There's something about summer that makes it a time ripe for reflection—an opportunity to slow down and explore new ideas or try on different points of view. In that spirit, and in continuation of the University's ongoing conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion, the NYU News team asked various campus leaders to share their recommendations for beloved books, movies, music, and other media that explore the histories and perspectives of marginalized groups—or point a way forward toward a more equitable society. This is by no means an exhaustive list, of course, and we'll add to it as we continue to receive more submissions. But we hope the more than 50 selections below, ranging from classics to brand new works, will be the seeds for an enlightening summer. Now, off to the library...
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Set after the American Civil War, this 1987 novel tells the chilling story of Margaret Garner who escaped slavery by fleeing to Ohio.
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Containing two essays, this 1963 book discusses topics of race in terms of religion and of general American history.
Orientalism by Edward Said
Exploring the West's patronizing representations of The East, Orientalism delves deeper into how these world views came about.
I am Not Your Negro, a film based on the work of James Baldwin
Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this 2016 documentary film is an extensive exploration into the history of racism in the United States.
"The Danger of a Single Story," a TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In this popular TED Talk, the Nigerian author stresses the importance of hearing multiple sides of cultural stories and recounts her experiences of finding her authentic cultural voice.
—Monroe France, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Diversity Initiatives
I always take note of films created by Black people that are not pigeonholed as “black films.” I also especially pay attention to those where Black people and non-Black people come out of the theater having seen the film in a completely different way. Get Out is one of those films.
The Ferguson Report: Department of Justice Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department
Anyone who wants to understand what systemic, structural racism looks like should read this report. It’s not a novel and doesn’t even have the kind of narrative hook of great nonfiction, but it is riveting in how it excavates the layers a system deliberately designed to prey on people of color, particularly poor people of color.
The work of Tanzina Vega
Tanzina Vega writes on race and inequality for CNN. Vega’s work provides a broad survey and deep understanding about the role that race plays in everyday life in the U.S.. She is a journalist motivated not by some outmoded sense of “objectivity,” but by an ethic of fairness that drives her to fearlessly confront today’s toughest questions around race, power and privilege.
—Charlton McIlwain, Associate Professor of Media, Culture and Communication, Co-Chair, NYU Climate Survey Committee and Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisory Task Force
Iris Bohnet, What Works: Gender Equality By Design
A new book on choice architecture that complements the approach of debiasing people with the approach of structuring their environments so that bias can find no expression.
Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald
A canonical book about unconscious bias from the founders of the field.
Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude Steele
A great book on how stereotypes can force us to “choke,” leading us to make them self-fulfilling prophesies, and what we can do about it.
—Kenji Yoshino, Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law, Director, NYU School of Law Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, and Co-Chair, NYU Climate Survey Working Group
Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move by Reece Jones
Jones looks at causes and consequences of global migration, violence experienced at borders around the world, and possibilities that could emerge by opening borders to allow for freer movement.
The work of Jose Antonio Vargas, including his project Define American
Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, filmmaker, and undocumented immigrant in the US, uses stories to humanize the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in the US.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A novel on race, love, migration, Adichie gives readers a glimpse through her protagonist, Ifemelu, of what coming to the U.S. from Nigeria can look like, and what happens when one returns home.
Seeing Red by Lina Meruane
Written by a professor in NYU's Spanish creative writing program, this semi-autobiographical novel documents a Chilean writer's experience going blind while studying in New York. We see her navigate doctors, insurance, and the isolating effects of her condition, which distances her from loved ones both in the U.S. and at home.
—Melissa Zuroff, Assistant Director of Communications, Office of Global Services
Quinceañera, a film by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland
Set in Los Angeles, the film follows a Mexican-American family as they face an unexpected teen pregnancy.
Lone Star, a film by John Sayles
A murder mystery set in a Texas border town.
Harvest of Empire (The Untold Story of Latinos in America), a film by Peter Getzels and Eduardo López
A documentary (based on the book Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America by journalist Juan González) that shows how Latino immigration has been spurred by upheaval caused by U.S. intervention in Latin America.
