Book Challenge: Five Must Reads for Fall


Working in education, especially for an organization whose mission is to help black and brown, low-income students, it’s key to educate myself on the systems that perpetuate our students’ circumstances. This is where books on these specific topics can be used as professional and personal development. From systemic issues in education to social justice to white privilege — these topics affect the U.S. education system and the students we serve. To understand them and how we can dismantle them is the first step to change.

As a young professional, books like Ta Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, and Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race have paved the way for my own social justice and educational journey.

The five books in my must read list for the fall are those that will hopefully pave the way for others’ journeys, too. As we all continuously learn and try to better ourselves in the spirit of transformation, it doesn’t matter if you are just beginning down this path or have been doing the work for 20 years; it’s never too early or too late to learn something new.

  1. No Struggle No Progress: A Warrior’s Life from Black Power to Education Reform – Howard Fuller

”So struggle we must.”  This book tells the story of a man’s journey from civil rights’ activist to school reformer. Fuller believed, and still does today, that it is the duty of those with the resources and know how to help those in need and with less resources. This book follows Fuller on this journey, whilst calling out and giving names to the structures that have kept low income people of color in these circumstances, and how we as a people must work to dismantle and help them out.

  1. Waking up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race – Debby Irving

Debby Irving offers brutally honest accounts throughout her life as a white woman, trying to understand and befriend people of color, and work towards diversity with little to no traction. To read her story is awkward at first, but lends to a larger narrative. It is that honesty that pulls the reader in and keeps us engaged throughout those cringeworthy times until she reaches her enlightenment. It’s with this outlook on the world, and her place in it, that then has us rooting for her as she goes forward with a newfound identity.

  1. All American Boys – Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

All American Boys is a young adult novel about Rashad, a black teen who is beaten by a cop who accuses him of being a shoplifter, and Quinn, the white teen who witnesses the altercation. Readers follow along through the two narratives of Rashad and Quinn about how this incident impacts them individually, their school, and their city. This is shown through how each of the characters navigate the world dealing with the very real and timely issues of police brutality and discrimination, and how they intersect with modern day technology and social media. All American Boys is a must read, especially for those beginning their social justice journey.

  1. The End of Average – Rodd Rose

For most of us, the fear of being “just average” is a real one –especially when metrics compared against the average continue to be the norm. In The End of Average, Rose explores the importance of individuality where no one is average. Although using “average” as an identifier may be helpful, Rose tasks us to think of the world differently.

  1. Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom – Lisa Delpit

In a radical analysis of contemporary classrooms, MacArthur Award-winning author Lisa Delpit develops ideas about ways teachers can be better “cultural transmitters” in the classroom, where prejudice, stereotypes, and cultural assumptions breed ineffective education. Delpit suggests that many academic problems attributed to children of color are actually the result of miscommunication, as primarily white teachers and “other people’s children” struggle with the imbalance of power and the dynamics plaguing the education system.

For additional reading suggestions, I encourage you to view the reading list by our 2017 Bay Area Fellows.