One year after the controversial 2016 presidential elections, the nation remains deeply polarized amongst ideological lines. The counterstrain of resistance rooted in activism, art and scholarship provides opportunities to challenge the violence and systematic oppression that communities of color, women, queer folks, immigrants, people with disabilities and students face as a direct result of the administrations hateful rhetoric. As the year nears an end, and as we find ourselves seeking fortitude and comfort with a good book and cup of hot chocolate, here are some of the best books of 2017 that will propel us into the second year of 45’s presidency with a spirit of resilience and community.
1. The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
Following the immense success of her first book of collected poetry, “The Sun and Her Flowers” was Kaur’s long-awaited second collection of poetry that was released just last month. An “Instagram Poet,” Kaur’s work is as much about accessibility as it is about shattering cultural taboos through exploring themes of love, loss, trauma, healing, femininity, migration and revolution.
2. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
This week, Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award for “Sing, Unburied, Sing.” This is the second time she has won this coveted prize, which comes just several weeks after she was awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant. Her work captures the fortitude and resilience at the heart of extreme poverty, addiction and criminalization at the intersection of race, in her native South. Jesymn Ward is an Associate Professor of English at Tulane University.
3. Look by Solmaz Sharif
While this wasn’t published in 2017, Sharif’s 2016 collection of poetry is a finalist for the 2017 PEN Open Book Award among others as she continues to capture our hearts with her urgent debut. Her poetry collects definitions and words from the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, and devastatingly weaves them into the fragmented narratives of war. From her family’s memories of the Iran-Iraq War, to the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, she paints a picture of a practice that “others” then sterilizes victims and mechanisms of war as tools of power, all the while implicating the reader in the atrocity.
4. We Were Eight Years In Power. An American Tragedy. by Ta-Nehisi Coates
In what is essentially an anthology of Coates most influential articles for The Atlantic during the eight years of the Obama administration, assembled chronologically and bound by new contributions, “We Were Eight Years in Power” offers an analysis of the transition into the current President’s election by one of the most influential public intellectuals of our time. “Every Trump voter is most certainly not a white supremacist,” Coates writes. “But every Trump voter felt it acceptable to hand the fate of the country over to one.”
5. The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race by Neda Maghbouleh
Exploring the racial paradox of the Iranian-American experience, in particular that of second generation Iranian-Americans, “The Limits of Whiteness” is a much-needed overview of the experiences of transcending the white/not-white color line in the United States. The book explores the privileges, struggles and tensions that are rooted in the ambiguity of racial status in the U.S. Neda Maghbouleh is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto.
6. Islamophobia and Racism in America by Erik Love
In his first book, Love explores race and anti-Islamophobia activism of major advocacy organizations currently representing Muslims, or Muslim-adjacent, communities in the United States. In his overview of their colorblind strategies, reformulated for a post-9/11 era, the analysis focuses on the lack of race-based languages, organizing, advocacy strategies, and related impact of these organizations. Erik Love is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Dickinson College.
7. On Antisemitism. Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice By Jewish Voice for Peace
In this anthology of essays, Jewish Voice for Peace presents a framework that helps navigate questions surrounding contemporary antisemitism, and serves as an essential tool for educators, Jewish communities and Palestinian solidarity activists. The book explores the uses and abuses of antisemitism in the 21st century, and features contributions from Rabbi Alissa Wise, Rabbi Brant Rosen, Linda Sarsour, Omar Barghouti and Ben Lorber, amongst others.
8. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
Roy’s long-awaited novel follows her immeasurable success, and with it critique, of her first novel published over 20 years ago. “The God of Small Things” won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997 and catapulted her into fame, which she openly discusses as driving her to isolation. Through art and activism, she has been immersed in movements for social justice for the past two decades, and brings her marginalized characters to life vis-a-vis “the vast, violent, circling, driving, ridiculous, insane, unfeasible, public turmoil of a nation.”
9. Futures of Black Radicalism Edited By Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin
In this collection of essays by activists, scholars and changemakers, including Angela Davis, “Futures of Black Radicalism” draws upon the past, present and future of Black resistance, while also paying tribute to the late Cedric Robsinson and his 1983 classic, “Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition.”
The anthology explores how the Black Radical Tradition has influenced resistance and resilience from Los Angeles to Palestine. Co-editor Gaye Johnson affirms that “You don’t have to be black to believe in Black Radicalism. You only have to believe in freedom for everyone because that’s what the Black Radical Tradition gives us. As far as people feeling some kind of way about the words “black” and “radical” together — all of that has been generated from the created fear of what they think black people are.” Gaye Theresa Johnson is an Associate Professor of Chicana/o Studies at the University of California Los Angeles, and Alex Lubin is Professor and Chair of American Studies at the University of New Mexico.
10. Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People by Danny Katch
Last year at this time, we were still reeling from the shock of the elections. From pointing fingers to turning inward toward the community, to bracing for the actual presidency, the majority of Americans who did not vote for Trump, and many others around the world, were shaken by what the election results mean for the world’s “greatest democracy.” This book demonstrates and challenges this exact notion, and demonstrates the dysfunction and illusion of an American democracy. Danny Katch is an activist and humorist who has a regular column for SocialistWorker.org