In The Wake Of Charlottesville, Every American Should Read These 20 Books
In the months since Donald Trump has become president, more and more people have become inspired to join the Resistance — whether that means volunteering, campaigning, donating, making calls, educating themselves and others on the issues, or otherwise. Bustle's 31 Days of Reading Resistance takes a look at the role of literature and writing in the Resistance, both as a source of inspiration and as a tool for action.
When terrible and incomprehensible things happen, it's natural to experience a range of emotions in the aftermath. To help you sort through your feelings and inspire your next steps, I've got 20 books for you to read in the wake of the Charlottesville march.
On Aug. 11, the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups marched into Charlottesville, Virginia with torches, weapons, and Nazi flags, under the aegis of protesting the impending removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from the city's Emancipation Park. By the afternoon of Aug. 12, the "Unite the Right" march had ended in violence, with at least one woman, a counter-protester, killed by a vehicle that sped into a crowded city street.
Counter-protesters' tweets and videos from the scene paint a grim portrait, one that shows white supremacists marching without hoods or masks to hide their identities. Their actions drew swift condemnation from celebrities, thinkers, and writers on Twitter, many of whom noted that Donald J. Trump was unusually silent. When Trump finally addressed the events in Charlottesville, he refused to call the neo-Nazis' actions what they are — terrorism — and instead opted to blame "many sides" for the violence and vitriol. Later, when probed by reporters, the 45th POTUS walked away without answering their questions.
Below, I've selected 20 books to read in the wake of the Charlottesville march. Although you might find some of these books comforting to read, this list is not designed to give you the warm and fuzzies. Every author and book on this list represents a marginalized group or idea that the KKK, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis hate.
Think of it as reading against repugnance. It's not the most productive form of activism, but, in an age when anti-Semitic, racist, sexist, homophobic people feel comfortable assembling openly, without fear of retribution, this kind of little resistance action can remind each of us why we must fight back against these deplorable ideas and beliefs.
Written by a Jewish political theorist who left Germany in 1933, The Origins of Totalitarianism tracked the rise of Nazism and Stalinism through the 19th and early-20th centuries. Hannah Arendt's 1951 book made many recommended-reading lists in the aftermath of the 2016 general election, and it's still relevant, perhaps even more so, as we recover from the Charlottesville march.
Women who choose to wear the veil are arguably the most visibly Muslim demographic in the West, which opens them up to everything from Islamophobic assumptions about their agency to targeted harassment and violence. I Speak for Myself contains 40 stories from Muslim women under 40, in which they discuss their real-world experiences of being a woman of faith in the U.S.
In Ruins, feminist poet and activist Margaret Randall draws parallels between architectural and geographic ruins — such as Machu Picchu or ancient Egypt — and personal ruins — the bodies and minds ravaged by attacks on the person — and explores the power of time to repair or increase decay.
"Dog whistles" are coded racist phrases that sound innocuous to non-racists who aren't aware of them. In Dog Whistle Politics, Ian Haney López examines how U.S. politicians have used this kind of veiled rhetoric to rally support from white supremacists.
A novel set during Spain's transition to democracy, The Sleeping World centers on Mosca, one of a small group of young rebels, who lost her brother two years earlier in a suspected arrest by the nationalist state.
Vietnamese-American poet Ocean Vuong writes across continents in his first full collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, which discusses racial and gender-based marginalization and the lasting effects of the Vietnam War.
Men Explain Things to Me author Rebecca Solnit makes the case for a hopeful attitude in the face of conflict. Hope in the Dark is the perfect book to read if the Charlottesville march has you feeling burned out.
Written by a genderqueer author with disabilities, Exile and Pride addresses the intersection of gender, sexuality, disability, and activism, and will inspire able-bodied resistance fighters to question the accessibility of their movements.
Some folks love to point out that Nazism was a "socialist" movement, but, as Donny Gluckstein observes in The Nazis, Capitalism and the Working Class, Hitler's regime prevented blue-collar Germans from climbing the social ladder, and was highly palatable to his wealthy supporters.
This "choreopoem" collection from Ntozake Shange is meant to be performed with music and dance, but you're sure to enjoy it even if you read it sitting still. Originally written in 1974, for colored girls addresses difficult issues that young women of color continue to face today.
During the mid-20th century, the Dominican Republic was controlled by Rafael Trujillo, the dictator also known as El Jefe. With their country in crisis, the four Mirabal sisters rose up to build an underground resistance movement intended to bring El Jefe down. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents author Julia Alvarez fictionalizes their story in this novel, In the Time of the Butterflies.
Published two years after Anne Frank's death at Bergen-Belsen, The Diary of a Young Girl contains the actual journal entries she wrote while living in hiding for two years in the attic over her father's business.
Collected by Ms. Magazine's Daisy Hernández and Corona author Bushra Rehman, Colonize This! showcases the writings of young feminists of color growing up during feminism's third wave and still finding themselves excluded.
Based on the true story of a collective of disparate rebels intent on taking down the Nazis, Italian Jewish author Primo Levi's If Not Now, When? is a call to action for anyone who needs to kick-start their activism.
Solmaz Sharif's award-nominated poetry collection draws from her experiences growing up as a child of Middle-Eastern immigrants, knowing that the area around her parents' home country was being shredded by foreign-instigated wars.
A novel that critiques colonialism and the slave trade on both sides of the Atlantic, Homegoing begins with two sister-strangers, fated never to meet as one is torn away from her family and sold into slavery, while the other marries a European man.
Before his death in 2017, the late Liu Xiaobo was one of China's most famous political prisoners. Some of the Nobel Prize recipient's compelling essays and poems are collected in No Enemies, No Hatred.
It's easy to forget that, less than 20 years ago, homophobic and transphobic jokes were still considered appropriate for television. That's a minor complaint compared to the centuries of oppression the LGBTQIA community has faced. To help you appreciate just how far we've come, read The Gay Revolution by Lillian Faderman.
White women must realize that the misogyny we have faced does not exempt us from complicity in racial oppression. To better understand a fraction of the things we have done to oppress women of color, read Angela Y. Davis' Women, Race & Class.
Drawing from James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, Jesmyn Ward's The Fire This Time compiles writing on modern-day race relations from Claudia Rankine, Edwidge Danticat, and others.
Follow along all month long for more Reading Resistance book recommendations.