“One of the most important books on race in recent memory.” ~ Readers + Writers Journal

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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 also explain why and how I’ve changed the way I talk about racism, work in racially mixed groups, and understand the racial justice movement as a whole. Exercises at the end of each chapter prompt readers to explore their own racialized ideas. Waking Up White‘s personal narrative is designed to work well as a rapid read, a book group book, or support reading for courses exploring racial and cultural issues. 

Available at Your Local BookstoreAmazon.comBarnesandNoble.com, and libraries.

50% of profits go to charities addressing issues of racial inequity.

Peer 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, author, Rebuild The DreamThe Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems; President, Rebuild The Dream; Co-host, CNN Crossfire

“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, author, The Storyteller,  My Sister’s Keeper, The Pact

“Deborah 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., Associate Director, Wellesley Centers for Women; Founder and Senior Associate, National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity)

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, author, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

“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, Retired Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Washington, DC

“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, author, Recipes for a Sacred Life: True Stories and a Few Miracles

“Deborah 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, Deborah’s journey from an ‘ah-ha’ instant to consciousness is a journey for all Americans.” – Thomas Shapiro, author, The Hidden Cost of Being African AmericanDirector, Institute on Assets and Social Policy

“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, Thought Leadership and Practice Specialist,  Race Forward

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., PhD, Founder, White Privilege Conference

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, Executive Director, City of Cambridge Peace Commission

“The first thing Debby Irving got right in her quest to ‘wake up’ was to understand that until she deeply understood racism as a system and herself as a racialized participant in it, she couldn’t do much to be a change agent. Her ability to unravel the way oppression and privilege operated in her own life kept me turning the pages, wowed by her willingness to share her deepest revelations. The insights this book delivers make it a valuable resource for anyone interested in looking at the dynamics of racism and privilege. Even as an antiracism educator and activist for decades, I found myself understanding old issues in a new light. It’s an outstanding piece of work about whiteness and internalized privilege.” – Paul Marcus, Executive Director, Community Change, Inc.

“Where has this book been? It’s so valuable to people of all colors. Everyday I share with people the importance of reading it!” – Karla Nicholson, Executive Director, 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, Director of Diversity, Mass Legal Services

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, Executive Director, Cambridge Kids’ Council

For Educators  Could Waking Up White be the missing tool in your toolbox? Read more.

The Team  Don’t let the self in ‘self-publishing’ fool you. Waking Up White was a team effort! Read more.


  1. […] I also connected with my new friend, Debby Irving, a racial justice educator, and author of Waking Up White, who is deeply invested in looking at how white privilege and systems of institutionalized racism […]

  2. […] both slender figures, with generous, true smiles. Debby shared about her forthcoming book, Waking Up White, which deals with her journey to understand how her own socialization as a white person kept her […]

  3. […] Waking up White and finding myself in the story of race by Debby Irving […]

  4. […] As author, anti-racist activist and my professional colleague Debby Irving wrote in her book “Waking Up White”, it was when she went to graduate school in her late-40s and was asked to consider her own racial […]

  5. […] event my church hosted was a book discussion with the author Debby Irving who wrote the book, Waking Up White. She gave a presentation about the main points in her book, and the one that resonated with me was […]

  6. […] many in our community in an examination of white privilege and race issues. The book is called Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving. The author, who is white, describes the book this […]

  7. […] last year’s Challenge I read Debbie Irving’s book Waking Up White, which offered a foundational course in understanding how the world I see from my white experience […]

  8. […] from a White woman who could explain it better than I, consider reading Deborah Irving’s Waking Up White. It is an eye opening read when we consider that White people are truly raised differently from us […]

  9. […] weekend, my Presbytery shared this book with all our commissioners in hopes that people will read it and talk about it and be […]

  10. […] to gather in a few months.  For now, here’s your first assignment: Debby Irving’s book, “Waking Up White: and Finding Myself in the Story of Race.”  Debby Irving calls the Jewish community a vital partner in values-driven anti-racism work, for […]

  11. […] and activists: Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehesi Coates, Beverly Daniel Tatum, Melissa Harris-Perry, Debby Irving, Peggy McIntosh, Shelly Tochluk. I met with women of color who graciously overlooked my ignorance […]

  12. […] and activists: Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehesi Coates, Beverly Daniel Tatum, Melissa Harris-Perry, Debby Irving, Peggy McIntosh, Shelly Tochluk. I met with women of color who graciously overlooked my ignorance […]

  13. […] and activists: Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehesi Coates, Beverly Daniel Tatum, Melissa Harris-Perry, Debby Irving, Peggy McIntosh, Shelly Tochluk. I met with women of color who graciously overlooked my ignorance […]

  14. […] we have been educating ourselves over the last couple of years. Starting with Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debby Irving, which is a personal memoir of a typically liberal teacher who learned how much […]

  15. […] have also awakened to the horrible reality that racism is still real and while I am glad they are waking up white (so to speak; I recommend you read the book for context),  I am also pissed off that it took our […]

  16. […] and activists: Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehesi Coates, Beverly Daniel Tatum, Melissa Harris-Perry, Debby Irving, Peggy McIntosh, Shelly Tochluk. I met with women of color who graciously overlooked my ignorance […]

  17. […] am a little less ignorant about systemic racism after reading Waking Up White – the book Denise Anderson and I are asking everybody in our denomination to read.  Before […]

  18. […] Co-Moderators of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are inviting everyone to read the book, Waking up White this year and to engage in study.  They even made you a free book study! Get a group together […]

  19. […] inequality receive 50% of the book profits. For more information about the book, go to this link. There will be a discussion group held at Westminster Place beginning on February 22nd. It will be […]

  20. […] first time I read Waking Up White, I was shocked  to hear – for the first time – that the GI Bill was not made available […]

  21. […] group where white members may read and discuss books examining the reality of white privilege. Waking Up White by Debby Irving is a good place to […]

  22. […] I delve into chapter two of Waking up White, and explore the values I absorbed growing up. If you’re interested in reading from the […]

  23. […] helped uncover that, especially on top of reading Waking up White and Between the World and […]

  24. […] helped uncover that, especially on top of reading Waking up White and Between the World and […]

  25. […] take a look at Debby Irving’s book Waking up White for yourself. To start at the beginning of my waking journey, click here. And please check out […]

  26. […] you’re curious to read more, please get a copy of Waking up White by Debby Irving. You can also start my series from the beginning, or read posts from my friends: […]

  27. […] Speed-reading my way through Waking Up White (and Finding Myself in the Story of Race). […]

  28. […] to wake up to the realities of white supremacy. Unlike Debby Irving, who wrote the book Waking Up White, my experience is that awakening as an on-going process, a series of […]

  29. […] intersection of individual and institutional racism. She publishes a website with many resources at DebbyIrving.com, including a 21-day racial equity habit building […]

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