Recommended Summer Reading

Submitted by shawreb on

Last updated July 28, 2022.

Looking for something to read this summer? Faculty and staff at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music are sharing their suggestions for writings centered on issues of equity, decolonization, and/or anti-racism. Bookmark this page and check back regularly for updates. 

Have a suggestion that you don't see below? Contact Rebecca Shaw (

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The Race of sound : listening, timbre, and vocality in African American music / Nina Sun Eidsheim (2019)

Book cover for the Race of Sound"Absolute MUST READ for all humans but especially for singers and those who train them."

"Outlining how the voice is linked to ideas of racial essentialism and authenticity, Eidsheim untangles the relationship between race, gender, vocal technique, and timbre while addressing an undertheorized space of racial and ethnic performance." [dust jacket]

Suggested by: Shannon Coates

Availability: eBook through UTL

Race and gender in the Western Music History survey : a teacher's guide / Horace J. Maxile, Jr., Kristen M. Turner (2022)

Book cover of Race and Gender in the Western Music History Survey"Race and Gender in the Western Music History Survey: A Teacher’s Guide provides concrete information and approaches that will help instructors include women and people of color in the typical music history survey course and the foundational music theory classes. This book provides a reconceptualization of the principles that shape the decisions instructors should make when crafting the syllabus. It offers new perspectives on canonical composers and pieces that take into account musical, cultural, and social contexts where women and people of color are present. Secondly, it suggests new topics of study and pieces by composers whose work fits into a more inclusive narrative of music history. A thematic approach parallels the traditional chronological sequencing in Western music history classes. Three themes include people and communities that suffer from various kinds of exclusion: Locales & Locations; Forms & Factions; Responses & Reception. Each theme is designed to uncover a different cultural facet that is often minimized in traditional music history classrooms but which, if explored, lead to topics in which other perspectives and people can be included organically in the curriculum, while not excluding canonical composers." [abstract from publisher's website]

Recommended by: Jan Guise

Availability: eBook through UTL

First Peoples in Canada / Alan D. McMillan and Eldon Yellowhorn (2004)

Front cover of First Peoples in CanadaLong considered a standard text in colleges and universities, this book provides a detailed history and context "for the evolving relationship between Canada and the Aboriginal communities within its borders." Questions of identity and terminology are addressed in a journey from the Pleistocene era through to the modern day. The monolithic idea of "Aboriginal Peoples" is broken down into a series of interwoven regional histories. I found this to be a very readable and welcoming introduction, full of insights and "ah-ha!" moments.

Recommended by: Paul Guise

Availability: multiple print copies available at UTL

Secrets of the sprakkar : Iceland's extraordinary women and how they are changing the world  / Eliza Reid (2022)

Book cover of the Secrets of the sprakkar"Eliza Reid is the Canadian born First Lady of Iceland. This book explores her relationship to her adopted home and her role as First Lady, and what she has learned about the history of gender equality in Iceland."

Suggested by: Jan Guise

Availability: print book through UTL

Hungry listening: resonant theory for Indigenous sound studies / Dylan Robinson (2020)

Book cover for Hungry Listening

"This highly theoretical work of ethnomusicology is a reclamation of Indigenous ceremonial and artistic practice arguing that the inclusion and appropriation of Indigenous performers in classical music traditions only enriches the settler nation-state. Robinson gives shape to Western musical and aesthetic practices as well as to Indigenous listening practices in order to eschew traditional (Western) forms of musical analysis. Instead, the work argues that new modes of listening and studying reception, emerging out of critical Indigenous studies, are essential to understanding Indigenous musical expression in ways that do not reify the power of the settler state." [provided by the publisher]

Availability: eBook and print book at UTL

The Creative habit : learn it and use it for life : a practical guide / Twyla Tharp (2006)

Book cover for The Creative Habit"An inspiring book on creativity and how crafting your own practice is vitally important to success."