Building a Latino Civil Rights Movement: Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and the Pursuit of Racial Justice in New York City by Sonia Song-Ha Lee
A history of the New York City-based Puerto Rican civil rights movement that traces a tumultuous coalition between Puerto Rican and African American activists from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures and Other Latina Longings by Juana María Rodríguez
A theory of sexual politics that takes the stereotypes of the hyperbolically gestural queer Latina femme body as its starting point.
The Borders of Dominicanidad: Race, Nation, and Archives of Contradiction by Lorgia Garcia-Peña
An exploration of the ways official histories have been projected onto racialized Dominican bodies as a means of sustaining the nation's borders—and of the ways Afro-Dominicans, ethnic Haitians, and Dominicans living abroad have contested these narratives.
—Cristina Beltrán, Associate Professor, Social and Cultural Analysis, Director, Latino Studies
Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art by Margo Machida, Vishaka Desai, and John Kuo Wei Tchen
For a long time this exhibition catalog was one of the only accessible publications out there which had information on Asian American art in a transnational global setting. While other articles and catalogs may have been printed, they were not highly available either in the archive or in the library. It was amazing to read about artists thinking about identities that were very complex and to learn about personal histories of the museum administrators as well as the long history of Asians in the U.S.
Why Asia? Essays on Contemporary Asian American Art by Alice Yang
Alice Yang's posthumously published collection of essays is a testament of the importance of an arts scholar and administrator who was involved in bringing out a story of artists who were marginalized or generalized or pigeon-holed at a time of the culture wars. It was also one of the very few publications available on Asian American art. Yang had the vision to understand how these artists were not just the sum of a stereotype of an ethnic-specific artist within the art historical discourse, but held the key to understanding contemporary art history and the importance of art historical writing as resistance to a stagnant canon.
Yellow Pearl by Basement Workshop
This square formatted box of prints on yellow paper is inspirational. The box contains music, artwork, and writing by the artists who were a part of Basement workshop when it had just begun in Chinatown, NYC. The box reveals that art is in the everyday. It also spotlights the importance and power of popular culture and everyday thoughts to provide resistance against stereotypes and assumptions of race and Asian American youth culture at a pivotal time in the history of the U.S. in terms of race, rights, and solidarity that is still resonant. Seeing a comic strip by Larry Hama of Asian American youth, included within the box, was very powerful.
—Alexandra Chang, Curator of Special Projects and Director of Global Arts Programs, Asian/Pacific/American Institute
Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism by Noenoe Silva
Aloha Betrayed exposes readers to the true history of Hawaiʻi that is often left out of traditional Western narratives. It illustrates Hawaiʻi’s living resistance to American imperialism and colonization, alongside the continuous fight to keep culture, traditions, and the language alive.
From a Native Daughter by Haunani-Kay Trask
Haunani-Kay Trask, a kanaka ʻōiwi (Native Hawaiian) known for her lifelong leadership roles within Hawaiian resistance movements, speaks of the blatant oppression, discrimination and racism against kanaka and the fight for decolonization and Hawaiian sovereignty—a fight still being fought today.
The Seeds We Planted by Noelani Goodyear-Kaʻōpua
The Seeds We Planted narrates an alternative future for our current (Westernized) education system that does not oppress our children and feed them false histories—but instead is rooted in culture, traditional thought processes and practices, and language.
Black Indians: a Hidden History by William Loren Katz
Black Indians discusses the complex relationships formed between American Indians and Black Americans throughout U.S. history.
Talking to My Country by Stan Grant
Talking to my Country is a book written by a Wiradjuri man as he reflects on what it means to be Indigenous and Australian, both within his country and outside of it.
Custer Died for Your Sins by Vine Deloria Jr.
This book is perhaps one of the most influential American Indian books on the market. It covers a wide range of Indian Country topics with humor and sarcasm.
—Khaila Moke-Sakamoto ('18) and Taylor Norman ('18), Co-Presidents, NYU Native American and Indigenous Students Group
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock
In this powerful memoir, Mock discusses her experiences growing up as a multiracial, poor, trans woman in the United States.
Why Pronouns Matter for Trans People
This short video talks about the importance of correct pronoun usage and tips for using them successfully.
Transgender History by Susan Stryker
A great introduction to American transgender history from the mid-twentieth century to today.
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
In this collection of essays and speeches, Lorde tackles issues of gender, race, class, and sexuality, highlighting their intersectional nature and urging us towards social justice.
Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution by David Carter
Using an exhaustive archive of interviews, files, and reports, Carter reconstructs the evenings of the Stonewall Riots, the birthplace of the modern American LGBTQ civil rights movement.
Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
This classic in American literature demonstrates the fluidity of love and desire and was one of the first novels to bring a positive portrayal of queer intimacy and relationships to the American readership.
—Lukas La Rivière, Program Administrator, LGBTQ Student Center
Keywords for Disability Studies
A handbook from NYU Press containing 60 entries on the historical, cultural, and political dimensions of disability. Essays on "impairment," "normal," and "medicalization" discuss the meanings of disability within modern medicine and capitalism, while those on "fat," "pain," and "gender" query the boundaries of disability and its intersections with other experiences and identities.
Justice for Mario Woods, 2015
Through collaborative poster art, disability activist group Sins Invalid and artist Micah Bazant point out that disability disproportionately accrues and is attributed to people of color.
The Work of Christine Sun Kim
In this short video profile, deaf sound artist Christine Sun Kim teaches us to "unlearn sound etiquette" and enlarge the very definition of hearing.
The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde
A classic cancer memoir that still yields new insights into illness, disability, and dissent. Lorde confronts breast cancer across three searing chapters: "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action," "Breast Cancer: A Black Feminist Lesbian Experience," "Breast Cancer: Power vs. Prosthesis."
Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity by Erving Goffman
Sociologist Erving Goffman offers an enduring theory of social stigma: the discrediting of particular attributes; patterns of response among the stigmatized such as "covering."
Abler, a website by Sara Hendren
Abler presents a critical aesthetic approach to adaptive and assistive technologies. The topics of Sara Hendren's posts range from “sculptural transitional cutlery” to video games for blind players. Hendren's own designs implement critical disability theory on a wide scale. Consider the “Accessible Icon Project,” a set of stickers she co-designed, allowing activists to transform the conventional wheelchair access icon by imbuing it with a sense of motion. This icon has now been acquired by MOMA and is employed by activists as well as city planners around the world.
—Mara Mills, Associate Professor of Media, Culture and Communication, Co-Chair, The NYU Disability Council
Accommodation by Alice Elliott
Tisch's Alice Elliott partnered with the Moses Center to create this short film highlighting different disability scenarios at NYU. It has been a great resource.
Through Our Eyes: Living with Asperger's
This short documentary is essential to understanding this diagnosis as the number of students with Asperger's in higher education is increasing.
—Robyn Weiss, Director, Moses Center for Students with Disabilities
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
While it is a memoir, about the life of a prominent women in science, it also teaches the reader a bit about botany, paleontology and soil. I especially liked how it presents the ups and downs of academia and pursing a life as a scientist.
My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor's autobiography is fascinating and inspiring. Ms. Sotomayor faced numerous obstacles during her life and career but she saw these as opportunities rather than reasons to give up.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
This book is a story of modern medicine and bioethics. Rather than being a book about a woman scientist, it is a book about the woman who made so many of the health-related scientific breakthroughs today possible. It provides a unique perspective on race and social inequities.
I am Malala by Christina Lamb, Malala Yousafzai, and Patricia McCormic
I am Malala is an inspiring story of a girl who stood up for her right to an education and was nearly killed for it. I loved that I got a chance to learn a lot about a world that is very foreign to me and I admired Yousafzai's strength and commitment.
—Shara Bailey, Associate Professor, Anthropology, Director, Women in Science Initiative, College of Arts and Sciences
"How Great" by Chance the Rapper
My colleague Elayne Oliphant's students have really enjoyed talking about Chance the Rapper's "How Great" in her Christianity class. Alternatively, his "Sunday Candy" video is pretty awesome.
"Formation" by Beyoncé
Just try to catch all the American religious references in this video!
La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc by Carl Theodor Dreyer
My colleague Elayne Oliphant teaches this 1928 silent film based on the transcripts of Joan of Arc's heresy trial, which were also the inspiration for David Byrne's recent theatrical rock rendition of Joan of Arc's story at The Public Theater. The Cohen Brothers' movie Hail Caesar also had some great moments in it for religious studies, as did The Great Beauty by Paulo Sorrentino.
