A book list to get you fired up for 2022

2020 was rough. So was 2021. And 2022, we’ll have our work cut out for us as we continue to fight a global pandemic while we continue to fight for equality. But we need to get you all fired up, so two of our favorite interns, Jenny Horn and Aryana Goodarzi, pulled together a list of books that have inspired them.

We hope you have some time over the holidays to do some reading!

  • Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black by bell hooks is a collection of essays by the legendary feminist thinker on how the oppressed use speech as a measure of defiance.
  • The Selected Works of Audre Lorde edited by Roxane Gay highlights the intersectionality of being a Black, lesbian mother and writer.
  • A New Origin Story: The 1619 Project written by Nikole Hannah-Jones digs deeper into America’s original sin of slavery to show how it still affects our systems of governance, even today.
  • Sex and the Constitution — Geoffrey R. Stone: Nonfiction; Highlights how the clash between sex and custom has defined the USA’s history, & follows the evolution of legal and moral codes in regards to sex.
  • The Content of Our Character by Shelby Steele is an honest collection of essays looking at the way we look at each other as Black and white – before we even see each other as people.
  • The Spook Who Sat By The Door by Sam Greelee is described as “part thriller, part satire and part social commentary” and tells the story of a fictional CIA agent – the first Black agent at the agency – who then turned double agent for a Black nationalist group he was affiliated with. The book eventually even became required reading at Quantico!
  • The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House written by Audre Lorde is an admonishment to people using the same framework and tools of oppression to try to achieve Black health equity or social justice.
  • Know My Name — Chanel Miller: Nonfiction/Memoir; Recounts her sexual assault and experience thereafter, both as an individual and within the framework of victim testimony & treatment.
  • Year Without a Name by Cyrus Dunham is a memoir telling the story of a young person dealing with gender identity in a world of whiteness and wealth. Breathtaking and real – it’s a must-read for anyone interested in learning more about gender identity and struggles.
  • Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg is hands-down another must-read. There is no way to write about this book such that it amounts to its impact on transness and queerness. It is as painful, crippling, and triggering as those of us who know the continuum that is gender identity and sexuality can be. 
  • Do They Hear You When You Cry by Fauziya Kassindja: Nonfiction/Memoir; Describes her childhood & upbringing in Togo/Ghana, Africa, fleeing her home to escpae forced female genital mutilation, and the cruel process of being a refugee seeking asylum in the United States. (This is actually one of my favorite books — it’s incredibly powerful — and I reread it every year).
  • This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa is a multimedia collection of essays, testimonials, critiques, poetry, and art that explores the intersectionality of Blackness and feminism.
  • Disgrace by J.M. Coatzee is a wide-ranging fictional account of a disgraced professor in post-apartheid South Africa, who is dealing with his hedonistic excesses amidst a racialized attack on his daughter’s farm, and navigating his complicated relationship with her at the same time.
  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo is a novel set in Britain and sharing the stories of 12 women across the country and through the years. GoodReads describes the book as “Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.” We couldn’t say it any better than that.
  • Because of Sex — Gillian Thomas: Nonfiction; Focuses on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act through real Supreme Court cases, following women who have utilized the law to gain rights, equality, and justice in the workplace.
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson is an auto-theory book that excavates, rather than solely analyzes, gender identity. Queerness is used both as an identity and an analytic in her book.
  • Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds by Judy Grahn tells the expansive journey of what being queer can look like through a “wondrous interweaving of lesbian and gay cultural history, autobiography, mythology, etymology, spirituality, and ritual.” It includes everything from Amazonian Queens and Celtic fairies to contemporary violence against gay men today.
  • the me nobody knows: children’s voices from the ghetto — edited by Stephen M. Joseph: Nonfiction; A collection of stories and poems written by children, often recounting what it’s like to grow up in the USA apart from the mainstream of the so-called “American Dream” and lifestyle.
  • Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed explores the way feminists acting our their feminist beliefs can become estranged from the every day world they critique – and how to cope with that. The book even includes a feminist killjoy survival kit and killjoy manifesto!
  • Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin is a novel ahead of its time – but isn’t all Baldwin really ahead of its time? – that explores the passions of the heart, and the complexities that can create in how one truly loves. Outstanding in every way.
  • Open Water — Caleb Azumah: Fiction; A really beautiful love story about two Black artists falling in and out of love, all while exploring themes of deep intimacy, race, masculinity, trauma, and the way these realities intertwine. (This was one of the simultaneously saddest and most beautiful books I’ve ever read to date).
  • Curious Wine by Katherine V. Forrest is a passionate love story between two women, and the romantic circumstances that brought them together. This is a true classic in lesbian literary canon.
  • Gendered Citizenship: The Original Conflict over the Equal Rights Amendment, 1920–1963 written by Rebecca DeWolf. This one should be required reading for all the powers-that-be who are still in denial over the need for an Equal Rights Amendment!
  • My Name is Why — Lemn Sissay: Nonfiction/Memoir; The story of poet Lemn Sissay and his childhood experiences growing up in the care system. The book follows his childhood while also intertwining his search for his biological identity, and he uncovers some very unjust power dynamics and treatment throughout his care records. (Honestly Google will do a much better job describing this one since it’s a bit difficult to sum up, just if you want to get a better sense of what it’s about).  
  • Girlhood by Melissa Febos explores what we’re told it really means to be “female,” and how we can free ourselves of those notions to be who we’re really meant to be, and how we learn to define ourselves.
  • The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison — Jeffrey Reiman & Paul Leighton: Nonfiction; Basically the title explains it — discusses the causes, moral implications, and mechanisms of the American criminal justice system’s failure, and how the system operates in such a way to make the rich even richer, and keep the poor in a cycle of poverty and crime.

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