Why I Love Memoirs for Learning About Race; 4 Book Suggestions


memoirs about race

Memoirs can help you see the role from a different perspective in a way few other things can. A well-written memoir is a raw display of experiences, emotions, and thoughts, – a window into life as another human being. So, if you want to glimpse the world through another person’s eyes, memoirs are a natural starting point. As a white woman, memoirs have helped me recognize my own privilege in areas that I have previously never given a second thought. Below is a list of a few of my favorite memoirs about race. If you have never thought much about race before, pick a memoir off this list and read it. If you think racism was ‘fixed’ with the Civil Rights Act, pick a memoir off this list and read it. If you are white and live in New England and find you don’t need to think about race very often, pick a memoir off this list and read it. And if you know we have more work to do, pick a memoir off this list and read it. I promise they are all extremely engaging, and some of them will even make you laugh out loud. If none of these strike your fancy, just pick any memoir written by someone who doesn’t look like you and listen to their story. Listening is the gateway to empathy and empathy is the start of change.

Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
By Trevor Noah

Comedians write great memoirs. Pair that with growing up during apartheid in South Africa where your parents’ relationship was literally illegal and you have Born a Crime. This book was possibly the best book I read in 2019, and I always highly recommend it to anyone to asks. Trevor tells stories from his childhood in a way that is both laugh-out-loud funny and has you holding on to the edge of your seat. There is also a young reader version available of this incredible true story.

By Michelle Obama

The humble conversational tone of this book matches the down-to-earth, straight-shooting style the first lady is known for. As a woman, this story deeply resonated with me. The unlikely story of her journey from Chicago to the White House is both relatable and inspiring. This one also makes a great audiobook and has a  young reader version available.

Eat a Peach
By David Chang

If you are a food nerd like me you probably know who David Chang is, but for the uninitiated David Chang is a Korean-American, Michelin-Stared Chef from New York City. His restaurant Momofuku Noodle Bar helped changed the landscape of the restaurant scene in the early aughts, and his memoir is raw, funny, and fascinating. He talks openly about growing up in a Korean home, navigating the ugly and delicious sides of the culinary world, and writes candidly about his own struggles with mental health. A great read for the foodie in us all.

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism 
By Amber Ruffin & Lacey Lamar

When the title says “crazy stories” they are not exagerating. These stories are hilarious, rage-inducing, heartbreaking, and completely unbelievable. You might know Amber Ruffin from her late-night show, or her work writing for Late-Night with Seth Meyers. She and her sister grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and have been through some CRAZY STUFF. This book is a real eye-opener because all of the stories happened so recently and Amber’s comedic talent makes this book truly shine. A must-read for 2021.


Have you read any good memoirs about race (or otherwise) lately? Leave a comment so I can add them to my personal reading list!