Debby Irving, author of Waking Up White, on tour July 2014

Posted By on June 22, 2014

Waking Up WhiteAbout Waking Up White

• Paperback: 288 pages
• Publisher: Elephant Room Press (January 9, 2014)

On the heels of a year when films such Django, The Butler, and 12 Years a Slave have made real the lived experience of black Americans, Waking Up White exposes critical aspects of the white experience. White people are thirsting for clarity on racial issues and the confidence to engage in conversation about them. Many people of color yearn for authentic, informed dialogue about racism with white friends, family, and colleagues. Waking Up White bridges this divide by functioning both as a “Racism 101” for white people and a rare exposé on whiteness for people of color. The book is a catalytic kick-starter that provides people of all colors and levels of racial awareness with the language and tools necessary to enter into cross-racial conversations about race within a less threatening context. For white readers wanting to further their own awakening, Irving includes short prompts and exercises at the end of each chapter.

“When I finally came to understand the way racism worked,” she explains, “I spent a lot of time thinking about what might have enlightened me earlier. I decided it wouldn’t have been an academic book, an essay, or a book from the perspective of a person of color — it would have been another white person describing their own awakening. What I needed was a memoir so irresistible that I would have read it even if racism weren’t on my mind.”

Praise for Waking Up White

“Debby Irving’s powerful Waking Up White opens a rare window on how white Americans are socialized. Irving’s focus on the mechanics of racism operating in just one life — her own — may lead white readers to reconsider the roots of their own perspectives — and their role in dismantling old myths. Readers of color will no doubt find the view through Irving’s window fascinating, and telling.” — Van Jones, author, Rebuild The Dream, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems; President, Rebuild The Dream; Co-host, CNN Crossfire

“I read Waking Up White in one sitting. To say I loved it is an understatement. It’s such a raw, honest portrait …. Irving’s experience on display – warts and all – will help white people, who haven’t noticed the role systemic privilege has played in their lives, start to see the world in a new way.” — Jodi Picoult, author, The Storyteller, My Sister’s Keeper

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Debby IrvingAbout Debby Irving

Debby is a white woman, raised in Winchester, Massachusetts during the socially turbulent 1960s and ‘70s. After a blissfully sheltered, upper-middle-class suburban childhood, she found herself simultaneously intrigued and horrified by the racial divide she observed in Boston. From 1984 to 2009 her work in urban neighborhoods and schools left her feeling helpless. Why did people live so differently along racial lines? Why were student outcomes so divergent? Why did she get so jumpy when talking to a person of color? Where did the fear of saying something stupid or offensive come from, and why couldn’t she make it go away? The more she tried to understand racial dynamics, the more confused she became. “I knew there was an elephant in the room,” she writes, “I just didn’t know it was me!”

In 2009, a course at Wheelock College, Racial and Cultural Identity, shook her awake with the realization that she’d missed step #1: examining the way being a member of the “normal” race had interfered with her attempts to understand racism. Waking Up White is the story of her two-steps-forward-one-step back journey away from racial ignorance.

Debby has worked since the 1980s to foster diversity, inclusiveness, and community-building. As general manager of Boston’s Dance Umbrella and later First Night, she developed both a passion for cross-cultural collaborations and an awareness of the complexities inherent in cross-cultural relationships. She has worked in public and private schools as a classroom teacher, board member, and parent. A graduate of the Winsor School in Boston, she holds a BA from Kenyon College and an MBA from Simmons College. Now a Cambridge-based racial justice educator and writer, Debby supports other white people grappling with the impact whiteness can have on perception, problem solving, and engaging in racial justice work.

Find out more about Debby at her website, follow her on Twitter, and connect with her on Facebook.

Debby’s Tour Stops

Monday, June 23rd: Bibliophiliac

Tuesday, June 24th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, June 26th: Deckled Edge Books

Monday, June 30th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Tuesday, July 1st: nightlyreading

Monday, July 7th: Back Porchervations

Tuesday, July 8th: Based on a True Story

Thursday, July 10th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Monday, July 14th:  A Curious Gal

Monday, July 14th: Turn the Page

Thursday, July 17th: The Avid Reader

Friday, July 25th: Sun Mountain Reviews

Wednesday, July 30th: Cosmos Mariner

Monday, August 4th: Owlhaven

Friday, August 8th: My Mamihood


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