The best prejudice books

13 authors have picked their favorite books about prejudices and why they recommend each book.

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The Possessive Investment in Whiteness

By George Lipsitz,

Book cover of The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics

Another classic, Lipsitz’s book turns so many white-centered social justice assumptions on their heads. In chapters that explore incidents well known in American popular culture, and a 20th-anniversary edition that brings his subject to the current day, Lipsitz offers a much-needed correction to well-meaning social justice advocates.


Who am I?

I’ve devoted my academic career and personal life to the limits and possibilities of white liberal approaches to civil rights reform. Trained in U.S. history and published in American Jewish history, I look closely at how ethnic groups and religious minorities interact with their racial and gender status to create a sometimes-surprising perspective on both history and our current day. At times powerful and at other times powerless, Jews (and other white ethnics) navigate a complex course in civil rights advocacy.


I wrote...

Black Power, Jewish Politics: Reinventing the Alliance in the 1960s

By Marc Dollinger,

Book cover of Black Power, Jewish Politics: Reinventing the Alliance in the 1960s

What is my book about?

While many American Jews reflect on the civil rights movement as a time of unparalleled solidarity and blame the break-up of the alliance between white Jews and Blacks on the rise of Black militancy, this book offers a new, deeper, and more complex understanding of race relations in that era. During the 1950s, white male Jewish leaders actually supported the Nation of Islam, an antisemitic organization. In the mid-1960s, many Jews lauded the rise of Black Power, celebrating its successes. By the 1970s, Jewish organizations copied Black Power strategies to strengthen American Jewish identity.

The Big Umbrella

By Amy June Bates, Juniper Bates,

Book cover of The Big Umbrella

Two things first drew me to this story. First, in our hall closet there is also a big umbrella—a big white, blue-striped umbrella which when opened is roomy enough for all our family members. Second, I love the metaphors in the book…the umbrella = shelter, rainy weather = troubles/hard times, and the variety of characters under the umbrella = family, friends, strangers, and the best part is no one is left out from beneath the umbrella as it simply gets bigger to accommodate everyone’s needs. What a compassionate, empathetic message of inclusion.


Who am I?

As a former middle school language arts teacher, I’ve witnessed firsthand the struggles some students face trying to be accepted and the heartbreak they experience when they are not. Every child deserves to be seen and appreciated for who they are and not be excluded or ostracized due to factors over which they have little control. I write and promote picture books about friendship, acceptance, and inclusion because everyone deserves to be included…always. 


I wrote...

What's Silly Hair Day with No Hair?

By Norene Paulson, Camila Carrossine (illustrator),

Book cover of What's Silly Hair Day with No Hair?

What is my book about?

Bea has alopecia―that means she doesn't have any hair. Most days being bald doesn’t bother Bea, but some days are super hard like Silly Hair Day at school. When Bea doesn’t know what to do, her best friend, Shaleah, is determined to help. With Silly Hair Day fast approaching, they're focused on finding a way for everyone to be included in the fun.

Apartheid of Sex

By Martine Rothblatt,

Book cover of Apartheid of Sex: A Manifesto on the Freedom of Gender

Although I endorse Rothblatt's ideal of a sex-irrelevant society, I think he fails to fully comprehend the subordination by sex that females currently experience. And if he hadn't been so rich (like Jenner), he might not have voluntarily become a member of that sexed underclass. (I suspect his money has largely insulated him from the negative effects of being perceived as a woman.) That said, this 1995 book is a pioneering classic. (Though I think the subtitle should have been "A Manifesto on the Freedom from Gender" — not " A Manifesto on the Freedom of Gender".)


Who am I?

I am the author of several novels—in addition to the one featured here, Impact, It Wasn't Enough (Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award), Exile, and What Happened to Tom (on Goodreads' "Fiction Books That Opened Your Eyes To A Social Or Political Issue" list).  I was a columnist for The Philosopher Magazine for eight years, Philosophy Now for two years, and the Ethics and Emerging Technologies website for a year ("TransGendered Courage" received 35,000 hits, making it #3 of the year, and "Ethics without Philosophers" received 34,000 hits, making it #5 of the year), and I've published a collection of think pieces titled Sexist Shit that Pisses Me Off. 


