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02nd December 2020 Costi Levy (2019, Philosophy and Spanish)

Exeter launches BAME book collection to create conversation and awareness about racism and anti-racism

Costi Levy reports on a new collection of books for Exeter College Library.

Part of the book collection

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May, and the events that followed, highlighted the need for education and conversations about race and equality. Students across Oxford considered what measures the University could take to achieve this, and one suggestion was for Colleges to create a literary fund for a BAME book collection. ‘People at Oxford are clearly very intellectually curious’, says Exeter College BME officer Jamie Titus-Glover, commenting on why organising literary funds is an attainable and effective idea. A JCR motion for an Exeter literary fund was quickly passed up to Exeter’s governing body, who were supportive of the project and granted a generous annual sum to fund the purchase of books for the collection.

The Exeter College BAME book collection was created by Exeter librarian Joanna Bowring and Jamie Titus-Glover, using recommendations from students and a reading list produced by the Bodleian Library. Their aim was to create a varied collection, featuring both fiction and non-fiction books, which tell stories of race from the UK, America, and across the world. The purpose of the collection, Joanna Bowing notes, is to ‘promote awareness of and deepen knowledge around the Black Lives Matter Movement, the importance of Black lives, and the history of racism and anti-racism both in the UK and the wider world’.

In order to increase readership, the books will eventually be placed amongst other library books in the appropriate subject section area. They will be distinguished by a gold star on the spine and a bookplate inside the cover. Favourites of Joanna’s amongst the collection include: Black Victorians/Black Victoriana by Gretchen Gerzina, which ‘writes the stories of lives that have been largely left out of the history books until now’, and Natives by Akala, which reflects on institutionalised racism, inequality, and poverty. ‘It’s a blend of biography and polemic, and it’s uncomfortable reading. I think everyone should read this book!’, Joanna says.

The collection will be updated frequently, as conversations about race continue to evolve. ‘Sparking conversations can’t be seen as the end point, but very much the start point’, Jamie notes, but the power of literature to speak to people is, undoubtedly, ‘sky-high’.

Books are being gathered at the moment, and the collection will launch officially next term. To see a list of the books in the collection already click here.

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