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A practical guide to feminism: a review of “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo

Cover of So You Want to talk About Race.

As an avid reader of feminist literature, a student of feminist theory, and general lover of feminism, I have read a lot of books that talk about gender, race, class, xenophobia, and discrimination. For me, the importance of these topics is obvious. We need to have discussions about these topics and should be having more discussions. They are extremely uncomfortable, but the benefits of talking, sharing, and changing for the better far out-way any discomfort for me. Yet, despite all of this, many people probably reading this haven’t actually read that much feminist literature. Perhaps people aren’t even that excited about feminism. Perhaps people want to have better discussions about the aforementioned topics, but don’t really know how or where to start. Perhaps people just put feminism in the ‘too-hard-basket’ and leave it at that. And it is true, diving into any theory is daunting and especially diving into intersectional feminist theory can make you feel like you need a new vocabulary, way of life, and mindset in one swoop. In saying that, I don’t want feminism to feel daunting for anyone and I get the impression that the author of So You Want to Talk About Racej Ijeoma Oluo feels the same way.

So You Want to Talk About Race offers a realistic and practical guide for people who want to start conversations about race, gender, and class at home, in the workplace, and/or with their friends and family. It effectively breaks down complex definitions and provides a starting point for practical discussions. One example is the issue and taboo of Black (African) hair in the U.S.. Oluo use personal experiences and stories from her own life that highlight how she has faced oppression, but also how she has let her own biases get in the way of how she interacts with her communities. She writes the book, not just from the perspective of a Black person speaking to white people, but instead encourages thought provoking dialogues that anyone from any walk of life could use and reflect upon. An example of this is when Oluo is having a group picnic with other African Americans and another group of African Americans who were playing basketball come over and ask what they are doing and if they could join. In that moment, Oluo realised that she had her own biases when it came to the type of Black people she was including and unknowingly excluding from her African American community events.

If you have ever wanted to start conversations about race, gender, or class etc. Oluo encourages it and even gives tips on how to broach these topics. She warns that nothing is going to be perfect and there will hiccups along the way. Her best advice for anyone in these situations is to listen, wait/digest, then respond. Oluo’s book is by far one of the most practical books I have seen on the topic of feminism. It isn’t laden with complex sentences and theoretical discussions. It doesn’t assume too much prior knowledge and feels welcoming and inviting to the reader. For me, I hope that these types of feminist texts become more mainstream and can actually help the everyday-person get a better understanding about these complex issues.

What feminist texts are you reading? Will you be looking out for Oluo’s book to see how it can help you? As always, share the reading love.

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