Books: Non-Fiction

The Sum of Us: How Racism Hurts Everyone (Young Readers’ Edition)

Book — Non-fiction. By Heather McGhee. 2023. 240 pages.
This young readers’ edition analyzes racism in U.S. politics and policymaking, and provides a potential path forward through solidarity.

Time Periods: 20th Century, 1975, 21st Century
Themes: Economics, Organizing, Racism & Racial Identity

Person jumping off diving board

Heather McGhee, author of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, believes that all people, of all ages and all backgrounds, need to rethink their attitude toward race and strive together to create opportunities that benefit everyone.

This book, adapted for young readers, is a call to action. McGhee examines how damaging racism is, not only to people of color but also to white people. She offers hope and real solutions so we can all prosper. An expert in economic policy, McGhee draws lessons from her travels around the country talking to everyday people fighting for a more just and inclusive society.

The people she meets prove how the stories we tell ourselves about race and belonging influence the policies that determine our shared economic future. [Adapted from publisher’s description.]

ISBN: 9780593562628 | Delacorte Press


These Zinn Education Project lessons can help students explore issues in selected chapters from The Sum of Us. They are aligned to the topics and themes in the respective chapters. Share a story if you use any of them and we’ll send you books in appreciation.

Chapter 1: An Old Story: The Zero-Sum Hierarchy

The Color Line by Bill Bigelow

Chapter 2: Racism Drained the Pool

What Caused the Great Depression? The Widget Boom Game by Adam Sanchez

Who Made the New Deal? The Economic Recovery Conference Role Play by Adam Sanchez

Chapter 5: No One Fights Alone

It’s a Mystery — White Workers Against Black Workers by Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond

Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union: Black and White Unite? by Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond

Chapter 6: Never a Real Democracy

Teaching SNCC: The Organization at the Heart of the Civil Rights Revolution by Adam Sanchez

Who Gets to Vote? Teaching About the Struggle for Voting Rights in the United States by Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

Chapter 7: Living Apart

How Red Lines Built White Wealth: A Lesson on Housing Segregation in the 20th Century by Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

Chapter 8: The Same Sky

Teaching Climate Disobedience: Using the Film Necessity in the Classroom by Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

Teaching Sacrifice Zones by Rosemarie Frascella

The Red Dot of Environmental Racism by Alma Anderson McDonald

Water and Environmental Racism by Matt Reed and Ursula Wolfe-Rocca


Also check out an Educators Guide by Natalie Odom Pough, via Penguin Random House.

Classroom Story

My school has a Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) time every week. Having a classroom set of The Sum of Us has allowed me to share the story with the whole class. We are having open discussion on the real issues around racism. This book is giving us opportunities to talk about the real issues students are facing. The students were leery of the book at first but we are reading it in small increments and then having discussions about what we read. Many are starting to pay attention intently now and are being productive in the discussion, too.

—Doug Flitcroft
High School Social Studies Teacher, Silver Springs, New York

Share a story, question, or resource from your classroom.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *