So You Want to Talk About Race

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So You Want to Talk About Race
So you want to talk about race
Front cover
AuthorIjeoma Oluo
SubjectRace and ethnicity in the United States
GenreNon-fiction
PublisherSeal Press
Publication date
January 16, 2018
Pages256 pp.
ISBN9781580056786
OCLC986970684
LC ClassE184.A1 O454 2018

So You Want to Talk About Race is a 2018 non-fiction book by Ijeoma Oluo. Each chapter title is a question about race in contemporary America. Oluo outlines her opinions on the topics as well as advice about how to talk about the issues. The book received positive critical reception, with renewed interest following the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, after which the book re-entered The New York Times Best Seller list.

Background[edit]

Author Ijeoma Oluo was an editor-at-large at The Establishment.[1][2] So You Want to Talk About Race is her first book. Oluo was convinced into writing a book by her agent, who conceived of a "guidebook" in which Oluo answered questions she regularly received on social media or addressed in her essays. Oluo was reluctant to spend so much time writing about race, but was inspired after beginning to ask people what issues they face when talking about race and hearing the responses of people of color.[3]

The book was published by Seal Press.[4]

Synopsis[edit]

The book is about race in the contemporary United States, each chapter titled after a question.[5] Oluo makes the argument that America's political, economic and social systems are systematically/institutionally racist. The book provides advice for readers when discussing race-related subjects, such as how to avoid acting defensive or getting off-topic. Statistics are used to support the book's arguments.[1][4][5] Oluo also describes her upbringing and experience living in Seattle, Washington.[6] She was raised by a white single mother and became a single mother herself to two mixed-race sons at a young age.[5]

The book also covers topics including affirmative action, cultural appropriation, intersectionality, microaggressions, police brutality and the school-to-prison pipeline.[1][7][6] Oluo argues that use of the word "nigger" or other racial slurs by white people is not appropriate even if the intention is ironic or the motive anti-racist.[8]

Reception[edit]

The book received renewed attention following the killing of George Floyd in May 2020.[9][10] Having been listed for one week previously, it re-entered The New York Times Best Seller list in the category Combined Print & E-book Nonfiction on June 14, 2020, peaking at position #2 on June 21.[11][12] It remained on the list until September 13[13] and reappeared October 4.[14]

Critical reception[edit]

Bustle named So You Want to Talk about Race to a list of 14 recommended debut books by women, praising Oluo's "no holds barred writing style",[15] as well as to a list of the 16 best non-fiction books of January 2018.[16] Harper's Bazaar also named it to a list of 10 best new books of 2018, saying "Oluo crafts a straightforward guidebook to the nuances of conversations surrounding race in America."[17] The New York Times listed the book in its "New & Noteworthy" column.[7]

Publishers Weekly praised Oluo's commentary as "thoughtful", "insightful" and "not preachy".[1] Jenny Ferguson of the Washington Independent Review of Books found Oluo's style to be "intellectually sharp and even funny", praising the "punchy one- and two-liners". She thought that white readers would "gain insight" on the book and found that the book's tone and use of direct address made reading an "intimate experience".[6] Salon's Erin Keane reviewed that the book is "accessible and approachable" and recommended it as "a highly productive book-in-common for high school seniors in America".[8] Jenny Bhatt of The National Book Review wrote that the book is "a comprehensive conversation guide" with arguments presented "thoroughly and rationally". Bhatt found "no ambivalence or soft-pedaling" in the book, praising Oluo for being "even-keeled" when discussing her personal experiences.[5]

Ferguson criticised the use of the term "Indigenous American" in the book as an example of "Oluo's own basic assumptions that create an inhospitable climate for other racially marked bodies". Oluo responded that future editions of the book would instead use the term "indigenous peoples".[6] Bhatt suggested that a further reading list would have improved the book.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Nonfiction Book Review: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Seal, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-1-58005-677-9". Publishers Weekly. November 13, 2017. Archived from the original on February 4, 2018. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  2. ^ "Goodbye! The Establishment ran from October 2015 to April 2019". Medium. 2020-10-12. Archived from the original on 1 September 2020.
  3. ^ Dionne, Evette (January 18, 2018). "Ijeoma Oluo Wants to Help You Talk About Race". Bitch. Archived from the original on February 4, 2018. Retrieved June 29, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Beason, Tyrone (January 20, 2018). "Seattle author begins a crucial discussion in 'So You Want to Talk About Race'". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on February 4, 2018. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e Bhatt, Jenny (February 1, 2018). "REVIEW: An Incisive Look at Race -- and How We Should Be Talking About It". The National Book Review. Archived from the original on February 7, 2018. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d Ferguson, Jenny (January 19, 2018). "So You Want to Talk About Race". Washington Independent Review of Books. Archived from the original on February 3, 2018. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  7. ^ a b "New & Noteworthy". The New York Times. January 18, 2018. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on February 3, 2018. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Keane, Erin (January 17, 2018). "Required reading: "So You Want to Talk About Race"". Salon. Archived from the original on February 3, 2018. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  9. ^ Egan, Elisabeth (June 11, 2020). "These Authors Are Glad You're Buying Their Books. Now Do the Work". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 28, 2020. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  10. ^ VanDenburgh, Barbara (June 10, 2020). "Anti-racist book dethrones 'Hunger Games' prequel on best-seller list amid mass protests". USA Today. Archived from the original on June 28, 2020. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  11. ^ "Combined Print & E-book Nonfiction". The New York Times. June 14, 2020. Archived from the original on June 21, 2020. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  12. ^ "Combined Print & E-book Nonfiction". The New York Times. June 21, 2020. Archived from the original on July 3, 2020. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  13. ^ "Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction - Best Sellers - Sept. 13, 2020 - The New York Times". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2020-10-17. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  14. ^ "Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction - Best Sellers - Oct. 4, 2020 - The New York Times". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2020-10-07. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  15. ^ Miller, E. Ce. "14 Books By First-Time Women Authors To Look Out For In 2018". Bustle. Archived from the original on February 3, 2018. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  16. ^ Long, Stephanie Topacio. "The 16 Best Nonfiction Books Of January Will Prepare You To Fight Back". Bustle. Archived from the original on February 4, 2018. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  17. ^ Hubbard, Lauren (November 30, 2017). "10 New Books to Add to Your Reading List in 2018". Harper's Bazaar. Archived from the original on February 4, 2018. Retrieved February 3, 2018.

Further reading[edit]