12 Books to Help Us Survive the Next Four Years
Normally when people ask me for book recommendations, it's because they're excited to read something new. But lately I've had people asking me for recommendations because they're filled with fear and worry.
Their question boils down to this: What books should we read to get us through the next 4 years with Trump as President?
Have I got a list for you.
This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, so hold on to your hats. Although I put a sizable book list in this post about reading as a form of activism, I have some additional recommendations that are more specifically about activism and how to effect positive change in the world.
Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt
by Sarah Jaffe
Necessary Trouble is the definitive book on the movements that are poised to permanently remake American politics. We are witnessing a moment of unprecedented political turmoil and social activism. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the growth of the Tea Party, a twenty-first-century black freedom struggle with BlackLivesMatter, Occupy Wall Street, and the grassroots networks supporting presidential candidates in defiance of the traditional party elites.
Sarah Jaffe leads readers into the heart of these movements, explaining what has made ordinary Americans become activists. As Jaffe argues, the financial crisis in 2008 was the spark, the moment that crystallized that something was wrong. For years, Jaffe crisscrossed the country, asking people what they were angry about, and what they were doing to take power back. She attended a people’s assembly in a church gymnasium in Ferguson, Missouri; walked a picket line at an Atlanta Burger King; rode a bus from New York to Ohio with student organizers; and went door-to-door in Queens days after Hurricane Sandy.
From the successful fight for a $15 minimum wage in Seattle and New York to the halting of Shell’s Arctic drilling program, Americans are discovering the effectiveness of making good, necessary trouble. Regardless of political alignment, they are boldly challenging who wields power in this country.
When We Fight, We Win: Twenty-First-Century Social Movements and the Activists That Are Transforming Our World
by Greg Jobin-Leeds
Same-sex marriage, #BlackLivesMatter, the DREAM Act, the People’s Climate March, End the New Jim Crow, Occupy Wall Street, the fight for a $15 minimum wage—these are just a few of the remarkable movements that have blossomed in the past decade, a most fertile and productive era of activism. Now, in a visually rich and deeply inspiring book, the leaders and activists of these and other movements distill their wisdom, sharing lessons of what makes—and what hinders—transformative social change.
Longtime social activist Greg Jobin-Leeds joins forces with AgitArte, a collective of artists and organizers, to capture the stories, philosophy, tactics, and art of today’s leading social change movements. When We Fight, We Win! weaves together interviews with today’s most successful activists and artists from across the country and beyond with narrative recountings of strategies and campaigns alongside full-color photos.
When We Fight, We Win! will give a whole generation of readers the chance to celebrate and benefit from a remarkable decade of activism—a decade that shows just how ripe these times are for social transformation.
March Books 1, 2, and 3
by Representative John Lewis
Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.
Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell.
March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.
Freedom Is a Constant Struggle
by Angela Y. Davis
In these newly collected essays, interviews, and speeches, world-renowned activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis illuminates the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world.
Reflecting on the importance of black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism for today's struggles, Davis discusses the legacies of previous liberation struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movement. She highlights connections and analyzes today's struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine.
Facing a world of outrageous injustice, Davis challenges us to imagine and build the movement for human liberation. And in doing so, she reminds us that "Freedom is a constant struggle."
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide
by Carol Anderson
As Ferguson, Missouri, erupted in August 2014, and media commentators across the ideological spectrum referred to the angry response of African Americans as “black rage,” historian Carol Anderson wrote a remarkable op-ed in the Washington Post showing that this was, instead, “white rage at work. With so much attention on the flames,” she writes, “everyone had ignored the kindling.”
Since 1865 and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, every time African Americans have made advances towards full participation in our democracy, white reaction has fueled a deliberate and relentless rollback of their gains. The end of the Civil War and Reconstruction was greeted with the Black Codes and Jim Crow; the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was met with the shutting down of public schools throughout the South while taxpayer dollars financed segregated white private schools; the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 triggered a coded but powerful response, the so-called Southern Strategy and the War on Drugs that disenfranchised millions of African Americans while propelling presidents Nixon and Reagan into the White House.
Carefully linking these and other historical flashpoints when social progress for African Americans was countered by deliberate and cleverly crafted opposition, Anderson pulls back the veil that has long covered actions made in the name of protecting democracy, fiscal responsibility, or protection against fraud, rendering visible the long lineage of white rage. Compelling and dramatic in the unimpeachable history it relates, White Rage will add an important new dimension to the national conversation about race in America.
