This week’s Nonfiction November topic is book pairings, which can be nonfiction books on a particular topic paired with fiction, or with other types of media. Thanks to What’s Nonfiction for hosting this week’s topic.
Unintentionally, one of the common themes in my 2022 nonfiction reading was activism. I’m not an activist myself. Though I vote and support causes that are important to me, I rarely put myself out there the way activists do, and I admire them greatly for that. Of course, Jane Goodall shows us that activism comes in many forms, it’s not all fiery speeches and marching.
I read these books in 2022 involving different types of activism, from the courtroom to protests to community development, on subjects including immigrant rights, racial justice, the environment, and disability rights.
Judith Heumann inspires with her memoir about how she and her colleagues fought for the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Jane Goodall discusses how we can all fight for the environment and the other things that bring us hope. Diary of a Young Naturalist shows how a teenager can make a difference in his community and inspire people around the world. Lady Justice tells inspiring stories of legal justice and activism by courageous women over the last 5-6 years. The Puma Years tells how a young woman works with rescue animals in a nature preserve in Bolivia, and later creates her own social justice and environmental charity. How to Give Up Plastic has practical suggestions for how to influence local laws and corporate practices.
Then I thought about fiction that had similar themes of people rising up to challenge injustice. I’m always fascinated by the give and take that activists experience when trying to balance their own needs and the needs of the people they love, while still fighting for greater change. Here are a few recommendations:
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: one of my most recommended books, this is about a teenage girl who fights for justice after her boyfriend is killed by police when they are pulled over. But fighting for justice comes at great risk to her family and community. This is a powerful book that should be read by everyone.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver: This is novel about how one woman comes to understand the impacts of climate change. I loved Kingsolver’s portrayal of the clash of cultures between rural, conservative America and more affluent liberals, because it felt very real to me, and also reminded me of the big city “bubble” I live in. The farmers in this community actually see climate change, and it is impacting their ability to work – yet because it’s a liberal issue, they won’t acknowledge it. At the same time, more affluent liberals see themselves as “environmental”, yet they contribute more to the problem of climate change by their consumer habits.
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez: I loved this story about a real class action lawsuit in the 1970s involving poor women of color who were sterilized without proper consent, many of them in prisons or institutions. A number of these women were even pressured to “consent” while going through labor. In this story, a young nurse named Civil has to balance the needs of two young girls while fighting to defend the rights of hundreds of thousands of women nationwide.
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich: This book about a small bookstore is set in the midst of the protests that took place in Minneapolis after George Floyd was killed. It’s not my favorite of Erdrich (I loved The Night Watchman and The Round House) but it’s still a book that puts activism in the context of real people’s lives.
Those are my book pairings on nonfiction and fiction about activism. Do you have any other recommendations on this topic?