An Essential Protest Reading Guide

by Melissa Ragsdale

With the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump, protests have sprung up all around the nation, including the Women's March on Washington this Saturday. Protests have long been an integral part of our global history, from the iconic March on Washington to Arab Spring, and there has been plenty of great literature surrounding protests.

No matter what the cause, protests can be exciting, terrifying, and everything in-between. It takes a lot of drive for people to take to the streets and raise their voice. There are so many factors in what causes protests to rise up, and so many angles to explore.

Protests are a unique environment wherein many people come together to raise their voices in support of a cause, so it makes sense that these books about protests are filled with an array of voices, ranging from the protestors to police. Many of these books give us a glimpse into the perspectives of real-life activists . Others try to capture the passion and the fiery determination that fuel protests. Though many of these books are nonfiction, there are also some great novels on this list that illuminate the spirit of protest in their own way.

Whether you're getting ready to march this weekend or you're just interested in learning more, these books are a great way to inspire and educate yourself about how protests can make a difference.


'March' by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

In this National Book Award-winning graphic novel trilogy, Congressman John Lewis recalls his personal story, including the integral part he played in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

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'Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist' by Sunil Yapa

This fantastic and powerful novel is set within Seattle's 1999 WTO protests. We follow seven main characters over the course of one day, from Victor, a 19-year-old who sets out to sell weed to the protesters, to the overwhelmed police chief.

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'Freedom is a Constant Struggle' by Angela Y. Davis

This is a short but quintessential read for anyone about to hit the pavement in protest. Through essays, interviews, and speeches, renowned activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis explores struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history.

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'Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt' by Sarah Jaffe

In this timely book, Jaffe dives into the recent movements that have turned Americans into activists, exploring the forces that have inspired people to speak out. Jaffe traveled across the country, interviewing people about why they've taken action.

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'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation' by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Activist and scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor dives into the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the many forces of systemic racism and inequality that have led up to it. An absolute must-read for everybody as race continues to be debated on the national stage.

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'Do Not Say We Have Nothing' by Madeleine Thien

Nominated for the 2016 Man Booker Prize, this astounding book centers around two generations of a Chinese family as they experience the horrors of Mao's Cultural Revolution. Music and politics are at the heart of this brilliant novel, as are the infamous protests at Tiananmen Square that resulted in horrifying tragedy.

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'Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot' by Masha Gessen

In this book, Gessen dives into an account of the protest performance that famously got three members of Pussy Riot arrested in 2012. This book gives a great picture of what happened, from the reasons for Pussy Riot's protest to the proceedings of their trial.

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'This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement' edited by Sarah van Gelder and Yes! Magazine

One of the most-discussed political protests in recent years is of course Occupy Wall Street. In this collection, we hear from a variety of voices about the movement, including Naomi Klein, David Korten, Rebecca Solnit, Ralph Nader, and many of the activists themselves.

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'The Story of My Experiments With Truth' by Mahatma Gandhi

In addition to leading the Indian struggle for independence, Gandhi's ideas about nonviolent protest have gone on to inspire the way we protest worldwide. In this autobiography, Gandhi details his own life and how he developed his concept of nonviolent protest.

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'The Riots' by Gillian Slovo

We talk a lot about nonviolent protests, but what happens when protesting turns to rioting? In this unique verbatim play, Slovo interviewed people involved with the 2011 England riots — from policemen to community members — and placed their words against each other in a way that brings insight and perspective to the forces that influenced the riots.

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'Diaries of an Unfinished Revolution: Voices from Tunis to Damascus' edited by Layla Al-Zubaidi and Matthew Cassel

The protests that became Arab Spring were a huge moment for the Middle East and the world at large. This collection is filled with testimony by on-the-ground participants in the revolution, half of whom are women. A powerful read that gives unique perspective on a critical moment in our history.

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