I am Assistant Manager and Left Bank Books Foundation Manager here at Left Bank. Coming from the nonprofit and racial justice world, I read a ton of nonfiction about race--justice, intergroup relations, implicit bias, race and social issues, etc. In nonfiction, I also get interested in women's issues and religion/theology. My original loves were in literary fiction, though: Southern literature, African American literature, Caribbean, Irish, Native American, Austrian.... all sorts connected to cultures around the globe. Favorite authors: William Faulkner, Jeanette Winterson, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Rainer Maria Rilke. Favorite animal: my cat, Celia.
LIke your best friend telling it to you straight, because she knows there is better living for you out there. Jones is honest, funny, loving, and challenging, because she wants the best for you and for the world.
Well-researched, eye-opening, excellent. I recommend "The Broken Heart of America" especially to St. Louisans, but really to anyone who wants to better understand the history of racism and colonialism in the United States. Johnson's deep-dive is essentially a "people's history" of the United States using St. Louis as a (very poignant) case study.
A MUST READ! "The New Jim Crow" is essential reading for US History, racial justice, social justice, criminal justice, and any real understanding of our country. Learn the critical history of how slavery morphed into segregation, which morphed into mass incarceration. If we have any hope of building racial equity in the US, we must face the reality Michelle Alexander reveals in this text.
(This book cannot be returned.)
Most people in the US, especially White folks, were not taught the dark truths about racism and structural inequality in our society, country, or world. Part of doing our work to unlearn racism is learning the truth. "A People's History of the United States" is a good place to start. It was admittedly emotionally hard to read, but the truth is important to acknowledge and know. I recommend fighting your way through the hard parts. Howard Zinn, for example, doesn't tell the story of Columbus as a hero who "discovered America"--no, there were humans here before him, and Columbus was actually the perpetrator of genocide and many atrocities that our history books failed to teach us. Learn the truth!
Andrea Boyles does a deep ethnographic study of Meacham Park and Kirkwood, neighborhoods just outside the city of St. Louis. She looks at the history of Meacham Park, an historically Black neighborhood, and how it was annexed into Kirkwood, a mostly White suburb. The annexation took place after some shady dealings and led to half of Meacham Park being demolished and replaced with a shopping center, among other tragedies. There's been a lot of research on urban policing in Black communities, but Boyles was interested in what policing of Black communities looks like in a suburban context. Really insightful and interesting.
Heartbreaking, beautiful, relevant, and true. Toni Morrison is a must.
Foundational philosophical work around race in America. Read it.
A queer, feminist, Black woman's experience growing up in America in mostly urban settings in the mid-20th century. Beautiful, honest writing, as only Audre Lorde can do. Important reading.
Damon Young began writing as a pop-culture blogger, but this memoir shares his experience growing up Black in Pittsburgh. He illustrates how living as a Black man in America can create neurosis, because one never knows if someone is interacting with you a certain way because you are Black or just because they're having a bad day. An amazing, deep, funny, contemporary account of what Black experience can be like in the United States.
Jenny Lawson is so good at being vulnerable, funny, profound, and totally weird all at the same time. In "Broken," she shares her tumultuous journey with mental illness in a way that is relatable and heart-warming, spattered with hilarious tangents that show how joy intersects even the most difficult times.
"Rest Is Resistance" is the word our society has desperately needed. The Nap Bishop, as the author Tricia Hersey is called, isn't here to make an intellectual argument for rest--she doesn't need to do that labor for us--but rather to chant into our souls the truth of our worthiness and divine right to rest. Take each page as a guided meditation as you take in over and over, WE WILL REST.
Barnhill is a master of complexity in this wonderful imagining of our world with women and other gender-marginalized people able to "dragon." I am not usually a fantasy reader, but this tale was grounded and realistic enough for me to really enjoy and appreciate. The exploration of the experiences of women is deeply relatable, thoughtfully constructed, and moving.
An intimate memoir of divorce intertwined with scientific research on how heartbreak affects the body. It is amazing how the body expresses our emotions and reacts to our experiences, from literal cardiac arrest to the gene expression in our cells. This is a fascinating, thoughtful read that put me in quite a reflective mood, revisiting the heartbreaks of my own life.
I have been curious about somatics and bodywork for a while now and this was a great deeper dive. Part speaking to the layperson, part to actual practitioners, this overview explains healing justice, bodywork, trauma, and how these all impact individuals and collectives. Our bodies live out our trauma, and thus our trauma informs our movement work. We cannot ignore healing ourselves and our societies if we want lasting change.
Is patriarchy natural? Is it the way things always have been and always will be? Saini goes deep into the archeological records to explore and question the evidence tied to gender power structures all the way back to early human times. What she finds is an unexpected diversity in who holds power among cultures across time and place. She calls on us to critique our own biased lenses through which we interpret history, as what is possible may be more broad than we assume.
A poignant analysis of how fatphobia isn't only an interpersonal wrong, but also a systemic injustice being actively perpetrated against fat people and harming all people. I was challenged to think about things I hadn't before and learned tons about how body size garners scrutiny, violence, and institutional oppression. It is urgent to everyone's well-being--fat people's, skinny people's, society's--that we wake up, start dismantling these injustices, and affirm all bodies as they are.
A moving, honest, raw, and funny look into Sánchez's life growing up Mexican American, feeling out of place in herself, her family, and her country. I enjoyed journeying with her through all those moments in her awkward young life that most would be too embarrassed to share, but made her the unapologetic, beautiful person she is today