The most recommended books about ethnicity

Who picked these books? Meet our 33 experts.

33 authors created a book list connected to ethnicity, and here are their favorite ethnicity books.
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Book cover of The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters

Zachary Shore Author Of A Sense of the Enemy: The High Stakes History of Reading Your Rival's Mind

From my list on knowing your enemy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of international conflict who focuses on understanding the enemy. For most of my career, I have studied why we so often misread others, and how those misperceptions lead to war. The current crisis in Ukraine is just one more example of how the parties involved misunderstood each other. I believe that if we could improve this one ability, we would substantially lessen the likelihood, frequency, and severity of war.

Zachary's book list on knowing your enemy

Zachary Shore Why did Zachary love this book?

Myers, a professor and North Korea watcher, draws on a careful reading of the “Hermit Kingdom’s” cultural products (its political speeches, novels, pamphlets, and more) to tease out a worldview that is too often opaque to outsiders. While escapee literature focuses on how average Koreans suffer under that brutal regime, this book affords us insight into how the regime sees itself – in ways that will surprise you.

By B.R. Myers,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Cleanest Race as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Understanding North Korea through its propagandaA newly revised and updated edition that includes a consideration of Kim Jung Il's successor, Kim Jong-On What do the North Koreans really believe? How do they see themselves and the world around them? Here B.R. Myers, a North Korea analyst and a contributing editor of The Atlantic, presents the first full-length study of the North Korean worldview. Drawing on extensive research into the regime’s domestic propaganda, including films, romance novels and other artifacts of the personality cult, Myers analyzes each of the country’s official myths in turn€”from the notion of Koreans’ unique moral purity,…

Book cover of Alien Nation: Chinese Migration in the Americas from the Coolie Era through World War II

Kevin Kenny Author Of The Problem of Immigration in a Slaveholding Republic: Policing Mobility in the Nineteenth-Century United States

From my list on US immigration in the nineteenth century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write and teach about nineteenth-century US history, and I am interested in immigration for both personal and professional reasons. A native of Dublin, Ireland, I did my undergraduate work in Edinburgh, Scotland, completed my graduate degree in New York City, moved to Austin, Texas for my first academic job and to Boston for my second job, and then returned to New City York to take up my current position at NYU, where I teach US immigration history and run Glucksman Ireland House. The key themes in my work—migration, diaspora, and empire—have been as central to my life journey as to my research and teaching. 

Kevin's book list on US immigration in the nineteenth century

Kevin Kenny Why did Kevin love this book?

Bridging the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in a sweeping, transnational history, Alien Nation provides a compelling account of Chinese migration to the Americas from the 1840s through World War II.

In vivid prose, Young tells the story of how Chinese laborers mined gold, built railroads, and harvested sugar cane; how anti-Chinese restrictionists demonized these workers as “coolies”; and how nationalist movements throughout the Americas enflamed anti-Chinese sentiment.

Alien Nation explains how different national governments borrowed from one other in crafting policies regulating and controlling Chinese immigration, but also how these policies clashed and diverged. Within this transnational framework, Elliott Young recovers the agency of Chinese migrants, facing exclusion, deportation, and segregation, who circumvented government policies to form vibrant communities that transcended national borders.

By Elliott Young,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this sweeping work, Elliott Young traces the pivotal century of Chinese migration to the Americas, beginning with the 1840s at the start of the "coolie" trade and ending during World War II. The Chinese came as laborers, streaming across borders legally and illegally and working jobs few others wanted, from constructing railroads in California to harvesting sugar cane in Cuba. Though nations were built in part from their labor, Young argues that they were the first group of migrants to bear the stigma of being "alien." Being neither black nor white and existing outside of the nineteenth century Western…

Book cover of Civil War by Other Means: America's Long and Unfinished Fight for Democracy

Mark G. Pomar Author Of Cold War Radio: The Russian Broadcasts of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

From Mark's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Cold War veteran Historian Classical music fan

Mark's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Mark G. Pomar Why did Mark love this book?

Suri begins with an analysis of the January 6th attack on the US Capitol and effectively shows how the roots of that attack are deeply embedded in American history.

Drawing on archives and documents, he shows how many Confederate generals never accepted defeat in the Civil War and left for Mexico in 1865 with their enslaved people and soldiers. When they were pardoned by President Andrew Johnson, they returned to the former Confederate states and continued to enforce segregation. One of the Confederate generals even went on to found the University of Texas.

