My girlfriend’s apartment boasts hundreds of books, but one title seems to have a permanent home on Sunny’s bedside table. She’ll reference the book every few weeks—seems like she’s always reading it—and from what I’ve gathered it’s an anthology of female-focused folklore and fairytales from around the world.
When I made a call to organizers for books centered on activism, I expected hard-hitting, topical works like The New Jim Crow and Between the World and Me. What I didn’t expect was my girlfriend’s dreamy, dog-eared go-to nightcap, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype (1992),
“Sometimes the greatest form of resistance is your self-care,” wrote Carmen Daneshmandi (@carmendaneshmandi), a Brooklyn-based photographer, whom I met, incidentally, through Sunny. “[Women Who Run With the Wolves] has helped me see myself and empower myself from a mental, emotional, spiritual standpoint when everything going on around me wants to break me down. I seem to always find myself coming back to it at the right time when I need it the most. Any woman or female-identifying woman of color should read this.”
Looking for information and inspiration to mount your own political or social resistance? Below, 10 other activists across cause spaces recommend titles to help you take a stand against oppression and injustice, wherever you are. Hit the books: The fate of our country is literally in your hands.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (1993)
“Reading Parable of the Sower right now will hit anyone close to home in that it’s pretty much a prophesy of the moment we are in right now. As bleak as the circumstances are in the book, it gives readers a sense of what it actually means to survive, to fight for your literal life, to build coalitions, and to face the consequences of the fall of western capitalism. It feels like a survival guide.” – Rex Renee Leonowicz, activist and artist (@rexylafemme)
The Art of Invisibility: The World’s Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data by Kevin Mitnick with Robert Vamosi (2017)
“[The Art of Invisibility] goes into the nuances of surveillance but also provides the framework for allowing the reader to deal with it on a personal level…The book doesn’t sensationalize anything—nothing is watered down or overly dense. Plus, it was written passionately by the world’s most famous hacker!” – Jess Lee (@jessleenyc), The Practical Dev
Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines (2016) edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams (2016)
“I loved that the narratives of all forms of mothers of color are centered and celebrated (queer, single, disabled, future, children). I appreciated that each contributor spoke about how mothering, in all forms (not just gendered) is indeed revolutionary when fighting for future generations to thrive and resist. Also, loved that the thread of creative writing filling the book with poetry, essays, manifestos and prose.” – Selena Velasco (@tendervirgo), Families Of Color Seattle
10 Rules for Radicals by Carl Malamud (2010)
“10 Rules for Radicals is about practical ways of working with public sector partners in a technology context to affect real change through building, not just talking…It gives concrete examples, and it is openly available online, free of charge.” – Remy DeCausemaker (@Remy_D), DevProgress, Hillary for America
Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco (2012)
“It’s a combination of on the ground reporting, social science and graphic novels… your go-to primer on how greed and loose regulation have allowed unprecedented ‘taking’ from certain areas and peoples—and we wonder why those people are angry and feel left behind.” – Jake Mikva, GoodWerk
Kindred by Octavia Butler (1979)
“This book is phenomenal and powerful and haunting. It’s about the legacies of oppression that we inherit. It’s so important now because it reemphasizes the need to truly understand and know our history to understand the US for what it truly is, and we desperately need that now in the political climate of alternative facts and white supremacy…I love the blend of science fiction and real, raw history. It touches on so many themes—being in an ‘interracial relationship,’ the pains of the past and present that I have been able to relate to throughout different parts of my life.” – Pilar Barreyro, DoSomething.org
The War on Women: And the Brave Ones Who Fight Back by Sue Lloyd‑Roberts (2016)
“The War on Women is so important to read right now, because I think it can foreshadow what could happen to women in this country, especially with this administration. Since the election of some of my state government in 2016, I’ve already seen anti-women laws being passed… My state, Iowa, passed a 20-week ban on abortion (even in cases of rape and invest)…[The book] challenges our own perspective on our country and world and how much improvement we have to make to make feminism a reality for all women.” – Ally McKeone (@allymckeone), formerly Hillary for America, currently University of Iowa.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb (2013)
“Malala is a girl from Pakistan who was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for education. This book emphasizes the importance of education for women around the world and how girls everywhere deserve to go to school….The story of Malala is so powerful and important for everyone to hear. In America, we often take education for granted and this book puts things in perspective.” – Drew Penkala (@drewpenkala), activist and YouTuber
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire (1968)
“[The Pedagogy of the Oppressed] is an instrumental tool for those who want to be guided by a philosophy that speaks to the revolutionary spirit…My favorite thing in the book is that it encompasses Marxist theory.” – Nancy Treviño (@nancirulia), Power U Center for Social Change
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
“This book is all about book burning as well as the importance of free and open communication and information. [Fahrenheit 451] is important to read as we need to understand that without open, free and TRUTHFUL information we would be lost in the dark and would be living in a ‘fake’ world.” – Alyssa VanSkyock (@alyssavanskyock), Gamma Rho Lambda