IDEAS: Book Group

The IDEAS Book Group provides an opportunity for educators from member schools and districts to meet and share thoughts on the selected books and to discuss how they relate to educational practices and current events.

During the 2022-23 school year, the Book Group is scheduled to meet nine times, virtually via Zoom, one Thursday per month, from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. An email is sent out each month to remind members about the upcoming meeting. You only need to reply if you can attend. There is no commitment to attend all meetings.

2 Contact hours (PDPs) will be awarded for attendance at each meeting.

For more information about the IDEAS Book Group, please contact Elli Stern at

2022-2023 Book Club Selections & Dates

September 29, 2022: Not Light, But Fire by Matthew Kay

Inspired by Frederick Douglass’s abolitionist call to action, “It is not light that is needed, but fire,” author Matthew Kay has spent his career learning to lead students through the most challenging race conversations.

October 13, 2022: The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

A Native American novel that reckons with ghosts—of both specific people and the shadows resulting from America’s violent, dark habits. Flora, an independent bookstore’s most burdensome customer, is even more exasperating in death, deciding to haunt her favorite haunt, Birchbark Books. This book takes place in Minneapolis during the murder of George Floyd. It’s also no ordinary ghost story, as the motley crew of characters effortlessly endear themselves to you despite their shortcomings (and maybe because of them), reckons with profound wounds, both self-inflicted and societal.

November 10, 2022: The Unlikely Thru-Hiker: An Appalachian Trail Journey by Derick Lugo

This is the story of how a young black man from the city, unfamiliar with both the outdoors and thru-hiking culture, sets off with an extremely overweight pack and a willfully can-do attitude to conquer the infamous trail. What follows are lessons on preparation, humility, and nature’s wild unpredictability. But this isn’t a hard-nosed memoir of discouragement. What sets Lugo apart from the typical walk in the woods is his refusal to let any challenge squash his inner Pollyanna.

December 15, 2022: Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi

Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five write a powerful young adult (YA) novel in verse about a wrongfully incarcerated boy. Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

January 19, 2023: How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

Beginning in his hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader on an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks – those that are honest about the past and those that are not – that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history.

February 9, 2023: A Promised Land by Barack Obama

A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making — from the President who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy.

March 9, 2023: Change the Narrative: How to Build an Antiracist Culture in Your School by Henry Turner and Kathy Lopes

These school leaders, in partnership with educators, students, parents, and the community, have the remarkable potential to change the narrative so that all students, regardless of race, can feel seen, empowered, and engaged in their learning communities. Through the lens and actions of antiracism, the book provides a pathway for school administrators, leaders, and change agents who want to implement the values of antiracism in their school community every day.

April 6, 2023: Indian Givers: How Native Americans Transformed the World by Jack Weatherford

After 500 years, the world’s huge debt to the wisdom of the Indians of the Americas has finally been explored in all its vivid drama by anthropologist Jack Weatherford. He traces the crucial contributions made by the Indians to our federal system of government, our democratic institutions, modern medicine, agriculture, architecture, and ecology, and in this astonishing, ground-breaking book takes a giant step toward recovering a true American history.

May 11, 2023: Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano

This book follows two families — one White, one Black — as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children’s questions about such traumatic events and help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives. It includes an extensive Note to Parents and Caregivers with guidelines for discussing race.

Previous Book Group Selections

Non- Fiction


  • The Beautiful Struggle by Ta Nehisi Coates
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Between the World and Me by Ta Nehisi Coates
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • Dreams of My Father by Barak Obama
  • Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
  • A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me by Condoleezza Rice
  • Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelo
  • My Beloved Worldby Sonia Sotomayor
  • My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
  • No Ashes in the Fire by Darnell Moore
  • Tell Me Who You Are: Sharing Our Stories of Race, Culture, & Identity by Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi
  • You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

Historical and Current Examples of Discrimination and Marginalization

  • “All the Real Indians Died Off” And 202 Other Myths of Native Americans by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker
  • Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities by Craig Steven Wilder
  • Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicolas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
  • The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
  • The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs

LGBTQ Issues

  • Becoming Nicole: The inspiring story of transgender actor-activist Nicole Maines and her extraordinary family by Amy Ellis Nutt

Essential Books for Educators

  • Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond
  • Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools by Amanda E Lewis and John B. Diamond
  • Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon
  • For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood by Christopher Emdin
  • How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen
  • Multiplication is for White People by Lisa Delpit
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us by Claude Steele

Talking About Race and Racism

  • How to Be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal M. Fleming
  • Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing by Joy Degruy
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • Waking Up White by Debby Irving

Justice System

  • Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster by Stephen J. Carter
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Racial Identity

  • Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Yellow: Race in America: Beyond Black and White by Frank Wu


  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hossei
  • Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
  • The Book of Lost Saints by Daniel Jose Older
  • Brother I am Dying by Edwidge Danticat
  • The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
  • Caucasia by Danzy Senna
  • Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Childhood by Fatima Mernissi
  • First Darling of the Morning by Thrity Umrigar
  • Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
  • How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
  • In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
  • Invention of Wings by Sue Mink Kidd
  • The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan
  • Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
  • Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Trans-Sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum
  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Young Adult

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
  • A Step From Heaven by An Na
  • We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo


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