In Suri’s words, resistance to full integration has continued for over a century and spilled out in the riot of January 6th. To read Suri’s book is to gain a deep understanding of the underlying currents in the United States.

By Jeremi Suri,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Civil War by Other Means as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Civil War may have ended on the battlefield, but the fight for equality never did

In 1865, the Confederacy was comprehensively defeated, its economy shattered, its leaders in exile or in jail. Yet in the years that followed, Lincoln’s vision of a genuinely united country never took root. Apart from a few brief months, when the presence of the Union army in the South proved liberating for newly freed Black Americans, the military victory was squandered. Old white supremacist efforts returned, more ferocious than before.

In Civil War by Other Means, Jeremi Suri shows how resistance to a more…

Book cover of Indian Cities: Histories of Indigenous Urbanization

Coll Thrush Author Of Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire

From my list on urban Indigenous lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to Indigenous history through the experience as a settler growing up at the edge of a reservation. I also love cities as “texts,” and the ways in which urban places never fully erase what came before. These two interests led me to urban Indigenous studies. Urban and Indigenous histories are often treated as though they are mutually exclusive, when in fact they are deeply entangled with each other: for example, the majority of Indigenous people in the United States live in urban areas. These works capture the rich history of migration, political organizing, and cultural production that has taken place in Indigenous cities.

Coll's book list on urban Indigenous lives

Coll Thrush Why did Coll love this book?

This edited collection of cutting-edge essays by scholars from across North America captures the profound diversity of Indigenous urban experience.

Ranging from Indigenous cities that existed prior to European arrival through the colonial period to the recent past, this anthology explodes the notion that Indigenous and urban histories have little to do with each other.

By Kent Blansett (editor), Cathleen D. Cahill (editor), Andrew Needham (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From ancient metropolises like Pueblo Bonito and TenochtitlAn to the twenty-first century Oceti Sakowin encampment of NoDAPL water protectors, Native people have built and lived in cities-a fact little noted in either urban or Indigenous histories. By foregrounding Indigenous peoples as city makers and city dwellers, as agents and subjects of urbanization, the essays in this volume simultaneously highlight the impact of Indigenous people on urban places and the effects of urbanism on Indigenous people and politics.

The authors-Native and non-Native, anthropologists and geographers as well as historians-use the term "Indian cities" to represent collective urban spaces established and regulated…

Book cover of African American Childhoods: Historical Perspectives from Slavery to Civil Rights

Hoda Mahmoudi Author Of Children and Globalization: Multidisciplinary Perspectives

From my list on childhood and globalization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been interested in children’s lives for as long as I can remember. I think my own childhood experiences provoked my curiosity about the world as observed and perceived by children. My own childhood was affected by globalization in the broadest sense. When I was a child, my family moved to the United States from Iran. I grew up in Utah where I encountered a different way of life than the one I left behind. The shift from one culture to another was thrilling and scary. The encounter with a new world and a different culture has taught me important lessons about children’s creativity, strength, and curiosity as well as their fears, insecurities, and vulnerabilities.  

Hoda's book list on childhood and globalization

Hoda Mahmoudi Why did Hoda love this book?

I am very interested in the unique challenges that African American children face in the United States. The impacts and continuing effects of slavery and systemic racism begin affecting them before they can articulate the discrimination they experience. This book makes me question the root causes of prejudice and how it is instilled in and inflicted on children.

By Wilma King,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked African American Childhoods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

African American Childhoods seeks to fill a vacuum in the study of African American children. Recovering the voices or experiences of these children, we observe nuances in their lives based on their legal status, class standing, and social development.

Book cover of Black Legend: The Many Lives of Raúl Grigera and the Power of Racial Storytelling in Argentina

Alex Borucki Author Of From Shipmates to Soldiers: Emerging Black Identities in the Río de la Plata

From my list on Black history in Argentina and Uruguay.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of the slave trade and slavery in the Rio de la Plata region (today’s Argentina and Uruguay) who then turned to the study of the traffic of captive Africans in the whole Spanish Americas. Yet, my love remains in the Rio de la Plata, what I call the “cold Caribbean.” Exciting books on the history of Africans and their descendants examine this region within the framework of Atlantic History, racial capitalism, gender, and the connections between twentieth-century Black culture and politics. As these recommendations are limited to English-language books, readers should note that much more has been published on this subject in Spanish and Portuguese.

