Towards a More Perfect Union: Confronting Racism

WestportREADS is an annual program dedicated to promoting a better-connected community, while encouraging a love of reading. It is supported through a generous bequest by the estate of Jerry A. Tishman.

Each year WestportREADS focuses on an issue that is important to the community with a goal of bringing community members together in dialogue on that topic. The past year has revealed fault lines in the public's trust in our constitutional democracy and demonstrated the need to engage our citizenry in conversations that forge a new common purpose to deliver upon its promises. Citizenship is a collective responsibility that reminds us of our bonds to one another.

Along with our partners Team Westport, the Westport Public Schools, Westport Museum for History and Culture, Westport Country Playhouse, and Westport-Weston Interfaith Council, the Westport Library invites the community to participate in WestportREADS 2021, a series of events that challenge us to confront the pernicious reach of racism that pervades the policies under which we all live, as well as the ideas and actions we take individually, resulting in the denial of civic justice, dignity, and opportunity for many Americans. Together, we can begin to imagine and construct a more equitable future for all. 

Layla F. Saad, Author of Me and White Supremacy
Launches WestportREADS on Sunday, January 17th

Layla F. Saad, celebrated author of the groundbreaking book Me and White Supremacy, will kick off this year’s effort at the 15th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Sunday, January 17, at 12:00 PM. Saad will discuss her work with TEAM Westport’s Bernicestine McLeod Bailey. To register, click here.

As a widely read writer, a globally sought speaker, and a national podcast host, Saad is passionate about creating inspiration, education and activation for personal and collective change in the world. Her work is driven by a powerful desire to become a good ancestor; to live and work in ways that leave a legacy of healing and liberation, especially for Black girls and Black women.

2021 Featured Books

The four books chosen for our 2021 community reads include a fiction, nonfiction, young adult, and elementary school age selection.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, the #1 New York Times bestseller is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood - where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape.

Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey - hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. 

About the Author
Colson Whitehead is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Underground Railroad, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, the 2016 National Book Award, and named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, as well as The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and The Colossus of New York. He is also a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a recipient of the MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships. He lives in New York City.

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

The Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.

In this brilliant book, Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.

About the Author
Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, has become a leading figure in narrative nonfiction, an interpreter of the human condition, and an impassioned voice for demonstrating how history can help us understand ourselves, our country, and our current era of upheaval.

Class Act by Jerry Craft

The New York Times bestselling author Jerry Craft returns with a companion book to New Kid, winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the Kirkus Prize. This time, it’s Jordan’s friend Drew who takes center stage in another laugh-out-loud funny, powerful, and important story about being one of the few kids of color in a prestigious private school.

About the Author
Jerry Craft is the New York Times bestselling and Newbery Medal winning author of the graphic novel, New Kid. His second graphic novel, Class Act, publishes on October 6, 2020. Craft is also the creator of Mama’s Boyz, an award-winning comic strip which won the African American Literary Award five times. He is a cofounder of the Schomburg Center’s Annual Black Comic Book Festival. He received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts.

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes

The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He's got big plans, and no doubt he'll see them through - as he's creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he's afraid, because he's so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down and really look and listen when somebody tells you, and shows you, who they are. There are superheroes in our midst!

About the Author
Derrick Barnes is the author of the ultra-popular series entitled Ruby and the Booker Boys, published by Scholastic. The highly acclaimed novel We Could be Brothers (Just Us Books) was his first middle-grade release. He has two forthcoming picture books: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut published by Denene Millner Books/Agate Bolden. For his work in Crown, Derrick received the 2018 Ezra Jack Keats award/New Writer, a 2018 John Newbery Honor, a 2018 Coretta Scott King Award Author Honor, and the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers. The King of Kindergarten (July 2019), published by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, debuted on the New York Times Bestsellers list.
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