Looking for a Good Read/Listen? The DEI Committee Has a Few Ideas
May 09, 2022
This month, members of the Atla Committee for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offer their suggestions for books, articles, podcasts, blogs, or other DEI resources and readings to check out.
Commuting about fifty-six miles each day during busy Vancouver, BC, traffic, my anti-road rage recipe has been listening to audiobooks as well as reading eBooks on my Kindle at home. The following books, all written by female authors, enriched my understanding of racial issues.
- Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson, an African American Pulitzer prize-winning author, is a fascinating investigation of how racial privilege perpetuates itself by adapting to new environments. Based on cross-cultural research on the caste system, she identifies eight pillars of the caste system as well as how to make changes toward hope in our common humanity.
- Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God by Kaitlin B. Curtice, a citizen of the Potawatomi Nation and a Christian, is an honest and touching narrative of finding and claiming her Indigenous identity as well as an Indigenous understanding of theology.
- Abuelita Faith: What Women on the Margins Teach Us About Wisdom, Persistence, and Strength by Kat Armas, a Cuban American author, is a powerful testimony of how those who she calls “unnamed theologians” (grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and daughters), have fiercely protected, nourished, and sustained immigrant communities against all odds, based on her Cuban immigrant experience.
- Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong, a Korean American, radically challenges the “model” minority myth of Asian Americans and its collusive effects on sustaining existing racial hierarchy based on her own personal experience.
- The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible, and the Journey to Belong by Karen González, imbued with her own experience as a Guatemalan immigrant, explores biblical narratives and current issues of immigration from the perspectives of immigrants themselves.
Gillian Harrison Cain
Sitting on my office desk to read this month are two titles, White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity by Robert P. Jones, and Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work by Ruchika Tulshyan.
The Road to Now is a podcast that uses historical analysis to help us better understand the issues of our modern world. The hosts are Ben Sawyer, a professor at Middle Tennessee State University, and Bob Crawford, who plays bass for the Avett Brothers. With over 200 episodes since 2016, there is plenty to explore. Typically, an episode features an interview with a published author. While the podcast itself is not dedicated wholly to DEI, it has introduced me to a number of books that approach DEI issues through the lens of history. For example:
- Faith in Freedom: Propaganda, Presidential Politics, and the Making of an American Religion by Andrew R. Polk discusses how the sanctity of “freedom” has unseated the role of religion in the modern United States.
- How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States by Daniel Immerwahr shines a light on just how much of the world has been under the direct control of the United States as part of an American Empire that has defied traditional mapped boundaries.
- The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist is a real eye-opener that challenges the classical notion that slavery was anathema to capitalism and instead contends that its very success rests on slavery’s lingering legacy.
Even the most recent episode, an interview with author Lynn Greenky, author of When Freedom Speaks: The Boundaries and the Boundlessness of our First Amendment Right, grew my “to read” list by one more. It really got me to think of how closely related this is to current DEI issues such as book bans and hate speech, and the ongoing conversation about who belongs and who does not.
Finally, in 2020 in the wake of the George Floyd murder and subsequent protests, they responded by turning over the entire podcast for an episode to Ben’s colleague Dr. Louis Woods, a “pass the mic” moment where they unconditionally gave the privilege of their platform to Black voices. It was a thoughtful way of contributing, while still acknowledging its limitations and that much work remains.
Beyond Accommodation: Creating an Inclusive Workspace for Disabled Library Workers by Jessica Schomberg and Wendy Highby
In this book, the authors go beyond the steps a library can take to make it more accessible to patrons. Instead, they address the barriers to librarians with disabilities. They face both challenges others do not face for hiring. If they are able to “pass,” not disclose the diabilty/ies before being hired, these librarians face challenges in coping with their jobs and having the courage to disclose in order to get accommodations or to help their colleagues understand the person better. The latter hopefully will generate understanding for the person with a disability when the individual seems to work slower, takes more breaks, get accommodations that others do not have, or exhibit behaviors that others may find annoying or difficult to live with. While discrimination against Blacks has rightly been a significant issue recently, there is much greater discrimination against (potential) librarians. With a large percentage of the population having a disability, but only a tiny percentage of librarians with a disability (about 3%), the book argues for the need to clear away myths and instead offer help to library workers with a disability.
“Library Staff with Disabilities: What You Need to Know”
This short article offers basic information about hiring and working with librarians who have a disability. It has a list of tips in it that will increase staff understanding and make for a more supportive environment for those who already have challenges.
ACRL Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion LibGuide
This site provides access to many resources on DEI, Libraries, and Higher Education. It is part of ACRL’s core values to support DEI in numerous ways. The EDI Calendar tab provides links to upcoming events and the Online Learning tab includes access to some freely available content such as some popular presentations at the past ACRL conference. A few of these are on DEI topics.
The Publications tab links to resources that can be purchased from the ALA store or elsewhere. It also links to Choice’s Towards Inclusive Excellence site. This site has blog posts, podcasts, and other resources. The content provides insight into how DEI affects the academic library committee (although not exclusively). Articles on DEI from College & Research Libraries and C&RL News on DEI topics are linked to as well. These publications are open access, so they are freely available.
The Racial Justice & Higher Ed tab includes many links to books and articles. Some will be behind paywalls but hopefully can be obtained through Interlibrary Loan or our library databases.
While some of this content will be tied to ACRL membership, it still offers a guide to the issues surrounding DEI and Academic Libraries that may be of interest to Atla members.
Owens, Lama Rod. Love and Rage: The Path of Liberation Through Anger. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2020.
Lama Rod Owens is a teacher of Tibetan Buddhism and he lives and teaches in the perspective of his own intersecting identities: Black American, gay, cisgender male. Using an intersectional approach that looks at race, patriarchy, and homophobia in the United States, Owens uses this unique text to look at a facet of our experience that we try our best to avoid: the emotion of anger or rage. For those of us in marginalized communities, we experience anger placed upon us through systems of power and privilege. We also experience anger as what Lama Rod sees as a valid expression and response to the trauma of oppression. However, too often we suppress this anger, sometimes even for our own safety, hold onto it and let it fester, creating greater pains that manifest in ways such as depression or passive aggression. This book looks deep into how our anger shows up in the face of race, sex, gender, and more, arguing that we must look deep at our anger, give it space, and work directly with it in order to heal ourselves and to be more effective workers for social change. It is simultaneously a personal reflection of the author, a manual of meditation practices on working with anger, and a call to social action that uses our anger in productive ways in fighting systems of oppression.
This article is part of the Atla Committee for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion’s semi-regular articles designed to provide theological and religious studies librarians with resources and advice for providing equitable access and research to the full spectrum of human diversity.
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