Hell House, a film by George Ratcliff
I use this in my Religion and Media course. Hell houses are haunted tours created all over the United States by evangelical churches at Halloween. They take the usual Gothic themes to unusual ends—to try to scare teens into salvation. People are guided through vignettes about the horrors of abortion, drug use, and homosexuality enacted by local kids. The film follows the creation of on hell house—we meed the producers and young actors and find out how well the whole thing works. Or not.
Rara! Vodou Power and Performance in Haiti and its Diaspora by Elizabeth McAlister
In Rara!, McAlister introduces us to the relationships between music-making, vodou practice and the power of the spirits to strengthen community and yet reinforce gender differences and hierarchy. Religion and culture are complex, and can both empower and disempower at the same time—which may be why they are so fascinating.
—Angela Zito, Associate Professor, Anthropology, Director of Religious Studies, Co-Director of the Center for Religion and Media
The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror Hardcover by Arun Kundnani
A comprehensive critique of counter-radicalization strategies, with anecdotes from across the U.S. and Europe.
Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas by Sylviane A. Diouf
A look at how African Muslims brought to the United States maintained their religious beliefs and practices during slavery.
The Domestic Crusaders by Wajahat Ali
Sparks fly during a tense day in the life of three generations of a Muslim Pakistani-American family in the wake of 9/11.
Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America
A report on the misrepresentation of Islam and American Muslims in the United States by Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matthew Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes, and Faiz Shakir.
The Life of Muhammad (BBC documentary)
A three-part series presented by British journalist Rageh Omaar charts the life of Muhammad.
The Beauty and Diversity of a Muslim Life (TED Talk)
Blogger, filmmaker, and halal butcher Bassam Tariq describes his boundless celebration of humanity and shares images from his tour of 30 mosques in 30 days.
—Imam Khalid Latif, University Chaplain, Global Spiritual Life at NYU, Executive Director, The Islamic Center at NYU
Youth is a period when young people have lots of questions, inner conflicts and encounter the harsh and real world. That is the period where they need guidance and inputs to approach various problems. This book provides inspiring, self-empowering, motivating, and life transforming ideas. The books will be of help to youth, youth counselors, teachers, mentors and social workers.
Goodbye to Negativity by Swami Gokulananda
Swami Gokulananda is a senior monk at the Ramakrishna Order. He has delivered lots of lectures on developing or building positive attitude towards life and environment. This book is a compilation of lectures and interviews on the subject of building positive attitude. This book will be of special help to counselors and teachers, to help guide students better.
Many Many Gods of Hinduism by Swami Achuthananda
This book is written in a casual style and helps build a deeper understanding of Hindus and Hinduism. The book covers a lots of myths and controversies that is rarely covered in other books. It questions the believers and builds the non-believers to religious fold.
Western Questions Eastern Answers: A Collection of Short Essays by Ashish Dalela
We have come across many questions and those questions answered differently. That is the case with Religion and Philosophy. We all know that Philosophy and Science from the east have always been practiced to change the way we live. The author has taken the practiced approach from East to try and answer questions from the west. More importantly, he has triggered the power of reasoning to see how many answers fit the same question and do they make sense today.
Uncommon Wisdom: Fault Lines in the Foundations of Atheism by Ashish Dalela
Because of misunderstanding of fundamental concepts of religion we have various versions of atheism. We get distracted by materialism, idealism, relativism, evolutionism and various isms. We always reduce ideas to physical matter or something close. The book looks at nature as not just material objects. Instead, its a structured tree of abstract ideas, and these ideas can only be conceived. Thinking of such ideas can only happen if we can get elevated to a higher plane, a plane different from the religion that we practice.
Various Instagram accounts
Including Omconnection (great explanations of rituals, deities, and Hindu way of life), Shiva_ganesha_krishna (beautiful photos of Hindu deities), Shivaconnection, Hindspiration, and Srinivasanveeraraghavan (rare photographs of temples, deities, artwork, etc.).
—Chandrashekar Vellur, Senior Affiliate Chaplain, and Sangeetha Kowsik, Affiliate Chaplain
The Sikhs by Patwant Singh
This overview of the Sikh tradition includes information on its historical development, the Sikh worldview, and how the community has developed over time. This book is one of the most common resources for people seeking to learn about Sikhi and is easily available online.
