Santa Monica Reads Heather McGhee

May 1, 2023 4:15 PM

The Santa Monica Public Library joins the City of Santa Monica, Santa Monica College, and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District for a special community-wide reading of Heather McGhee’s book The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.

Heather McGhee’s 2022 book illustrates how racism is harmful to everyone and makes the argument that we all have an interest in fighting it. McGhee, formerly the head of the Demos advocacy group and now the chair of the Color of Change, developed the book from her 2020 TED Talk “Racism has a Cost for Everyone.” It has also been published in a young readers’ edition and adapted into a podcast produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s company, Higher Ground. When people unite across racial and ethnic lines, McGhee argues, there’s a solidarity dividend that helps everyone.

Santa Monica Reads, one of the longest running community-wide reading programs of its kind in the United States, provides an opportunity for people to engage, read, and discuss the same book at community-wide programs and discussions.

Free copies for adults and young readers are available to those planning to participate in the Santa Monica Reads programs. Pick up a copy at the Main Library, and the Pico and Montana Ave. Branch locations beginning Monday, May 1 while supplies last. Print and electronic copies are also available to borrow from the library.

Santa Monica Reads is proudly sponsored by the Friends of the Santa Monica Public Library. To become a Friend of the Library, visit

May is packed with provocative programs related to The Sum of Us. Santa Monica College’s 2023 Spring Symposium brings these special programs including a keynote address by Heather McGhee to the community:

·       How We Build Power: Linking Race and Class
Monday, May 15 at 7 p.m.
SMC Student Services Center Orientation Hall, SSC 183

·       Putting White Interests on Trial: Derrick Bell’s The Space Traders Thought Experiment
Tuesday, May 16 at 7 p.m.
SMC Student Services Center Orientation Hall, SSC 183

·       Why Can’t We Have Nice Things? A Student Panel on Race, Class & Solidarity
Wednesday, May 17 at 7 p.m.
SMC Student Services Center Orientation Hall, SSC 183

·       From Me to We: Building Cross-Racial Solidarity for a Better Democracy
Thursday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m.
John Adams Middle School (JAMS), Auditorium

Heather McGhee, author of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone
and How We Can Prosper Together
, will be giving a keynote address as
part of SMC’s Public Policy Institute’s annual symposium.


Santa Monica Reads book discussions are hosted by trained discussion facilitators. Discussion participants are encouraged to share their thoughts about The Sum of Us and its themes or are welcome to simply listen and learn more about the book.   

·       Community Book Discussion: For Young Readers
Thursday, May 25 at 4:30 p.m. | Pico Branch Library, Annex

·       Community Book Discussion: For Adults
Tuesday, May 30 at 6 p.m. | Zoom
Register for the discussion:

For more information about these free, public programs call Santa Monica Public Library at (310) 458-8600 or visit For a full list of free Library programs, resources, locations, and hours, please visit our website at We look forward to seeing you at the Santa Monica Public Library.


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Media Contact

Jennifer Ullrich
Librarian II