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A Book Review of “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo


Rose is an enthusiastic writer and reader who publishes articles most Thursdays. She enjoys all book genres, especially drama and fantasy.

What’s the Big Deal?

Ijeoma Oluo is a writer, an activist, a mother, and an African-American fighting for justice in a society that tells her she shouldn’t. Her debut novel, So You Want To Talk About Race, is an honest, candid, and courageous guide to talking about race in America—it is a lifeline, a beacon of hope, and it might be the beginning of a solution. Soaking up the rays of spotlight on the New York Times bestseller list along with pivotal works like White Fragility and Just Mercy, Oluo’s novel is the necessary answer to the questions we’re too afraid to ask.

“So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo

“So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo

Book Summary

In So You Want to Talk About Race, seventeen chapters span the length of 256 pages. The first six chapters include the preface and the questions “Is it really about race?,” “What is racism?,” “What if I talk about race wrong?,” “Why am I always being told to ‘check my privilege?,’” and “What is intersectionality and why do I need it?”.

After that, there’s thorough answers to the queries “Is police brutality really about race?,” “How can I talk about affirmative action?,” “What is the school-to-prison pipeline?,” “Why can’t I say the ‘N’ word?,” “What is cultural appropriation?,” and a chapter that really cleared things up for me: “Why can’t I touch your hair?”.

Lastly, Oluo gives us insight into the questions “What are microagressions?,” “Why are our students so angry?,” “What is the model minority myth?,” “But what if I hate Al Sharpton?,” “I just got called racist, what do I do now?,” and “Talking is great, but what else can I do?”. In the newest version, a discussion guide is included, too, so we can put our new knowledge to use in a productive and beneficial way.

Quick Facts

  • Author: Ijeoma Oluo
  • Pages: 256
  • Genre: Nonfiction, social science
  • Ratings: 4.5/5 Goodreads, 4.6/5 Barnes & Noble
  • Release date: January 16, 2018
  • Publisher: Basic Books

To Read or Not to Read?

I recommend this book if:

  • You like nonfiction books that center around people, society, and social issues
  • Your ideal world would be diverse, inclusive, and open to everyone
  • You like statistics and facts, especially when they’re surprising
  • You consider yourself “politically active”, or might be described as someone who promotes and encourages change
  • You feel stagnant or insignificant in your life—if you want to make a change, why not make one that will benefit others?

If you live in this system of white supremacy, you are either fighting the system or you are complicit. There is no neutrality to be had towards systems of injustice—it is not something you can just opt out of.

— Ijeoma Oluo, “So You Want to Talk About Race”


“...this book is much-needed and timely. It is more than a primer on racism. It is a comprehensive conversation guide.” —The National Book Review

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a writer have such an instant, visceral, electric impact on readers. Ijeoma Oluo’s intellectual clarity and moral sure-footedness make her the kind of unstoppable force that obliterates the very concept of immovable objects.” —Lindy West, New York Times bestselling author

Ijeoma Oluo, the book’s author

Ijeoma Oluo, the book’s author

The Takeaway

It’s true that sensitive topics are called as such for a reason—they’re difficult to talk about and a far cry from “socially acceptable” subject matter. But just because these issues can be difficult doesn’t mean we should ignore them. I read So You Want to Talk About Race because I wanted to make a change. I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to learn, I wanted to help. And after reading, I feel like I can do all those things. I feel that I’m well-equipped for those difficult conversations we should be having, and I hope that soon, we will be having them—all of us.

If you’re ready to make a change, you can buy the book here.