Summer 2019 Reading List: 6 Books for the Social Activist

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Summer for me is always a time of reflection. A chance to catch up with myself, take a step back, and address the world around me. I’ve compiled a Summer 2019 reading list to help you do just that.

I recommend these books because I have either read them or have researched and purchased them myself with the intention of finishing them this summer.

Each of these six books is well worth a read and cover a range of subjects in the world of social activism including feminism, LGBTQ+, environmental preservation, and racism. A few very important topics to help keep your mind active this summer and inspire you to join in on the many opportunities that arise to help fight for these causes.

  1. Cunt: A Declaration of Independence 20th Anniversary Addition by Inga Musico

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Cunt is a feminist classic. Inga Musico is a body-positive, pro-sex, woman emboldening powerhouse. This is a book that every self-proclaiming feminist – woman, man, or other – needs to read. I suggest the new 20th Anniversary Addition because it includes an added chapter of trans-inclusivity and hilarious introductions by Musico where she discusses the humbling and heartwarming reactions she received from readers when the book was originally released.

Musico sets out to reestablish our relationship with one of the most derogatory words in the English language. Originally an ancient title of respect for women, the word cunt has been exploited under a harsh patriarchal society gradually lowering it down until it became an exploitative term for all womankind.  This book touches on a variety of topics ranging from menstruation and the benefits of aligning your cycle with the lunar cycle – to the origins of acrimony between women in developed countries. It also discusses more serious topics such as rape culture and abortion.

Every page is filled with Musico’s signature banter as she aligns her academic research and her own personal experiences. It’s a humbling and empowering book that have helped millions of women love themselves and embrace their sexuality while also making them laugh and cry.

 

  1. My Cat Yugoslavia by Pajtim Statovci

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In a charming work of LGBTQ+ fiction, antagonist Bekim – the son of a Muslim immigrant who fled Yugoslavia after a volatile arranged marriage – is raised in Finland. Living in a country that is unfriendly to foreigners and homosexuals alike, Bekim grows up to become a social outcast crippled by anxiety. He relies solely on his boa constrictor for a companion even though he is afraid of snakes. Then one night while out at a gay bar, Bekim meets a whimsical talking cat dressed in human clothes. This cunning and imaginative creature begins Bekim on a journey that will lead him back to Kosovo to face his demons and unmask his family’s history.

This inventive and playful novel captivates you with a combination of humanness and uniqueness. It’s a great read if you’re looking for something a little more lighthearted but still with the ability to touch you on a truly personal level.

  1. The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter

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In her award-winning bestseller, Nell Irvin Painter explores not just the idea of whiteness but the invention of the idea of whiteness. Beginning in ancient Greece and working its way up to the birth of modern era racism in 21st century America Painter describes the attitudes towards and definitions of race among Europeans and Americans. She discusses how the idea of race is not based solely on ethnicity but also on “”concepts of labor, gender, class, and images of personal beauty”. This book is a myth-destroying study of the perceptions of white race in all the ways that it has become a symbol of power and beauty. The History of White People is a compelling masterpiece that combines political, economic, social, and cultural history. A necessary book if we are ever set to reach a “post-racial” society.

 

  1. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture Edited by Roxane Gay

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Passionate, personal, and uncompromisingly honest, Not That Bad is a series of provocative individual essays that address what it means to live in a world where women are routinely harassed, assaulted, and shamed for speaking out. Covering a variety of topics ranging from street harassment to child molestation, these stories are voiced by well-known actors and writers to everyday women speaking out for the first time. This book is a reflection of our world as well as a call to action, encouraging women to speak out and join together, insisting that the phrase “not that bad” can no longer be enough to justify harassment.

 

  1. When Brooklyn was Queer by Hugh Ryan

summer 2019 reading list

June is World Pride Month and NYC throws one of the biggest global pride parades annually. This year’s Pride Parade is predicted to be the biggest yet because this year marks the 50 year anniversary of the notorious Stonewall Riots. When Brooklyn was Queer is a perfect way to commemorate how far society (and New York in particular) has come in the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. Hugh Ryan explores the forgotten LGBT history of the borough starting from the early 1800s, moving through WWII, and up to the modern day.

Now living in the shadow of prominent gay loving Manhattan neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and Harlem, Ryan sets out to unearth Brooklyn’s queer origins and discusses how the borough’s remarkable history was lost. Linking Brooklyn to the prominent figures that personified its diverse neighborhoods, Ryan brings the borough’s historic culture to life arguing that in order to best understand our modern NYC LGBT community we must familiarize ourselves with its incredible retelling. Ryan asks the evocative questions of what history is, who defines it, and how is it told. Academic while still being intimate, funny, and tender – When Brooklyn was Queer is the first to tell this story that has been long forgotten. This book is a great way to celebrate World Pride and familiarize yourself with some of the Brooklyn figures that made it possible.

  1. The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace–Wells

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For those of us noticing the summer sun burning a little hotter this year, David Wallace–Wells’ bestseller is an account of the woes yet to come if climate change is not reversed. It is worse than sea level rise – bringing with it the first climate change refugee crisis. It is worse than the “500 year” storms that have become a monthly occurrence all around the globe. In order to understand what it will take to save the planet, we must first understand what is really at stake.

By the end of this century, parts of the Earth could become completely uninhabitable, massive food shortages will rage, and our political and economic climate will drastically distort the life of every man, woman, and child on the planet. The Uninhabitable Earth is a desperate call to action – a harsh reality of what we have brought upon ourselves. While reassuring us that it is not too late it also makes it clear that the salvation of our planet relies heavily on a single generation. Wallace-Wells’ rude-awakening is as good a motivator as any to take a stand and get involved in the rehabilitation of our Earth.

 

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