The best books about the gift of friendship across racial and cultural barriers

Who am I?

During college, I attended an inner-city black church during the years of the civil rights movement—and it changed the course of my life. My husband and I have lived in diverse neighborhoods and attended multicultural churches for most of our 56 years of marriage, realizing we have much to learn from our brothers and sisters of color. But the biggest influence that caused me to write the Yada Yada Prayer Group novels was/is the prayer group of sisters of color that I’ve been part of for over 25 years. As we spent time together every week for years (!), these sisters helped turn my life and my faith upside down—or maybe “right side up.”


I wrote...

The Yada Yada Prayer Group

By Neta Jackson,

Book cover of The Yada Yada Prayer Group

What is my book about?

Put 12 feisty women at a multi-cultural women’s conference into a small group and you end up riding a roller coaster of relationships covering 7 novels in The Yada Yada Prayer Group series. As Jodi Baxter—who self-identifies as “a middle class, white, Christian good girl”—says, “This group turned my life upside down—or maybe right side up.”

You’ll find yourself laughing, crying, getting annoyed, being loved as you join this group of “sisters” who are as diverse as a drawer full of mismatched socks.

The books I picked & why

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Where the Light Fell

By Philip Yancey,

Book cover of Where the Light Fell

Why this book?

I’ve known Phil Yancey as an author-friend for many years. But I’d never heard his personal story in such a poignant, powerful way as this memoir. Yancey grew up in the racist south, absorbing the common prejudices and racist attitudes that permeated the culture, even his religious teaching. But then he worked one summer with Dr. Cherry, a Black scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Says Philip: “Here was the smartest man I’d ever met, and it just blew away all the categories I’d been taught”—especially the lie that blacks are innately inferior. From that point on, Philip discovered what I discovered in my life journey—relationships with people different than you enriches your life. Each person, each culture, has gifts to share.

Where the Light Fell

By Philip Yancey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where the Light Fell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Not until college days do I discover the shocking secret of my father's death.'

With a journalist's background Philip Yancey is widely admired for taking on the more difficult and confusing aspects of faith. Now in Where the Light Fell he shares, for the first time, the painful details of his own origins - taking us on an evocative journey from the backwoods and Bible-belt pockets of the South to the bustling streets of Philadelphia; from trailer parks to church parking lots; from dark secrets and family oddballs to fire-and-brimstone preachers and interminable church services. Raised by their impoverished single…


Grace Matters: A True Story of Race, Friendship, and Faith in the Heart of the South

By Chris P. Rice,

Book cover of Grace Matters: A True Story of Race, Friendship, and Faith in the Heart of the South

Why this book?

As a white college student, Chris Rice volunteered at Voice of Calvary Ministries in Jackson, MS, where he met Spencer Perkins, son of African American civil rights activist and elder statesman, John Perkins. Chris and Spencer began a lifelong friendship and partnership. My husband and I got to know both Chris and Spencer as our paths crossed in developing Christian community and relationships across racial boundaries. As Chris so poignantly writes in this book, cross-racial relationships are not always easy and take a lot of grace—but are 100% worth it. This book became one of my important books about grace in relationships as I worked on my seriesso grateful!

Grace Matters: A True Story of Race, Friendship, and Faith in the Heart of the South

By Chris P. Rice,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Grace Matters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Here is a real story of real people and real faith. The story of friendship between Chris Rice and my son Spencer and their work of racial reconciliation and healing represents the heart of the Christian witness. My prayer is that the 'seeds' of this story of struggle and hope they planted will spread and bloom and grow in the lives of many people." - John Perkins, chairman, Christian Community Development Association and author, "Let Justice Roll Down". "Grace is the most potent counter force at work in our violent species, and our only hope. Chris Rice gives a very…


The Hidden Wound

By Wendell Berry,

Book cover of The Hidden Wound

Why this book?

Two people who worked for Wendell Berry’s family when he was a child had a profound effect on his life—“Aunt Georgie” Ashby and Nick Watkins. With the simplicity of their lives birthing profound wisdom, Berry credits them for helping to expose the hidden wound of racism and putting his feet on a path to reject the deeply ingrained racism of his youth. The result is a deeply thoughtful book of reflections and wisdom on the cancer that infects our society and what we must do to lance and heal it—if we will. A “must read” on your bookshelf.

The Hidden Wound

By Wendell Berry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hidden Wound as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An impassioned, thoughtful, and fearless essay on the effects of racism on the American identity by one of our country’s most humane literary voices.

Acclaimed as “one of the most humane, honest, liberating works of our time” (The Village Voice), The Hidden Wound is a book-length essay about racism and the damage it has done to the identity of our country. Through Berry’s personal experience, he explains how remaining passive in the face of the struggle of racism further corrodes America’s great potential. In a quiet and observant manner, Berry opens up about how his attempt to discuss racism is…


The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change

By Brenda Salter McNeil, Rick Richardson,

Book cover of The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change

Why this book?

My husband and I got to know Brenda Salter McNeil when we were members of the same multi-cultural church. Before she ever wrote this book, we knew her as a reconciler with a passion for racial justice—especially in the churches. In this book, she invites all of us—white, black, brown, yellow—to the table for honest and passionate conversations about the reconciling nature of the gospel. When things got tough and we struggled with some church issues, Brenda was more than encouraging and supportive—not with easy answers, but with the solid foundation of love between brothers and sisters of faith.

The Heart of Racial Justice: How Soul Change Leads to Social Change

By Brenda Salter McNeil, Rick Richardson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Heart of Racial Justice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Racial and ethnic hostility is one of the most pervasive problems the church faces. It hinders our effectiveness as one body of believers. It damages our witness. Why won't this problem just go away? Because it is a spiritual battle. In response, we must employ spiritual weapons-prayer, repentance, forgiveness. In this book Brenda Salter McNeil and Rick Richardson provide a model of racial reconciliation, social justice, and spiritual healing that creates both individual and communal transformation. Read this book if you want to learn how to use your faith as a force for change, not as a smoke screen for…


Wholehearted Faith

By Rachel Held Evans, Jeff Chu,

Book cover of Wholehearted Faith

Why this book?

I didn’t know Rachel Held Evans personally, though I did meet her at one of the “Why Christian?” conferences she co-hosted with Nadia Bolz-Weber. But Rachel, who grew up in a white conservative culture like I did, boldly gave me permission to struggle with my faith, to dare to doubt cultural overlays on the basic truths of the gospel. This book—only partially completed when she died suddenly a couple years ago but finished from her various blogs and other writings by author-friend, Jeff Chu—continues to remind me that “wholehearted faith” is to “love God with my whole being and to love my neighbor as myself.” The two greatest commandments. It’s as simple—and as difficult—as that.

Wholehearted Faith

By Rachel Held Evans, Jeff Chu,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wholehearted Faith as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times Bestseller

"A touching series of essays in which Evans, with Chu's invisible pen, explores how one might find a path forward in Christianity beyond conservative evangelicalism" -Eliza Griswold, The New Yorker

"Evans died at 37, but a beautiful new book captures her brave outlook. . . . I could not help but notice the poetry in Evans's prose. . . . What readers will find in these pages was someone deeply human: funny, irreverent, curious, wise, forgiving, nonjudgmental." -Maggie Smith, The Washington Post

A collection of original writings by Rachel Held Evans, whose reflections on faith and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the South, Christianity, and African Americans?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the South, Christianity, and African Americans.

The South Explore 126 books about the South
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African Americans Explore 507 books about African Americans

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Shout, Sister, Shout!, Confederates in the Attic, and Apostles of Disunion if you like this list.