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What’s on your bookshelf? Asad Dhunna on diversity and finding happiness


By Ellen Ormesher | Senior Reporter

June 26, 2020 | 6 min read

The Drum’s What’s On Your Bookshelf series asks industry luminaries to share their essential reading lists. In this instalment, The Unmistakables founder Asad Dhunna tells us about his work to diversify the industry and the books that have informed his thinking along the way.

Asad Dhunna

What's on your bookshelf? Asad Dhunna on diversity and finding happiness

Asad Dhunna founded The Unmistakables with a missions to make diversity everyone’s business. He strongly believes that not only does diversity and our engagement with it nourish us as people, but that there is so much joy to be found in doing so.

Reading, he says, is one of the main ways he informs himself on how to engage with this work – but, he emphasises, the real work begins after you put the book down.

”A lot of my friends make fun of me because I read very little fiction. I mostly read non-fiction, and I don’t really turn to reading for an escape. I go to it to learn.

”Something I see a lot of at the moment is that places like Instagram have just turned into one big reading list… but doing the work is much harder than doing the reading. Buying and reading a book is fine, but how are you putting that into action? How are you taking what you’re learning and making it easier for other people to access?

”That’s something we’ve been doing at our company, because our clients are coming to us and saying ‘I want to learn about diversity, how do I do inclusivity better?’ And rather than saying ‘here are 10 books to go and read‘, we say ‘OK, well here’s what you need to do‘.”

So what‘s on Dhunna‘s bookshelf right now?

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

White Fragility

What’s the story?

A popular recommendation on some of those Instagram anti-racist reading lists, DiAngelo coined the term ‘White fragility’ in 2011 to describe the feelings of anger, shame and guilt often experience by White liberals upon being called out for doing or saying something that causes racial offence or hurt.

DiAngelo, a sociologist, explains how these reactions only serve to further silence people of colour, who then find that they cannot give feedback to White people lest it provoke a dangerous or damaging emotional reaction.

What Dhunna says:

”The bit I found most interesting is where DiAngelo talks about racial triggers for White people. I think we’re seeing that play out in very lively ways at the moment and wondering why is it so hard for White people to talk about racism?

”I see it a lot when, for example, people say BAME, because they are too scared to say Black. But it is Black lives that are the ones that need uplifting and hearing.”

Diversify by June Sarpong


What’s the story?

Putting the spotlight on groups often marginalised in our society, including women, ethnic minorities, those living with disabilities and the LGBT+ community, Sarpong’s book Diversify looks the hidden cost of exclusion and presents six revolutionary steps to help tackle unconscious bias and form a better, more diverse society.

What Dhunna says:

”I think the key takeaway is some of the data around who are the most marginalised groups in society. Sarpong says that, if you look at it statistically, it is Black men and Muslim men who are most marginalised in society, but that businesses will too often look at outliers as proof of diversity.

”If we see a Black man in a senior position, they’ll say oh well Black men haven’t got a problem. But we can’t look to those outliers for proof. We have to look at the core of the issues and look at those groups more generally.”

Happy by Derren Brown

What’s the story?

Yes, that’s Derren Brown, the illusionist of ’and you're back in the room’ fame, writing about our cultural understanding of happiness.

In Happy, Brown looks at how human attitudes to happiness have changed over the centuries and argues that many self-help suggested routes to happiness and success – such as positive thinking, self-belief and setting goals – can be disastrous to follow, and often induce more anxiety.

What Dhunna says:

”I went to India a couple of years back to find myself and read the entire thing on the beach. It’s so good because he talks about happiness not as this destination to get to, but how you build happiness into your life.

”It’s a great holiday read and while I’m not the biggest fan of his, this book certainly made me see him in a different way.”

Dhunna spoke with consulting editor Sonoo Singh as part of The Drum’s Can-Do Festival, an online event celebrating the positive energy, innovation and creative thinking that can make the marketing community such a powerful force for good. You can watch the interview in full and see what else is on the creative’s bookshelf here.

Sign up to watch forthcoming sessions and see the full Can-Do schedule here.

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