Honestly, memoir is an anemic category for these books. These are field guides for time travel and the survival of the earth. The words and stories are confessions and counsel, offerings of honest analysis, reflections, and provocative possibilities for a different tomorrow to anyone willing to listen. As 2022, the third year of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the two-thousand-twenty-second year of the existence of the United States as a settler colonial state founded on slavery and the belief in US exceptionalism comes to an end, these writers, artists, and thinkers have gifted us with these prescient, heartbreaking, and inspiring books. They are paramount for living forward together.
1. Broken Places and Outer Spaces, by Nnedi Okorafor
A powerful journey from star athlete to sudden paralysis to creative awakening, award-winning science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor shows that what we think are our limitations have the potential to become our greatest strengths.
Nnedi takes the reader on a journey from her hospital bed deep into her memories, from her painful first experiences with racism as a child in Chicago to her powerful visits to her parents' hometown in Nigeria. From Frida Kahlo to Mary Shelly, she examines great artists and writers who have pushed through their limitations, using hardship to fuel their work. Through these compelling stories and her own, Nnedi reveals a universal truth: What we perceive as limitations have the potential to become our greatest strengths—far greater than when we were unbroken.
"In The Disordered Cosmos, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein shares her love for physics, from the Standard Model of Particle Physics and what lies beyond it, to the physics of melanin in skin, to the latest theories of dark matter—along with a perspective informed by history, politics, and the wisdom of Star Trek.
One of the leading physicists of her generation, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is also one of fewer than one hundred Black American women to earn a PhD from a department of physics. Her vision of the cosmos is vibrant, buoyantly nontraditional, and grounded in Black and queer feminist lineages.
Dr. Prescod-Weinstein urges us to recognize how science, like most fields, is rife with racism, misogyny, and other forms of oppression. She lays out a bold new approach to science and society, beginning with the belief that we all have a fundamental right to know and love the night sky. The Disordered Cosmos dreams into existence a world that allows everyone to experience and understand the wonders of the universe."
"Long before the pandemic, Ruha Benjamin was doing groundbreaking research on race, technology, and justice, focusing on big, structural changes. But the twin plagues of COVID-19 and anti-Black police violence inspired her to rethink the importance of small, individual actions. Part memoir, part manifesto, Viral Justice is a sweeping and deeply personal exploration of how we can transform society through the choices we make every day. Born of a stubborn hopefulness, Viral Justice offers a passionate, inspiring, and practical vision of how small changes can add up to large ones, transforming our relationships and communities and helping us build a more just and joyful world."
"For more than a century, activists in the United States have tried to reform the police. Millions of people continue to protest police violence because these "solutions" do not match the problem: the police cannot be reformed….Purnell draws from her experiences as a lawyer, writer, and organizer initially skeptical about police abolition.
Purnell details how multi-racial social movements rooted in rebellion, risk-taking, and revolutionary love pushed her and a generation of activists toward abolition. The book travels across geography and time, and offers lessons that activists have learned from Ferguson to South Africa, from Reconstruction to contemporary protests against police shootings."
Here, Purnell invites readers to envision new systems that work to address the root causes of violence. Becoming Abolitionists shows that abolition is not solely about getting rid of police, but a commitment to create and support different answers to the problem of harm in society, and, most excitingly, an opportunity to reduce and eliminate harm in the first place."
"A revolutionary collaboration about the world we're living in now, between two of our most important contemporary thinkers, writers and activists.
When much of the world entered pandemic lockdown in spring 2020, Robyn Maynard, influential author of Policing Black Lives, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, award-winning author of several books, including the recent novel Noopiming, began writing each other letters—a gesture sparked by friendship and solidarity, and by a desire for kinship and connection in a world shattering under the intersecting crises of pandemic, police killings, and climate catastrophe. Their letters soon grew into a powerful exchange on the subject of where we go from here.
By articulating to each other Black and Indigenous perspectives on our unprecedented here and now, and the long-disavowed histories of slavery and colonization that have brought us to this moment in the first place, Maynard and Simpson create something new: a vital demand for a different way forward, and a poetic call to dream up new ways of ordering earthly life."