A Trio of Books On Activism

Determined to recontextualize activism as increasingly modern phenomenon, Jaffe reports an inspiring collection of stories from recent history to emphasize modern participation in social justice movements. She reports on, among others, the Wisconsin teacher’s protest, Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, Black Lives Matter, and the struggle for the ability to unionize at Walmart. Jaffe brings her keen focus for narrative to each story, so the stories never lag or feel tedious. The book also shines with Jaffe’s ability link divergent movements–past and present–to each other, creating a portrait that feels cohesive. Overall, Necessary Trouble showcases an aware and mobile population, determined to rally people against injustice, and to speak truth to power. Perfect for reinvigorating and inspiring the budding activist.

Originally published during the administration of George H. W. Bush but updated in 2016, Hope in the Dark is Rebecca Solnit’s answer to what she sees as an increasing sense of defeatism in traditionally radicalized populations (the young, socially disenfranchised, and working class, specifically). Solnit (Men Explain Things to Me, The Mother of All Questions, etc.) beautifully posits important and too easily overlooked facts: that defeatism benefits systems of oppression, that power never willingly cedes power, and that victories that are achieved are likely to be obfuscated by the structures that begrudgingly doled them out. Solnit goes on to highlight several victories incurred in recent history, and to discuss how the victories–rather than being celebrated emphatically–were folded into the movements that enabled them, as the work of the movements rolled on. Hope in the Dark pays homage to the notion that even losses can progress movements insofar as the people who make up the movements are willing to reevaluate tactics, regroup, and rely on their forged community.

Freedom is a Constant Struggle differs from the other volumes on this list in that its format is based on interviews with and speeches by the accomplished activist, Angela Davis. Throughout, Davis emphasizes the importance of nuanced views of interconnected social issues (race, class, and gender), and solidarity between movements across geographic and social barriers. Specifically, Davis does a significant amount of work advocating for Palestinians disenfranchised by the Israeli state, and draws parallels between the Palestinian state and ghettoized Americans. She additionally spends time discussing institutions of racism and oppression, the prison-industrial complex, school-to-prison pipeline, capitalism, and police brutality. Throughout, Davis imparts her significant experience, courage, and energy to promoting the necessity of social action.


marina for blog

Marina reads and writes about poetry and nonfiction. When not staffing the reference desk, she is making terrible jokes, cooking, gardening, or riding her bicycle. If you have a suggestion for something that should be included in a future blog post, you can email her at mdbuckler@cityofportsmouth.com.

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