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Peabody Award–winning journalist Michele Norris offers a transformative dialogue on race and identity in America, unearthed through her decade-long work at The Race Card Project.
The prompt seemed simple: Race. Your Thoughts. Six Words. Please Send.
The answers, though, have been challenging and complicated. In the twelve years since award-winning journalist Michele Norris first posed that question, over half a million people have submitted their stories to The Race Card Project inbox. The stories are shocking in their depth and candor, spanning the full spectrum of race, ethnicity, identity, and class. Even at just six words, the micro-essays can pack quite a punch, revealing, fear, pain, triumph, and sometimes humor. Responses such as: You’re Pretty for a Black girl. White privilege, enjoy it, earned it. Lady, I don’t want your purse. My ancestors massacred Indians near here. Urban living has made me racist. I’m only Asian when it’s convenient.
Many go even further than just six words, submitting backstories, photos, and heirlooms: a collection much like a scrapbook of American candor you rarely get to see. Our Hidden Conversationsis a unique compilation of stories, richly reported essays, and photographs providing a window into America during a tumultuous era. This powerful book offers an honest, if sometimes uncomfortable, conversation about race and identity, permitting us to eavesdrop on deep-seated thoughts, private discussions, and long submerged memories.
The breadth of this work came as a surprise to Norris. For most of the twelve years she has collected these stories, many were submitted by white respondents. This unexpected panorama provides a rare 360-degree view of how Americans see themselves and one another.
Our Hidden Conversations reminds us that even during times of great division, honesty, grace, and a willing ear can provide a bridge toward empathy and maybe even understanding.
About the Author
Michele Norris is one of America’s most trusted voices in journalism, earning several honors over a long career, including Peabody, Emmy, Dupont, and Goldsmith awards. She is a columnist for The Washington Post Opinion Section, the host of the Audible Original Podcast, Your Mama’s Kitchen, and from and from 2002 to 2012 she was a cohost of NPR’s All Things Considered. Norris is also the founding director of The Race Card Project, a Peabody Award–winning narrative archive where people around the world share their reflections on identity—in just six words. Her first book, The Grace of Silence, was named one of the best books of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Kansas City Star. Before joining NPR, Norris spent almost ten years as a reporter for ABC News covering politics, policy, and the dynamics of social change. Early in her career, she also worked as a staff writer for The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times.
“A remarkable book. By letting Americans of every walk of life share their deepest, most personal—and sometimes contradictory—attitudes on race, it takes us past the usual polarizing debates and points us toward the possibility of greater understanding." — Barack Obama, on X
“A testament to that journey. Featuring photos and stories on race from people all over America, it highlights the truths of the American experience — and shares everything, even the messy bits. It's an incredible read." — Michelle Obama, on Instagram
“A stunning book and a gift to our nation. Anchored by more than a decade of research and engagement with Americans across the country, Michele Norris takes us on a journey into the heart of this country’s painful, complex and unrelenting battle with the salience and significance of race in our lives.” — Sherrilyn Ifill, Howard Law School, and former President & Director-Counsel NAACP Legal Defense Fund
“An important, compelling work. In an extremely unique way, Norris captures private, poignant and instructive stories that are a guide to racial knowledge that can lead to the understanding and healing we so desperately need. Ultimately, she shows that we need not fear the issues we must all confront.” — Eric H. Holder, Jr., 82nd Attorney General of the United States and author of Our Unfinished March
“When ordinary people, talk, extraordinary truths are revealed. Michele Norris has an extraordinary gift – she is able to coax people into revealing their profound beliefs about race. This book is a safe space where difficult conversations become healing exchanges.” — Tayari Jones, New York Times bestselling author of An American Marriage
"The brilliant Michele Norris has spent fourteen years getting people to open up about race — starting with six words. The result of her noble project is this beautiful and inspiring book. It can help us all cultivate communities of bridge builders so that we can talk about race with both candor and love.” — Walter Isaacson, New York Times bestselling author of The Code Breaker
“Candid, unsettling and brilliant, the Race Card Project is a rare window into the enigma of race and the ways in which people make sense of it. In Our Hidden Conversations, Michele Norris has brought together a vista of personal truths that are as indelible as the issue they’re responding to.” — Jelani Cobb, Dean, Columbia Journalism School
"Michele Norris is one of our most important chroniclers of American life. The stories captured in this book reveal the complexity, nuance, and dynamism of race in America. It is an indispensable resource for all of us.” —Clint Smith, New York Times bestselling Author of How The Word is Passed
“As an immigrant, I always dreamed of an America where all are welcome. I still do. That dream is powerful, but we know it’s not the whole story. Michele Norris has the rare courage, understanding and grace to tell the American stories we prefer to keep silent — and the ones we should be proud of telling." — José Andrés, chef and humanitarian
“Our Hidden Conversations is a unique, troubling, tough and beautiful book, a study of people sharing their thoughts and stories about racism. It sometimes broke my heart, other times surprised me, always challenged me, and ultimately left me uplifted, and with hope, because truth heals." — Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird
“Notable… Norris offers crucial insight into how Americans think about race, combining the painful with the inspiring.” — Kirkus Reviews
"This is an eye-opening read and an affecting examination of how race affects our lives.” — Booklist Review