16 Books to Inform Your Social Justice Activism While You #Resist

In times of uncertainty and upheaval, you might be inclined to take a note from Hermione Granger and seek counsel in the vast knowledge contained in the library. If you’re struggling to know where to start to look or what books to turn to, here’s a list of works to enlighten and guide your fight for social justice.

Racial Equality

March Trilogy (Book One, Book Two, Book Three) by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin with illustrations by Nate Powell: This series of graphic novels covers congressman John Lewis’ lifelong commitment and involvement with the civil rights movement.

Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.: This famous essay is a great defense of nonviolent demonstration and a rallying cry against social discrimination. While many are familiar with the history surrounding it and passages from it, it’s worth reading in full.

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi: In this history of racism and the ideas that continue to fuel it, Kendi explores what has helped and hindered the racial equality movement and highlights what issues still need to be tackled.

Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin by John D’Emilio: This biography of the influential and overlooked member of the American civil rights movement shows his integral role in this part of history as well as explores how his sexuality prevented him from becoming a household name like many other activists of that time.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: A look at race and its history in America from the Civil War to the Black Lives Matter movement. A great read, especially for teens.

Gender Equality

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This essay looks at what feminism should be like today, placing importance on intersectionality and global awareness of the issues women face in every country.

The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service by Laura Kaplan: This intriguing piece of women’s history divulges the stories and experiences of the people involved in a secret abortion service in the years prior to the landmark Roe vs. Wade case.

The Dream of a Common Language by Adrienne Rich: These poems discuss sexuality, power, and violence against women. An evocative look into feminist and queer issues through the means of poetry.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn: Often times, gender inequality is reduced to the issues faced by white women living in the U.S. This book is one way to gain a more global understanding of the inequalities experienced by women in developing countries and how we can work to eradicate these problems.

The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti: This cultural and social analysis examines how females are raised to be valued for morals based largely around their sexual behavior and its damaging effects. She also offers suggestions for how we can escape to a future that does not emphasize virginity in such a harmful way.

LGBTQ+ Issues

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes by Tony Kushner: Through these two full-length plays, Kushner tells the story of several men grappling with sexuality, religion, relationships, and AIDS.

Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation by Kate Bornstein: A collection of essays, commentary, comic art, and conversations from a variety of people on the trans-spectrum.

A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski: The book provides the LGBTQ history of the U.S. from pre-1492 to the present.

Homophobia: A History by Byrne R. S. Fone: Comprised of historical and literary research, this book delves far into the past to reveal how and why homosexual desire has faced legal, social, religious, and political persecution.

Activism In General

Stir It Up: Lessons in Community Organizing and Activity by Rinku Sen: Full of personal experience and case studies, Sen offers the reader guidance in how to organize and enact social change.

The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times edited by Paul Rogat Loeb: This essay collection boasts works by Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Pablo Neruda, and many other famous activists from multiple points in history. This book is the perfect pick-me-up for anyone struggling to keep their head above water in these confusing times.

Whether you seek better understanding of the U.S.’s history, perspectives from minority groups, or guidance in how to create social change, these books are great picks to add to your 2017 reading list.


Featured Image: Penguin Random House

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