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I'm Still Here
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I'm Still Here
Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK • From a leading voice on racial justice, an eye-opening account of growing up Black, Christian, and female that exposes how...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK • From a leading voice on racial justice, an eye-opening account of growing up Black, Christian, and female that exposes how...
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Description-

  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK • From a leading voice on racial justice, an eye-opening account of growing up Black, Christian, and female that exposes how white America’s love affair with “diversity” so often falls short of its ideals.

    “Austin Channing Brown introduces herself as a master memoirist. This book will break open hearts and minds.”—Glennon Doyle, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Untamed
    Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with a racialized America came at age seven, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools and churches, Austin writes, “I had to learn what it means to love blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker, and expert helping organizations practice genuine inclusion.
    In a time when nearly every institution (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claims to value diversity in its mission statement, Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice. Her stories bear witness to the complexity of America’s social fabric—from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.
    For readers who have engaged with America’s legacy on race through the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michael Eric Dyson, I’m Still Here is an illuminating look at how white, middle-class, Evangelicalism has participated in an era of rising racial hostility, inviting the reader to confront apathy, recognize God’s ongoing work in the world, and discover how blackness—if we let it—can save us all.

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    1

    White People Are Exhausting

    White people can be exhausting. Particularly exhausting are white people who don’t know they are white, and those who need to be white. But of all the white people I’ve met—and I’ve met a lot of them in more than three decades of living, studying, and working in places where I’m often the only Black woman in sight—the first I found exhausting were those who expected me to be white.

    To be fair, my parents did set them up for failure. In this society where we believe a name tells us everything we need to know about someone’s race, gender, income, and personality, my parents decided to outwit everyone by giving their daughter a white man’s name. When I was growing up, they explained that my grandmother’s maiden name was Austin, and since her only brother didn’t have children, they wanted to make me the last Austin of our family line.

    Sounds beautiful, right? Well, it is. It just happens to be half the story.

    How did I discover the other half? Through my exhaustion with a white person. We were in my favorite place—our local library, built in a square with an outdoor garden at the center. At seven years old, with books piled high in my arms, I often had to be reminded how many I had already checked out when it came time for our next visit. I am certain my family singlehandedly kept our library funded. We checked out so many books at a time, we would find them under the car seat, between the cushions of our couch, or hiding under the mail on the table.

    On this sunny Saturday afternoon, as I stepped up to the front desk to check out my books, I remember the librarian taking my library card and scanning the back as usual. I braced myself, expecting her to announce the fine I owed for the week.

    Instead, she raised one eyebrow as the other furrowed and asked, “Is this your card?”

    Wondering for a split second if I’d mixed up my card with my mother’s, I nodded my head yes, but hesitantly. “Are you sure?” she said. “This card says Austin.”

    I nodded more emphatically and smiled. “Yes, that’s my card.” Perhaps she was surprised a first-grader could rack up such a fine. But when I peered over the counter, I saw that she still hadn’t opened the book covers to stamp the day when I should bring them back (emphasis on should). I waited.

    “Are you sure this is your card?” she asked again, this time drawing out sure and your as if they had more than one syllable. I tilted my head in exasperation, rolling my eyes toward the popcorn ceiling. Did she not see all the recent books on my account? Surely this woman didn’t think I didn’t know my own name.

    Then it dawned on me. She wasn’t questioning my literacy. She was another in an already long line of people who couldn’t believe my name belonged to me. With a sigh too deep for my young years, I replied, “Yes, my name is Austin, and that is my library card.” She stammered something about my name being unusual as her eyebrows met. I didn’t respond. I just waited for her to hand my books back to me.

    My check-outs in hand, I marched over to my mother, who was standing in the VHS section with my little brother. I demanded that she tell me why she named me Austin.

    By then, I had gotten used to white people expecting me to be male. It happened every first day of school, at roll call. The boys and girls automatically gravitated to opposite sides of the room, and when my name was called, I had to do jumping jacks to get the teacher’s attention away from the...

