There Is Work to Be Done!

Photo by ATC Comm Photo on

Friends — The mood in our country during the last weeks has varied from anxiety to outrage to anger to solidarity, from hate to support, depending on who and where you are. One month ago today George Floyd died. I find that interest peaks right after horrific events like these, but then many people move on with their lives, so I specifically waited to create this post.

This post is dedicated to all those readers who feel unsure of how they can make a difference. I have friends who are afraid to ask: “What can I do?” They are afraid to ask: “Why do people say Black Lives Matter?” They are confused about the term “white privilege” because they didn’t grow up wealthy. They are taken aback when they are told that being “colorblind” is not a good thing – or even a thing at all. They are people who do not consider themselves racist but worry, “What if I am?” If I had to guess, they are people who probably identify as white and probably grew up in a setting where most people were just like them.

People – believe me when I say: we have work to do.

We have work to do to understand white privilege – what it is and how it has affected us and others. We have work to do to understand institutional racism and also implicit bias. We have work to do to understand how we can create a difference and work towards equity and inclusion. Know that it’s okay to say “I don’t know” or even “I used to think differently”. As a white cisgender middle class woman I can tell you that my experience has been that the more I learn, the more that I find out I don’t know!

For this post I wanted to share books that I read that made a difference for me in educating myself and growing my awareness of white privilege, racism, hidden biases, and how these relate to my job as a teacher (and as a white teacher of children of color). THIS IS NOT AN EXHAUSTIVE LIST! I’m sure there are many other wonderful books out there and please feel free to share them in the comments.

This list is dedicated to those who don’t know, but want to try to do better.

Peggy McIntosh’s article on the “invisible knapsack” of white privilege was eye-opening for me when I first read it in the 1990’s. Here is an excerpt based on it:

Debby Irving’s Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race was a book that I really related to. When your world is white, you sometimes don’t even think of yourself as having a race. I read this two years ago but I’m listening to it again on audio with my teenage daughter.

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Banaji is a fascinating read, focusing on “good people” who can have biases hidden deep within themselves, and Banaji’s research on this. I love this title and focus on the fact that these are people who would say “I’m not a racist”. We tend to think of “racists” as loud-mouthed, cruel, and ignorant. Banaji shows that even the best of us can carry biases within.

So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo is our faculty read this year. The focus is on open and honest conversations and race and racism. I’m reading it now.

Whistling Vivaldi: How Sterotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude M. Steele is all about understanding stereotypes, especially in America. I read this last summer for our faculty read and will never forget where this title comes from. The author found that some people reacted to him with fear as they passed him on the street, especially at night, for no other reason than he was a Black male. So he started whistling Vivaldi.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin Di Angelo and Michael Eric Dyson. I read this several years ago. Again, eye opening and easy to read and informative.

So, if you read me, I’m guessing you’re a reader, but maybe you like TED talks, too. I know I do! Here’s a whole list of TED talks that they have compiled to inform about racism:

If you teach, you may like:

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniels Tatum. It’s a classic and I believe it has a new foreward to it.

The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys by Ali Michael, Eddie Moore, et al. I received this book after attending a diversity conference. I’ve spent 30 years teaching in independent schools and can say that, in my opinion and experience (which is shared by many), Black boys are our most at-risk students.

If you are on Facebook, I follow former colleague Jenna Chandler Ward’s Teaching While White. I believe it is also a podcast.

This summer my kids, who are both in high school, have summer reading of Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. My own students are reading (as they always do) The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I look foward to reading her newer books as well.

So — these are a sampling of books for those of us who know that we don’t know everything about racism and white privilege. It’s a start. But it’s also a start that has no ending in sight. We owe it to our Black and Brown friends, to all our friends, to educate ourselves and to strive to make a better tomorrow.

If you have resources to share, please do so in the comments. Please also know that every comment has to be vetted and approved by me before it will show publicly.

Happy Reading!

Armstrong and Charlie by Steven B. Frank


I loved this thoughtful kids’ book about two boys in 6th grade and their friendship. Sensitively covering issues of race, grief, class, and peer relationships, this little book has a lot of punch packed between its pages. Highly recommended for middle grades – I’d love to use it with my own students next year!

Thank you for my e-copy which  I got through Net Galley.



SUGARLAND by Martha Conway

Back in May, I did a Q&A with Martha Conway, author of SUGARLAND.

Read it here!

I received an e-copy of SUGARLAND, which is subtitled a “Jazz Age Mystery” and I read it a few weeks ago.

Here’s the overview:


A New Mystery by Edgar-Nominated Author Martha Conway

In 1921, young jazz pianist Eve Riser witnesses the accidental killing of a bootlegger. To cover up the crime, she agrees to deliver money and a letter to a man named Rudy Hardy in Chicago. But when Eve gets to Chicago she discovers that her stepsister Chickie, a popular nightclub singer, is pregnant by a man she won’t name. That night Rudy Hardy is killed before Eve’s eyes in a brutal drive-by shooting, and Chickie disappears.

Eve needs to find Chickie, but she can’t do it alone. Lena Hardy, Rudy’s sister, wants to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder, but she needs Eve’s connections. Together they navigate the back alleys and speakeasies of 1920s Chicago, encountering petty thugs, charismatic bandleaders, and a mysterious nightclub owner called the Walnut who seems to be the key to it all. As they fight racial barriers trying to discover the truth, Eve and Lena unravel a twisted tale of secret shipments and gangster rivalry.

SUGARLAND mixes the excitement of a new kind of music—jazz—with the darker side of Prohibition in a gripping story with “real suspense for anyone who likes a good mystery.” (Kirkus Reviews)


This was a gritty, sometimes dark story that showed the seedy side of life on the circuit in the 20’s. The three main females, Eve, Chickie, and Lena, were all very different but were strong characters as they dealt with everything from gangs, to murder, to an unwanted pregnancy, to racial discrimination. I didn’t know too much about the Prohibition Era, or jazz singers/musicians either, and I found this novel so interesting.

I really enjoyed Ms. Conway’s writing and the plotting and pacing of this book. I will admit to sometimes feeling sad because life was not easy for these gals and everything did not wrap up neatly into a pretty bow at the end.

Highly recommended if you want something a little different in a historical mystery!

Thank you again for my e-copy and for your time with me.

Sugarland (Medium)


Quick YA Review: “It’s Not All Black and White – Multiracial Youth Speak Out” by St. Stephen’s Community House

I downloaded the electronic version of this book through Net Galley into my Adoble Digital reader.

This book is a compilation of short papers, poems, interviews, etc. of teenagers who are biracial or multiracial. They write of their experiences, their journeys to identity, their run-ins with ignorance and prejudice, and, basically, their innermost  feelings of who they are. This was a great read, in my opinion, and one which I think many young people (and adults for that matter) would find interesting and eye-opening.

FYI – St. Stephen’s Community House is located in Toronto.

Thanks, Net Galley and Annick Press, for my free copy!