Waking Up White book cover

Waking Up White is the book I wish someone had handed me decades ago. My hope is that by sharing my sometimes cringe-worthy struggle to understand racism and racial tensions, I offer a fresh perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners, and tolerance. As I unpack my own long-held beliefs about colorblindness, being a good person, and wanting to help people of color, I reveal how each of these well-intentioned mindsets actually perpetuated my ill-conceived ideas about race.

I hope it will give you or someone you know new insights into how racism works and why you (or white people you know) can get so anxious when it comes to talking about race and racism. Writing the book was not only my way to reach out to other white people confused and/or curious about racism, it was like writing a five-year-long journal entry in an effort to make sense of all I learned and experienced in my research.
Happy reading

—Debby

50% of profits go to organizations and individuals addressing issues of racial inequity

Where to find Waking Up White:

waking up

white

AND FINDING MYSELF IN THE STORY OF RACE

Reviews

“Debby Irving’s powerful Waking Up White opens a rare window on how white Americans are socialized. Irving’s focus on the mechanics of racism operating in just one life — her own — may lead white readers to reconsider the roots of their own perspectives — and their role in dismantling old myths. Readers of color will no doubt find the view through Irving’s window fascinating, and telling.” —Van Jones, CNN, the Van Jones Show

“…a remarkable and, at times, emotionally searing look at one white woman’s struggle to understand racism. It is part memoir and part guide to changing how we think about race…one of the most important books on race in recent memory.” E.T. Carlton, Readers + Writers Journal

“Confession: I’m not finished with the book. But dammit I couldn’t wait to tell you about it. I have probably underlined more in this book than I have in my bible.” Sili Recio, My Mamihood

“There are really so many quotes I could pull from this book; I was dog-earing pages and highlighting passages from beginning to end. Extremely well-written, thought-provoking, and eye-opening, I want all of my white friends to read it” Lisa Morguess, Turn The Page Lisa

“Where has this book been? It’s so valuable to people of all colors. Every day I share with people the importance of reading it!” – Karla Nicholson, Haymarket People’s Fund

“The honesty, clarity, and bravery with which Debby Irving shares her story is commendable, and will undoubtedly move the conversation forward in a positive way. I will use excerpts of this book in my Anti-Racism trainings as a source I can completely trust. – Joyce Allen-Beckford, Mass Legal Services

“Waking Up White is a wake-up call for white people who want to consciously contribute to racial justice rather than unconsciously perpetuate patterns of racism. With honesty and humility, Debby Irving shares her own story of transformation—a journey of opening herself to learning about the realities of racism and the unintended impacts of white privilege. By confronting her own fears and mistakes, she gleans many useful lessons and tips that can help move others from confusion and avoidance to constructive engagement, authentic connection, and courageous action.” – Terry Keleher, Race Forward

“A beautiful, powerful, achingly honest book … even just reading the foreword, I was touched and had an aha moment of realizing my own inbred racism. This is a very brave book to have written. I hope and believe that it will be a meaningful step forward in healing race relations. Thank you for stepping out so bravely and compassionately.” – Rivvy Neshama, Recipes for a Sacred Life: True Stories and a Few Miracles

“With eloquence and a sense of urgency, Irving takes us on a journey into the heart of what is arguably the American issue….Waking Up White is a provocative, persuasive call to action. Readers may squirm at some of its arguments, but they will find themselves thinking hard about them. And they will take them to heart.” Dan Laskin, Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin

“Debbie Irving bravely describes her jolting and continuing journey from white oblivion to white awareness in an honest way that may inspire others to do such transformational work on themselves. She has courage in tracing many cultural and class assumptions that kept her for decades in a fog of racial denial and white dominance. This empathetic book can help white readers to dissipate the imprisoning white ignorance that we did not ask for but that has damaged our world and ourselves.” – Peggy McIntosh, Ph.D., Wellesley Centers for Women; National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum

“I read Waking Up White in one sitting. To say I loved it is an understatement. It’s such a raw, honest portrait …. Irving’s experience on display – warts and all – will help white people, who haven’t noticed the role systemic privilege has played in their lives, start to see the world in a new way.” – Jodi Picoult, Small Great Things

“Debby Irving’s Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race is a courageous, insightful, and critical contribution to awareness of race in the United States. A virtual one-woman Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Debby’s journey from an ‘ah-ha’ instant to consciousness is a journey for all Americans.” – Thomas Shapiro, Institute on Assets and Social Policy

Waking Up White is engaging, challenging, and action-oriented! It’s a must-read for anyone exploring issues of racism, power, privilege, and leadership.” – Eddie Moore, Jr., Ph.D., White Privilege Conference

Waking Up White certainly helped me wake up even though I thought I was already awake.  It is a wonderful blend of a profoundly personal story intertwined with important research and history.  Debby Irving has given me the courage to stand up, take action, and have conversations that are really difficult but need to happen.  Thank you for sharing your journey with such incredible honesty and integrity.” – Nancy Tauber, Cambridge Kids’ Council

Waking up White is a brutally honest, unflinching exploration of race and personal identity, told with heart by a truly gifted storyteller. Much as Irving’s family sought to shield her from the contours of the nation’s racial drama, so too do far too many white Americans continue to do the same. For their sakes, and ours, let’s hope Irving’s words spark even more truth-telling. They certainly have the power to do so.” – Tim Wise, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

Waking Up White is the only book I’ve ever read that weaves together one person’s experience of class and race in this society in a way that is engaging and thought-provoking, yet at the same time challenging and accessible. Irving’s book is a unique contribution to the emerging dialogue around the intersection of class and race in our society. It shines a light on how privilege is not only unseen, but is actively hidden away by the conventions and patterns of so-called “middle-class respectability.” – Brian Corr, City of Cambridge Peace Commission

