I don’t read as much as I did as a child, simply because I don’t have the time to anymore. It’s difficult to get through 8-10 books in two weeks when most of my time is occupied with working, and the news, and everything else that the world throws at me. But I do find the time. Sometimes I read something old because I want to immerse my mind in a world that is familiar to me, almost feeling like sinking into a warm bath. It’s why Harry Potter never leaves my never-ending book list. Mostly, I do try to read new things. Fiction, non-fiction, or things that are a little bit of both.
In the past year, I’ve read a good share of books (and sometimes only parts of books), and there are some good ones I want to share with you. Perhaps these can be on your list for 2019. Click the author’s name to see more about them.
Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown
If you are doing activist work and/or in some other type of grassroots organization, this book is worth reading. Emergent strategy is defined as “how we intentionally change in ways that grow our capacity to embody the just and liberated worlds we long for.” I think the book can help people think about non-linear growth in organizations, about how the relationships and patterns in these organizations mimic nature. It also takes a look at how we evaluate our individual or collective behaviors in these grassroots organizations and what we can do improve them (lots of self-reflection is involved). I read this as part of a book club and the resulting conversations we had were really amazing – read it with your organization if you can!
Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper
I saw this book being mentioned on my Facebook feed for at least a month before I got to reading it. I should have read it earlier. Feminism is a complicated subject for many black women, especially considering how feminist movements and ideology can be very white-centered and shut out many women (ironic, considering how black women founded much feminist ideas and concepts that are now co-opted). It’s a book that will definitely make you think, feel a range of emotions, and hopefully help you along your journey with feminism and what that may mean to you.
How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective by Keeanga-Tamahtta Taylor
In the middle of reading Eloquent Rage, I came across talks about the Combahee River Collective and how these queer women of the collective have had a large part in shaping modern feminism (modern inclusive, multidimensional feminism). Notably, how the concept of intersectionality that we often talk about is really thanks to these women. In this book, there is the Combahee River Collective Statement, and interviews with the original members of the groups, how they got to know each other, and what they believed in. If you can’t read the book, at least get a hold of the Statement.
How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts by Natalia Molina
It’s by coincidence that I have read two books by Natalia Molina this year (the second is mentioned below), but it is intentional that I am recommending them both for you to read. This book, largely centered around California, explores a concept of racial scripts and the process of how non-black people of color went about getting citizenship in the United States. Were Mexicans who lived in California before the Mexican-American war now considered citizens? How was citizenship expanded beyond being racially categorized as black or white? There are so many questions, answers, and interesting information that explains what did happen after the Mexican-American war and subsequent immigration and citizenship policy into the 20th century.
The Mother of Black Hollywood by Jenifer Lewis
In a word: Iconic. It was great to learn about this woman who I have seen on screens for a very long time, but never actually knew. And her story is amazing. I think most of all, it was surprising to learn that she has bipolar disorder, and how that shaped much of her interactions with others and parts of her career. Even more, I think this memoir helps us take a look at ourselves and think of how we can be great (and think highly of ourselves) and be honest about facing our own issues (that we sometimes create).
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
I read this book the morning after a party. I was laying on the couch in my friend’s living room as she made me avocado toast and a boy slept on the couch across from me. She and I giggled that morning, as friends who had only a few hours of sleep after a food night could have. The book, however, is a collection of poetry artfully crafted to make you think about the reality of being black in America. The poems about Serena Williams were the most powerful to me, but the entire collection is solid from beginning to end.
Hunger by Roxane Gay
This book hit me like a punch. I’ve read other things from Roxane Gay, but nothing as personal, as visceral as this memoir of her and her body. Bodies can be difficult, and anyone who has struggled with their body – how it exists, how it coexists with others, how the world imposes itself on the body (often in hateful ways), and how we deal—will feel something in connect with this book. Take a day or two for yourself as you read it.
Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
I have read this book many times before, and I think that I will continue reading it for even longer. The book dives into the Wild Woman archetype through a Jungian lens and uses indigenous and traditional folklore to teach women different lessons about being tuned into the nature of the wild woman. I’ve personally found this book to be helpful when I have issues and need to reflect upon a certain aspect of my life.
Fit to Be Citizens? Public Health and Race in Los Angeles, 1879-1939 by Natalia Molina
Science is supposed to be objective and a search for truth for the improvement of mankind, but it is not immune to the prejudices of man. This book is a great exploration of public health initiatives that were made for the supposed “protection of health” in Los Angeles and the greater California region but were actually racist policies that segregated areas and were to the detriment of many people of color and immigrants in the area. These public health policies essentially functioned as another way to protect whiteness in the United States. If you’re into reading about public health and the inclusion of social justice into health promotion, this book is for you.
Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans by Dan Baum
Reading this book, it’s sometimes hard to believe that it is non-fiction. And yet, as a Louisiana native, this book feels so familiar, like home. This book takes place in New Orleans from Hurricane Betsy to Hurricane Katrina and follows the lives of 9 individuals from all walks of life. While reading it, I was fully immersed in the social complexities of the city. This book explores social politics, poverty, racism, gender identity/expression, and the things that can only happen in New Orleans. You get to see the high and low points in the lives of politicians, Mardi Gras Indians, transplants to the city, and common people who have lived their entire lives in the city. I definitely recommend reading this book.
I want to create more space for myself in 2019 where I can get through reading more books. It’s a matter of not getting caught up in things that waste my time and having the mental energy to read. I’ve got a few that I already want to get through (listed below).
2019 To Read
Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo by Zora Neale Hurston
When Is Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemison
You and I Eat the Same: On the Countless Ways Food and Cooking Connect Us to One Another edited by Chris Ying
Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice edited by Francisco X. Alarcon and Odilia Galvan Rodriguez
If you have any suggestions for what I should read in 2019, let me know!