The best books about multiculturalism

6 authors have picked their favorite books about multiculturalism and why they recommend each book.

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Written in Stone

By Sanford Levinson,

Book cover of Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies

Levinson’s book does not focus on traditional battle sites. Rather, it thoughtfully introduces readers to battles that take place over clashing expressions of public memory, particularly memorial controversies, including clashes over name changes and monument removal. I think readers will appreciate his thoughtful treatment of the vexing issues that have swirled around the appropriate location of Confederate memorials. Well before the recent push to remove such memorials from public space, Levinson offered readers various options for dealing with such volatile issues. His book is an insightful and timely guide into the battlefields of public memory.


Who am I?

I remember well my first visit to Gettysburg on a high school trip. I had trouble expressing what I felt until I read the words of a battlefield guide who said that he often sensed a “brooding omnipresence.” I have often felt such presences across the historic landscape in the U.S. and elsewhere. I am now Professor Emeritus of History at Indiana University, and former editor of the Journal Of American History. I have also written Preserving Memory: The Struggle To Create America’s Holocaust Museum; The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City In American Memory, and co-edited American Sacred Space; History Wars: The Enola Gay And Other Battles For The American Past; and Landscapes Of 9/11: A Photographer’s Journey.


I wrote...

Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields

By Edward T. Linenthal,

Book cover of Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields

What is my book about?

This book is about processes of veneration, defilement, and redefinition at Lexington and Concord, the Alamo, Gettysburg, the Little Bighorn, and Pearl Harbor. These “biographies” help us appreciate these sites as both ceremonial centers and civil spaces where Americans of various ideological persuasions come to struggle over the nature of heroism, the meaning of war, the significance of martial sacrifice, and the importance of preserving and expanding the patriotic landscape.

This second edition contains a 30-page epilogue that offers updated material—as of 1993--on each site, perhaps most significantly a detailed account of the 50th anniversary ceremonies at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

Antiracist Baby

By Ibram X. Kendi, Ashley Lukashevsky (illustrator),

Book cover of Antiracist Baby

The bedrock of inclusivity is understanding our part in systems of oppression. This introduction into actionable antiracist behavior is a must for any parent hoping to truly raise their child to be genuinely inclusive. The page-by-page rhyming helps to engage children, while the glossary in the back gives parents and caregivers real, meaningful discussion points.


Who am I?

I’m a feminist author, illustrator, and UX designer who thrives on projects that help to improve awareness, healing, and community around marginalized identities. When I became a mother, I realized the importance of teaching and educating children around inclusivity and empathy. When we allow children to open their minds and question stagnant culture, we set the stage for real and meaningful collective growth. I center my work around this goal and focus on inclusive themes, often from perspectives that are unexpected.


I wrote...

Feminism Is for Boys

By Elizabeth Rhodes,

Book cover of Feminism Is for Boys

What is my book about?

Boys can play sports with girls, wear dresses, cook, play with dolls, express emotions, be friends with all genders, and believe in equality. Feminism is not just about equal rights for all genders, but also about the pursuit to eradicate gendered stereotypes - allowing everyone to be their truly authentic selves. Boys are some of the most important allies in the movement for gender equality. Feminist boys should not be the exception, but the norm. Feminism is for everyone, including boys!

Lola Levine Is Not Mean!

By Monica Brown, Angela Dominguez (illustrator),

Book cover of Lola Levine Is Not Mean!

When soccer-loving Lola accidentally injures a classmate during a pickup game at recess, her peers start calling her “Mean Lola Levine.” Losing playground privileges and friends is enough to put Lola in a bad mood that almost lives up to her unfortunate new nickname. I like that Brown treats Lola with empathy (after all, what happened was an accident) while also having her realize she was playing too aggressively and does bear some responsibility for the incident. This story can guide young readers through similarly sticky situations. 


Who am I?

I’ve always loved books that take me on an emotional journey. Whether the story is realistic or fantastical, set firmly in the here and now or on another planet centuries in the future, I want to ride the roller coaster as the characters experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. That’s also one of my focuses as a writer for children. Little kids can have very big feelings, and stories for young readers can validate those feelings—without skimping on the fun. After all, joy can be a big feeling too. 


I wrote...

