Author Visit, Open to the Public, is Culminating Event in Library’s First Racial Justice All-Staff Read

May 17, 2023

Berkeley, California (May 17, 2023) – Join library staff in welcoming New York Times bestselling author of The Sum Of Us, Heather McGhee, on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 at 6pm. Due to seating capacity limitations, the program is being moved from a Library branch to the Northbrae Community Church located at 947 The Alameda. Reserve free tickets via the Library’s event calendar.

McGhee will be in conversation with Savala Nolan, Executive Director of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at UC Berkeley School of Law. A Q&A with McGhee and Nolan will conclude the program.

In addition to attending the author event, library patrons can join the BPL Book Club for a discussion of The Sum Of Us on Tuesday, May 30 at 2pm via zoom.

Hailed as “illuminating and hopeful,” The Sum Of Us spent ten weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, was longlisted for the National Book Award and the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, and was named one of the Washington Post and TIME’s Must-Read Books of 2021. It was adapted into a Spotify podcast series, produced by Michelle and Barack Obama’s production company. The Chicago Tribune called it “required reading to move the country forward.”

The Sum Of Us was chosen by the Library’s internal Racial Justice Advisory Group as the first in a series of “all staff racial justice reads.” Library staff came together over three months to read and discuss the book as part of ongoing internal equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives happening within the Library.

“The conversations were incredibly rich,” notes Aimee Reeder, a member of the organizing staff team, “staff could place their own family’s history within the pages of McGhee’s books and speak frankly with one another about this as well as about how staff can individually and collectively work in the Library towards an anti-racist Berkeley.”

picture of author and book jacket

Teen librarians collaborated with Berkeley High School and the Berkeley Technology Academy to make The Sum Of Us an “all teen read.” The Library provided free copies of McGhee’s book for their teen student book clubs. Participating teens have the opportunity to meet with McGhee.

“Seeing the teens engaged with and excited about the book is more evidence that this generation is not afraid to question the status quo and bring new ideas to the conversation,” notes Robyn Brown, teen librarian and member of the organizing staff team. “The book evoked many interesting, challenging, and thoughtful discussions and we are so very excited to have the author here to help keep the conversations with our staff and community going.”

The next Library “all staff read” begins in August and will be offered as a book club selection for patrons as well. The staff group choose Just Action: How to Challenge Segregation Enacted Under the Color of Law (release date is June 1) by Richard & Leah Rothstein. The culminating authors visit – open to all – will take place on November 7.

For questions about additional Library events, services, hours and locations, please call (510) 981-6100 or visit

Thank you to the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library who provided free copies of the book to staff, teens and book club patrons.

Thank you to the Pace Fund for the generous support that funds this author event.