I wrote...

Gender Fraud: a fiction

By Peg Tittle,

Book cover of Gender Fraud: a fiction

What is my book about?

In a near future, 'gender recognition' legislation is repealed, and it becomes illegal for males to identify as females and females to identify as males. However, due in part to the continued conflation of sex and gender and in part to the insistence that gender align with sex, it also becomes illegal for males to be feminine and females to be masculine. A gender identity dystopia.  

Gender Fraud: a fiction was a Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award 2021.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963

By Christopher Paul Curtis,

Book cover of The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963

This is one of the funniest, and saddest, books ever. When Kenny starts telling the story, it’s dead winter in Flint. Michigan. Cold enough to make your spit freeze. Momma, who grew up in Alabama, begins yearning for the South. By reputation, Momma’s momma is the strictest, meanest grandma ever. Kenny - who’s never met her - decides Grandma Sands must look like a troll. Dad and Momma decide that Grandma Sands is the perfect person to straighten out big brother Byron, who shows signs of turning into a juvenile delinquent. So... Join the Watsons. Get in their car (also known as the Brown Bomber), listen to the tires roll onto I-75, and imagine what’s going to happen when Byron meets his doom.

Who am I?

A reader. A librarian. A writer. I majored in History/English in college, partly because I love historical novels. When my editor asked that my second book be set during the California Gold Rush, I knew I wanted to write from the Mexican point of view - I’m a quarter Mexican. I soon found myself deep in research, learning about those years when Mexico owned what is now the American Southwest. Writing Daughter of Madrugada left me wondering: were some of my own ancestors displaced by American encroachment?


I wrote...

Daughter of Madrugada

By Frances M. Wood,

Book cover of Daughter of Madrugada

What is my book about?

Cesa de Haro is the eldest child and only daughter of a Mexican land grant family in old California. The huge domain of El Rancho de la Madrugada belongs to the de Haros, and the de Haros alone—until Americans invade, hungry for gold.

I Walk with Vanessa

By Kerascoët,

Book cover of I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness

Kindness multiplies. These words (from the endnotes) come to life in the stirring story portrayed in I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness. The new girl in school is bullied, but another girl’s decision to walk her to school creates a community outpouring of empathy—and joy. The story itself has no words, but the illustrations offer many opportunities for discovery and discussion. One of my all-time favorites!


Who am I?

I’ve published many books for children, but this one is truly special. The Everybody Club is a collaboration with my dear friend Linda Hayen in memory of her daughter, Carissa. As a child, Carissa started a real-life Everybody Club. The first members were toys, dolls, the family cat, and her brothers, one of whom had severe disabilities. Carissa died in a car accident at the age of 16, and this book is Linda’s way of sharing her daughter’s generous spirit with the world. A note for adults at the end of the book shares this backstory.


I wrote...

The Everybody Club

By Nancy Loewen, Linda Hayen, Yana Zybina (illustrator)

Book cover of The Everybody Club

What is my book about?

The Everybody Club is a feel-good rhyming read-aloud. It's a book with plenty of heart and a powerful message: We belong. Every one of us. Join in the fun and see what the Everybody Club is up to in this catchy, joyful romp for young readers!

Secrets in the House of Delgado

By Gloria D. Miklowitz,

Book cover of Secrets in the House of Delgado

A gripping account of a converso family--their ancestors had been Jewish but were forced to convert to Christianity—trying to survive in Spain during the 1492 Inquisition. This story most closely aligns with the thread of Jewish history underlying my book. It’s told by a young servant girl working for the family, who overcomes her firmly ingrained hatred of Jews and becomes a hero as she learns that what matters most is a person’s goodness, not the religious rituals they practice. It’s told with lavish detail that transports the reader to a dangerous time for anyone with Jewish blood in their ancestral line. 


