Synopses & Reviews
For twenty-five years, Debby Irving sensed inexplicable racial tensions in her personal and professional relationships. As a colleague and neighbor, she worried about offending people she dearly wanted to befriend. As an arts administrator, she didn't understand why her diversity efforts lacked traction. As a teacher, she found her best efforts to reach out to students and families of color left her wondering what she was missing. Then, in 2009, one "aha!" moment launched an adventure of discovery and insight that drastically shifted her worldview and upended her life plan. In Waking Up White, Irving tells her often cringe-worthy story with such openness that readers will turn every page rooting for her-and ultimately for all of us.
Exercises at the end of each chapter prompt readers to explore their own racialized ideas. Waking Up White's personal narrative is designed to work well as a rapid read, a book group book, or support reading for courses exploring racial and cultural issues." (Debby Irving)
"A beautiful, powerful, achingly honest book…even just reading the foreword, I was touched and had an aha moment of realizing my own inbred racism. This is a very brave book to have written. I hope and believe that it will be a meaningful step forward in healing race relations. Thank you for stepping out so bravely and compassionately." Rivvy Neshama, author, Recipes for a Sacred Life: True Stories and a Few Miracles
"Waking up White is a brutally honest, unflinching exploration of race and personal identity, told with heart by a truly gifted storyteller. Much as Irving's family sought to shield her from the contours of the nation's racial drama, so too do far too many white Americans continue to do the same. For their sakes, and ours, let's hope Irving's words spark even more truth-telling. They certainly have the power to do so." Tim Wise, author, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son
"Deborah Irving bravely describes her jolting and continuing journey from white oblivion to white awareness in an honest way that may inspire others to do such transformational work on themselves. She has courage in tracing many cultural and class assumptions that kept her for decades in a fog of racial denial and white dominance. This empathetic book can help white readers to dissipate the imprisoning white ignorance that we did not ask for but that has damaged our world and ourselves." Peggy McIntosh, Ph.D., Associate Director, Wellesley Centers for Women; Founder and Senior Associate, National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity)
"I read Waking Up White in one sitting. To say I loved it is an understatement. It's such a raw, honest portrait….Irving's experience on display – warts and all – will help white people, who haven't noticed the role systemic privilege has played in their lives, start to see the world in a new way." Jodi Picoult, author, The Storyteller, My Sister's Keeper, The Pact
"Debby Irving’s powerful Waking Up White opens a rare window on how white Americans are socialized. Irving's focus on the mechanics of racism operating in just one life — her own — may lead white readers to reconsider the roots of their own perspectives — and their role in dismantling old myths. Readers of color will no doubt find the view through Irving's window fascinating, and telling." Van Jones, author, Rebuild The Dream, The Green Collar Economy:How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems; President, Rebuild The Dream; Co-host, CNN Crossfire
About the Author
Debby Irving is an emerging voice in the national racial justice community. Combining her organization development skills, classroom teaching experience, and understanding of systemic racism, Irving educates and consults with individuals and organizations seeking to create racial equity at both the personal and institutional level.
Irving grew up in Winchester, Massachusetts, during the socially turbulent 1960s and '70s. After a blissfully sheltered, upper-middle-class suburban childhood, she found herself simultaneously intrigued and horrified by the racial divide she observed in nearby Boston. Her career began in a variety of urban performance-art and community-based non-profits, where she repeatedly found that her best efforts to "help" caused more harm than the good she intended. Her one-step-forward-two-steps-back experience of racial understanding eventually lead her to dig deeply into her own white privilege, where she found truths she never knew existed. Waking Up White describes that journey and the lessons learned along the way.
Now a racial justice educator and writer, Irving works with other white people to transform confusion into curiosity and anxiety into action. She's worked in private and public urban schools, both in the classroom and at the board level, to foster community among students, teachers, staff, and families by focusing on honest dialog that educates and connects people through shared interests and divergent backgrounds. A graduate of the Winsor School in Boston, she holds a BA from Kenyon College and an MBA from Simmons College. Waking Up White is her first book.