July Reads


July is over, somehow. I read six books this month, somehow. Damn, it feels good to be back on schedule to reading 52 books this year. 

Book 27/52: Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the foundations of a movement by Angela Y. Davis

Angela Davis is incredible. She is a former member of the Black Panther Party and a champion of black liberation and intersectionality. I picked this book up at Powell's books in Portland, OR during the week of the shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. This books is a collection of interviews and speeches by Angela Davis. It addresses the importance of intersectionality and solidarity in the fight against state violence, from Ferguson to Palestine. You should most definitely give this book a read. Below are some quotes:

"No amount of psychological therapy or group training can effectively address racism in this country, unless we also begin to dismantle the structures of racism."

"What we often assume belongs most intimately to ourselves and to our emotional life has been produced elsewhere and has been recruited to do the work os racism and repression... It's interesting that in this era of global capitalism the corporations have learned how to do that: the corporations have learned how to access aspects of our lives that cause us to often express our innermost dreams in terms of capitalist commodities"

"We will have to go to great lengths. We cannot go on as usual. We cannot pivot the center. We cannot be moderate. We will have to be willing to stand up and say no with out combines spirits, our collective intellects, and our many bodies." 

Book 28/52: Invisible Man Got the Whole World Watching: a young black man's education - Mychal Denzel Smith

Another incredibly important book to read. The title plays off of the classic novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Smith goes on in the title, suggesting that black lives are still systematically invisible but are publicly scrutinized, politicized, and exploited for the state. The whole world was watching Ferguson, but systematically Ferguson is invisible. The whole world was watching the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, but Trayvon was dead. Gone. Humanity invisible. Smith also touches on popular culture, feminism and mental health in the black community; the latter two are unique topics coming from a male author. I HIGHLY recommend this read. 

Book 29/52: Citizen: an American lyric by Claudia Rankine

Another book on race in American. Are you seeing a theme here? Well, get used to it. When shit goes down, I run to the books. In the words of Joan Didion "information is control." When I see the blood on my hands of institutionalized racism,  I run to the books. Then I run to the protest. Perhaps information is more than just control, perhaps information is redemption. I found out about Citizen after Johari Osayi Idusuyi was seen reading it at a Trump rally last fall; who said reading can't be a form of protest? Give this book of poems a read, perhaps even as an act of protest. 

"Yes, and the body has memory. The physical carriage hauls more than its weight. The body is the threshold across which each objectionable call passes into consciousness- all the unintimidated, unblinking and unflappable resilience does not erase the moments lived through..."

"Because white men can't police their imagination, black men are dying"

"And where is the safest place when that place must be someplace other than the body?"

Book 30/52: Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books by Azar Nafisi

This book was good. Not great. But good. I read it after reading Persepolis because I wanted to know more about Iran. The book is Azar Nafisi's memoir of her time living and working in Iran as a professor of English literature. She is fired from the university for refusing to wear the veil, but continues to teach devoted students out of her home in a secretive book group. The book dragged on a bit and that is what made it good but not great. If you want to read it, go ahead, but I am not jumping up and down insisting you should. 

Book 31/52: Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement

I read this book in a matter of hours while taking refuge in a backpacking tent, hiding from a swarm of mosquitoes. I really appreciated this book. It tells the story of a girl growing up in one of Mexico's most dangerous mountain towns; almost all the girls have to pretend to be boys to keep from being kidnapped by the drug cartel. I appreciate this book because of the subtle strength and tenacity shown in the women characters, even in the most unjust situations. This novel also contains fascinating metaphors and some touches of magical realism. I definitely recommend it. 

Book 32/52: The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

Now this was weird, I usually love Barbara Kingsolver's work. Not this time though; I did not enjoy this book at all. So much that I didn't finish it (but I am counting it as read because I read over 75% of it). This book is where Kentucky, Tuscon, and a Central American refugee crisis meet in a poorly written novel, wrapped in an ignorant, white-washed bow. The main character is beyond annoying; she is like a living and breathing embodiment of white guilt and ignorance, so "shocked" by the horrors of the lives of Central American refugee. At one point, after a Guatemalan man confesses a horror from his past, she ends weeping and confessing how guilty she feels about her white life, then the man comforts her. GROSS! I just couldn't with this book. Don't read it. I have the Poisenwood Bible on my list, hopefully it isn't as awful as this train wreck of a book.