Who am I?

Before becoming an author, I was a civil rights lawyer, so naturally, I’m drawn to stories that shine a light on prejudice and hatred for “the other.” My desire to combat the bigotry that stems from ignorance, coupled with my fascination with the historical struggles of the Jewish people, led me to write this latest book. Because my kids can trace their ancestors to Spain, I took an interest in learning everything I could about the Spanish Inquisition and the fate of the Jews of Spain. I added some of my own family lore from Russia and voila! When Lightnin’ Struck was born. The research gave me a great excuse to visit Spain!


I wrote...

When Lightnin' Struck

By Betsy R. Rosenthal,

Book cover of When Lightnin' Struck

What is my book about?

In 1928 Odessa, Texas, eleven-year-old James struggles to find his purpose in life, and along the way discovers a family secret. He’s treated as an outcast at school because his father was struck dead by lightning and his mother is in jail, but he has a loyal friend in Paul, a Russian Jewish immigrant. Together they battle the school bully and Paul helps James uncover his beloved Abuela’s hidden history. 

Newberry Award winner Susan Patron describes the book as “a keenly observed and timely story of a Texas Boy’s discovery of deeply buried family secrets—and his own humanity.”

Freedom Over Me

By Ashley Bryan,

Book cover of Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life

Based on actual slave documents, Ashley Bryan, through his accomplished paintings and poetry, imagines the lives of eleven men and women sold at auction in 1828. We learn the market prices of the eleven, but Bryan goes deep, showing us the true value of each unique individual. The soul and spirit of this lovely book lay in the astounding resilience, the survival of hope and dreams in the hearts and minds of these enslaved people. Amidst the ugliness of slavery, Bryan manages to leave me uplifted, even joyful — joyful about the unwavering human belief in and desire for freedom.  


Who am I?

I am a former children’s librarian who writes books for children and young adults. I love history, especially black history. We didn’t get much in school when I was a child, so I’ve been catching up on some of what I missed. I am particularly drawn to under-told stories about people who deserve more recognition for their contributions. I’m proud that some of those people are members of my own family.


I wrote...

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem's Greatest Bookstore

By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, R. Gregory Christie (illustrator),

Book cover of The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem's Greatest Bookstore

What is my book about?

In the 1930s, my great uncle Lewis Michaux had an itch he needed to scratch — a book itch.  He started the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem. Lewis told his son Lewis Jr. to think for himself and never stop asking questions. Lewis believed knowledge is power and a pathway to freedom for all, especially the black community. One way to gain knowledge and become an independent thinker is through reading, which is why Lewis created his bookstore. I believe freedom, at its core, is all about thinking. You can learn more about Lewis in my book for older readers, No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller.

The Authoritarian Personality

By Theodor W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel J. Levinson, R. Nevitt Sanford

Book cover of The Authoritarian Personality

This book is both timeless and a product of a specific moment (the post-war era). First to the timeless stuff: the authoritarian personality that Adorno and his co-authors describe remains alive and kicking in 2022. He is obsessed with appearing tough, power-hungry, incapable of self-criticism, and presents himself as a victim of other peoples’ malfeasance. As for the more dated stuff, Freud lurks behind the authors’ interpretations; reading this book, I am struck by how differently post-war Americans understood gender and sexuality than we do today. This book poses searching questions about the extent to which authoritarianism and proto-fascism are ingrained in modern life.


Who am I?

I am fascinated by how and why extremist thought enters the mainstream. It is what drew me to researching American fascist sympathizers in the 1920s and 1930s, and it is what scares me about the direction of politics in the United States today. When I am not hanging out with my family in Washington, DC, I am teaching in the American studies department at the University of Amsterdam. It’s a long commute, but my students make it worth it. I love to teach courses about protest traditions and democratic challenges in the United States in the twentieth century up until the present. 


I wrote...

The Machine Has a Soul: American Sympathy with Italian Fascism

By Katy Hull,

Book cover of The Machine Has a Soul: American Sympathy with Italian Fascism

What is my book about?

My book looks at American fascist sympathizers who were at the center of cultural and political life in the 1920s and 1930s, to understand why they supported Mussolini’s regime. Many of the issues that Americans faced in the 1920s and 1930s—from technological change and economic dislocation to disillusionment with democracy—are familiar to us today. And the proposed solution of fascist authoritarianism also has parallels in our present times. That is why I wanted to write this book: it is a piece of history that feels as urgent to understand in the 2020s as it did one hundred years ago.  

The Day You Begin

By Jacqueline Woodson, Rafael López (illustrator),

Book cover of The Day You Begin

The Day You Begin is a lovely, lyrical reminder that we all have unique experiences and moments of not belonging, but we find connections through sharing our stories. Jacqueline Woodson’s repetitive phrase, “There will be times,” paired with the use of a 2nd person narrator, instantly draws us into the story. As a result, we feel part of the story as we think of times when we didn’t fit in or people didn’t understand our experience. So powerful!! I am a huge proponent of the power of sharing personal stories, and I often speak to groups about how sharing stories can serve as a bridge that might connect us. The Day You Begin is a glorious reflection of this truth.


Who am I?

As the Black American daughter of Jamaican immigrants born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, I love stories that depict the beauty of being multifaceted human beings. Stories steeped in broad understandings of place and home. Stories that encourage us to delight in being the people we are. I also believe our children are natural poets and storytellers. Lyrical picture books filled with rich language and sensory details encourage the thriving of such creativity. In addition to writing All the Places We Call Home, I'm the author of All the Colors We Will See, an essay collection about race, immigration, and belonging. 


I wrote...

All the Places We Call Home

By Patrice Gopo, Jenin Mohammed (illustrator),

Book cover of All the Places We Call Home

What is my book about?

Where do you come from? Where does your family come from? For many children, the answers to these questions can transform a conversation into a journey around the globe.

In her first picture book, author Patrice Gopo illuminates how family stories help shape children, help form their identity, and help connect them with the broader world. Her lyrical language, paired with Jenin Mohammed's richly textured artwork, creates a beautiful, stirring portrait of a child's deep ties to cultures and communities beyond where she lays her head to sleep. All the Places We Call Home is a quiet triumph that encourages an awakening to our own stories and to the stories of those around us.

The Bias That Divides Us

By Keith E. Stanovich,

Book cover of The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking

Stanovich is a cognitive psychologist who showed that rationality is related, but not identical, to intelligence. In this timely book he shows that smart people, and everyone else, are victims of a powerful bias to show that our own tribe is virtuous and wise and knowledgeable and the other tribe is evil and stupid and ignorant. Needless to say it explains a lot about our current moment.

Who am I?

I’m a Harvard professor of psychology and a cognitive scientist who’s interested in all aspects of language, mind, and human nature. I grew up in Montreal, but have lived most of my adult life in the Boston area, bouncing back and forth between Harvard and MIT except for stints in California as a professor at Stanford and sabbatical visitor in Santa Barbara and now, Berkeley. I alternate between books on language (how it works, what it reveals about human nature, what makes for clear and stylish writing) and books on the human mind and human condition (how the mind works, why violence has declined, how progress can take place).


I wrote...

Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters

By Steven Pinker,

Book cover of Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters

What is my book about?

How can a species that developed vaccines for Covid-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, medical quackery, and conspiracy theorizing?

I reject the cliché that humans are just cavemen out of time, saddled with biases, fallacies, and illusions. Instead, we think in ways that are sensible in the low-tech contexts in which we spend most of our lives, but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning our best thinkers have discovered over the millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation, and causation, and optimal ways to update beliefs and commit to choices individually and with others. These tools are not a standard part of our educational curricula and have never been presented clearly and entertainingly in a single book—at least until I had a go at it in this book.

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