Tally Tuttle Turns into a Turtle (Class Critters #1)

By Kathryn Holmes, Ariel Landy (illustrator),

Book cover of Tally Tuttle Turns into a Turtle (Class Critters #1)

What is my book about?

It’s the first day of second grade, and Tally Tuttle is so nervous that she feels like she ate butterflies for breakfast. She’s new in town and is afraid she won’t make any friends. A moment of teasing during morning roll call makes Tally want to retreat into a shell...but she’s astonished when she actually transforms into a turtle! At first, Tally likes having a built-in place to hide, but she doesn’t want to stay a turtle forever. 

Tally Tuttle Turns into a Turtle is the first installment in a new chapter book series, Class Critters, about a magical classroom where each kid turns into a different animal for a day to have an adventure and learn a life lesson.

Selected Writings on Race and Difference

By Stuart Hall,

Book cover of Selected Writings on Race and Difference

Stuart Hall provided me with a model for mapping the shifting political conjuncture in real time, and the transforming racial dynamics that centrally shaped neoliberalism’s political emergence and cultural expression of the period. He showed how the newly emergent racial politics identified with neoliberalizing societies is increasingly linked to the immigrant, the unbelonging, the supposed rise in local crime as a consequence, and the perceived threat to the traditional culture of their host society. Hall offers the dynamic terms of analysis for these emerging phenomena: the floating signifier of race, the pluralizing of racism, racial panics, the law and order society, articulation of race with class and gender, etc. His work, so formatively brought together here by Paul Gilroy and Ruth Wilson Gilmore, was enormously generative for me in analyzing the formative connections of neoliberalization and the shifting dynamics of racial politics.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

The Threat of Race: Reflections on Racial Neoliberalism

By David Theo Goldberg,

Book cover of The Threat of Race: Reflections on Racial Neoliberalism

What is my book about?

Modern states are racially structured. They become modern by assuming the structures of racial arrangement. But these arrangements are not static. As political economy shifts over time so do the conditions of racial structure. From the 1980s, neoliberalism deregulated economic activity within and across states globally, while ramping up the regulation of social order through the funding of repressive state apparatuses such as the military and police. Personal responsibility was emphasized above all in the face of the financialization of all social choices. Racial reference was erased which, rather than ending racism, rendered it less nameable, if not invisible. The book traces these developments across five regions because of the variations but especially because the threat of racism anywhere is shored up by racism elsewhere.

A Relational Theory of World Politics

By Yaqing Qin,

Book cover of A Relational Theory of World Politics

Qin is the former president of China Foreign Affairs University and China’s foremost thinker on international relationships. This book is not an easy read, but it is worth the effort because Qin presents an original perspective on world affairs that is rooted in Chinese intellectual traditions. In contrast to current theories of international relations, Qin emphasizes the importance of relationships over transactions—attention to managing long-term, particular connections rather than “the art of the deal.” In addition, he describes a dialectic based on the mutual transformation of opposites—a yin-yang relationship—rather than the usual Western assumption of separate categories. Qin is a hard read because he is presenting a new way of thinking.


Who am I?

Where you sit determines what you see. China is complex, and so it pays to move around and view it from as many perspectives as possible. My view of China is formed by visits to all of its 31 provinces and to most of its neighbors.  A professor of foreign affairs at the University of Virginia, I have taught and written about Chinese politics for the past forty years, and I have worked with Chinese universities and scholars. This list suggests some excellent books presenting different vantage points on China’s past and present.


I wrote...

China and Vietnam: The Politics of Asymmetry

By Brantly Womack,

Book cover of China and Vietnam: The Politics of Asymmetry

What is my book about?

For a different perspective on China, an important place to sit is in China’s neighborhood. China and Vietnam have been managing their misunderstandings for thousands of years— most of the time successfully. How have they done it?  How does Vietnam keep its national autonomy while China maintains its regional stature? This book is a study of their asymmetric relationship from the Bronze Age to the present. 

Queenie

By Candice Carty-Williams,

Book cover of Queenie

On top of all the other great things about this book, Queenie is a truly tremendous portrait of life in one’s mid-twenties. All of the rawness, the humor, the difficulty, and the triumphs of a time when the stakes of everything seem so big and so small come across here. And like all those great novels named after their protagonist, the central character deserves every bit of attention that the narrator and other characters give her, and the book deserves all the praise critics have given it.


