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Community Reads – Black Lives Matter


Four titles that appear on many lists of recommended anti-racist books are available now for everyone to access.  These are part of the new Community Reads program called Black Lives Matter’, spearheaded by the Canadian Urban Libraries Council and the Urban Libraries Council with the help of Overdrive. Overdrive is working with publishers to make important titles on social justice and anti-racism available for community reading ̶  for unlimited numbers of readers and without waiting lists or holds - for a period of time. 

Regarded as one of the most influential titles of the last 20 years, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander exposes racial discrimination at all levels of the US criminal justice system. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status - much like their grandparents before them. In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. This book helped lift the debate on race and criminal justice and influenced the creation of the BlackLivesMatter movement. Michelle Alexander’s bestselling title reminds us there is still much to do to end race issues and power imbalances in America, as well as in Canada. 

Based on the viral Instagram challenge that captivated participants worldwide, Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad takes readers on a 28-day journey of how to dismantle the privilege within themselves so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too. Updated and expanded from the original workbook from the Instagram challenge, the book takes the work deeper by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and including expanded definitions, examples, and further resources.

In The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas leads us in the two worlds of a sixteen-year-old girl, Starr Carter: the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the suburban school she attends. Two worlds that collapse when her best friend, Kalil, who was unarmed, is killed by a police officer. Witnessing the murder, she will have to face the national newspapers, see protesters marching in the streets in Khalil's name, face questions from the cops and threats from the local drug lord. Everyone is looking for the truth and wants to shed light on what really happened that night. But only Starr's decision to intervene can bring light. A decision that could upend her community and put her life at risk. The Hate U Give is a touching piece of writing that expresses the inner duel of a young girl confronted with a harsh reality.

So You Want to Talk about Race brings a contemporary perspective on the American racial landscape by addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggression, the Black Lives Matter movement and the "N" word. Oluo's straightforward and direct style offers coherent answers to racial issues and attempts to bridge the gap between people of colour and white Americans struggling with race complexities.

Overdrive presents four books that stand out for their testimony, their troubling realism and which both attempt to clarify the questions we are asking about racism. Do not miss this opportunity to use your library card to discover these powerful reads by these influential authors.

Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open to follow this new BLM program as more titles become available to increase awareness about these essential issues. Each person’s growing recognition of the unequal power structures in society and deeper understanding of how they can make a difference will help change the world to one that is racist-free.