Social Change Reading List

My friend and I put together a reading list in response to the horrifying election results. You can find it on Goodreads as “Social Change Book Recommendations” or check it out below (the Goodreads list is constantly being updated though). You can also add books to this list.

  • “We Should All be Feminists” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • “Between the World and Me” – Ta-Nahisi Coates
  • “Bad Feminist” – Roxane Gay
  • “Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman” – Lindy West
  • “In the Country We Love: My Family Divided” – Diane Guerrero
  • “Citizen: An American Lyric” – Claudia Rankine
  • “Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood” – Marjane Satrapi
  • “March” (Books 1-3) – John Lewis et al.
  • “Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America” – Firoozeh Dumas
  • “Muslims and the Making of America” – Amir Hussain
  • “We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation” – Jeff Chang
  • “Negroland: A Memoir” – Margo Jefferson
  • “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” – Ibram X. Kendi
  • “Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms
  • “When We Fight, We Win: Twenty-First-Century Social Movements and the Activists That Are Transforming Our World” – Greg Jobin-Leeds
  • “The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community” – Mary Pipher
  • “Sex Object” – Jessica Valenti
  • “Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America” – Helen Thorpe
  • “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College town” – Jon Krakauer
  • “I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim” – Maria M. Ebrahimji
  • “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” – J.D. Vance
  • “Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism” – bell hooks
  • “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” – Matthew Desmond
  • “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate” – Naomi Klein
  • “Known and Strange Things” – Teju Cole
  • “We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler” – Russell Freedman
  • “This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color” – Cherrie L. Moraga
  • “Harvest of Empire” A History of Latinos in America” – Juan Gonzalez
  • “Hope in the Dark” – Rebecca Solnit
  • “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” – Michelle Alexander
  • “Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement” – Angela Y. Davis
  • “White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America” – Nancy Isenberg
  • “Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People” – Thomas Frank
  • “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” – Jane Mayer
  • “Beyond Outrage: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it” – Robert B. Reich
  • “The Fire Next Time” – James Baldwin
  • “The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race” – Jesmyn Ward
  • “Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education” – Mychal Denzel Smith
  • “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates” – Wes Moore
  • “Men We Reaped” – Jesmyn Ward
  • “Readin Lolita in Tehran” – Azar Nafisi
  • “The Complete Maus #1-2)” – Art Spiegelman

Patriotic Political Correctness

I’m considering forcing my employees to wear American flag pins and say the pledge of allegiance every morning. Apparently employers are allowed to do that now. Oh wait, nope, it’s only in sports where you’re not only expected to bend to societal pressure to enthusiastically worship a flag but you will be publicly excoriated if you do not do so.

Fuck that shit.

Image result for colin kaepernick protest

I’ve never been particularly patriotic. Even at a young age I was aware of the many problems in our country. As I become better read, I have developed more respect for the philosophy that created this country but I know that this democracy has a lot of work to do before we fulfill the promise of this nation. I  will always remain leery of mandatory, unquestioning patriotism. That’s the stuff of totalitarian states like North Korea and I will take a pass.

All throughout my school years I felt resistant to saying the pledge of allegiance. It seemed like a form of idol worship to me. I would stand with everyone else but not repeat the words. In response to the curious I would just say: “I can’t. I’m Jewish.” And they would nod knowingly and go back to what they were doing. I have no idea what they thought being Jewish had to do with the pledge but it was easier to tell them that than to have a half-formed ideological argument.

I was completely repulsed by the Star Spangled Banner after learning that it was written by a slave owner. There are actually four verses to this little ditty, one of which includes these lovely lines:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave

It’s open to interpretation what he’s trying to say here but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t advocating the freeing of any slaves. And why does a “hireling” need refuge from terror anyway? Jeez.

Recently, my daughter learned to sing the Star Spangled Banner at her preschool and I feel uneasy about it. It’s cute to see her shouting it at the top of her lungs and give a very forceful salute but I can’t help but feel like she’s being indoctrinated. I’m planning a lot of talks about this, among many other things, as she grows. It’s fine if she’s more patriotic than me, there is certainly a great deal to love about this country. I just don’t want her to go about it blindly.

Throughout history, athletes who have openly protested the United States, like Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith and John Carlos (the men of the 1968 Olympics black power salute) were lambasted and accused of everything from being disrespectful to being communists. But they have proven themselves to be on the right side of history and I believe Colin Kaepernick will be as well. Frankly, it’s the first time I’ve had much respect for him.

People of color have been laying down their lives for this country from the beginning but have not been treated with the same respect as their white counterparts. They are still not. That is what Kaepernick’s protest is about and we lose sight of this when we make the issue about patriotism instead of the deaths and mistreatment due to racism.

Get it together white people

I’m very disturbed by the news regarding Cecil the Lion. Not so much because an overprivileged white guy paid a huge sum of money to decorate his home with a protected animal’s head (don’t get me wrong, I am super pissed about this too), but because of the level of outrage shown for Cecil versus any number of outrages perpetuated against people of color in the United States.

When I first heard this story I was astonished by what a dick the guy is. I mean, he already had a felony for illegally killing a black bear. He also settled a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by an employee out of court for over $100,000. Of course he claims he’s innocent and just wanted the matter to go away quickly. I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of money to make something go away quickly. How much do dentists make anyway???

I was also amused by all the angry Yelp reviews for his dental practice. (By the way, Yelp seems a little slow in taking those reviews down, most of them are obviously not customers of his.) I saw news stories with pictures of angry, mainly white, protesters with signs calling him a killer and a coward. And these folks looked REALLY REALLY angry.

But then I was listening to a discussion of this story on NPR and someone pointed out that they’d never seen so many white people worked up about the death of an African before. OUCH! I thought. That truth shit stings. And of course I started repeating this line to people as if I had thought it up myself.

Then I saw this:

I love Roxane Gay and all I could think was HELL YEAH!

Because I’m a masochist, I started reading the responses to her comment and was shocked at how incredibly upset (and defensive) people were about the remark.

“What a selfish twit Roxanne is.”

“Grow the eff up.”

“Why does this have to be a competition?”

 Lions are endangered animals.”

“this lady is dumb & does not realize how hot it is going to be wearing a costume in this heat.”

 “This is preposterous… !!!”

“That’s not fair!”

That’s right, somebody actually cried ‘Not fair!’

Now, let’s be clear. It’s okay to be upset about Cecil. Many people are upset about Cecil AND African Americans being killed by the police. But the comparative outrage is absolutely astonishing and this is what Roxane Gay was pointing out. She was being really funny about it but I’m going to say it like it is: White liberals get more upset over animals getting killed than they do about black people being murdered by the police. Then they get more angry if you point this out. I am saying this as a white liberal: We kinda suck.

I’ve heard this said for years but I was definitely in denial. Now I see it. And I’m sorry. But apologies don’t matter, what matters is how we change our future behavior and I don’t have an answer for that yet.