Press Release

Contact:  Martha Kiley



F O R   I M M E D I A T E   R E L E A S E



Author Debby Irving Offers Firsthand Insight to the

Everyday Perpetuation of Racial Inequality by Well-Intentioned White People.


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 Compulsively Readable, WAKING UP WHITE:  And Finding Myself In The Story Of Race,

Sheds Light on Why America’s Racial Divide Continues to Deepen.


Recent events have provoked outrage and confusion about America's ongoing racial tension. The deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray made visible ongoing racial trauma formerly unknown to most white Americans. Inflammatory words by Paula Deen, Ronald Sterling, and Cliven Bundy stirred debate about what makes for a racist. Attempts to make sense of these events often leads to increased misunderstanding. While mainstream media often brings a good/bad, black/white version of events involving individual actions, author Debby Irving encourages readers to bring more nuance, historical knowledge, and personal reflection to the issue.


Irving uses her own life to explore the everyday systemic racism that goes largely unnoticed yet perpetuates long-held racialized belief systems. Waking Up White functions as both a “Racism 101” for white people and a rare exposé on whiteness for people of color. By sharing her sometimes cringe-worthy struggle to understand racism and racial tensions, she offers a fresh perspective on bias, stereotypes, manners, and tolerance. As she unpacks her own long-held beliefs about colorblindness, being a good person, and wanting to help people of color, she reveals how each of these well-intentioned mindsets actually perpetuated her ill-conceived ideas about race. She also explains why and how she’s changed the way she talks about racism, works in racially mixed groups, and understands the racial justice movement as a whole. For white readers wanting to further their own awakening, Irving includes short prompts and exercises at the end of each chapter.


Irving’s story provides a context that allows white people to quickly grasp modern racism’s inner workings and enter into conversations with new awareness and skill. It’s the book Irving wishes someone had handed her decades ago. “When I finally came to understand the way racism worked,” she explains, “I spent a lot of time thinking about what might have enlightened me earlier. I decided it wouldn’t have been an academic book, an essay, or a book from the perspective of a person of color — it would have been another white person describing their own awakening, with some humor, poignancy, and drama in the mix. What I needed was a memoir so irresistible that I would have read it even if racism weren’t on my mind.”


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About The Author: Debby Irving is a racial justice educator and writer.  She lives in Cambridge, MA.  Read more at


Title: WAKING UP WHITE, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race

Author: Debby Irving

ISBN:  978-0-9913313-0-7

Price: $19.99  Trade Paperback

Pages:  273

Also available in E-book format



Reviews for Waking Up White


“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.”  Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin


 “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 Dream, The 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


"Irving’s book is an immensely brave and important cultural memoir. It is, as she writes, “my story of racial ignorance.” It tells of her life-long journey from childhood ignorance and confusion, to a patronizing desire to “help fix” things, to a deep, personal exploration of her role and the dominant (read: white) culture’s role in sustaining and perpetuating systematic racism. Her journey has brought her to earnest, insightful engagement – and to the writing of her book." Portland Press Herald


"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


“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


"Deborah Irving’s Waking Up White 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 American; Director, Institute on Assets and Social Policy


“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


 “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


“The book uses Irving's experience of being a white woman coming to terms with the complexity of racism in the United States and her own perceptions as a lens to explore the role white allies can play in racial justice work.” Kirkus Reviews, Interview Feature Article