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It's the Little Things: Everyday Interactions That Anger, Annoy, and Divide the Races

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  214 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
New York Times veteran Lena Williams candidly explores the everyday occurrences that strain racial relations, reaching a conclusion that "no one could disagree with" (The New York Times Book Review)

Although we no longer live in a legally segregated society, the division between blacks and whites never seems to go away. We work together, go to school together, and live near
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Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 7th 2002 by Mariner Books (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

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Wealhtheow
Jul 15, 2008 Wealhtheow rated it really liked it
Recommended to Wealhtheow by: Shinynickel
Shelves: sociology, race
After decades of reporting for the Times, Lena Williams has written an insightful, broad, and personal book about the interactions between white Americans and black Americans that seem minor but stem from larger current issues or bloodier past events. Told largely through anecdotes, with the occasional history lesson or sweeping generalization.

This book is fascinating, not least because it makes it cleaer that there is no One Right Answer to any race-related problem. Williams rightly bemoans the
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Shinynickel
Jun 06, 2008 Shinynickel rated it it was amazing
In some ways, the things this book is about 'don't matter' - they are little things, not jobs or marriages or homes. But in other ways, these are incredibly important - they are the actions and interactions that, through their accretion, can make up the better part of everyday fabric of relations between the races.

The book also illustrates how each of the seemingly small things is an artifact of past injustices or racist contexts. Like the tip of iceberg, each small thing has grown from a darke
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Katherine
Jun 19, 2014 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book on the spur of the moment at a used bookstore. Many months later, in need of something engaging but light to read, I picked it up. It's the Little Things purports to be an intimate look at how white people and black people in the United States perceive each other—and, so often, rub each another the wrong way—in everyday social interactions. And while race relations in this country could hardly be considered a light topic, something about the way the book was packaged, from the ...more
Marguerite
May 20, 2008 Marguerite rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to get along
This is a worthy book, if only to start a conversation that needs to happen. But, Williams' generalizations -- admittedly good book copy -- are not necessarily good journalism/good reporting:

"Whites can't bear to look us in the eye without feeling guilty." (27) Sorry, but this doesn't apply. Does this mean I'm not really white? Or, am I amoral?

"Each time a white American places a piece of African art in his or her home, he or she is showing an appreciation for African/black culture." (73) As a
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Ellyn
Feb 11, 2009 Ellyn rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008
I had mixed feelings about this book. I read reviews suggesting that it should have had a different title, and I sort of agree, because all but one chapter is written from the black perspective. It's all anecdotal, and the author makes what appear to be some pretty big leaps and assumptions and generalizations. That being said, I found it to be a valuable book, and I'm glad that I read it. Race is such a hard topic to talk about, and this book gave me some good things to think about and some goo ...more
Rob
Aug 30, 2016 Rob rated it really liked it
Very hard for me to digest as a white male in his 40's.
Sedge 李
May 24, 2008 Sedge 李 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one who wants to learn abything about race.
Shelves: nonfiction, sociology
It's been a while since I read this book, but every time I think about it, my opinion of it drops even lower. I'd call it the worst book on race relations that I've ever read, were it actually a book an race relations and not, in fact, a collection of blog-quality rants about things that bother the author and her friends/family.

My favorite part was when it was decided that an influx of Eastern European immigrants was the result of the American government "importing" white people.
Autumn Ware
Mar 18, 2015 Autumn Ware rated it really liked it
A colleague loaned me his copy of this book, and I was halfway done by the end of the day. I found the book to be eye-opening and compelling. On the one hand, I want to think: We're all much more alike than different. However, that's completely dismissing hundreds of years of history and assumes that systematic discrimination isn't going to have much of an impact on one group of people or another.

It's the Little Things is based on dozens of forums between racially diverse groups sharing issues
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Ezekiel
Jul 24, 2015 Ezekiel rated it liked it
Content Note for this book: racist violence discussed

As far as books on this topic from 2000 go this is pretty good. I can imagine using many parts of this for a course/workshop. I appreciate that she didn't try to make everything even handed (as white people it's our job to recognize and acknowledge that after hundreds of years of discriminating against PoC it isn't an "even" situation where the "little things" are evenly balanced where every micro-aggression has an equal and opposite micro-agg
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Tracey
Mar 26, 2016 Tracey rated it liked it
Shelves: society
Informative book, makes one think, and just reinforces me to just not talk about this topic. Right now I feel the need to apologize to several people. (Oh, the one factoid I did get from this book that I am willing to mention is this: asking someone what high school they went to IS NOT JUST a ST LOUIS thing!)

We have a long way to go, America.
Chrissy
Jun 21, 2007 Chrissy rated it liked it
I first read this book when I moved to Tennessee, which is about 5-6 years ago.

Since I didn't grow up in a predominantly black environment, this book has been eye opening. It helps me to better understand the divide (and misunderstandings) between the races.
Madigan McGillicuddy
Jan 01, 2013 Madigan McGillicuddy rated it it was ok
An interesting take on race relations. The book was published in 2000, but most of the pop culture references and anecdotes are from the 90's. I hope that a lot of what Williams describes reflects the fact that she comes from an older generation - she's at least 10 years older than my parents. It's a pretty long list, which can be summed up as, "you know what really grinds my gears?"

Some of it was enlightening. Her personal pet peeve of white women who shake their hair definitely had me confused
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Shannon
I agree with what another reviewer said - there were some pretty broad generalizations made that I don't find to be true for me or most white Americans I know (e.g. that we don't look black people in the eyes because we feel guilt over historical injustices).