“Irving’s personal and moving tale takes us on an adventure to a world utterly new to her as she wakes up to the reality of how, without her knowledge or active pursuit, she lives in a society which is set up to reward her at the expense of people of color. I cannot imagine a more understandable and compelling invitation to learn about how racism lives on in our homes, communities, and nation.” – Bishop Gene Robinson, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Washington, DC

Reviews

“Debby Irving’s powerful Waking Up White opens a rare window on how white Americans are socialized. Irving’s focus on the mechanics of racism operating in just one life — her own — may lead white readers to reconsider the roots of their own perspectives — and their role in dismantling old myths. Readers of color will no doubt find the view through Irving’s window fascinating, and telling.” —Van Jones, CNN, the Van Jones Show

Waking Up White is engaging, challenging, and action-oriented! It’s a must-read for anyone exploring issues of racism, power, privilege, and leadership.” – Eddie Moore, Jr., Ph.D., White Privilege Conference

“Debbie Irving bravely describes her jolting and continuing journey from white oblivion to white awareness in an honest way that may inspire others to do such transformational work on themselves. She has courage in tracing many cultural and class assumptions that kept her for decades in a fog of racial denial and white dominance. This empathetic book can help white readers to dissipate the imprisoning white ignorance that we did not ask for but that has damaged our world and ourselves.” – Peggy McIntosh, Ph.D., Wellesley Centers for Women; National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum

“Irving’s personal and moving tale takes us on an adventure to a world utterly new to her as she wakes up to the reality of how, without her knowledge or active pursuit, she lives in a society which is set up to reward her at the expense of people of color. I cannot imagine a more understandable and compelling invitation to learn about how racism lives on in our homes, communities, and nation.” – Bishop Gene Robinson, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Washington, DC

“I read Waking Up White in one sitting. To say I loved it is an understatement. It’s such a raw, honest portrait …. Irving’s experience on display – warts and all – will help white people, who haven’t noticed the role systemic privilege has played in their lives, start to see the world in a new way.” – Jodi Picoult, Small Great Things

Waking Up White certainly helped me wake up even though I thought I was already awake.  It is a wonderful blend of a profoundly personal story intertwined with important research and history.  Debby Irving has given me the courage to stand up, take action, and have conversations that are really difficult but need to happen.  Thank you for sharing your journey with such incredible honesty and integrity.” – Nancy Tauber, Cambridge Kids’ Council

Waking up White is a brutally honest, unflinching exploration of race and personal identity, told with heart by a truly gifted storyteller. Much as Irving’s family sought to shield her from the contours of the nation’s racial drama, so too do far too many white Americans continue to do the same. For their sakes, and ours, let’s hope Irving’s words spark even more truth-telling. They certainly have the power to do so.” – Tim Wise, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

“…a remarkable and, at times, emotionally searing look at one white woman’s struggle to understand racism. It is part memoir and part guide to changing how we think about race…one of the most important books on race in recent memory.” E.T. Carlton, Readers + Writers Journal

“Debby Irving’s Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race is a courageous, insightful, and critical contribution to awareness of race in the United States. A virtual one-woman Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Debby’s journey from an ‘ah-ha’ instant to consciousness is a journey for all Americans.” – Thomas Shapiro, Institute on Assets and Social Policy

“Confession: I’m not finished with the book. But dammit I couldn’t wait to tell you about it. I have probably underlined more in this book than I have in my bible.” Sili Recio, My Mamihood

“There are really so many quotes I could pull from this book; I was dog-earing pages and highlighting passages from beginning to end. Extremely well-written, thought-provoking, and eye-opening, I want all of my white friends to read it” Lisa Morguess, Turn The Page Lisa

Waking Up White is the only book I’ve ever read that weaves together one person’s experience of class and race in this society in a way that is engaging and thought-provoking, yet at the same time challenging and accessible. Irving’s book is a unique contribution to the emerging dialogue around the intersection of class and race in our society. It shines a light on how privilege is not only unseen, but is actively hidden away by the conventions and patterns of so-called “middle-class respectability.” – Brian Corr, City of Cambridge Peace Commission

“Where has this book been? It’s so valuable to people of all colors. Every day I share with people the importance of reading it!” – Karla Nicholson, Haymarket People’s Fund

“Waking Up White is a wake-up call for white people who want to consciously contribute to racial justice rather than unconsciously perpetuate patterns of racism. With honesty and humility, Debby Irving shares her own story of transformation—a journey of opening herself to learning about the realities of racism and the unintended impacts of white privilege. By confronting her own fears and mistakes, she gleans many useful lessons and tips that can help move others from confusion and avoidance to constructive engagement, authentic connection, and courageous action.” – Terry Keleher, Race Forward

“A beautiful, powerful, achingly honest book … even just reading the foreword, I was touched and had an aha moment of realizing my own inbred racism. This is a very brave book to have written. I hope and believe that it will be a meaningful step forward in healing race relations. Thank you for stepping out so bravely and compassionately.” – Rivvy Neshama, Recipes for a Sacred Life: True Stories and a Few Miracles

“With eloquence and a sense of urgency, Irving takes us on a journey into the heart of what is arguably the American issue….Waking Up White is a provocative, persuasive call to action. Readers may squirm at some of its arguments, but they will find themselves thinking hard about them. And they will take them to heart.” Dan Laskin, Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin

“The honesty, clarity, and bravery with which Debby Irving shares her story is commendable, and will undoubtedly move the conversation forward in a positive way. I will use excerpts of this book in my Anti-Racism trainings as a source I can completely trust. – Joyce Allen-Beckford, Mass Legal Services