Deeper Than Our Skins: The Present Is a Conversation with the Past

Created by Maria Sachiko Cecire, Associate Professor of Literature, Bard College, in collaboration with Wini Ashooh, Central Rappahannock Regional Library System; Edith Campbell, Cunningham Memorial Library at Indiana State University; and Vanessa "Chacha" Centeno, Sacramento Public Library.

Timeline for 2023-2024 Grantees

Applications accepted online via ALA Apply: January 18 – March 15, 2023
Grant notification: May 1, 2023
Virtual Workshops for grantees: July 2023 (exact dates TBD)
Online pre-program report (PDF preview) due via ALA Apply: August 1, 2023
Programming Term: August 1, 2023 – May 31, 2024
Online final report (PDF preview coming soon) due via ALA Apply: June 28, 2024, or within 30 days of final program

About the theme

"The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” Barack Obama used these words in 2008 to argue that we can only truly understand—and begin to overcome— the bitterness of modern race relations through a brave and accurate accounting of history. Obama’s line borrows from one that appears in a book by Southern author William Faulkner. In other words, he turned to literature as a source of wisdom about the difficult subject of race in America, and built on what he found there to imagine new pathways towards justice, healing, and unity.

Similarly, the “Deeper Than Our Skins” theme is grounded in literature that can help us look beneath the surface of racism in America to reveal how the past is alive in the present. This theme uses powerful stories of oppression, resistance, suffering, and triumph to identify the roots of racialized experience in the United States, and to inspire discussions about how to construct more equitable futures for the people in our country and world. Continue reading about this theme.

Reading List

  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
  • Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
  • The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Sonny Liew
  • Mother of the Sea by Zetta Elliott
  • Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. by Luis J. Rodriguez

Programming Materials

Promotional Materials

See Also

The "Deeper than Our Skins" theme was part of the Great Stories Club series on Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation originally created with funding received from the Kellogg Foundation. Visit the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Great Stories Club page for more information about the TRHT iteration of the project.