What We’re Reading

What We’re Reading

As a cultural institution in the Southern Tier of New York, the Clemens Center has worked to enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors through a diversity of performing arts programming. We pride ourselves in respecting the dignity of individuals, providing a welcoming attitude and environment, and cultivating and sharing different viewpoints through our events and activities. However, we are aware that as an organization we can improve upon what we do, and so we reaffirm our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB).

The Board of Trustees and management have enlisted a DEIB task force to review internal processes and procedures and make recommendations across all areas of our nonprofit organization. We’ve begun a resource list for education and self-reflection to deepen the understanding of our employees and volunteers. And, we envision community conversations in the near future to bring awareness and engage in healthy dialogue. It is an expansion of our efforts and commitment to include diverse points of view, experience, and expertise and welcome more communities who can support and benefit from our mission.

Executive Director Karen Cromer

Recommended by Executive Director Karen Cromer

Man's Search for Meaning Book CoverMan’s Search for Meaning
by Viktor E. Frankl

A book for finding purpose and strength in times of great despair, the international best-seller is still just as relevant today as when it was first published.

“This is a book I reread a lot . . . it gives me hope . . . it gives me a sense of strength.”
—Anderson Cooper, Anderson Cooper 360/CNN

This seminal book, which has been called “one of the outstanding contributions to psychological thought” by Carl Rogers and “one of the great books of our time” by Harold Kushner, has been translated into more than fifty languages and sold over sixteen million copies. “An enduring work of survival literature,” according to the New York Times, Viktor Frankl’s riveting account of his time in the Nazi concentration camps, and his insightful exploration of the human will to find meaning in spite of the worst adversity, has offered solace and guidance to generations of readers since it was first published in 1946. At the heart of Frankl’s theory of logotherapy (from the Greek word for “meaning”) is a conviction that the primary human drive is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but rather the discovery and pursuit of what the individual finds meaningful. Today, as new generations face new challenges and an ever more complex and uncertain world, Frankl’s classic work continues to inspire us all to find significance in the very act of living, in spite of all obstacles.

The Rise Book Cover The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food: A Cookbook
by Marcus Samuelsson

An Eater Best Cookbook of Fall 2020 • This groundbreaking new cookbook from chef, bestselling author, and TV star Marcus Samuelsson celebrates contemporary Black cooking in 150 extraordinarily delicious recipes.

It is long past time to recognize Black excellence in the culinary world the same way it has been celebrated in the worlds of music, sports, literature, film, and the arts. Black cooks and creators have led American culture forward with indelible contributions of artistry and ingenuity from the start, but Black authorship has been consistently erased from the story of American food.
 
Now, in The Rise, chef, author, and television star Marcus Samuelsson gathers together an unforgettable feast of food, culture, and history to highlight the diverse deliciousness of Black cooking today. Driven by a desire to fight against bias, reclaim Black culinary traditions, and energize a new generation of cooks, Marcus shares his own journey alongside 150 recipes in honor of dozens of top chefs, writers, and activists—with stories exploring their creativity and influence.
 
Black cooking has always been more than “soul food,” with flavors tracing to the African continent, to the Caribbean, all over the United States, and beyond. Featuring a mix of everyday food and celebration cooking, this book also includes an introduction to the pantry of the African diaspora, alongside recipes such as:
 

  • Chilled corn and tomato soup in honor of chef Mashama Bailey
  • Grilled short ribs with a piri-piri marinade and saffron tapioca pudding in homage to authors Michael Twitty and Jessica B. Harris
  • Crab curry with yams and mustard greens for Nyesha Arrington 
  • Spiced catfish with pumpkin leche de tigre to celebrate Edouardo Jordan
  • Island jollof rice with a shout-out to Eric Adjepong
  • Steak frites with plantain chips and green vinaigrette in tribute to Eric Gestel
  • Tigernut custard tart with cinnamon poached pears in praise of Toni Tipton-Martin

 
A stunning work of breadth and beauty, The Rise is more than a cookbook. It’s the celebration of a movement.

