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Book Review: Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race

Written by Debby Irving and Reviewed by Polly Guequierre

Debby’s book is autobiographical and she begins by explaining her background in Upper Middle-class New England. It is also where her parents and grandparents were raised. Her history sets the stage for her knowledge of racism, or actually the lack of it. Born in 1960, she tells us that her parents protected her from the real world. She enjoyed being “exclusive”, as a WASP. As she awakens to the idea of racism, she says, “I’d long “othered” people of color, wanting to help them and fix them.” When she’s honest, she realizes that she bought into the myth of white supremacy. Her journey continues from there.

Debby is an engaging writer, and she incorporates questions at the end of each chapter to provoke thought. After 25 years of trying to encourage people of color to conform to her way of life, she says, “One of the great ironies in my quest to understand racism is that the very populations I once sought to help and fix are the ones from whom I'm discovering I have so much to learn.” Her book is an enjoyable one about a woman whose journey takes her from ignorance of racism to a greater understanding of it, and where she fits as a white woman.

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