About the Author-

  • Austin Channing Brown is a speaker, writer, and media producer providing inspired leadership on racial justice in America. She is the author of I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness and the executive producer of the web series The Next Question. Her writing and work have been featured by outlets such as On Being, Chicago Tribune, Christianity Today, Sojourners, Shondaland, and WNYC.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    March 15, 2018
    The impassioned story of one woman's journey into activism.Brown's book is part memoir and part jeremiad against American whiteness. She begins by describing her youth in a largely white neighborhood of Toledo. After her parents' divorce, she went on to discover black culture, and affirm her own identity, in an African-American Cleveland neighborhood and, especially, in a black church. Through high school and then into college, Brown learned more about black history and culture and became more involved with racial reconciliation efforts. She especially saw herself as a possible bridge between black and white cultures. Most of her work has been through churches and progressive Christian organizations, but faith plays only a minor role in this book. The focus of the narrative is on the author's recognition of--and fight against--"America's commitment to violent, abusive, exploitative, immoral white supremacy, which seeks the absolute control of Black bodies." Brown pulls no punches as she lambasts white culture for being, even at its most liberal, myopic and self-serving. She argues that "white fragility" and "white guilt" are ways in which whites absolve themselves of inherent racism. Discussing whites who, after her presentations on racism, confess to her their own racist opinions and actions, she points out that she cannot "offer absolution....I am not a priest for the white soul." Throughout the book, the author writes with raw emotion and candid self-reflection. "I have become very intimate with anger," she writes. Brown's work will resonate with other activists of color, though it provides little direction for others. The author is clear that racism and white supremacy are here to stay and that even attempts to educate and enlighten are rarely fruitful. "I underestimated the enduring power, the lethal imagination, the desire for blood of white supremacy," she writes. And later: "hope for me has died one thousand deaths."A powerful and necessarily uncomfortable text lacking suggestions for a path forward.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 26, 2018
    In this powerful book, Brown is up front about her exhaustion with white people as she meticulously details the experience of being a black woman in modern American society. After explaining that her parents named her Austin so that potential employers would “assume you are a white man,” she recreates a typical interview and first few months at a new job: “Every pair of eyes looks at me in surprise.... Should they have known? Am I now more impressive or less impressive?... It would be comical if it wasn’t so damn disappointing.” In clear prose, she relates anecdotes to shed light on racial injustices that are systematically reinforced by the standards of white society. Brown, a Christian, believes the history of American Christianity is deeply intertwined with race relations and that Christian communities need to play a large role in racial reconciliation. Explaining that change needs to come from acknowledgement of systemic inequalities, Brown calls on readers to live their professed ideals rather than simply state them. Though the writing style can be preachy, Brown’s authoritative tone and moving message make this a must-read for those interested in racial justice within the Christian community.

  • Library Journal

    April 15, 2018

    Among the most extreme experiences described here by writer and speaker Brown (Christianity Today) are college visits to a plantation and a lynching museum, during which tour guides explained that slaves were happy and better looked after than slaves in other places. On another occasion, a white woman tells her that "I really had no idea that slavery was on purpose." These events and the many mundane brutalities Brown regularly endures make her wonder who is being helped by the idea of racial reconciliation in America. The movement toward diversity and forgiveness, the author points out, too often involves white people seeking credit for recognizing the crimes of the past even as they do nothing to fix things today, and black people being required to provide endless absolution and information while calmly enduring dignity-eroding and rage-inducing injustices. Amid the frankly told, well-written accounts of Brown's daily life as a professional in a Christian organization are "Interludes" that will help black women in her situation, notably "How To Survive Racism in an Organization That Claims To Be Antiracist." VERDICT A must-read for black and white women especially, but of value to everyone.--Henrietta Verma, Credo Reference, Jackson Heights, NY

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from March 1, 2019

    This incisive memoir takes a penetrating look at race and the Christian faith while providing tools on how to cope with microaggressions and blatant racism. Brown perfectly and succinctly describes the corrosive weight of white supremacy embedded within American institutions, which African Americans and other people of color endure on a daily basis in schools, professional spaces, and places of worship. Brown's experiences and lifelong exploration of racial understanding and reconciliation offer a modern take on the double consciousness first written about by W.E.B. DuBois. From her days in elementary school, often as the only person of color in the room, to speaking on the national stage, Brown's lessons not only give allies the tools to do better but also provide advice for peers and up-and-comings on navigating hostile workplaces, lecture halls, and hearts and minds. This book is laced with gems that make it necessary reading for everyone, regardless of belief or identity. VERDICT Fans of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me and Reni Eddo-Lodge's Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race will find this candid debut edifying and essential.-Christina Vortia, Hype Lit, Land O'Lakes, FL

    Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    April 1, 2018
    We've seen this before, persistent white refusal to acknowledge structural racism, the softening of America's racist history, and the lone black person as reluctant racism confessor for white colleagues. Now Brown explores racial ignorance within the white church, noting how Christian values of hope, forgiveness, and unconditional love do not seem to apply to black people but instead give nice white people a pass on their racism. Brown poignantly describes the death of her cousin in jail, I had to reject the notion that my cousin's life was somehow less valuable because he did not meet ?Christian criteria' of innocence and perfection. In contrast, the Black Jesus of her home church understood the accused, the incarcerated, the criminals, and expressed righteous anger towards the corrupt. Brown passionately rejects facile reliance on hope, stating that in order for me to stay in this work, hope must die and the death of hope gives way to a sadness that heals, to anger that inspires, to a wisdom that empowers me. An eloquent argument for meaningful reconciliation focused on racial injustice rather than white feelings.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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