So You Want to Talk About Race Book CoverSo You Want to Talk About Race
by Ijeoma Oluo

In this New York Times bestseller, Ijeoma Oluo offers a hard-hitting but user-friendly examination of race in America.

Widespread reporting on aspects of white supremacy — from police brutality to the mass incarceration of Black Americans — has put a media spotlight on racism in our society. Still, it is a difficult subject to talk about. How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair — and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend?

White Fragility Book CoverWhite Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
by Robin DiAngelo (Author)
Michael Eric Dyson (Foreword)

The New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.

In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful crossracial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.

L. Glenn Poppleton

Recommended by Trustee L. Glenn Poppleton 

Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

#1 New York Times bestseller • National Book Award winner • Named one of Time’s Ten Best Nonfiction • Books of the Decade • Pulitzer Prize finalist • National Book Critics Circle Award finalist • Named one of the Most Influential Books of the Decade by CNN • Named one of Paste’s Best Memoirs of the Decade

Named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, O: The Oprah Magazine, The Washington Post, People, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, New York Newsday, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly

Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading”, a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race” (Rolling Stone).

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.

How to Be an Antiracist
by Ibram X. Kendi

“The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it — and then dismantle it,” writes professor Ibram X. Kendi. That is the essence of antiracism: the action that must follow both emotional and intellectual awareness of racism. Kendi sits down with journalist Jemele Hill to explore what an antiracist society might look like, how we can play an active role in building it, and what being an antiracist in your own context might mean.

‘Could hardly be more relevant … it feels like a light switch being flicked on’ OWEN JONES

Not being racist is not enough. We have to be antiracist.

In this rousing and deeply empathetic book, Ibram X. Kendi, founding director of the Antiracism Research and Policy Center, shows that when it comes to racism, neutrality is not an option: until we become part of the solution, we can only be part of the problem. Using his extraordinary gifts as a teacher and story-teller, Kendi helps us recognise that everyone is, at times, complicit in racism whether they realise it or not, and by describing with moving humility his own journey from racism to antiracism, he shows us how instead to be a force for good. Along the way, Kendi punctures all the myths and taboos that so often cloud our understanding, from arguments about what race is and whether racial differences exist to the complications that arise when race intersects with ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality.

I Know This to be True Book CoverI Know This to Be True: Bryan Stevenson
by Geoff Blackwell

The I Know This to Be True series is a collection of extraordinary figures from diverse backgrounds answering the same questions, as well as sharing their compelling stories, guiding ideals, and insightful wisdom.

Bryan Stevenson has committed his career to fighting wrongful convictions, systemic poverty, and mass incarceration—here, he shares the lessons he’s learned throughout his life.

Just Mercy Book CoverJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
• NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING MICHAEL B. JORDAN AND JAMIE FOXX •

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.

“[Bryan Stevenson’s] dedication to fighting for justice and equality has inspired me and many others and made a lasting impact on our country.”—John Legend

The New Jim Crow Book CoverThe New Jim Crow
by Michelle Alexander

Seldom does a book have the impact of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Since it was first published in 2010, it has been cited in judicial decisions and has been adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads; it helped inspire the creation of the Marshall Project and the new $100 million Art for Justice Fund; it has been the winner of numerous prizes, including the prestigious NAACP Image Award; and it has spent nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times best seller list.

Most important of all, it has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists and organizations motivated by Michelle Alexander’s unforgettable argument that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it”. As the Birmingham News proclaimed, it is “undoubtedly the most important book published in this century about the U.S.”

Now, 10 years after it was first published, The New Press is proud to issue a 10th-anniversary edition with a new preface by Michelle Alexander that discusses the impact the book has had and the state of the criminal justice reform movement today.