Who am I?

As a Jamaican migrant, I often read Jamaican fiction to feel recognized, but I struggle with the word “best,” so consider this an exceedingly tentative ranking. I read each of these texts to learn about what it means to be a part of the Jamaican diaspora and to write a Jamaican novel, and each one elicited in me something that I often did not know about myself. Their attention to gender, to migration, to family, and more are as enlightening as they are captivating. And if that is not enough, then come for the plots, all of which are gripping, and the prose, all of which delights.


I wrote...

All the Water I've Seen Is Running

By Elias Rodriques,

Book cover of All the Water I've Seen Is Running

What is my book about?

Along the Intracoastal waterways of North Florida, Daniel and Aubrey navigated adolescence with the electric intensity that radiates from young people defined by otherness: Aubrey, a self-identified "Southern cracker" and Daniel, the mixed-race son of Jamaican immigrants. When the news of Aubrey’s death reaches Daniel in New York, years after they’d lost contact, he is left to grapple with the legacy of his precious and imperfect love for her. 

Buoyed by his teenage track-team buddies―Twig, a long-distance runner; Desmond, a sprinter; Egypt, Des’s girlfriend; and Jess, a chef―Daniel begins a frantic search for meaning in Aubrey’s death. Sensitive to the complexities of class, race, and sexuality both in the American South and in Jamaica, All the Water I’ve Seen Is Running is a novel of uncommon tenderness, grief, and joy.

The End of Education

By Neil Postman,

Book cover of The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School

Postman is another of my heroes, not least because – like Perkins – of the quality of his thinking and writing. Again, all his books are a pleasure to read – right back to one I read as a young lecturer in the early 1970s called Teaching as a Subversive Activity. The pun in his title is deliberate and speaks to the heart of his argument: that if we do not rediscover a coherent and compelling end – i.e. purpose – for education, it will probably, and deservedly, be the end of education as we know it. Postman explores five possible narratives that could be compelling enough to revive young people’s interest and faith in their school. Again, like Perkins, he does not end by giving us an easy answer, but boy, does he make you think about what might be possible. A true visionary, with his feet firmly on…


Who am I?

I’m a cognitive scientist, and I love reading, thinking, and researching about the nature of the human – and especially the young – mind, and what it is capable of. Even while I was still doing my PhD in experimental psychology at Oxford in the early 1970s, I was gripped by the new possibilities for thinking about education that were being opened up by science. In particular, the assumption of a close association between intelligence and intellect was being profoundly challenged, and I could see that there was so much more that education could be, and increasing needed to be, than filling kids’ heads with pockets of dusty knowledge and the ability to knock out small essays and routine calculations. In particular, we now know that learning itself is not a simple reflection of IQ, but is a complex craft that draws on a number of acquired habits that are capable of being systematically cultivated in school – if we have a mind to do it.


I wrote...

What's the Point of School?: Rediscovering the Heart of Education

By Guy Claxton,

Book cover of What's the Point of School?: Rediscovering the Heart of Education

What is my book about?

Education has become more and more soulless. With their emphasis on regurgitated knowledge and stressful examinations, today’s schools often do more harm than good. Of course, knowledge is useful – but what knowledge do young people actually need? And are there other things than knowledge – forms of expertise and even aspects of character – that schools should be paying attention to? In this book, I argue that cultivating characteristics such as perseverance, skepticism, and imagination is as important as reading, writing, math, and a bit of history – and that the two sets of aims actually support each other rather than conflict.

Athens

By Bruce Clark,

Book cover of Athens: City of Wisdom

Athens is where I lived as a student in the 1970s, and I’ve loved the place ever since! People who visit Greece often miss out on the capital or find the modern city ugly and noisy. But this book explains the magic effect that Athens has exercised on natives and visitors for at least two thousand years – all the way from the legendary wisdom of Solon the lawgiver to the gritty problems of a decade of enforced austerity (only recently overcome), and of a new multi-culturalism that comes with mass migration across Europe’s front line into Greece.


Who am I?

I was only thirteen when I first travelled to Greece and began to learn the ancient Greek language at school. That double impression of a vibrant, living country and its people, and the extraordinary fact that there they still speak a language that was first written down more than 3000 years ago, set me upon a lifetime of studying and teaching, and inspired me to communicate my love of Greece and Greeks to others. I’ve written several books, all of them Greek-themed in one way or another. These are some of the books that have accompanied me along the way – and new ones that may inspire you too.


