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19 Books to Read Right Now If You Want to Be Anti-Racist

19 Books to Read Right Now If You Want to Be Anti-Racist

“If we say that we are a pro-reconciliation, anti-racism church, we must choose every day to be who we say we are. That means not only standing up, but speaking up and acting in solidarity without fear.” Terri Hord Owens, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Chalice Press, the leading publisher of award-winning progressive Christian and social justice titles, offers the following resources for your anti-racism/pro-reconciliation work. These books can help inform and guide conversations around racism, race relations, discrimination and racial justice, whiteness, and white fragility. Most of the books below include discussion questions at the end of each chapter or free downloadable study guides to use in small groups, book clubs, or for your own deeper personal reflection. Join us in this urgent social justice work to help heal and change the world for the better.

The cover of Anti-Racism 4REALSAnti-Racism 4REALS:
Real Talk with Real Strategies in Real Time for Real Change
by Sheila M. Beckford and E. Michelle Ledder 

Using the concept of “racial positionality” as the entry point for engaging anti-racist work, this groundbreaking book offers concrete tools to confront racism and bring about REAL change in REAL time. Written by two ordained women—one Black Latina, one white—this straight-talk, practical workbook provides 137 ways to be truly anti-racist, including scripts and other practices for interrupting and dismantling racism. A forthcoming video discussion guide and Leaders Workbook will help facilitate small group discussion and ACTION-NOW Learning Engagements.  


The cover of "Faith after Ferguson"

Faith after Ferguson:
Resilient Leadership in Pursuit of Racial Justice

by Leah Gunning Francis

Gunning Francis (Ferguson and Faith, 2015) revisits the clergy and activists from the front lines of the Ferguson (Missouri) Black Lives Matter protests, to hear what they’ve learned in the struggle for justice and healing five years later. Weaving the personal accounts of more than a dozen activists and clergy with her own experiences, Francis offers profound new insights on faith-filled living in response to social injustice as well as lessons for organizing and mobilizing people to effect real change. Learn from the courageous and resilient leaders on the front lines for justice and discover new ways of leading in the movement for racial justice.


The cover of Anxious to Talk about It, Second edition

Anxious to Talk about It:
Helping White People Talk Faithfully about Racism

by Carolyn B. Helsel

While we know the time to talk about racism is long overdue, many white people are still anxious to talk about it. Guilt, shame, discomfort, fear of being called a racist or saying the wrong thing are just some of the feelings that hold us back from the critical conversations happening around racism and racial equity today. 

In this updated and expanded second edition, anti-racism teacher Carolyn Helsel offers 30% new material for this season of the racial justice movement, including new research and stories, spiritual practices for race talk, and tips for talking to children about racism. 


The cover of "Staying Awake"

Staying Awake:
The Gospel for Changemakers

by Tyler H. Sit

Staying Awake is a practical exploration of Christianity for people who want to show up for justice and stay in the movement. Discover nine practices of Christian community that will transform you to transform the world. Complete with stories, worksheets, poetry, illustrations, and a commitment to centering queer people of color, this book is here to support you in staying awake: to God, to the evils of oppression, and the world’s coming liberation.


The cover of "Something in the Water"

Something in the Water:
21st Century Civil Rights Odyssey

by Michael W. Waters

Award-winning author, pastor, and civil rights leader Michael W. Waters takes us on an epic journey to the sacred places and spaces he visited as part of a cross-country trek in 2019-2020 through America’s racial history—and the haunting legacy it requires us to face today. Through poems and prayers to sermons and eulogies, from rally cries to  political and historical commentary, Something in the Water illuminates not just our present struggles, but also the hope and belief in a better day to come. Ultimately, Waters challenges us to consider our role, collectively and individually, in the troubled waters of racism, and what we are willing to do to create a more just and equitable world for all.


by Carolyn B. Helsel and Y. Joy Harris-Smith

How do you teach your kids to respect, embrace, and learn from those who look and think differently than they do? Written by two mothers and educators, one black, one white, The ABCs of Diversity equips parents, teachers, and community leaders to address children of all ages on complicated topics of race, political affiliation, gender, class, religion, ability, nationality, and sexual orientation. Appendix includes diversity reading lists for children and youth, curriculum activities for younger and older children, and scripts for parents.

Featured in the New York Times Parenting Section June 3, 2020 and reviewed by Library Journal and Foreword Reviews.

by Carolyn B. Helsel
“Book of the Year" Award (2019) —Academy of Parish Clergy

Talking about race can make us anxious. Professor and pastor Carolyn Helsel draws on a decade of work with white congregations to offer tools and practices to engage the discomfort around the conversations and move forward toward action faithfully. Learn how to join the hard conversations with less fear and more courage, compassion, and knowledge of self, others, and the important issues at stake.

by Terrell Carter

While our faith calls us to Christian unity, the hard fact remains: we’re still tragically divided when it comes to race, even – and especially, many say -- in our churches. Racism pervades our faith, our relationships, and our institutions in deep, often imperceptible ways. In Healing Racial Divides, black pastor, professor, and former police officer Terrell Carter takes us on a revelatory journey of the history of racism to show us how we’ve arrived at this divisive place. Understanding racism’s roots – and our place in it – we surface more committed and empowered to combat racism in the church, our communities, and the nation. Reviewed by Publishers Weekly.

by Michael W. Waters
2018 Religion Communicators Council Wilbur Award Winner

Pastor, activist, and Dallas community leader Michael Waters blends hip-hop lyricism and social justice leadership, creating an urgent voice demanding that America listen to the suffering if it hopes to redeem its soul.

