Review: Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving


Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race
Debby Irving
Elephant Room Press January 16, 2014 
Pages 288
ISBN13: 9780991331314
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review

Goodreads  •  Amazon  •  Barnes & Noble  

Recommendation: 5/5

From Goodreads:
Waking Up White is the book Irving wishes someone had handed her decades ago. By sharing her sometimes cringe-worthy struggle to understand racism and racial tensions, she offers a fresh perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners, and tolerance. As Irving unpacks her own long-held beliefs about colorblindness, being a good person, and wanting to help people of color, she reveals how each of these well-intentioned mindsets actually perpetuated her ill-conceived ideas about race. She also explains why and how she’s changed the way she talks about racism, works in racially mixed groups, and understands the antiracism movement as a whole. Exercises at the end of each chapter prompt readers to explore their own racialized ideas. Waking Up White’s personal narrative is designed to work well as a rapid read, a book group book, or support reading for courses exploring racial and cultural issues.

My Thoughts

“If there’s a place for tolerance in racial healing, perhaps it has to do with tolerating my own feelings of discomfort that arise when a person, of any color, expresses emotion not welcome in the culture of niceness. It also has to do with tolerating my own feelings of shame, humiliation, regret, anger, and fear so I can engage, not run. For me, tolerance is not about others, it’s about accepting my own uncomfortable emotions as I adjust to a changing view of myself as imperfect and vulnerable. As human.”

“I thought white was the raceless race–just plain, normal, the one against which all others were measured.

What I’ve learned is that thinking myself raceless allowed for a distorted frame of reference built on faulty beliefs.”

Irving creates an incredible read, I couldn’t put this book down. Irving has a wonderful relaxed writing style leaving the reader feeling as if they are chatting with a long time friend. The examples she shares will touch a cord with her audience in one way or another. She engages the reader with a provoking question at the end of each chapter causing further interplay with the reader.

From the age of five into adulthood Irving examines her own race and class privileges with eyes wide open. As she educates herself on race and class she was guided by many which she gives credit in the book. I found her candor and openness admirable, she shares her numerous faux pas and is nothing but frank regarding her stereotypical views. She possesses a wonderful sense of humor and a sensitive and empathetic side absolutely inspiring.

A wonderful memoir of a privileged self proclaimed WASP’s journey to fill in the gaps of questions she has been seeking answers to as long as she can remember. A woman determined and driven to educate herself on racial, class and identity awareness as well as those oh so ‘delicate’ issues many ignore.

More than a memoir, I highly suggest this for all to read. Answer the questions Irving proposes, enlighten and educate yourself. A wonderful book examining race, class and identity presented in an inviting manner by a woman with excellent intentions and the deepest of sincerity.


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