Women’s History Month: Four Authors Who Have Inspired My Work

March 20, 2021

In my career as an anti-bias educator and author focused on religion and ethnicity, these four women authors and scholars (and many more not listed here!) have influenced my work. These authors’ work was especially useful as I was writing my most recent book, “White Christian Privilege.” Because I know three of these four women personally, and it makes it extra special to share these books with you.

“Antisemitism: Here and Now” by Deborah E. Lipstadt

I have the privilege of calling Deborah Lipstadt a mentor since graduate school at Emory University. In our contemporary work on religious discrimination, we cannot overlook the ongoing scourge of antisemitism. Deborah writes: “We must forthrightly acknowledge those on the right who say they are merely trying to protect ‘European culture’ as the antisemites and racists that they are. It was not by chance that those who gathered in Charlottesville in 2017 to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee also chanted ‘Jews will not replace us.’”

“Immigrants, Evangelicals, and Politics in an Era of Demographic Change” by Janelle S. Wong

Janelle is one kick-ass political scientist. A huge swath of White Christian America perceives the presence of religious diversity, particularly in public and civic life, as a threat to its existence. Janelle’s research has shown that almost 80% of White evangelicals believe that “discrimination against Christians is now as big a problem as discrimination against other groups in America.” Her book is essential reading to unpack this fallacy.

“Virtual Orientalism: Asian Religions and American Popular Culture” by Jane Iwamura

I owe so much to Jane. Her book is a needed cultural critique that has impacted the way I think and teach about cultural appropriation. She reminds us that “the change in Americans’ perceptions of Asian religions from ‘heathen’ cultures to romanticized traditions should not necessarily be taken as a sign of social progress.” The use of the Buddha as home decor or Hindu gods and goddesses on candles doesn’t mean we’re getting closer to cultural understanding and respect -- in some ways, it means the opposite.

“Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom” by bell hooks

When I first read this essential bell hooks text, it really opened my eyes to what education can be and what it should be. So much of how I teach has come from Teaching to Transgress, and in turn it helped me write White Christian Privilege with a focus on my book as a teaching text. hooks’ work not only inspires my pedagogy, but my writing about pedagogy.

Take a moment this Women’s History Month -- or whenever you have the chance -- to enjoy and learn from these books.

Until next month, Khyati