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When Race Becomes Real

When Race Becomes Real

Black and White Writers Confront Their Personal Histories

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Edited by Bernestine Singley


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
352 pages, 6 x 9, 30 illustrations


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About the Book

When Race Becomes Real is a critically acclaimed collection that pushes the boundaries of current discussions about race. In these personal and evocative essays, thirty contemporary black and white writers describe their own intimate experiences with race and discrimination, taking an unflinching look at both society and themselves. The result is an incisive and powerful anthology that rethinks what it means to be black—and white—in the modern world.

Only through frank and tough conversation, Singley tells us, can America hope to realize its goals of justice and racial equality. This collection opens that much needed honest dialogue, exploring a wide range of racial experiences in relation to a myriad of topics: from crime and religion to humor, history, and desire. Readers will find within these pages examinations of the roots of racial beliefs and the origins of the language and rules that have heretofore governed discussion; analysis of the reasons behind our reticence to discuss the subject openly; and suggestions for solutions to the problems that plague open racial discourse. The writers of When Race Becomes Real demonstrate the progress that can be made when our ingrained wariness on the subject of race is abandoned, and we instead confront the issue openly and personally. Included are contributions by a variety of authors, from Pulitzer Prize winners such as Robert Coles, Leonard Pitts, and Natalie Angier to popular writers and emerging voices. In each essay the author sweeps aside the cautious rules that often dominate racial discussions to address what race really means in the twenty-first century.

When Race Becomes Real directly tackles one of our most taboo subjects with bravery, wit, and emotion. Sometimes shocking, sometimes amusing but always honest, this collection encourages readers to move beyond the ineffective reluctance and objectivity that hinder contemporary conversations and in doing so forge a new path in racial consciousness.


Bernestine Singley has been assistant attorney general in both Massachusetts and Texas. She is currently at work on two novels and a collection of short stories.


"A searing collection . . . All the essays are first-rate." —Washington Post

"[When Race Becomes Real] is one of the most essential commentaries on race and identity to date. . . . a compelling read full of honest, heartfelt narrative void of sentiment, rhetoric, and slogans."—Black Issues Book Review

"A mesmerizing book. . . . Refreshingly honest." —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"These amazing, original essays show how very personal . . . racism really is. . . . [When Race Becomes Real] ought to be in every home and library in the country." —Choice

"Powerful, raw reading."—Austin American-Statesman

"Rich in individual insights."—Booklist