I wrote...

The Greeks: A Global History

By Roderick Beaton,

Book cover of The Greeks: A Global History

What is my book about?

More than two thousand years ago, the Greek city-states, led by Athens and Sparta, laid the foundation for much of modern science, the arts, politics, and law. But the influence of the Greeks did not end with the rise and fall of this classical civilization. As historian Roderick Beaton illustrates, over three millennia Greek speakers produced a series of civilizations that were rooted in southeastern Europe but again and again ranged widely across the globe.

In The Greeks, Beaton traces this history from the Bronze Age Mycenaeans who built powerful fortresses at home and strong trade routes abroad to the dramatic Eurasian conquests of Alexander the Great, to the pious Byzantines who sought to export Christianity worldwide, to today’s Greek diaspora, which flourishes on five continents. 

Interpreter of Maladies

By Jhumpa Lahiri,

Book cover of Interpreter of Maladies

I read this sublime short story collection just after I moved to England from India. Saying that these stories of displacement, yearning, loss, love spoke to me is an understatement. I was new to England, missing India which I still thought of as home and while some of the stories brought India back vividly to me, others I could absolutely identify with as they detailed the immigrant experience so beautifully. A book that will always be very close to my heart as I read it and laughed and cried and yearned alongside the characters. 


Who am I?

I grew up in a small village in India. The nearest library was in the next town, two bus rides and a long walk away and comprised of one bookshelf, half full, the books with several pages missing. I read and reread those books, making up my own narratives for the missing pages. I suppose this was the crucial first step in my journey to author. I write stories featuring diverse protagonists. In my books, I explore themes of displacement and belonging, how people brought up in different cultures and during different times respond to challenges, how their interactions and reactions are informed by their different upbringings and values.


I wrote...

The Girl in the Painting: A heartbreaking historical novel of family secrets, betrayal and love

By Renita D'Silva,

Book cover of The Girl in the Painting: A heartbreaking historical novel of family secrets, betrayal and love

What is my book about?

In colonial India a young woman finds herself faced with an impossible choice, the consequences of which will echo through the generations…

1928. In British-ruled India, headstrong Sita longs to choose her own path, but her only destiny is a good marriage. After a chance meeting with a Crown Prince leads to a match, her family’s status seems secured and she moves into the palace, where peacocks fill the gardens and tapestries adorn the walls. But royal life is far from simple, and her failure to provide an heir makes her position fragile. Soon Sita is on the brink of losing everything, and the only way to save herself could mean betraying her oldest friend…

Street Pharm

By Allison van Diepen,

Book cover of Street Pharm

Street Pharm is a dark, cultural, and realistic look into Tyrone's life as a teenage drug dealer.  A raw and urban story of a teen who inherits a life of crime because of the situation he was born into and the harsh awakening that comes with it. An intense and page-turning read that had me glued till the very end.


Who am I?

I am a multicultural published author from California. I attended different schools growing up, reading classic literature that I couldn't relate to, resulting in becoming a reluctant reader. I didn't live in historical time periods. My skin was a lighter shade of brown. In my world, I met kids from diverse backgrounds, who spoke slang and had personal hardships. Where were the books like that? That's why I wrote Graffiti Girl. To share a realistic, multicultural approach so the reluctant reader could have characters they could see themselves in. That's why I chose these books, in no specific order, that share contemporary, urban stories involving people of different cultures, who face unique hardships.


I wrote...

Graffiti Girl

By Kelly Parra,

Book cover of Graffiti Girl

What is my book about?

Raised by her single mom in a struggling California neighborhood, Angel Rodriguez channels her hopes and dreams into her paintings. But when her entry for a community mural doesn’t rate, she’s heartbroken. Even with artist Nathan Ramos taking an interest in Angel's art, she’s determined to find her own place in the art world.

That’s when Miguel Badalin introduces her to an underground world of graf tags and turf wars. Soon she’s running with Miguel’s crew and emerging as the artist she always dreamed to be. But Nathan and Miguel are bitter enemies, and choosing between them and their wildly different approaches to art means that Angel must decide what matters most before the artist inside of her can truly break free.

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