Could Waking Up White Be The Missing Tool In Your Toolbox?



Dear Educators, 

Waking Up White works well as a staff or community read as well as a curriculum piece. Please be in touch if you'd like to learn more, or order directly from,, or Ingram Books

With great respect and appreciation for the work you do ~  




Educator Reviews

“Debby is a dynamic speaker and educator who engages large audiences and small groups. She is an expert of placing personal storytelling at the forefront of discussions, moving beyond the head to the heart in how we learn about and discuss race, racism and anti-racism. Debby, along with colleagues Norma Johnson and Lace Campbell, performed at a school-wide assembly, facilitated small-group discussions with students and led our faculty in dialogue about race.”

Emily Schorr Lesnick, Upper School Diversity Coordinator, Riverdale Country School

"Waking Up White is the text I've been waiting for, looking for.  I've taught 'multicultural texts' for years and  prodded students to identify, describe, and understand different viewpoints in their reading; we also try to identify and examine the lenses each of us brings to the table.  Irving's book helps them more naturally carry this academic learning into their own lives.  An engaging personal memoir, it invites students to identify with the author.   It gives them a model for interior awareness as well as a lens to begin looking at the acculturation of white people and of dominant groups: they begin to "get it" at a deeper level.   White students, students of color, American-born, and international students begin Finding THEMSELVES in the Story of Race." See letter from Lark.

Ms. Lark Hammond, Lamont Professor of English Emerita & Exeter Diversity Institute for Teachers, co-director, Phillips Exeter Academy 

"As [Irving] notes, it is disappointing that white voices are needed to validate the experiences of people of color, but the fact that Irving consistently echoes the findings of the academic writers in this column is important. So is her ability to capture the issues in pithy language that defies her childhood training to avoid all controversial subjects. I will not soon forget her description of white skin as "an epidermal gold card." In fact, one comment of hers will serve as my prime takeaway from this quarter's reading: "Wanting is not enough. Intent and skill are our swords and shields in the war to dismantle a system with a life of its own."

Richard Barbieri, Independent School Magazine


Features You and Your Students Will Enjoy

  • Memoir Format Compliments Academic Formats
  • Affordable at < $20
  • Chapters Work Well As Stand-Alone Assignments
  • End-of-Chapter Exercises Provide Built-In Curriculum

​Sample Chapters

COLORBLIND explores why colorblind is a modern version of denial and how it obstructed me from engaging in authentic cross-racial dialogue, healing, and equity.

WHITE SUPERIORITY explores the history of whiteness and how I internalized it so easily.

THE MELTING POT explores America’s longstanding position of assimilation and why it worked well for me in a way that made me judge those unable to go along to get along.

HEADWINDS AND TAILWINDS provides a step-by-step explanation of systemic racism and why the concept was so hard for me to grasp.

THE WHOLE STORY explores the impact of a one-sided narrative and follows my growing desire to pursue multiple narratives.

Sample End-of-Chapter Exercises

Q: What stereotypes about people of another race do you remember hearing and believing as a child? Were you ever encouraged to question stereotypes?

Q: What values and admonitions did you learn in your family? Think about education, work, lifestyle, money, expression of emotions, and so forth. Try making a list of ten principles, values, and unspoken beliefs. Siblings and cousins can be good resources for thinking about this. Now consider what conclusions you drew about people who did not appear to follow your family’s belief system.

Q: The late historian Ronald Takaki referred to the history taught in American schools as “The Master Narrative,” the version of history told by Americans of Anglo descent. Think about what you did not study. Did you learn about Lincoln’s views on enslaved black people? Anti-immigration laws of the nineteenth century? America’s laws regarding who could and could not gain citizenship? The Native Americans who had once lived on your town’s or school’s land?

Q: Have you ever uncovered a family secret or piece of information about a person or place that countered your previous perception? Once you learned the new information, were you able to look back and see clues that had been there all along but that you didn’t recognize as evidence of a narrative you didn’t yet know about?

Q: If both of your parents are white, imagine just one of them being a person of color. Rethink your life from birth to the present. How would your race have influenced your experiences and your outcomes?