As part of Black History Month at Southlands College, we’re beginning a series of book reviews from the college community. Here, Methodist Chaplain Nicola Morrison reviews This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell.
Tiffany Jewell’s ‘This Book is Anti-Racist’ is an impassioned and empowering read. Brilliantly accessible and beautifully illustrated by Aurélia Durand this book draws you in and orients you to action. Taking inspiration from Angela Davis’ quote: ‘In a racist society, it’s not enough to be nonracist, we must be anti-racist’ this book does not allow you, the reader, to be a passive visitor to some distant story. Rather Jewell recognises that racism, and thus anti-racism, is an ever-present story to which we all belong and she fearlessly addresses the reader directly, beginning, ‘I wrote this book for you…’. This is an intimacy that the author sustains throughout as she leads you through 20 thought-provoking and practicable lessons that explore identity and racism, and encourage us to embrace actively anti-racist lives:
‘Anti-racism is actively working against racism’.
So, approach this book with a sense of anticipation, be prepared to think and reflect, be open to learning and transformation, because this is a read that rightly demands personal engagement.
There are a number of other things I love about this book:
- It is written with a younger audience in mind and whilst Jewell uses clear and uncomplicated language (and includes a very helpful glossary) she never descends into condescension. As an older reader I appreciated how on one level this is an easy read whilst on another it treats the issue of racism with real depth and substance; it is not afraid to explore the ‘uneasy’.
- Jewell magnificently models language that denotes inclusion, dignity and solidarity. For example, she chooses to use ‘folx’ as a general neutral term writing that ‘replacing the ‘ks’ with an ‘x’ allows for every reader who has never been seen before to see themselves in here’ and advocates for ‘folx of the global majority’ as an active countermeasure to the minimising language of ‘minority’, recognising that ‘using the language of racism can minimise our full selves’.
- The format is really helpful. Split into 20 short chapters, each chapter explores a particular theme and offers activities and thoughts for reflection. This enables the reader to think for themselves and explore their own experiences, skills and vision which is where I think its true empowering spirit lies.
- It is enriched with vibrant and joyful illustrations which speak as loudly to empowering anti-racist lifestyles as the text itself. Bravo Aurélia Durand!
Even though, as a middle-aged person, I am not the target audience for this book I have learned a huge amount from it and it’s left me with much to think about. I recommend it without hesitation and hope that all who read it feel inspired to claim ‘this person is anti-racist’.
Nicola Morrison is College Chaplain at Southlands College, University of Roehampton