If you’re anything like me, in the face of overwhelming feelings, it can feel difficult to know where to begin. Is it protesting? Most likely. Is it donating to organizations like the ACLU? Absolutely. But when finances or location hinder us from acting, there is something we can all do: read.
I would love to share with you some of the books that have helped me understand and reconstruct myself (privileges) and my beliefs more. These books have also taught me a great deal about my neighbor that I would otherwise consider “other,” and have highlighted the misconceptions that I have held for one reason or another.
We Too Sing America by Deepa Iyer
I have written about this book a few times. Deepa Iyer writes on the lives of immigrants who identify as South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh. Their lives have been predominately shaped by the events of 9/11; from every federal law that has been enacted since to simply walking out the door — prejudice for having brown skin awaits them. Deepa does a beautiful job challenging any reader by acknowledging the pain and heartache of trying to remain faithful to their beliefs, yet facing difficulties in the assimilation that’s expected of them. No matter what, they believe that a beautiful, accepting America can exist and fight for just that.
The Morning They Came For US: Dispatches from Syria by Janine Di Giovanni
I have also posted about this book before. My heart broke over and over reading about this war journalists’ experiences as she reported from Syria. At times terrifying, Janine put her life on the line to tell the stories that would otherwise be silenced. She writes of the roads that St. Paul traveled now no longer in existence. Of her colleagues being beheaded by ISIS on national television. The biggest takeaway from this book? “Today I feel like a failure. Nearly 25 years reporting war crimes has added up to nothing. We said “never again.” What happened?”
If you decide to read only one or two of these recommended books, please choose from these two. Let these realities sink deep into your heart, your every fiber, and let them transform the beliefs that we are all fed about the “other.” You may find, as I have, there is no fear in embracing another belief. In fact, it is much more freeing to see and behold something that is different.
The Myth Of A Christian Religion; The Myth Of A Christian Nation – Greg Boyd
If you are a Christian, it is a radical idea to hold these two books in your hands. In America, it would probably be considered blasphemous to open and read them. But, I did it anyway. I did it because they took me to see a bigger God than I could have ever imagined. One that does not exist to serve the purposes of a nation or of self-interest, but always in the service of the other; a neighbor. These books may be considered one of those timely books in a season of life. One where religion needs a deconstruction to be replanted and reborn. These books are must reads as a Christian.
Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice – Paul Kivel
This book does a pretty good job breaking down white privilege and its effects on society. It’s a book written to make your skin crawl and wake yourself up to yourself; to question and sit with the why you do what you do. Seriously, read the reviews on Amazon and it’s a lot of white people hating its premise of leading white people to, you know, think differently. I’m still reading through it, but I have enjoyed its challenge for my life.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in the Wheel – Renate Wind
If you know anything about Bonhoeffer, it’s that he was the guy that kind of tried to kill Hitler. The Christian guy. But, by the grace of God, it didn’t all pan out. Another thing about him is that he had to face Nazi Germany as a German and as a Christian. He fought the nationalism that swallowed everyone else around him, and gave his life to a resistance group to see that the message of Christ was not lost amidst the version of Christianity that Nazi Germany sold. Bonhoeffer’s life is perhaps some of the most timely reading.
Bonhoeffer: A Righteous Gentile vs. The Third Reich – Eric Metaxas
I have listed this biography of Bonhoeffer, too, because it is a little more in-depth. However, I have read differing reviews of Metaxas’ work and research on his life. Sadly, some of this book are a little politically slanted (such a strange thing to do!). Otherwise, it is still a great book to read about this man’s fight against Nazi Germany.
So, that’s what I’ve got! And I would love, love, love your recommendations. I want to learn alongside you. We have so much to understand about one another.