Changing Your Mind, 2020-style: July

A key part of activism and changing the world is educating ourselves about different perspectives.

I’ve always seen reading books as a way to get a glimpse inside someone’s head. No matter how fantastic a setting, how exaggerated the characters, how fictionalized the stories–a bit of the author always comes through.

It’s important for all of us to read stories from outside our bubbles, by voices we may not have encountered before.

Here, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as we search for media to consume and fill the time, we have a chance to pick media that challenges us, that shows us different perspectives, that may even change our minds.

In July, I took to Instagram to share some of my recent reads about social justice and civil rights. They made me stop and think about what I believed and why I believed it.

They’re all worth a read. I recommend heading to author pages or check independent booksellers to purchase, rather than going through Amazon.

Though libraries are closed at the moment, some of these titles are available in audiobook–check your local library’s website for online availability, or check out apps like Libby to borrow and listen for free.

This is not an end-all, be-all list. It is incomplete; by definition, a list of a fixed length will exclude voices. If you have suggestions for other books I should read, or should include in future lists, please send them to me: leave a comment, or visit my Contact page.

If you’ve read any of these titles, let me know–I’d love to hear what you thought about them.

Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity by Robert Beachy

For as long as there’s been discrimination, there’s been resistance. For centuries, these movements, big and small, paved the way for the fights we still fight. “Gay Berlin” tells of the struggle for queer rights in Germany at the turn of the 20th century, the underground resistance, and how Berlin became a place for queer people to create community, against all odds.

Find more about the book here.

Mighty Justice: My Life in Civil Rights by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe

The reality of segregation and Jim Crow was not so long ago; indeed, it persists today through social norms and learned bias. It’s hard for those of us who don’t experience that daily burden to comprehend it, but stories can help us understand. Stories like that of Dovey Johnson Roundtree, who tells us in her own words what it is to live under such a shadow. From her constant dedication to justice, to her legal victories over discrimination, to her dedication to her faith, Roundtree is a figure whom we all should know. “Mighty Justice” is a must read.

Find more about the book here.

Fight of the Century edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman

As important as addressing complicated issues is in daily conversation, an important step in facilitating change comes from addressing legal precedents. It can be hard to understand the wording of and meaning behind landmark court cases–“Fight of the Century” tells the story of struggle in the form of essays, written by authors and activists. It’s a vital look at the history of civil rights cases in American history.

Find more about the book here.

Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference, and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls By Jessica McDiarmid

“Highway of Tears” details the ongoing story of Indigenous women and girls going missing along a lonely stretch of Canadian road. Treated with what’s described as a ‘just another Native’ attitude by police and media, most cases go unsolved. Families mourn, with no answers and no closure. The cycle repeats. This is a heartbreaking investigation that must be read.

Find more about the book here.

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