The results of last week’s presidential election stirred different feelings in many people: confusion, despair, melancholy, detachment, anger. I’ve seen more people on my social media feeds posting politically related topics than ever before. For some, these results may have reawakened feelings of dissent that had disappeared for eight years. Others might need an entire primer on how to deal with these emotions.
Enter: Haymarket Books.
The Chicago-based “radical, independent, nonprofit book publisher” has been around for fifteen years. Most of their works are non-fiction and cover topics like black politics, environmental science, U.S. history, feminism, labor movements, sports, and more. I have read five books published by Haymarket on different issues throughout this year. I’ve read gut-wrenching pieces about feminism, academic analysis and history of the Black Lives Matter movement, in-depth cultural exploration into the history of Brazil, and myriad other topics that all intersect on levels that are not immediately obvious. Here’s a rundown of the five books I’ve read this year that both make me ask more questions while also providing clarity in a world that makes less and less sense.
(click the titles of the books for more info)
Rebecca Solnit – Men Explain Things to Me
As the title implies, Solnit explores modern feminism and male chauvinism, from anecdotes both humorous and horrifying. Solnit understands what intersections mean with modern feminism, writing essays about wealth disparity, marriage equality (and what exactly this phrase means), the concept of darkness in Virgina Woolf’s writing, the power of language, social media, and more. A short but insightful collection for any and every sex and gender.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor – From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
Thanks in no small part to media distortion, the Black Lives Matter movement might be one of the most misunderstood of our time. Taylor’s meticulously researched book is heavier on the academic side than most on this list but is dense with knowledge of the history of racism and how BLM has evolved over time. The state-sanctioned killing of black people by police officers, with no consequences facing those officers, is a despicable legacy of this and past generations. Learning about the history of institutionalized racism is the best way to learn how to dismantle it, both on a personal and political level.
Brazil has been constantly in the international spotlight in recent years thanks to both the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics earlier this year. While these events have come and gone, the atrocities committed by FIFA and the IOC will continue to affect the citizens that remain in the country beyond a memory of who won what medals and awards. Zirin, a sports writer, explores the complex web to which Brazil has been historically colonized by Europe and how those forces still overtly and covertly manipulate the country’s culture.
Angela Davis is a legend. She has been politically active since the 1960s. She is radical. She’s been jailed. She was listed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive’s List. And she’s still going. This new book is a collection of interviews, speeches, and essays, exploring the intersection of prison abolition, freedom for Palestinians, American racism, and intersectional feminism. Davis has no end in sight to her political advocacy. This slim volume is a great introduction to her decades of work and a valuable resource for reading about other freedom fighters.
Bill Ayers – Demand the Impossible! A Radical Manifesto
Like Davis, Ayers has been politically involved since the late 60s and was a founding member of the Weathered Underground. Ayers points to times throughout history where progress was made because of those that demanded the impossible. This is the book I would most recommend as a handbook for the entirety of Haymarket’s output, as well as for the fact that Ayers is a Chicagoan and this book draws from a local perspective. It offers great jumping off points about defeating institutionalized racism, abolishing the prison system, providing free universal healthcare, reducing military spending, disarming the police, etc. For many of us, and most likely you who are reading this, the outcome of presidential election seems impossible. In the wake of that, why shouldn’t we also demand the impossible?