Alex's book list on Black history in Argentina and Uruguay

Alex Borucki Why did Alex love this book?

Paulina Alberto wrote a binge-reading biography of Raúl Grigera, a Black legend of Buenos Aires during the golden age of tango. While Alberto reconstructs the family’s history of Grigera since the times of slavery in early nineteenth-century Argentina, the narrative arc of the book is the unequal power to control narratives about the self, which affected Grigera and other Black men and women who suffered the dominant and racist narratives about Blackness in Argentina, particularly on the disappearance of Afro-Argentines. This book illustrates the biographical turn in African Diaspora Studies combined with an exquisite interdisciplinary approach, which Alberto employs in her examination of “racial stories” as a methodology.

By Paulina L. Alberto,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Celebrities live their lives in constant dialogue with stories about them. But when these stories are shaped by durable racist myths, they wield undue power to ruin lives and obliterate communities. Black Legend is the haunting story of an Afro-Argentine, Raul Grigera ('el negro Raul'), who in the early 1900s audaciously fashioned himself into an alluring Black icon of Buenos Aires' bohemian nightlife, only to have defamatory storytellers unmake him. In this gripping history, Paulina Alberto exposes the destructive power of racial storytelling and narrates a new history of Black Argentina and Argentine Blackness across two centuries. With the extraordinary…

Book cover of Brown Girl Like Me: The Essential Guidebook and Manifesto for South Asian Girls and Women

Ravinder Randhawa Author Of The Coral Strand

From my list on by writers of colour.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved books and reading, so it’s no surprise I’m an author and blogger. However, feeling strongly about justice and truth, I’ve also been active in the feminist and anti-racist movements. Additionally, I founded The Asian Women Writers Workshop (later known as the Asian Women Writers Collective), whose work has been archived by South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive (SADAA). I’ve been a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at several British universities and am a member of PEN International. As a writer of colour (South-Asian heritage), I'm intrigued by the work of diverse writers, their interpretation and focus.  

Ravinder's book list on by writers of colour

Ravinder Randhawa Why did Ravinder love this book?

Infused with passion and empathy, this book has much to offer. Tackling topics that are taboo or misunderstood; from mental health to menstruation, love and relationships, to micro-aggressions. The writer talks honestly about her own experiences and signposts solutions that have helped her, including other women’s insights, research, and information. Lively, positive, and life-affirming, this book will speak to many.

By Jaspreet Kaur,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brown Girl Like Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

You might feel that this fight is too big for you. How on earth can you dismantle so many complex, long-standing systems of oppression? My answer: piece by piece.

Brown Girl Like Me is an inspiring memoir and empowering manifesto that equips women with the confidence and tools they need to navigate the difficulties that come with an intersectional identity. Jaspreet Kaur unpacks key issues such as the media, the workplace, the home, education, mental health, culture, confidence and the body, to help South Asian women understand and tackle the issues that affect them, and help them be in the…

Book cover of The Time Of The Gypsies

Eluned Summers-Bremner Author Of Astray: A History of Wandering

From my list on being a stranger.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a stranger in the land I grew up in, I’ve always considered myself a world citizen and have never sought a settled life. My first book, Insomnia: A Cultural History, detailed the often enriching experience of being estranged from those sleeping in the night-time. I researched and wrote Astray out of a sense of frustration. Creative estrangement or the unfamiliar typically precedes—and sometimes helps create—norms, yet it is often judged by them, and humans, too, judge other humans this way. Yet, historically, wandering or being a stranger is the human norm, and in the warming world we have made it will be key to all our futures.

Eluned's book list on being a stranger

Eluned Summers-Bremner Why did Eluned love this book?

I often reread this marvelous book, the result of the author’s 1990s fieldwork with Hungarian Roms, for its relevance to all seeking to live aslant from mainstream culture’s obsession with economic growth and so-called success in those terms.

Stewart shows how the horse-trading Roms he lived among made the market a heroic arena where the movement of money is key, and where the luck Roms typically live by is given center-stage in consummate acts of bargaining.

Historically, the Rom are our only people living without a dream of homeland, and the centrality of interaction—with Gadje, non-Roms—to their lives, where unbelonging drives exchange, and exchanges become futures, is pertinent to all who will have to disinvest from belief in property, becoming traveling strangers in our increasingly unpredictable world.

