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#FergusonReads Explores Race, History In St. Louis

To try to understand what led to the turmoil in Ferguson, the staff of Left Bank Books turned to what they know best: Books.

“To show up and protest and show some support in the community at the time is one thing, and that is a really important first step, is to show your face — show up,” said Jarek Steele, co-owner of Left Bank Books. “But an equally important second step is to find out how to continue the discussion after the news media leaves and after the protests.”

To encourage discussion, Steele said Left Bank Books’ staff wanted to curate a list “that would speak to race relations in this area in particular.” After a friend posted a list online, Steele said he decided that list should be a community curation project and discussion; #FergusonReads was born.

Community suggestions poured in, and most were “very productive and communicative books; we found them very helpful,” said WintayeGebru, Left Bank Books’ store manager. “A lot of them were about incidents or written by people in the area, so a lot of them are local.”

Steele said the list focuses on books, poems, movies and articles that provide context. The staff also has contributed to the list; Gebru added “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander.

“When I first started working at Left Bank Books, I made it my first staff pick just because I felt that people in the community really needed to read this — everyone needed to read this,” she said.

That book will be the subject of Left Bank Books’ first #FergusonReads reading group Sept. 25. “We thought we shouldn’t just be reading these books, we should be talking about them,” Gebru said.

Other staff picks include “Boy Snow Bird” by Helen Oyeyemi; “Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It” by Lisa Bloom; and “The Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces” by Radley Balko. See the complete list on Left Bank Books’ website.

To add to the list, send an email to info@left-bank.com, or send a tweet to @leftbankbooks with the hashtag #FergusonReads.

Related Event

#FergusonReads Reading Group
7 p.m. Sept. 25
Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis

Cityscape is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.