We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future
by Deepa Iyer
Many of us can recall the targeting of South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh people in the wake of 9/11. We may be less aware, however, of the ongoing racism directed against these groups in the past decade and a half.
In We Too Sing America, nationally renowned activist Deepa Iyer catalogs recent racial flashpoints, from the 2012 massacre at the Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, to the violent opposition to the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and to the Park 51 Community Center in Lower Manhattan.
Iyer asks whether hate crimes should be considered domestic terrorism and explores the role of the state in perpetuating racism through detentions, national registration programs, police profiling, and constant surveillance. She looks at topics including Islamophobia in the Bible Belt; the “Bermuda Triangle” of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim hysteria; and the energy of new reform movements, including those of “undocumented and unafraid” youth and Black Lives Matter.
In a book that reframes the discussion of race in America, a brilliant young activist provides ideas from the front lines of post-9/11 America.
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America
by Melissa V. Harris-Perry
Jezebel's sexual lasciviousness, Mammy's devotion, and Sapphire's outspoken anger—these are among the most persistent stereotypes that black women encounter in contemporary American life. Hurtful and dishonest, such representations force African American women to navigate a virtual crooked room that shames them and shapes their experiences as citizens. Many respond by assuming a mantle of strength that may convince others, and even themselves, that they do not need help. But as a result, the unique political issues of black women are often ignored and marginalized.
In this groundbreaking book, Melissa V. Harris-Perry uses multiple methods of inquiry, including literary analysis, political theory, focus groups, surveys, and experimental research, to understand more deeply black women's political and emotional responses to pervasive negative race and gender images. Not a traditional political science work concerned with office-seeking, voting, or ideology, Sister Citizen instead explores how African American women understand themselves as citizens and what they expect from political organizing. Harris-Perry shows that the shared struggle to preserve an authentic self and secure recognition as a citizen links together black women in America, from the anonymous survivors of Hurricane Katrina to the current First Lady of the United States.
She Takes a Stand: 16 Fearless Activists Who Have Changed the World
by Michael Elsohn Ross
In an age of “slacktivism” and fleeting social media fame, She Takes a Stand offers a realistic look at the game-changing decisions, high stakes, and bold actions of women and girls around the world working to improve their personal situations and the lives of others.
This inspiring collection of short biographies features the stories of extraordinary figures past and present who have dedicated their lives to fighting for human rights, civil rights, workers’ rights, reproductive rights, and world peace.
Including related sidebars, a bibliography, source notes, and a list of activist organizations readers can explore in person or online, She Takes a Stand is an essential resource for classroom reports or for any young person passionate about making a difference.
Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists
by Courtney E. Martin
If you care about social change but hate feel-good platitudes, Do It Anyway is the book for you. Courtney Martin’s rich profiles of the new generation of activists dig deep, to ask the questions that really matter: How do you create a meaningful life? Can one person even begin to make a difference in our hugely complex, globalized world?
The Activist's Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide to Participatory Democracy
by Aidan Ricketts
The Activists' Handbook is a powerful guide to grassroots activism. A priceless resource for everyone ready to make a difference, environmental activist Aidan Ricketts offers a step-by-step handbook for citizens eager to start or get involved in grass-roots movements and beyond.
Providing all essential practical tools, methods and strategies needed for a successful campaign and extensively discussing legal and ethical issues, this book empowers its readers to effectively promote their cause. Lots of ready-to-use documents and comprehensive information on digital activism and group strategy make this book an essential companion for any campaign.
Including case studies from the US, UK, Canada and Australia, this is the ultimate guidebook to participatory democracy.
Becoming a Citizen Activist: Stories, Strategies, and Advice for Changing Our World
by Nick Licata
Recent waves of social activism like the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter show that you can fight city hall--or any other powerful entity for that matter. Now comes the playbook for citizen activists wanting to improve the world around them from Nick Licata, admired Seattle city council member and one of the city’s most effective leaders of political and social change since the 1960s. In this smart and powerful book, Licata explains how to get organized, congregate power, and master the tactics for change. He is insightful in comparing effective communication with methods that just don’t work. Licata’s observations on the intricacies of power will empower any activist who wants to make a difference in today’s world.
It Can't Happen Here
by Sinclair Lewis
It Can't Happen Here is a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. Written during the Great Depression when America was largely oblivious to Hitler's aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a President who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, rampant promiscuity, crime, and a liberal press. Now finally back in print, It Can't Happen Here remains uniquely important, a shockingly prescient novel that's as fresh and contemporary as today's news.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, so if you know of other books to help us cope over the next four years, share them in the comments below.