By Michael Stewart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Offers an intimate view of the Hungarian Gypsies who, despite persecution, hostility, and racism, have managed to retain their rich cultural and communal heritage.. The Time of the Gypsies is about the refusal of one group of Gypsiesthe Romto abandon their way of life and accept assimilation into the majority population. It is a story about the sources of cultural diversity in modern industrial society and about the fear and hatred that such social and cultural difference may give rise to. The core of the book, based on the authors eighteen months of observation of daily life in a Gypsy…

Book cover of Racism Postrace

David Theo Goldberg Author Of The Threat of Race: Reflections on Racial Neoliberalism

From my list on spotlighting race and neoliberalization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up and completed the formative years of my college education in Cape Town, South Africa, while active also in anti-apartheid struggles. My Ph.D. dissertation in the 1980s focused on the elaboration of key racial ideas in the modern history of philosophy. I have published extensively on race and racism in the U.S. and globally, in books, articles, and public media. My interests have especially focused on the transforming logics and expressions of racism over time, and its updating to discipline and constrain its conventional targets anew and new targets more or less conventionally. My interest has always been to understand racism in order to face it down.

David's book list on spotlighting race and neoliberalization

David Theo Goldberg Why did David love this book?

A central idea of racial neoliberalism is the erasure of concepts referencing race, taking away the very terms by which racism can be identified and critically addressed. This is a condition that, with Obama’s election in 2008, became increasingly widely identified as “the postracial.” I find this edited volume more readily than others to provide trenchant analysis of the complex relations between the condition of the postracial and its rendering of racism less readily identifiable and more challenging to address.

By Roopali Mukerjee (editor), Sarah Banet-Weiser (editor), Herman Gray (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With the election of Barack Obama, the idea that American society had become postracial-that is, race was no longer a main factor in influencing and structuring people's lives-took hold in public consciousness, increasingly accepted by many. The contributors to Racism Postrace examine the concept of postrace and its powerful history and allure, showing how proclamations of a postracial society further normalize racism and obscure structural antiblackness. They trace expressions of postrace over and through a wide variety of cultural texts, events, and people, from sports (LeBron James's move to Miami), music (Pharrell Williams's "Happy"), and television (The Voice and HGTV)…

Book cover of Undocumented Lives: The Untold Story of Mexican Migration

Laura Hooton, Paul Spickard, and Francisco Beltrán Author Of Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity

From my list on the history of race, ethnicity, and colonialism in the US.

Why are we passionate about this?

Paul Spickard wrote the first edition of Almost All Aliens. He invited Francisco Beltrán and Laura Hooton, who worked under Dr. Spickard at UC Santa Barbara, to co-author the second edition after working as research assistants and providing suggestions for the second edition. We are all historians of race, ethnicity, immigration, colonialism, and identity, and in our other works and teaching we each think about these topics in different ways. We did the same for this list—this is a list of five books that talk about topics that are important to Almost All Aliens and approaches that have been influential in how we think about the topic.  

Laura, Paul, and Francisco's book list on the history of race, ethnicity, and colonialism in the US

Laura Hooton, Paul Spickard, and Francisco Beltrán Why did Laura, Paul, and Francisco love this book?

For readers interested in undocumented immigration, especially from Mexico, Minian’s book provides important and necessary historical context for present-day issues. In particular, the book explains how undocumented immigrants were caught in the middle of economic and political policies in the United States and Mexico. As the title implies, the lives of these immigrants are at the heart of the story, including how these much broader systems impacted their individual lives.

By Ana Raquel Minian,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Undocumented Lives as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Frederick Jackson Turner Award Finalist
Winner of the David Montgomery Award
Winner of the Theodore Saloutos Book Award
Winner of the Betty and Alfred McClung Lee Book Award
Winner of the Frances Richardson Keller-Sierra Prize
Winner of the Americo Paredes Book Award

"A deeply humane book."
-Mae Ngai, author of Impossible Subjects

"Necessary and timely...A valuable text to consider alongside the current fight for DACA, the border concentration camps, and the unending rhetoric dehumanizing Mexican migrants."

"A deep dive into the history of Mexican migration to and from the United States."
-PRI's The World

In the 1970s, the Mexican…