No matter who we are or where we come from, our assumptions and beliefs are shaped by our experiences, our upbringing, our race, our gender, religion, culture. Those beliefs help us navigate and make sense of everyday life. But they can also mean that we believe that there is no difference between our perceptions and reality. For leaders, that means we must continuously question our perceptions of reality and value the voices of people who are not like us. Here are five new titles to add to your Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) library.
1. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong
What it’s about: Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative—and its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, will change the way you think about our world.
2. Dragged Off: Refusing to Give Up My Seat on the Way to the American Dream by Dr. David Anh Dao
What it’s about: Dr. David Dao was dragged off United Express Flight 3411 on April 9, 2017, after refusing to give up his seat. In the tradition of contemporary immigrant stories comes a personal narrative of the many small but significant acts of racial discrimination faced on the way to the American Dream. A result of an overbooking overlook, security officials forcibly removed Dr. Dao after refusing to give up his seat. He awoke in the hospital to a concussion, a broken nose, several broken teeth, and worldwide attention. This is his story.
3. Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country by Sierra Crane Murdoch
What it’s about: When Sierra Crane Murdoch and Lissa Yellow Bird first met at Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, Lissa was knee deep into an investigation of a missing man, an oil worker. Oil had changed the reservation while Lissa had been away from it, and it was the oil boom’s effect that brought Murdoch, a journalist for High Country News, to Fort Berthold. Soon, though, Murdoch turned her own investigation to Lissa herself, and the two became allies, each intent on finding the truth and exposing it, as expansive, complicated, nuanced and multi-layered as it might be.
4. Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America by Laila Lalami
What it’s about: This is the first nonfiction book by Laila Lalami, a Moroccan-born novelist who writes searingly about outsiders. Lalami movingly chronicles her own journey from optimistic, naturalized American to post-Sept. 11 “conditional citizen” repeatedly scrutinized as an immigrant, an Arab, a Muslim. In one scene, she describes a “white woman in a blue pantsuit” at one of her book readings pressing her on ISIS, as if “I was a specimen, culled from a group of people these readers found mysterious and perhaps dangerous.” Conditional citizens, Lalami writes, are those who cannot dissent without their patriotism being questioned, who cannot move freely, who are jailed without cause.
5. Just Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine
What it’s about: The title, says it all. Just Us is a collection of essays, photos, poems and conversations that poet Claudia Rankine has been having with friends and strangers about race. While Americans gather in demographic silos with a wink (“it’s just us, we can speak honestly here”) Rankine, who is Black, invites us all to join in “An American Conversation.” It’s a tough, heartfelt and worthy exercise.
Bottom line. To lead effectively today, you need to constantly recalibrate your ability to assess reality. Exercise your diversity and inclusion muscles by building your library of resources that challenge your perceptions as a human being and as a leader.
Question: What books have you read recently that helped expand your cultural awareness?
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