Q: Many business professionals are reading books such as “How to Be an Antiracist” (by Ibram X. Kendi) and “White Fragility” (by Robin DiAngelo) to learn how to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. What literature do you recommend that depicts people’s firsthand experiences as they relate to business?
A: Here are reading recommendations from some St. Thomas professors.
Todd Lawrence, associate professor of English, whose research includes African American literature and culture, suggests Ann Petry’s classic, “The Street,” and the autobiographical “Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave.” “The Street” tells the story of a young, single, Black mother trying to achieve the American dream. Though she works hard and saves diligently, she is victimized by a hostile environment. The first half of Grimes’ autobiography is about his experiences as a slave. The second half shares his efforts to make a living as a barber in New Haven, Conn., after escaping slavery.
Christopher Michaelson, professor of business ethics whose research examines business through the arts and humanities, suggests “Severance” by Ling Ma. On the surface, it is the prescient but satirical story about a pandemic that shuts down the global economy. It also addresses the vulnerability of capitalism; the challenge of motivating workers without a meaningful purpose; and the generational clash about career choice between, in this case, Chinese immigrant parents and their children who were socialized in the United States.
Liz Wilkinson, associate professor of English, whose research includes Native American literature, suggests David Treuer’s “Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life.” Treuer leans on his abilities as a professor and a novelist to story-tell his readers into the world of his own reservation, Leech Lake, as well as others in Minnesota and nationwide. He includes the history of treaty making, explanations of U.S. laws that facilitated Indigenous land loss, and the story of Helen and Russell Bryan, a couple whose refusal to pay a sham tax bill for $29.85 created a legal path for on-reservation gambling: casinos.
Nicole Zwieg Daly is adjunct professor of business law and executive director of the Melrose and The Toro Company Center for Principled Leadership at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.