The Name of My Beloved by Nikky Guninder Kaur Singh
In this volume, Nikky Singh offers accessible and beautiful translations for some of the most commonly recited Sikh prayer compositions. These translations will give you access to Sikh theology, discipline, and its unique scriptural form.
Fighting for Faith and Nation by Cynthia Keppley Mahmood
The last quarter of the 20th century was a tumultuous period for Sikhs of Punjab. The community endured attacks on its central places of worship, organized pogroms and massacres, and extra-judicial killings and mass cremations that were kept in secret. This anthropological work examines how some Sikhs responded to these difficult conditions.
Divided We Fall by Valarie Kaur and Sharat Raju
In the aftermath of 9/11, many minority groups became the targets of a violent backlash. Their unique identity made Sikhs a frequent target. This film follows young Sikhs around the country as they attempt to catalog incidents of hate and share these stories with the general public.
The Sikhs by CBS Religion and Culture
This 20-minute segment offers an overview of the Sikh tradition and the key challenges and opportunities for Sikhs in modern America. The piece delves into a variety of questions, from visible identity and religious institutions to experiences of racial profiling and school bullying.
—Dr. Simran Jeet Singh, NYU Affiliate Chaplain
Together We Are One: Honoring Our Diversity, Celebrating Our Connection by Thich Nhat Hanh
Written by one of the best known and most respected Zen masters in the world today, this book provides an inspirational and practical guides for people of all colors, backgrounds, and experiences who have ever felt excluded or alienated.
Thunderous Silence: A Formula for Ending Suffering by Dosung Yoo
This book throws light on the Heart Sutra—a pithy encapsulation of the essence of perfection of wisdom literature in Buddhism. It covers the essential teachings of Buddhism; the Four Noble Truths, Emptiness, Enlightenment, and etc., which will help us to open our hearts to live with wisdom and compassion.
Oxherding Tale by Charles Johnson
A novel set in the antebellum South about a mixed person who goes through a semi-magical and very Buddhist journey that questions notions of identity and being. The main character, Andrew, must navigate black and white identities as a slave, a servant, a runaway slave, a white man, and a free person. The novel mixes Western and Eastern philosophy through a colorful collection of characters, identities, and adventures.
No Fear Zen by Richard Collins
A collection of essays that reflect on zen life from the perspective of the author and include commentary on literary and philosophical themes regarding everyday life, devotion, literature, and living a life without fear.
Being Black by Angel Kyodo Williams
A spiritual autobiography by a contemporary Zen priest as she navigates being Black in all white zen environments and reckons with the varied spiritual traditions of black folk and their relationship with Zen Buddhist practice and devotional life.
Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by Angel Kyodo Williams
A long overdue conversation about how we can remain accountable to social transformation while facing the truths of racism and privilege on and off the cushion.
—Malik Walker, Affiliate Chaplain, and Doyeon Part, Senior Affiliate Chaplain
The Torah with commentary
There are many translations, with commentary, of the five central “books” of the Jewish people, which tells the story (as interpreted over many generations of commentary in the margins, footnotes, and explanatory essays) of our people. My personal favorite is the relatively recent volume The Torah: A Women’s Commentary by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Andrea L. Weiss.
Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism by Michael A. Meyer
This historical volume traces the origins of the Reform Jewish movement, something close to my own heart, and its contributions to contemporary Jewish life.
Shoah, a film by Claude Lanzmann
This six-hour-long film documentary tells the story of the systematic murder of six million Jews under Nazi rule in Europe in the twentieth century. The footage is raw and harrowing, and viewing it had a major impact on my own personal Jewish journey toward empathy and activism.
The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel
Rabbi Heschel’s work is central to understanding the contribution of a day of rest.
High Anxiety, a film by Mel Brooks
Not kidding, my own rabbi, when I was undergoing conversion to Judaism, stressed the importance of Jewish humor, chiefly the works of Mel Brooks, which highlight the Jewish tradition and investment in parody (see, for example, High Anxiety) and the underdog perspective in comedy.
My People's Prayerbook: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries
A good introduction to Jewish prayer (in 10 volumes) from a multiplicity of Jewish viewpoints, including historical, spiritual, and feminist.