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Eight Books That Foster Empathy and Broaden Perspectives

foster empathy

Empathy cultivates inclusion — and reading is one way to foster empathy. As illustrator and author Chris Riddell once said, “Reading allows us to see and understand the world through the eyes of others.”

A few members of Domtar’s Diversity & Inclusion Council and subcommittees recently shared their list of books that broaden perspectives and foster empathy and diversity.

The Remix — How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace

by Lindsey Pollak

Pollak outlines the ways businesses, executives, mid-level managers, employees and entrepreneurs can tackle situations that may arise when diverse styles clash and provides clear strategies to turn generational diversity into business opportunity. (

Lynda Ramsey, Vice President, Commercial Operations and Chair of the Domtar D&I Council, recommends this book, saying, “For the first time in history, at least four generations are in the workforce. Each generation has its behaviors, expectations and styles related to business. This book offers strategies based on data, research and case studies that help enable an inclusive work environment for everyone.”

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story

by Nikole Hannah-Jones

The New York Times Magazine’s award-winning “1619 Project” issue reframed our understanding of American history by placing slavery and its continuing legacy at the center of our national narrative. This new book substantially expands on that work, weaving together eighteen essays that explore the legacy of slavery in present-day America with thirty-six poems and works of fiction that illuminate key moments of oppression, struggle and resistance. The essays show how the inheritance of 1619 reaches into every part of contemporary American society, from politics, music, diet, traffic and citizenship to capitalism, religion and our democracy itself. (

Erinn McCullough, Manager, Packaging Business Analytics and Member of the Domtar D&I Council, suggested this title. “Written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, it speaks to the American experience, social justice and the contributions of Black America,” she says.

Finding Me: A Memoir

by Viola Davis

Finding Me is Viola Davis’ story, in her own words, and spans her incredible, inspiring life, from her coming-of-age in Rhode Island to her present day. Hers is a story of overcoming, a true hero’s journey. Deeply personal, brutally honest and riveting, Finding Me is a timeless and spellbinding memoir that will capture hearts and minds around the globe. (

Erinn McCullough recommended this book, saying, “This is a memoir of her life in America and how she and her sisters found a pathway of reclamation through literature. She is the winner of an Academy Award, an Emmy Award and two Tony Awards, and in 2021 she won a Screen Actors Guild award.”

Humanity Over Comfort: How You Confront Systemic Racism Head On

by Sharone Brinkley-Parker, Tracey L. Durant, Kendra V. Johnson, Kandice Taylor, Johari Toe and Lisa Williams

In schools, non-profits and various business sectors, conversations about race and institutional racism are becoming increasingly common. However, most of these conversations are performative and do little to disrupt the status quo. The authors of Humanity Over Comfort aim to move beyond the transactional response of using only conversations to respond to structural inequalities. Alternatively, the authors advance tools that promote transformational change that eliminates the access and opportunity gaps for Black and Brown individuals. (

This book is recommended by Anthony Curry, Production Planner and member of the D&I Sub-Committee for Communications, who says, “We must have knowledge and understanding on how to systematically confront systemic racism. This book tells all, and helps you create your own system to conquer racism in the workplace, the marketplace and wherever you are.”


What Happened To You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing

by Oprah Winfrey and Bruce D. Perry, MD and Ph.D.

Have you ever wondered “Why did I do that?” or “Why can’t I just control my behavior?” Others may judge our reactions and think, “What’s wrong with that person?” When questioning our emotions, it’s easy to place the blame on ourselves; holding ourselves and those around us to an impossible standard. It’s time we started asking a different question.

Through deeply personal conversations, Oprah Winfrey and renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry offer a groundbreaking and profound shift from asking “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” (

Anthony Curry recommended this book. “One key takeaway in regards to diversity is the importance of understanding that we all have faced difficulty in life at some point — understanding that life hasn’t been easy for everyone, possibly even yourself,” he says. “Sometimes we are who we are because of the traumas we’ve faced in life. What’s even more powerful is that we don’t just stop at our traumas, but we get to experience healing and resilience from what we’ve been through. This book focuses on trauma, healing and resilience. It’s a subtle but profound shift in our approach to traumas that we face in life, and it’s one that allows us to understand our pasts in order to clear a path to our future.”

The White Devil’s Daughters: The Women Who Fought Slavery in San Francisco’s Chinatown

by Julia Flynn Siler

During the first hundred years of Chinese immigration — from 1848 to 1943— San Francisco was home to a shockingly extensive underground slave trade in Asian women, who were exploited as prostitutes and indentured servants. In this gripping, necessary book, bestselling author Julia Flynn Siler shines a light on this little-known chapter in our history — and gives us a vivid portrait of the safe house to which enslaved women escaped. (

Kristy Roberts, Sales Service Representative and member of the D&I Sub-Committee for Communications, recommended this book. “I did not know that Chinese people were also enslaved in America until I read this book,” she says.

Between the World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. (

This book was recommended by Lauren Hultz, Senior Advisor, Communications and member of the D&I Sub-Committee for Communications, who says, “This is a powerful — and short — book that changed my perspective on the Black experience in America. Coates wrote this initially as a personal letter to his teenaged son. It is a must-read.”


The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, caught in the tragic sweep of history. The Kite Runner transports readers to Afghanistan at a tense and crucial moment of change and destruction. A powerful story of friendship, it is also about the power of reading, the price of betrayal and the possibility of redemption, and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons — their love, their sacrifices, their lies. (

Lauren Hultz says, “If I were asked what book(s) have left the deepest impression upon me, it would be this one and its sequel, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns.’ I first read ‘The Kite Runner’ nearly 20 years ago in the early stages of the war in Afghanistan. This incredible novel of friendship, war and Afghan culture humanized the conflict for me, thousands of miles away, and has stuck with me.”

What books have helped you foster empathy and shaped your perspectives? Share your recommendations with us on social media.