Stamped from the Beginning Book CoverStamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
by Ibram X. Kendi

The National Book Award winning history of how racist ideas were created, spread, and deeply rooted in American society.

Some Americans insist that we’re living in a post-racial society. But racist thought is not just alive and well in America–it is more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues, racist ideas have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit.

In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. He uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to drive this history: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis.

As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation’s racial inequities.

Holly Strickland

Recommended by Trustee Holly Strickland

Jesus and the Disinherited Book Cover Jesus and the Disinherited
by Howard Thurman

In this classic theological treatise, the acclaimed theologian and religious leader Howard Thurman (1900-1981) demonstrates how the gospel may be read as a manual of resistance for the poor and disenfranchised. Jesus is a partner in the pain of the oppressed and the example of His life offers a solution to ending the descent into moral nihilism. Hatred does not empower–it decays. Only through self-love and love of one another can God’s justice prevail.

The Little Book of Racial Healing Book CoverThe Little Book of Racial Healing: Coming to the Table for Truth-Telling, Liberation, and Transformation
by Thomas Norman DeWolf

This book introduces Coming to the Table’s approach to a continuously evolving set of purposeful theories, ideas, experiments, guidelines, and intentions, all dedicated to facilitating racial healing and transformation.

People of color, relative to white people, fall on the negative side of virtually all measurable social indicators. The “living wound” is seen in the significant disparities in average household wealth, unemployment and poverty rates, infant mortality rates, access to healthcare and life expectancy, education, housing, and treatment within, and by, the criminal justice system.

Coming to the Table (CTTT) was born in 2006 when two dozen descendants from both sides of the system of enslavement gathered together at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), in collaboration with the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding (CJP). Stories were shared and friendships began. The participants began to envision a more connected and truthful world that would address the unresolved and persistent effects of the historic institution of slavery. This Little Book shares Coming to the Table’s vision for the United States—a vision of a just and truthful society that acknowledges and seeks to heal from the racial wounds of the past. Readers will learn practical skills for better listening; discover tips for building authentic, accountable relationships; and will find specific and varied ideas for taking action.

Long Time Coming Book CoverLong Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America
by Michael Eric Dyson

AN INSTANT NATIONAL BESTSELLER and NAACP IMAGE AWARD NOMINEE

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tears We Cannot Stop, a passionate call to America to finally reckon with race and start the journey to redemption.

“Powerfully illuminating, heart-wrenching, and enlightening.” -Ibram X. Kendi, bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist

“Crushingly powerful, Long Time Coming is an unfiltered Marlboro of black pain.” –Isabel Wilkerson, bestselling author of Caste

“Formidable, compelling…has much to offer on our nation’s crucial need for racial reckoning and the way forward.” -Bryan Stevenson, bestselling author of Just Mercy

The night of May 25, 2020 changed America. George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed during an arrest in Minneapolis when a white cop suffocated him. The video of that night’s events went viral, sparking the largest protests in the nation’s history and the sort of social unrest we have not seen since the sixties. While Floyd’s death was certainly the catalyst, (heightened by the fact that it occurred during a pandemic whose victims were disproportionately of color) it was in truth the fuse that lit an ever-filling powder keg.

Long Time Coming grapples with the cultural and social forces that have shaped our nation in the brutal crucible of race. In five beautifully argued chapters―each addressed to a black martyr from Breonna Taylor to Rev. Clementa Pinckney―Dyson traces the genealogy of anti-blackness from the slave ship to the street corner where Floyd lost his life―and where America gained its will to confront the ugly truth of systemic racism. Ending with a poignant plea for hope, Dyson’s exciting new book points the way to social redemption. Long Time Coming is a necessary guide to help America finally reckon with race.

Lynched Book CoverLynched: The Power of Memory in a Culture of Terror
by Angela D. Sims

Lynched chronicles the history and aftermath of lynching in America. By rooting her work in oral histories, Angela D. Sims gives voice to the memories of African American elders who remember lynching not only as individual acts but as a culture of violence, domination, and fear.
 