Suggested by: Wendy Nielsen

Availability: print book at UTL

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"New music decolonization in eight difficult steps" / George E. Lewis

Adapted from a talk at the symposium "Curating Diversity: Decolonizing Contemporary Music" by "Sounds Now" (September 25, 2020).

Suggested by: Ellie M. Hisama

Availability: freely available online

"The 5 Rs of cultural humility: a conceptual model for health care leaders / Dea Robinson, Christie Masters, and Aziz Ansari (2021)

"Even though this is geared to health care, the concepts apply to other organizations. It is fresh and timely to read."

[from the introduction] "Unconscious biases can have significantly negative consequences at all levels within health care organizations. Biased communication is a barrier to patient care, and unchecked biased physician–patient communications negatively affect health outcomes. Moreover, unexamined biased communication from leaders normalizes biased behavior adopted by those they lead. This accepted behavior becomes embedded in cultural norms and has contributed to historical barriers in care, especially for marginalized populations. Leaders must be intentional about communication that promotes social relationship stability and includes a lens of leadership humility."

Suggested by: Amy Clements-Cortes

Availability: The American Journal of Medicine, vol. 134, no. 2, p. 161-163. Available online through UTL.

"Singing against the grain: playing Beethoven in the #BlackLivesMatter era" / Kira Thurman (2018)

Suggested by: Caryl Clark

Availability: The Point, iss. 17 (September 29, 2018). Available online.

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Online resources

Pedagogical resources for antiracist teaching / Columbia University Department of Music

"The purpose of the Columbia University Music Department Antiracist Pedagogy Resource Page is to provide teachers of undergraduate courses about Western music with a starting point for applying equity-based antiracist approaches and perspectives in the classroom in an accessible and adaptable format. This resource is intended for incorporation into existing courses and in the development of new courses...." [from the Statement of Purpose]

Suggested by: Ellie M. Hisama

Availability: freely available online

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Bring Backs / Alfa Mist (2021)

CD Cover of Bring Backs"It's a great recording.  A London based jazz musician of Ugandan decent.  His piano playing is engaging and the hip hop and R&B elements are a good example of the exciting Jazz scene in London."

Suggested by: James Mason

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The Marrow thieves (2017) and Empire of wild (2020) / Cherie Dimaline

Book cover of The Marrow Thieves"Cherie Dimaline is an author from the Georgian Bay Métis Nation. These are two of my favourite novels of hers"

Suggested by: Jan Guise

Availability: The Marrow Thieves as a print book at UTL ; Empire of Wild as a print book at UTL

Dear committee members / Julie Schumacher (2014)

Book cover of Dear committee members"This is a hilarious and poignant look at the politics of academia and the value of an arts education, written as a series of letters from a frustrated department head of English."

Suggested by: Jan Guise

Availability: print book at UTL

The violin conspiracy / Brendan Slocumb (2022)

Book cover of The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb"On the eve of entering the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, the black US violinist Ray McMillan has his Stradivarius violin stolen. Brendan Slocumb has fashioned a superlative debut novel that is part detective story and part Bildungsroman about what it takes to become a black classical musician. Overcoming gut wrenching incidents of racism and discrimination, McMillan perseveres to make it to the top of his profession in this inspiring, eye-opening, compelling novel. The Author's Note at the end of the book powerfully articulates how the novel is based on the author's own experiences as a black violinist and music educator. You will be shocked by the horrible incidents of racism, but also inspired by McMillan's—and Slocumb's—love of music. The audiobook version is beautifully narrated by the actor JD Jackson, and Slocumb has put together a fine Spotify playlist to accompany the novel. Highly recommended."

See author's website.

Suggested by: Robin Elliott

Availability: Toronto Public Library in paper, large print, eBook, and audiobook versions.

An Ember in the ashes / Sabaa Tahir (2015)

Book cover of An ember in the ashes "This is book one of an epic four-book fantasy series featuring strong female lead characters."

Suggested by: Jan Guise

Availability: print book at UTL

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