Part memoir and part handbook, Ijeoma Oluo’s new book is not just about talking: it’s about action. Oluo addresses two distinct audiences: people of color and white people who hope to engage in dialogue about race. She makes it clear early on that her book is not some magic cure for white supremacy, but is instead a tool to open doors. Using chapter titles which focus in on key terms in the discussion about race in America (like tone-policing, the school-to-prison pipeline, and intersectionality), she creates an easy to engage with collection of short essays.
Each chapter balances some amount of personal experience with tips for both of her communities. For instance, in her chapter about about natural hair, she not only discusses stories where her personal space was invaded, she explains ways for white people to support black beauty without feeling the need to touch it. Every chapter reinforces the experiences of communities of color facing daily microaggressions while also giving questions to consider for how to improve dialogue.
I read Oluo’s book in less than twenty-four hours. Her direct prose will not apologize and doesn’t want your apologies either (at least if they are just empty words). The chapters are brief enough for a single sitting, or for later reference, but long enough to reflect fully on the topic at hand.
Readers hoping for hand-holding or reassurances that their good intentions are enough should look elsewhere. This book is for today. It recognizes that we all fail, that we are often blind to our privilege, and it suggests a path forward in the final chapter in real and tangible ways that move beyond performative allyship.
Pick up Oluo’s book if you’re looking for ways to steer conversation inside or outside of your racial community, engaging on the internet or in person.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Release date: January 16, 2018 from Seal Press