Lynched preserves memory even while it provides an analysis of the meaning of those memories. Sims examines the relationship between lynching and the interconnected realities of race, gender, class, and other social fragmentations that ultimately shape a person’s—and a community’s—religious self-understanding. Through this understanding, she explores how the narrators reconcile their personal and communal memory of lynching with their lived Christian experience. Moreover, Sims unearths the community’s truth that this is sometimes a story of words and at other times a story of silence. 
 
Revealing the bond between memory and moral formation, Sims discovers the courage and hope inherent in the power of recall. By tending to the words of these witnesses,  Lynched exposes not only a culture of fear and violence but the practice of story and memory, as well as the narrative of hope within a renewed possibility for justice.

Rediscipling the White Church: From Cheap Diversity to True Solidarity
by David W. Swanson (Author)
Brenda Salter McNeil (Foreword)

“Many white Christians across America are waking up to the fact that something is seriously wrong―but often this is where we get stuck.” Confronted by the deep-rooted racial injustice in our society, many white Christians instinctively scramble to add diversity to their churches and ministries. But is diversity really the answer to the widespread racial dysfunction we see in the church? In this simple but powerful book, Pastor David Swanson contends that discipleship, not diversity, lies at the heart of our white churches’ racial brokenness. Before white churches can pursue diversity, he argues, we must first take steps to address the faulty discipleship that has led to our segregation in the first place. Drawing on the work of philosopher James K. A. Smith and others, Swanson proposes that we rethink our churches’ habits, or liturgies, and imagine together holistic, communal discipleship practices that can reform us as members of Christ’s diverse body.

The Third Option Book Cover The Third Option: Hope for a Racially Divided Nation
by Miles McPherson (Author)
Drew Brees (Foreword)

Miles McPherson, founder of The Rock Church in San Diego, presents “a discussion about race that we desperately need…a must read” (Bishop T.D. Jakes, Senior Pastor, The Potters House) and argues that we must learn to see people not by the color of their skin, but as God sees them—humans created in the image of God.

Pastor Miles McPherson, senior pastor of The Rock Church in San Diego, addresses racial division, a topic many have shied away from, for fear of asking the wrong question or saying the wrong thing. Some are oblivious to the impact racism has, while others pretend it doesn’t exist.

Even the church has been affected by racial division, with Sunday now being the most segregated day of each week. Christians, who are called to love and honor their neighbors, have fallen into culture’s trap by siding with one group against another: us vs. them. Cops vs. protestors. Blacks vs. whites. Racists vs. the “woke.” The lure of choosing one option over another threatens God’s plan for unity among His people.

Instead of going along with the culture, Pastor Miles directs us to choose the Third Option: honoring the priceless value of God’s image in every person we meet. He exposes common misconceptions that keep people from engaging with those of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, and identifies the privileges and pitfalls that we all face.

The Third Option challenges us to fully embrace God’s creativity and beauty, as expressed in the diversity of His people. By following the steps and praying the prayers outlined in his book, Pastor Miles teaches us how we can all become leaders in unifying our communities, our churches, and the nation.

 

Recommended by Trustee Alan Winston

Caste Book CoverCaste: The Origins of Our Discontents
by Isabel Wilkerson

The Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Warmth of Other Sunsexamines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions….

In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.

The Color of Law Book CoverThe Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
by Richard Rothstein

This “powerful and disturbing history” exposes how American governments deliberately imposed racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide (New York Times Book Review).

Widely heralded as a “masterful” (Washington Post) and “essential” (Slate) history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law offers “the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation” (William Julius Wilson). Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation; and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods. A groundbreaking, “virtually indispensable” study that has already transformed our understanding of twentieth-century urban history (Chicago Daily Observer), The Color of Law forces us to face the obligation to remedy our unconstitutional past.

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