One part really had me shaking my head, though it was a quote of Camille Cosby - where she said that her son's murderer, an immigrant from Ukraine, must have learned his hatred of black people from America because he couldn't possibly have
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Skybo
I had ample warning from Amazon that I might be angered, that the author was expressing her views and her version of Black views more than anything else, and I was ok with that. Some of her points were surprising- who knew a white woman flipping her hair could trigger so much anger and hurt? Some were frustrating- white people are seen as either ignoring and devaluing black culture, or appropriating it. There's no middle, healing ground. I came away thinking two things need to happen to heal the ...more
Jodi
Although at the time I read this book, the subtitle was "The Everyday Interactions That Get Under the Skin of Black and Whites", the essence of the book remains the same. As a white woman, I considered myself to be well-educated about African-Americans and our relationships until I read this book. I could definitely identify with some of the issues the author described, but others were a complete surprise to me. What I liked the most, however, was that she presented these in a non-judgmental way ...more
Joyce
Feb 24, 2016 Joyce rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is what happens when you purchase a topical, nonfiction book at the time it comes out and then don't read it for 16 or so years. It appears a quite a bit dated. Sadly, however, there are many things that haven't changed.
Sammy skidmore
I read this book for black history month and i really liekd it. Its about how the the interactions of black and white people get under both races skin everyday. It talked about the little things that you wouldnt neccasariy think are offensive. I learned that sometimes its considered rude for a white person to run their hands though their hair infront of a black person. I would never have learned about that if i hadnt read this book. You should definitly read this if you want to become a more rac ...more
Krys
Overall, this book presents one view point. while valid because it is one persons point of view there are many things that white people just can't control. She presented an example of a white women swishing their hair or running their fingers through their hair in and elevator. She presented this as an example of how white people simply irritate and annoy black people. The whole book seemed to be filled with this.

I hoped to read this and gain a new understanding, a way to help make things bette
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Heather
Jul 15, 2007 Heather rated it liked it
How can one write a book that discusses racial divisions that doesn't seem to be divisive? It was challenging for me to read many parts of this book as the author commented on things that I do to further racial divisions (e.g. by wearing sweatpants to the grocery, I'm showing off that I am privileged enough to not have to care about what I look like in public....???), but then again, I'm in the majority, so what do I know? Even to me (a pretty liberal liberal), it seemed a little oversensitive, ...more
Anna
May 29, 2009 Anna rated it really liked it
38. 5/10/09: It's the Little Things: Everyday Interactions that Anger, Annoy, and Divide the Races by Lena Williams. I'm not sure yet what I think of this book. Usually I like to read books about race written by people of color, but I'm not sure if it's the book itself or just my reaction to it that is off. I guess I felt like most of it was full of "duh" for me. And the parts about things black people do that annoy white people just seemed like it was full of generalizations. Still I can defini ...more
Jill
Jul 31, 2015 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, racism
Racial issues and relationships have been on my mind lately, so when I spotted this book I swooped it up. I learned a lot from New York Times reporter Lena William's book about "the little things" that cause daily stresses between blacks and whites. I had no idea that things like white women tossing their hair (not moving out of their face, but hair tossing like Glinda in Wicked) could cause such tension and resentment. I didn't agree with all of the author's opinions but was very impressed with ...more
Jan Haugland
Mar 09, 2016 Jan Haugland rated it liked it
This book lead to a good book club discussion.
Michelle
Jul 28, 2011 Michelle rated it it was ok
I agree with many of the other reviews... it wasn't terrible. But the title is misleading. The title makes it seem like there will be equal black and white commentary. However, the entire book is from black perspective and then the 1 chapter towards the end has the white perspective. Nothing wrong with writing it that way, but the title should be changed to show what the book is actually about.

However, it was interesting.
Katherine
Dec 11, 2008 Katherine rated it really liked it
When I picked up this book, I already agreed wholeheartedly with it. The title itself made me say YESYESYES. The book itself was a little bit disappointing though. Maybe it just didn't (couldn't?) live up to how much I felt it should make the point. I think the main point is very true, and she offers some good examples, but I had a few other issues with the book.
Noelle
Nov 08, 2009 Noelle rated it it was ok
WOW. This one's a doozy. I actually found myself getting mad while reading this. I guess the simplest way to state it is to say that: (1) I think the author's life experiences have made her bitter; and (2) I wonder how relevant this book is to blacks or whites in the 15-40 age group and those who did not experience segregation...
Carolyn
Well written and thought out treatment of a sensitive subject. Considering what is happening in today's political landscape it is a subject that needs to be, I want to say revisited, but I don't think that the coversation on race has taken place. Notice, conversation, not speech, not onesided comments, but a true and open dialogue.
BJ
Jan 31, 2010 BJ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Being a lover of fiction, my shelf isn't overflowing with nonfiction books. This is one of only two books that I purchased immediately after hearing the author on a talk show. I was that impressed with the author and the subject matter.

This book is full of "who knew?" "Aha!" and "I never thought about that" moments.
Linus
Aug 09, 2008 Linus rated it it was amazing
Not a scientific look into the reasons why little things (behaviours, culture, etc.) divide the races but little day-to-day vignettes of activities that highlight the differences and misunderstandings between them.

It's a fairly quick read. For whites, it may challenge how we truly are.
Mopo
Oct 29, 2014 Mopo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The honest book about whites and blacks nowadays in USA. For many things written in this book I have asked my black american friends if it's true and they have always confirmed and so did my white american friends. Surprising facts about the race and how in america still exist two worlds.
Lupe
Aug 27, 2011 Lupe rated it liked it
This was interesting concept but I learned more from my own friends after I told them I was reading this book. There are lots of stereotypes. Bottom line - if you want to know more about your friends, ask them. I suppose it's a good conversation starter...
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