Racial Justice Book Discussions

Each month, we gather at a local library somewhere in Marin where we read and discuss books that center race, racism, privilege, and whiteness. Book selections and library locations are posted at least one month in advance, to allow you time to order and read the book!

This is an open discussion group for anyone interested in discussing the topics raised, and if you haven’t had a chance to finish reading, please come anyway — the discussions are always lively and engaging. We try to set up the discussions at different libraries so that folks from all around the county feel welcome to participate.

This month’s book discussion:

Saturday, November 23, 3:00pm – 4:30pm, South Novato Library, 931 C St
Novato. Tracks by Louise Erdrich.

From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Louise Erdrich comes an arresting, lyrical novel set in North Dakota when Native Americans were fighting to keep their lands.

Set in North Dakota at a time in the past century when Indian tribes were struggling to keep what little remained of their lands, Tracks is a tale of passion and deep unrest. Over the course of ten crucial years, as tribal land and trust between people erode ceaselessly, men and women are pushed to the brink of their endurance—yet their pride and humor prohibit surrender. 

The reader will experience shock and pleasure in encountering characters that are compelling and rich in their vigor, clarity, and indomitable vitality.

Upcoming book discussions:

Sunday, December 22, 3:00 – 4:30pm, San Rafael Library , 1100 E St

Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, called “the most famous undocumented immigrant in America,” tackles one of the defining issues of our time in this explosive and deeply personal call to arms.

Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, called “the most famous undocumented immigrant in America,” tackles one of the defining issues of our time in this explosive and deeply personal call to arms.

“This is not a book about the politics of immigration. This book––at its core––is not about immigration at all. This book is about homelessness, not in a traditional sense, but in the unsettled, unmoored psychological state that undocumented immigrants like myself find ourselves in. This book is about lying and being forced to lie to get by; about passing as an American and as a contributing citizen; about families, keeping them together, and having to make new ones when you can’t. This book is about constantly hiding from the government and, in the process, hiding from ourselves. This book is about what it means to not have a home.

After 25 years of living illegally in a country that does not consider me one of its own, this book is the closest thing I have to freedom.”

—Jose Antonio Vargas, from Dear America

Previous book selections:

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America–but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. Instead of working with the policies and system we have in place, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it. 

Infamy by Richard Reeves. After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed an executive order that forced more than 120,000 Japanese Americans into primitive camps for the rest of war. Their only crime: looking like the enemy.


There There by Tommy Orange is a relentlessly paced multigenerational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. It tells the story of twelve characters, each of whom have private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle’s death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle’s memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and has come to the powwow to dance in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and unspeakable loss.


Waking Up White by Debby Irving. Debby Irving’s powerful Waking Up White opens a rare window on how white Americans are socialized. Irving’s focus on the mechanics of racism operating in just one life — her own — may lead white readers to reconsider the roots of their own perspectives — and their role in dismantling old myths. Readers of color will no doubt find the view through Irving’s window fascinating, and telling. — Van Jones


So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo. In this New York Times bestseller, Ijeoma Oluo offers a hard-hitting but user-friendly examination of race in America.


White Kids: Growing up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America, by Margaret Hagerman. White Kids, based on two years of research involving in-depth interviews with white kids and their families, is a clear-eyed and sometimes shocking account of how white kids learn about race. In doing so, this book explores questions such as, “How do white kids learn about race when they grow up in families that do not talk openly about race or acknowledge its impact?” and “What about children growing up in families with parents who consider themselves to be ‘anti-racist’?”


Chief Marin, by Betty Goerke. It’s a little known fact that the San Francisco Bay Area’s Marin County is named after a Coast Miwok chief who achieved notoriety for defying Spanish authority over his people. Anthropologist and archaeologist Betty Goerke has pieced together a portrait of the life of this Native American leader, using mission records, ethnographies, explorers’ and missionaries’ diaries and correspondence, and other material.


The Sellout, by Paul Beatty. A biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality―the black Chinese restaurant.


White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo. The New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.


The Line Becomes a River, by Francisco Cantú. For Francisco Cantú, the border is in the blood: his mother, a park ranger and daughter of a Mexican immigrant, raised him in the scrublands of the Southwest. Driven to understand the hard realities of the landscape he loves, Cantú joins the Border Patrol. He and his partners learn to track other humans under blistering sun and through frigid nights. They haul in the dead and deliver to detention those they find alive. Plagued by a growing awareness of his complicity in a dehumanizing enterprise, he abandons the Patrol for civilian life. But when an immigrant friend travels to Mexico to visit his dying mother and does not return, Cantú discovers that the border has migrated with him, and now he must know the full extent of the violence it wreaks, on both sides of the line.


Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice. 


Kindred, by Octavia Butler. The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.