise of hateful rhetoric and violence among right-wing white men.

Oluo has encapsulated the Trump era, memorializing the anti-racist acts of resistance by political newcomers Ilhan Omar and Alexandra Ocasio Cortez and sports icon Colin Kaepernick. She adopts a balanced approach in her critique, pointing out flaws among the political left. She discusses how whiteness tends to be central in social justice movements that focus on socioeconomic issues, ignoring the deleterious impacts of race. Oluo’s analysis advances the discourse about dismantling white male supremacy, or perhaps more accurately, mediocrity. It’s an important read during this time of reckoning about equity and justice.

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