In the shadow of pseudo-intellectualism, we need the written word more than ever. We read to know, to understand, to empathize and sometimes to escape. Times are hard. Since the 20th, 2017 hasn’t had nearly enough sunshine or rainbows despite global warming promises. Here’s a non-fiction list to get your brain through the times, or to jump start your literary goals because let’s face it, “new America, new me”.
1. The Meaning of Freedom and other difficult dialogues by Angela Davis
In this collection of speeches Angela explores oppression and freedom in our current reality. She eloquently and plainly paints radical and thought-provoking deconstructions of race, gender, classism, the role of prisons and government under the overarching theme of the titles namesake; freedom. What does it mean for everyone? Can it be the same? Historically has it changed, where is it going? I must say before I dove into this book, I had typical inclinations toward the meaning of freedom but now I have the framework for critical understanding. The best part about the book, aside from the wealth of knowledge, the book doesn’t have to be read cover to cover to make sense. Start in one essay, skip a couple, go back, repeat, and finish in no time.
2. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco
Ever wonder why pressing issues like the environment, health, poverty, crime, and unemployment all connect in our great nation across geographical divides? Ever wonder what happened to the Occupy Movement? Have any unsure feelings about Capitalism? Look no further, the dream team of journalist Chris Hedges (author activist) and Joe Sacco (cartoonist) explore it all. This masterful graphic novel with precise text blocks, personal narrative meets fact in such a powerful way you won’t know what to do with yourself after you’re done. Maybe protest a lot more.
3. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
National Correspondent for the Atlantic and prolific writer Ta-Nehisi Coates writes a memoir-esque narrative in the form of a letter to his son, about his personal experience as a black man in America. It paints so vividly why black lives need to matter in this country. This book covers the real-time events of Coates life as well as the rising of Black Lives Matter, the reign of President Obama and the epidemic of young black boys murdered by police. Bring your Kleenex box close because it’s a real tear-jerker.
4. Feminism is for Everybody by Bell Hooks
Don’t understand feminism, hate it? Not sure if they’re man-haters, why they don’t want to shave their legs or why women seem to want more rights than men? Luckily there’s a book for that, a personal favorite of mine, Bell Hooks eloquently and simply breaks down the academic wall separating the misconstrued mainstream feminism in the public sphere and making the wholesome theory and social justice movement we all know and love ACCESSIBLE. It also does a great job at filling the trench between women of color views and that of white feminism. Read it, NOW!
5. Persepolis by Marjane Strapi
A graphic coming of age tale, Marjane tells her story of growing up in Iran pre-revolution and post-revolution. Personable, proactive and needed, Persepolis humanizes Iran and shows that the beef between governments against governments, are bigger than the differences between free-world citizens. This graphic novel gave pictures and words to how I’ve felt growing up as an Arab-American Muslim in the U.S.: too east for the west, and too west for the east. Politics aside; the life, love and humor in this novel is gripping, entertaining and just a damn good story.
6. Palestine by Joe Sacco
A comic-journalist classic of the 1990’s and still a staple in understanding the conflict today, Joe Sacco takes first-hand accounts of peoples in the occupied territories in Palestine and displays them for the world. Critical, complex and above all human Joe Sacco paints an unforgettable picture. The foreword by Edward Said is legendary—gift it to a friend today!
7. Muhammad: A Prophet of Our Time by Karen Armstrong
Everyone talks about Islam and the Prophet, and everyone has an opinion; Muslims, non-Muslims, Islamaphobes—good or bad from either side of the sea of interests, what do we really know about the man who continues to inspire and holds the title for the most popular name in the world? Karen Armstrong is smart, objective and has so many sources cited in her relatively short book you can spend a year reading them alone. She does a great job highlighting the admirable points of his career, his philosophy without shying away from problematic. A Western educated, TV empath, ex-nun turned theologian, Karen Armstrong’s works are ones to consider.
8. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Prison-Industrial Complex and its ills, check ✔️. Black and brown bodies hugely present and abused by system and its policies, check . How institutionalized racism went underground instead of eradicated, check ✔️. The constitution, facts and an ACLU lady Lawyer bent on understanding and shedding light onto something she once agreed did not exist, check ✔️! If you ever want to shut someone down in the arena of ‘black on black crime’ and spit knowledge on how someone’s anti-blackness is unacceptable, this book is for you and if not, it’s especially for you.
9. An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
We live on stolen land, there are parts of our psychology and our history and our identities as Americans that we didn’t even know could be questioned, but can and are through this historical account of first nations people and the ills of settler-colonialism. The Dakota Access Pipeline is much bigger than oil and the environment, it’s a block to the challenged self-determination. Historian, Activist and “Indian” Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz paints a story of the real America, the stolen America.
10. A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russel
I love this book so much, for so many different reasons but my primary love-induced fixation with the book is for its bold assertions: personal freedoms are because of the outliers of society, the marginalized and the unmentionables and we’re what have always made America great. This one is a page turner, an anthem and a walk through the lesser known stories of American history—validation to all of us left out of discussions because it’s about us.