Weaving stories from centuries of persecution against the backdrop of today’s urban prophets on the radio and in the streets, Waters speaks on behalf of an awakened generation raging against racism – yet fueled by the promise of a just future. Through the pain and hard but holy work, you will hear the call to join the faithful struggle for racial justice.

“Book of the Year" Award (2019) —Academy of Parish Clergy

Homiletics professor and pastor Carolyn Helsel speaks directly to other faith leaders in this book about how to address racism from the pulpit. In this follow-up to Anxious to Talk about It: Helping White Christians Talk Faithfully about Racism, Helsel provides strategies and a theoretical framework for crafting biblical and theological sermons that incorporate insights from social sciences and psychology, gleaned from more than a decade of writing and teaching about racism.

Edited by Phil Snider

As nationalism, patriarchy, and alt-right fear-mongering threaten our troubled nation, the pulpit has again become a subversive space of sacred resistance. In this provocative and powerful collection of sermons from diverse pastors across America, hear the brave and urgent voice of Christians calling for radical change rooted in love, solidarity, and justice. Preaching as Resistance resists, confronts, and troubles the dangerous structures of authoritarianism and oppression crashing in from all sides – and proclaims the transformation, possibility, and hope stirring in the gospel of Christ. 

by William J. Barber II

In the spring of 2013, 17 people gathered at the North Carolina state capitol to protest extreme legislation passed by the General Assembly. Thousands joined the “Moral Mondays” rallies, making this sustained moral protest one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in U.S. history. Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a pastor and architect of the Forward Together Moral Movement and the current Poor People’s Campaign, tells the story of a new fusion civil rights movement, a “big tent,” in which black and white, gay and straight, rich and poor, old and young, Republicans and Democrats are all welcome.

by Timothy Charles Murphy

Where is God when we're losing the fight?

In this love letter to the disheartened activist, pastor and activist Timothy Murphy reflects on his own journey of disappointments and despair to rediscover a faith--and a God--who inspires us to continue fighting, even when it feels like we're losing the battle.

by Leah Gunning Frances

Seminary leader and pastor Leah Gunning Francis was one of the St. Louis-area clergy who stepped in to support the emerging young leaders on the front lines after the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Her interviews with more than two dozen faith leaders and with the new movement’s organizers provide an intimate glimpse into the heart of today’s Civil Rights Movement.
Ferguson and Faith demonstrates that being called to lead a faithful life can take us to places we never expected to go, with people who never expected us to join hands with them.

by Sandhya Rani Jha

It’s hard to talk about race and racism in America without everyone very quickly becoming defensive and shutting down. What makes talking race even harder is that so few of us actually know each other in the fullness of our stories. Activist and pastor Sandhya Jha addresses the hot topic in a way that is grounded in real people’s stories and that offers solid biblical grounding for thinking about race relations in America, reminding us that God calls us to build Beloved Community. 

by Sharon Risher
Featured on the Today Show, MSNBC, and CBS This Morning.

In this raw and riveting memoir rising from the ashes of the Charleston Church massacre, Sharon Risher tells the heartbreaking story of losing her mother and three other family members to the hands of a young white supremacist and the courageous journey that followed, leading to eventual forgiveness of the killer and a new calling as a national advocate for gun violence and anti-racist work. 

by Derek Penwell

Activist/pastor Derek Penwell reminds us in
Outlandish that Jesus’s path tended to anger the wrong people, minister to the “wrong” people, and challenged the political powers of his time. Learn from the political, social, and organizational lessons of Jesus's radically different ministry and follow him in changing the world today.

by Eric H. Law

Inclusion is a discipline of consciously extending the boundaries of our communities to embrace and affirm people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. In this resource for ministers and church leaders, Law provides models, theories, and strategies that are both practical and theologically sound for moving faith communities toward greater inclusion.


By Patrick B. Reyes

"Book of the Year 2019,” Hispanic Theological Initiative

For people of color living each day surrounded by violence, for whom survival is not a given, vocational discernment is more than “finding your purpose--it’s a matter of life and death. Patrick Reyes shares his story of how his community saved him from gang life, abuse, and the economic and racial oppression that threatened to kill him before he ever reached adulthood.

A story balancing the tension between pain and healing, Nobody Cries When We Die takes you to the places that make American society flinch, redefines what you are called to do with your life, and gives you strength to save lives and lead in your own community.

These and more social justice resources can be found at Chalice Press here.  Thank you for supporting these authors, lifting up their voices, and joining us in anti-racism and pro-reconciliation work.

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