Change cannot happen without hope, but when every day brings with it a new story about the rapidly alarming realities of life in Trump's America — 24 million people are at risk of losing their health insurance, acts of violence and anti-Semitism is on the rise, travel into the country is being restricted based on religion — If you're starting to feel the burnout or if you find your own resolve waning, these powerful memoirs will inspire you to keep resisting. After all, the battle has only just begun.
When you're faced with difficult times, whether that be a repressive government, a divisive president, shrinking civil rights, rising racial tensions, or, as we're dealing with now, some combination of the all, it's easy to feel like you don't have any power, like one person can't possibly make a difference. But you know how the saying goes: the waves of change start with a single drop of water, and that water can be you, with the right inspiration.
If you're a reader, than you know what you should do next: hit the books. Only this time, step into the nonfiction section and dive into the real-life stories of activists, change-makers, rebels, and revolutionaries who understood one thing: quitting is not an option.
These 11 memoirs about people who made a real difference are the perfect dose of encouragement you need to fortify your spirit, strengthen your resolve, and keep resisting.
1'Between the World and Me' by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written in the form of letters to his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me is a book about race, history, and American identity. Covering everything from the Civil War of our past to the Black Lives Matter movement of today, the book explores some of the most significant moments of black history in the U.S. Passionate and enlightening, Between the World and Me will remind you that the fight for racial equality is far from over.
2'The Complete Persepolis' by Marjane Satrapi
A memoir in comic strips, Marjane Satrapi's critically acclaimed Persepolis is a must-read for members of the resistance. An equally heartbreaking and inspiring story about a young girl's childhood in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution, this graphic novel will fill readers with hope, wisdom, and a burning desire to truly make a difference.
3'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' by Maya Angelou
There are few memoirs are intimate or heartbreaking as Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and ever fewer as moving. In this retelling of her volatile childhood growing up in the Jim Crow era, Angelou clearly and unflinchingly describes the hardships she endured as a young black woman, but she also empowers readers with her story of survival and strength. A profound work of raw emotion, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a must-read for anyone who needs a reminder to keep fighting.
4'Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption' by Bryan Stevenson
Not every story ends happily, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't fight for its positive resolution. That's at least part of Bryan Stevenson's message in his poignant memoir, Just Mercy, in which he describes his life-long professional and personal fight for truth and mercy in the criminal justice system. A heart-rending account of what can happen when one person commits to making a difference in the world, Just Mercy will make readers believe in hope, change, and compassion again.
5'Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman' by Cathy Wilkerson
A highly controversial and radical left-wing group of the 1960s and 70s, the Weather Underground is known for its militant activity, and while many don't agree with their tactics — which included bombing government buildings — it's hard to deny their political impact. In a memoir about her days as a member, Cathy Wilkerson describes her involvement in the Weather Underground's activities, how she joined, why she left, and what she thinks the movement accomplished and failed to do. Honest and intriguing, Flying Close to the Sun is a fascinating account of political dissent that will leave readers with a lot to think about, including hope and faith in times of political unrest.
6'My Life on the Road' by Gloria Steinem
Feminist icon, acclaimed writer, outspoken activist, and one of the most empowering women in America, Gloria Steinem has a clear message in her latest memoir: the fight for equality starts with your personal fight for freedom. In My Life on the Road, the recounts the influence her experiences as a young woman had on her lifelong organization and activism, all the while inspiring readers to take charge of their own lives, and the world around them.
7'Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960-1975' by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
A founding member of the early women's liberation movement of the late 1960s, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz spent decades of her life fighting for gender and racial equality, peace and nonviolence, and economic justice and opportunity for all. In Outlaw Woman, she recounts her years of resistance battling issues of racism, capitalism, and patriarchal rule with honesty and the kind of wisdom one can only earn after years of experience. An empowering message about how anyone, despite their race, economic status, or gender, can truly make a difference in the resistance.
8'A Fighting Chance' by Elizabeth Warren
The title says it all: this memoir will inspire you to keep working, because no matter how discouraging it may seem, justice, equality, and truth always have a fighting chance. At least, that is what Senator Elizabeth Warren has come to believe after a life-long fight for what she believes is right, as she describes in her empowering book about her unlikely rise from a small-town girl in Oklahoma to an influential politician fighting for the little guys (and girls) on the world's largest political stage: Washington, D.C. For anyone who believe politics don't make a difference, A Fighting Chance just may change your mind.
9'Unbought and Unbossed' by Shirley Chisholm
Speaking of the badass women of politics, meet Shirley Chisholm Jackson, the country's very first African-American Congresswoman. In Unbought and Unbossed, she recounts her remarkable rise from a young black girl in Brooklyn to her election to Congress to her trailblazing run for the presidency in 1972. Told with fierce honesty and unapologetic sincerity, this is the kind of underdog story that will inspire any reader, no matter how defeated or tired, to keep going.