NEW YORK, July 18—Peabody Award–winning journalist and bestselling author Michele Norris offers a transformative dialogue on race and identity in America, unearthed through The Race Card Project, which Norris created in 2010. Simon & Schuster will publish OUR HIDDEN CONVERSATIONS January 16, 2024.
The prompt seemed simple: Race. Your Story. 6-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, more than 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 6-words, the micro-essays can pack a punch, revealing, fear, pain, triumph, and sometimes humor. Some examples are: 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 entries go further than just 6-words, enriched by backstories, photographs, and heirlooms. Beautifully designed and illustrated throughout, OUR HIDDEN CONVERSATIONS is a unique collection of stories, richly reported essays based on Norris’s in-depth investigations, and photographs—all 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.
The Race Card Project has been adopted in classrooms, courtrooms, businesses, museums and prisons. National Public Radio listeners have sampled a taste of the rich content in The Race Card Project archive in the Peabody Award-winning radio sections Norris produced. As NAACP Legal Defense Fund President, Sherrilyn Ifill noted, “Norris guides this country gently but firmly to stand before the mirror.”
Award-winning Los Angeles-based artist and author Kadir Nelson created the cover art for OUR HIDDEN CONVERSATIONS. Nelson paints a beautiful totem of diversity spanning across myriad cultures, ethnicities, and ages, that represent the American diaspora. Set against a brilliant blue sky of infinite possibilities, each figure looks outward and upward, thoughtful, pensive and yet hopeful while poised to share their stories and experiences of life within the American racial landscape. Nelson says: “I feel the very best art reflects the spirit of our lived and imagined experiences. The focus of my work is to create expressive and emotionally resonant paintings that connect with people.
I often revisit themes of American history and the journey of the hero. Primarily through two-dimensional oil paintings, I utilize dramatic lighting, dynamic compositions, robust and subtle palettes, varied textures, to create a visceral visual experience for the viewer.”
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.
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 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 6-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.
Kadir Nelson is an award-winning American author and artist based in Los Angeles, California. His salient original paintings reside in the permanent collections of several notable institutions including the United States House of Representatives, the Muskegon Museum of Art, The National Baseball Hall of Fame, United States Postal Museum, the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Among other achievements, his work has been used for inspiration by Steven Spielberg for the Dreamworks feature film “Amistad,” and frequently has graced the cover of The New Yorker. In 2020, Nelson was awarded the coveted Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for the masterful book, THE UNDEFEATED, written by Kwame Alexander.
Nelson’s artwork was also featured on over a dozen commemorative US postage stamps honoring American legends, such as Major League All-Stars Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, NBA great Wilt Chamberlain, and most recently Motown’s Prince of Soul Marvin Gaye, which altogether have sold several million stamps.
Simon & Schuster, a Paramount Company, is a global leader in general interest publishing, dedicated to providing the best in fiction and nonfiction for readers of all ages, and in all printed, digital and audio formats. Its distinguished roster of authors includes many of the world’s most popular and widely recognized writers, and winners of the most prestigious literary honors and awards. It is home to numerous well-known imprints and divisions such as Simon & Schuster, Scribner, Atria Books, Gallery Books, Adams Media, Avid Reader Press, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing and Simon & Schuster Audio and international companies in Australia, Canada, India and the United Kingdom, and proudly brings the works of its authors to readers in more than 200 countries and territories. For more information visit our website at www.simonandschuster.com.
Deputy Director of Publicity