donald Trump has been president for three months, and folks are tired *AF. Trump’s campaign team subjected the nation to the callous marginalization of multiple groups of people—women, immigrants, Muslims, the LGBTQ+ community, non-white people, people with disabilities, and survivors of sexual assault. And as if 17 months of reckless campaigning were not enough, Trump went on to win the presidency.
In a New York Times article published in February 2017, op-ed columnist Charles Blow called attention to Trump’s need “to grind the opposition underfoot.”
“As mental health professionals, we share Mr. Blow’s concern,” Lance Dodes, a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, wrote in a letter to NYT. “Mr. Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions . . . In a powerful leader, these attacks are likely to increase, as his personal myth of greatness appears to be confirmed.”
Self-care in this time of resistance couldn’t be more vital, and we realize—for many—solace is found between book pages.
To quote the renowned James Baldwin, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.”
As we gear up to push through the next three years and some change, we rounded up some empowering reads to ease your mind and spirit in these trying times.
‘Bad Feminist’ by Roxane Gay
In her follow-up to An Untamed State, writer, professor and critic Roxane Gay challenges traditional feminist thought. By writing about race and gender from the perspective of a Black feminist, she welcomes readers whose differences may be the reason they face discrimination.
“When I started to look at this body of work I had created over the past several years, there was a common thread,” she told TIME in 2014. “How do we question the world we live in and question the popular culture that we consume while also admitting to our humanity and enjoying sometimes inappropriate things?”
Trump’s victory left many feeling fearful, worn and severely depreciated. Bad Feminist‘s insightful essays are a comforting reminder of “how to be a human” in the midst of everyday chaos.
‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ by Claudia Rankine
Claudia Rankine holds a magnifying glass to the racial injustices permeating daily life. Sometimes they’re subtle. Sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they’re so intentional it’s a wonder how anyone could call contemporary society “post-racial.” Sure, progress has been made, but Citizen acknowledges the struggle definitely still exists—and is real.
A thorough exploration of race, power and media, Citizen viscerally calls attention to the weight being thrown upon Black and brown people while affirming our tenacity.
‘Redefining Realness’ by Janet Mock
Janet Mock found inspiration in the works of Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, and many other Black and Latinx cultural workers while writing Redefining Realness.
“So many of those stories were so pivotal to my coming to [my] identity,” she told Slate in 2014. “[They represent] the truth of how I found out about self—like what does self mean, what does it mean to be publicly vulnerable, what does it mean to be honest? [It’s] the power of transforming silence into action.”
The result is a bold account of her nuanced experiences of being “young, multiracial, poor, and trans in America.”
Providing a pure and powerful voice for the misunderstood, Redefining Realness offers a space for readers to potentially discover their own strength within Mock’s testimonies. It also invites readers to think deeply about society’s disregard for transgender people, especially those who are non-white.
‘The Fire This Time’ by Jesmyn Ward
Jesmyn Ward first read Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time as a young 20-something.
“I read the passage where James Baldwin alludes to the fire that will come when America again is denying its past with history and with racial inequality, and saying that the result will be a fire next time,” Ward told NPR. “And I thought, man, this really feels like a moment where we’re burning.”
Attuned to the fact that similar racial tensions still exist today, Ward was moved to curate her own collection of essays. Aptly titled The Fire This Time, the collection pulls together the works of Claudia Rankine, Jericho Brown, Daniel José Older, and others for a book the New York Times called “alive with purpose, conviction and intellect.”
Ward’s book rings with the same urgency as Baldwin’s essays did years ago, which is critical in times like these. While society makes it easy for Black and brown people to feel less than, the unapologetic truth woven throughout each passage is a spiritual impetus and a call for collective love.
‘When We Fight, We Win: Twenty-First-Century Social Movements and the Activists That Are Transforming Our World’ by Greg Jobin-Leeds and AgitArte
It’s easy to feel defeated during these arduous times, which is why social activist Greg Jobin-Leeds collaborated with AgitArte—an artist-helmed cultural solidarity project—to “capture the stories, philosophy, tactics, and art of today’s leading social change movements.”
An ode to the ordinary people who struggled before us, When We Fight, We Win highlights inspiring interviews with successful artists and activists from all over to reassure us of what’s possible.
Who couldn’t use the uplifting reminder?