The BU Center for Antiracist Research is hosting a book festival. What you need to know.

“Our authors are taking a broader view of racism that goes beyond just the individual and interpersonal to the systemic and the institutional.”

Cheryl Gates, of Mattapan, browses in the children's book section at Frugal Bookstore. Erin Clark/Boston Globe

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Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research is hosting the 2nd annual National Antiracist Book Festival on Saturday, and the event has a lineup of authors that isn’t to be missed. 

The festival, which is being held virtually from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., will feature panels by dozens of authors, as well as workshops for emerging writers led by book editors and literary agents. 

The event was started by writer and scholar Ibram X. Kendi while he was working at American University in Washington, D.C., but he brought the vision for the festival with him when he started the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University last summer. The second iteration of the festival was initially supposed to take place in 2020, but was postponed by the coronavirus pandemic. 


Jemar Tisby, assistant director of narrative and advocacy at the Center for Antiracist Research, told that in building the panel lineup, he and his colleagues wanted to bring in authors who had written insightful work on antiracism, “broadly conceived.” As a result, participating authors have written about everything from immigration to racism in real estate, and the event features writers of both fiction and nonfiction. 

The goal was to have an event that would be a destination for anyone who wants to know more about antiracism, particularly through the written word, he said.

“At the center, we often talk about changing the narrative around racism from asking what is wrong with people to asking what is wrong with policy,” Tisby said. “So in light of that, the authors we have assembled for the Antiracist Book Festival are able to navigate both of those dynamics. That yes, there are prejudiced people in the world who act in racist ways. But beyond the individual attitudes and behaviors of specific people, that there are systems and institutions and practices that need to be changed … So in general, our authors are taking a broader view of racism that goes beyond just the individual and interpersonal to the systemic and the institutional.”


Dozens of panels are scheduled throughout the day, each focused on a particular topic and featuring two authors and a moderator. 

The subjects range from “On Mothers and Daughters” (which will feature Celeste Ng, the Cambridge-based author of “Little Fires Everywhere,” and Sarah Broom, author of the acclaimed memoir “The Yellow House”) to “On Indigenous Peoples History” to “On Love and Hate” to “On Racial Capitalism.”

“We wanted to get as close as possible to capturing the range of discourse around antiracism today,” Tisby said. “Now, it’s an impossible task because there’s so much to talk about. But we wanted this book festival to be a place where anyone, no matter what your specific area of interest, could find a panel that would have helpful information.”

To attend the festival, participants can buy an all-access pass ($250) or purchase tickets for individual panels ($10). All proceeds from the event go towards supporting the Center for Antiracist Research.

Ticket sales close at 4 p.m. on Thursday. 

The Center is partnering with dozens of BIPOC-owned bookstores — shops run by individuals who identify as Black, Indigenous, or a person of color. Tisby said purchasing books through the partnering shops is another way attendees can support antiracism.


Boston’s Frugal Bookstore is among the booksellers participating from across the country.

Tisby said the festival is an opportunity for people to become engaged in “the civil rights movement of our day.”

“Antiracism is always relevant but we are in an especially pivotal time in our nation as we are still reflecting on the historic racial justice uprisings of 2020, as we are in the midst of the trial of Derek Chauvin, as we have observed yet another incident of an unarmed Back man getting killed in Daunte Wright,” he said last week. “So these conversations are happening now, they’re relevant, and these authors have really helpful things to say.”

If you are unable attend the virtual festival, you can still read the works by the participating authors. Below, 60 antiracist titles to pick up by the writers participating in the event. 



Picture Books

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