Waking Up White by Debby Irving Review

71plfeltoalWaking Up White: Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
Published January 2014, Read March 2017

Rating: ♥♥♥ (of 5)

I read this book as part of a church Sunday school. It was assigned by the current moderators of PCUSA to the denomination.

Irving writes well and tackles important issues, but first, it’s about as basic as it can get in this genre. There is very little in it that I didn’t already know and hadn’t explored myself, and Irving does little to dig deeper into these issues. There is a lot of regurgitation, and the text is about as nonconfrontational as possible. There isn’t much that’s challenging to new, so it’s great for people who want to be reaffirmed that they’re “not racist” (when they really are) or for confirmation of preconceived notions about the conversation on race. It’s also exhausting to have to read a white person write about the reality of racism. Irving addresses this in her book, but that does not keep the existence of her work from being problematic. I have no quarrel with Debby Irving. She writes a very good book about something insidious and difficult to discuss for white Americans. I do, however, have a problem with those who pick up and believe this book over the numerous pieces written by people actually experiencing racism every day (i.e. people of color). If you’ve read this book, you need to pick up a book by an author of color immediately, otherwise Irving’s book will have completely failed in its purpose.

If you’d like to read a recent book that covers every Irving does, but is actually written by a black person, try Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson.


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