A summer reading and podcast list by and for inclusive leaders

May 26, 2023, 2:56 PM UTC
Win Rosenfeld, Steven Yeun, Daniel Kaluuya, Jordan Peele, Keke Palmer and Brandon Perea attend the world premiere of Universal Pictures' "NOPE" at TCL Chinese Theatre on July 18, 2022 in Hollywood, California.
The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, the think tank that uses data and original research to promote diversity and inclusion in entertainment, is back with a new list of diversity in Hollywood.
Alberto Rodriguez—Hollywood Reporter/Getty Images

Happy Friday.

Summer is just around the corner for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, and with it, summertime reading season.

Over the years, raceAhead readers and community members have shared their best recommendations for the books and podcasts that help demystify the world by allowing us to get to know each other better.

To jump-start your lounge-and-learn list, I’ve pulled them together in one handy place, with a few examples to get you started.

Nonfiction books

We asked a group of corporate DEI experts and academicians to recommend books for those seeking to understand the diverse world around them. They did not disappoint.

Here’s one sent in by Mary Beth Wynn, head of HR at Jellyvision, an employee benefits technology company:

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida“Not only does it provide incredible insight into how a person with autism experiences the world, but it was also a great reminder for me that everyone has their own unique set of emotional needs that may present very differently in behavior from how I might behave, and empathy for that difference is important,” she says.

Nonfiction podcasts

When we asked for your best recommendations for a podcast series or episode that offers unique insight into race and history, two stood out for nearly everyone: The 1619 audio series associated with The 1619 Project and “Seeing White” from Scene On Radio, the Peabody-nominated project from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. (Also an unabashed raceAhead favorite.)

Here’s another from a reader:

See Something, Say Something, with Ahmed Ali Akbar. Recommended episodes from the podcast include “Ghee Something, Say Something” (about food appropriation), “Black Muslim Ramadan,” and “Where Do We Go” (about the 2016 election and the SCOTUS response to Muslim travel bans).

Fiction books

We also crowdsourced fiction books from any era to boost our imaginations and offer a legitimate break from the day’s news. The assignment: Pick a book that made you feel seen or illuminated something important about someone different than you.

You can find the full set of recommendations here and here, but here’s a preview from Chloe Benson, inclusion and diversity specialist at Marsh McLennan: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

“This is the first fiction book I’ve read about the refugee experience, and it made a huge impact on my understanding of the lived experience of refugees. The protagonists were dynamic and imperfect in their interpersonal relationships, and I think it made their stories so much more compelling. This book demonstrated the complexity of Arab cultures, the importance of familial relationships, and the cumulative impact of displacement on individuals.” 

The heart-grabbing moment: “When we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.”

Enjoy! I’m wishing you a long weekend filled with family, friends, and the comfort of good ideas.

Ellen McGirt

This edition of raceAhead was edited by Ruth Umoh.

On Point: Memorial Day

Most people think of Memorial Day as a federal U.S. holiday to honor military personnel who died while serving in the armed force. And it is—today. But its origins were largely forgotten until David Blight, a professor of American History at Yale University, began researching a book on the Civil War. In a box of unsorted records held by Harvard University’s Houghton Library, he found a file titled “First Decoration Day,” the original name of Memorial Day.

He also found a detailed narrative, supported by newspaper reports, that the first Decoration Day was held on May 1, 1865, when a crowd of 10,000 formerly enslaved people and some white missionaries staged a solemn procession around the track at the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club in Charleston, S.C. Their purpose was to exhume the Union soldiers' bodies held there during the war to honor and give them a proper burial.

“The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration,” Blight wrote in his 2001 book, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. “[W]hite Charlestonians suppressed from memory this founding."

On Background

The National Park Service is telling different stories. Part of the agency’s job is to be a national storyteller, preserving the history and foundational truths behind the many sites under its stewardship. But until recently, those stories have been limited. Now, the Park Service is creating a network of national historic sites that mark atrocities and achievements of the civil rights movement, many of them in the South. But one, when designated, could truly break new ground: a new Oakland-based memorial to murdered Black Panther cofounder Huey P. Newton. (More on DeFremery Park, in West Oakland, here.)

Parting Words

“When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.

Maya Angelou

This is the web version of raceAheadFortune‘s daily newsletter on race, culture, and inclusive leadership. To get it delivered daily to your inbox, sign up here.

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