7 Social Justice Books in Honor of the New School Year
It’s back-to-school season. To all the returning students: Welcome back. For those of us who have been out of the backpack-and-notebook game, there is no excuse to stop learning about the world around you. There are plenty of issues that plague this Earth and the more we open ourselves up to learning, the more we can educate others and discover how we can make change.
Luckily, there are a number of resources out there to do so. Both fiction and non-fiction books educate us, show us life from a different perspective and help inspire us to be better people. Here are a few social justice-themed books to put on your school year reading list.
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
By Jon Krakauer
The veteran journalist who wrote the 1996 Best Seller Into the Wild tackles sexual assault within the college town of Missoula. Krakauer lets the sexual assault survivors take control of their own stories. He takes a backseat to them, except when he needs to report the facts and give the survivors he interviewed – and even all sexual assault survivors – his complete support. Missoula is a hard read. Through Krakauer’s reporting, you feel the pain of the survivors. You want them to win. Your heart breaks when they don’t get the justice they deserve. You become infuriated because in any other crime, the victim is not assumed to be lying. You walk away from Missoula with an anger of how we treat rape survivors and a need to do whatever is possible to change that.
She’s Not There
By Jennifer Finney Boylan
Through her docu-series “I Am Cait,” her social media and high-profile appearances, Caitlyn Jenner shared with the world her story of becoming her true self. Jennifer Finney Boylan – also a friend of Jenner’s – similarly lets people into her life in She’s Not There. Her candid memoir lets readers inside what it was like to be trapped in her own body, how she came to terms with who she really is, and the difficult path she took to get there. She writes with honesty and humor about the physical and emotional changes she went through as part of her transition and teaches us all how to accept ourselves.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian
By Sherman Alexie
This National Book Award winner tackles a lot of heavy themes in its 230 pages. It follows Arnold Spirit Jr., or just “Junior,” who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He deals with the poverty that plagues the reservation, his cultural identity, his desire to succeed and being trapped between two very different worlds. It’s a coming-of-age story that explores racial stereotypes, friendship, family and culture.
I Am Troy Davis
By Jen Marlowe and Martina Davis-Correia
On September 21, 2011, Troy Davis was executed for the murder of a Georgia police officer, despite doubts of his guilt. He was convicted in 1989 and spent the next two decades trying to prove his innocence, with no success. His story reached around the globe, with thousands protesting the death penalty in his honor. Two years after his death, Jen Marlowe and Martina Davis-Correia (Davis’ sister) coauthored I Am Troy Davis, which puts a human face on the death penalty. Readers learn about Davis’ life, from his childhood to his conviction.
Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism
By bell hooks
There are very few gender studies classes that don’t have bell hooks on their reading list, especially “Ain’t I a Woman?” which is titled after Sojourner Truth’s speech of the same name. Published in 1981, hooks’ account of sexism’s impact on black women is still as relevant today as it was more than 30 years ago. The book examines and analyzes stereotypes that were set during slavery and how they have negatively affected women of color within the feminist movement. Particularly, “Ain’t I a Woman?” makes clear why intersectional feminism is so important to not just women of color, but to our entire society.
By Alison Bechdel
We have a lot to thank Alison Bechdel for: The Bechdel test; the Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip; and her memoir, Fun Home. Unlike most memoirs, Fun Home is a graphic novel written and drawn by Bechdel. In its pages, you see her life unfold in a humorous and macabre way. The focus is on her funeral-director father, a closeted homosexual who was killed by a truck at 44. The book is Bechdel’s way of understanding and coming to terms with her father’s life and death, which she believes was a suicide. It also digs into her own sexual identity from her childhood to when she came out as a lesbian to her adult relationships.
I Am Malala
By Malala Yousafzai
In this memoir, the reader not only learns about the heroic and inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai, they get a deeper understanding of Pakistani culture and government. In her memoir, she talks about her early love of learning. She worked as an activist before she even became a teenager, blogging for the BBC. Her voice was only amplified when she survived an assassination attack by the Taliban. Malala made a complete recovery and went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize at 17 years old. In her memoir, she speaks with such high regard for her home and her desire to bring education to girls not just in her home country, but across the world.
Photo Credit: WorldCoalitionAgainsttheDeathPenalty