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Race Relations in America: 3 Books to Grow Your Empathy Muscles

in Nonfiction by

We don’t live in a post-racial America, no matter how much we might wish it were true. To understand what people of color live with on a daily basis, and to begin the kind of deep listening that might lead to change, The Elliott Bay Book Company recommends three books that explores topics so brilliantly discussed by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Located in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood business district, Elliott Bay is home to more 150,000 titles. They’re known for their readings by famous authors and literary events throughout the year. Here are their recommendations:

The Making of Asian America: a History by Erika Lee (Simon & Schuster, 2015)

the-making-of-asian-america-erika-leeRecommended by bookseller Karen Allman:

The Making of Asian America brings to light so much new information, all in fascinating detail, in a sweeping account of the history of 23 diverse groups with roots in East, South, and Southeast Asia. The story begins in the 1500s, with Filipino sailors traveling to ‘New Spain,’ and continues through American legislation—first to limit and then to extend rights of immigration and citizenship for Asians—and finally ends with accounts of Asian American activism, the effects of post-9/11 racial profiling, and of contemporary struggles for immigrant rights. The stories of individuals who played a part in this history make reading this book especially memorable.”


Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson (Pantheon, 2015)

nergoland-a-memoir-margo-jeffersonRecommended by bookseller Rick Simonson:

“Long one of the most astute critics and reviewers, both with books and in the theatre, Margo Jefferson has been one of those writers you wish would also write more books. For example, her On Michael Jackson was a singular meditation that won high praise. Now she has written another personal story that touches deeply, searchingly and movingly on race and class. The story of her family and her own upbringing, starting in the late 1940s in black, upper-class Chicago, her own coming of age—and her community’s transitions—through the tumult of the Civil Rights era and its legacies to today, is written of with empathy, eloquence, and knowing insight.”


Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy, M.D. (Picador, 2015)

black-man-in-a-white-coat-damon-tweedyRecommended by bookseller Seth Katz:

“The statistics on the health of black Americans are staggering: infant mortality rates are double that of whites, black men are seven times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV, and rates of stroke, hypertension, and diabetes outpace that of whites. But before Damon Tweedy (attending Duke Medical School on full scholarship) can make a difference, he must first face the stubborn and rampant racial disparities within the medical system itself. Tweedy brings a compassionate and hopeful voice even as he exposes us to the realities of race and medicine. Black Man in a White Coat is a thought-provoking read sure to build your empathy muscle.”

figured it all out too late. He got his degree in Psychology and realized years later that he wanted to write for a living. He now has 16+ years of digital and print journalism experience and currently entertains an ongoing love affair with the greatest literary classics (he savored every page of "War and Peace" and thought it could've been longer, and he will finish Proust's "In Search of Lost Time"). He also loves crossword puzzles, tennis, the outdoors, and working on numerous novels. One of these days, one will get picked up...and when it does, the world will make a little more sense.

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