Waking Up White

How could a community with good intentions be home to discrimination and racism? How does a state like New Hampshire that is mostly white fit into the national narrative of racial strife, now and in our past? What do we know about race?

Through April 2018, residents of Madbury, Lee, and Durham will have the opportunity to investigate race and tolerance in a series of book discussions, lectures, art exhibits, and activities for all ages. The grassroots coalition came together last May as a way to help community members embrace difficult conversations about racism.

Funded in part by a New Hampshire Humanities Community Project Grant, the community read features a memoir called Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving. The selection is reflective of a national conversation on race and race relations. The book invites readers to explore race, culture, and diversity through the personal story of a New Englander whose move from suburbia to the city unravels her understanding of who she was raised to be. Irving’s story takes readers through the challenge and complexity of social constructs persistent in America, offering a way to bridge racial divides and unite diverse perspectives.

Debby Irving says of her book, "My hope is that by sharing my sometimes cringe-worthy struggle to understand racism and racial tensions, I offer a fresh perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners, and tolerance."

The series culminates with a special event featuring Debby Irving and a community dinner on April 16that Oyster River High School. Kristin Forselius, chair of the Oyster River Community Read, shared, "This collaboration of businesses, towns, libraries, schools, community groups, and houses of worship makes a strong statement about who we are and who we want to be, which is a community that values all people."

For more information and a complete list of events, visit www.orcread.org.

Photo: Oyster River Community Read volunteers and donors hold featured books Waking Up White by Debbie Irving and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. (Photo by Elise Sullivan)