Sunday, October 21, 2018

Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race; Debby Irving

AUTHOR: Debby Irving
PUBLISHER: Elephant Room Press
PUB. YEAR: 2014
SETTING:  MA (mostly)
FORMAT:  - print (library)
RATING: 4/5 stars

The author, Debby Irving, is a white woman of privilege. She was born in 1960, one of 5 children who grew up in an exclusive Boston suburb. There was a family summer home in Maine, country club membership and for activities: swimming, tennis, sailing and golf.  She identified as 100% New England WASP with roots back to the Mayflower. Her family was a successful lot of bankers, lawyers and businessmen. As she grew up, she was well aware of racial tensions, and, often found herself worrying about offending people of color, the very people that deep down she was trying to befriend.  She sought to understand more.

There were some aspects of this book that was an eye-opener for me, a middle class white woman, who never considered myself racist. For example, I never knew that the GI Bill of 1944 was not accessible to black veterans when it was instituted nor, did I realize that less than 2% of new housing in 1962 went to people of color.  There were other examples of how people of color have been excluded from programs white people have taken for granted.

The author had an opportunity to attend some insightful classes and other coursework in racial and cultural identity issues.  At the end of each chapter of this book there are questions posed to the reader to make you think about how you might react to various situations. It makes you consider the way people of color have been, or continue to be, impacted by the fact that most white people, from childhood, have been conditioned to feel superior.  Well-written and informative.


  1. This was an eye-opener for me as well... thought she did a great job presenting her story. Glad you enjoyed it, too.

    1. THANK YOU for blogging about this one or, I might have missed it.

  2. This sounds like it would be a great book to read with a book group and hopefully have some good discussions.

  3. I've become more and more aware of some of the issues she wrote about but need to learn more so need to pick up this book.

  4. Sounds interesting. I just finished an implicit bias training that was good and touched on similar ideas.

  5. I checked my libraries and none of them has this. Shame on them!

  6. There seems to be no end to the ways, outright and subtle, that racism is practiced in our country.


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