Volume I: April 2021
An introduction, April, and the books we'd send to friends
What does it mean to look at a book through an intersectional feminist lens?
Hi there, and welcome to the first edition of the ad astra newsletter. For those of you who are new to ad astra, it’s a space run by me (Olivia) and my friend, designer, and fellow book-lover Fiona. In a nutshell, we at ad astra believe that by looking at books through an intersectional feminist lens, we can expand thoughts, initiate conversations, and expose readers to more journeys. Ultimately, we hope that these conversations encourage readers to advocate for, inspire, support, and create change, working toward dismantling white supremacy. But what does looking at a book through an intersectional feminist lens mean?
When Fiona and I first started working on ad astra, this was the question that swirled around in my head, and I wasn’t exactly sure how to tackle it. Flash forward to three months after the ad astra launch, and I can safely say I have figured out, at least for now, what an analysis through an intersectional feminist lens looks like to me. My hope is that through this newsletter, you’ll start to or further see what that means to you.
Every month, the newsletter will focus on a different theme, but always featuring the same sub-sections. We’ll use this theme to guide the content we share (and, yes, that does include free downloadables), and the questions we ask.
So, on that note, what is this month’s theme? The pandemic has brought many of us closer together in ways we might not have expected. And there are so many books I wish I could send to every one of you. This month’s theme is “books we’d send to our friends.”
As always, we love feedback. Please do share your thoughts with us, and if you like the newsletter, consider sharing it with a friend.
There are few books I’m as quick to recommend to people as I am with Heart Berries. Terese Marie Mailhot’s memoir is heavy (please do note all the trigger warnings), and it’s one of the most beautifully written stories I have ever read.
Whether you’ve read the story or not, I’m curious:
Mailhot in an interview said that originally she did not plan to write a memoir. How does Heart Berries as a memoir shape our reading, as opposed to a piece of fiction? Or, more generally, how does a memoir shape our understanding, versus fiction?
As someone who loves to go on long walks and is often stuck in Los Angeles traffic, I am a big podcast fan. A few years ago, I came across and quickly fell in love with Two Dope Queens — a podcast starring Jessica Williams and the now New York Times bestselling author Phoebe Robinson.
In their podcast, they bring in comedians from all backgrounds to perform. There are special guests, very intimate conversations, and critical social justice discussions. It’s a podcast I recommend to all my friends.
In the past year, I’ve also become a big advocate for the LA-based organization Black Women Lead. Since launching in Spring 2020, BWL has led rallies, protests, food drives, and so many other community-focused events that aim to amplify underrepresented voices and Black women in leadership. You can learn more and donate to Black Women Lead at their site.
To help you send books to your friends, Fiona has created a few bookmail notecards for your use.
And, as newsletter subscribers, you get exclusive access to an additional note card. Just visit this page and enter the password “Books2Friends” and you’re all set. Email or mail away!
Content warning: Police violence and murders, hate crimes, shootings
George Floyd. Daunte Wright. Ma’Khia Bryant. Andrew Brown, Jr. Adam Toledo. Isaiah Brown. #SayTheirNames and the names of the more than 60 individuals who have died at the hands of police officers since the start of April 2021.
And there’s the violence we’ve been seeing against the AAPI community— including against Iremamber Sykap, who was killed by a police officer, and the eight victims killed in the Indianapolis shooting, four of whom were members of the Sikh community (Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jasvinder Kaur, 50; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74).
What are some actions we can all take to help?:
Support Stop AAPI Hate and local AAPI-owned/run organizations/restaurants/businesses.
Research and partake in your town’s local initiatives that are working to reform (and hopefully eventually to abolish) both policing and prison systems.
Donate to victims’ families and bail funds, as well as other organizations (see: Black Women Lead above).
Volunteer your time (virtually or in-person) to support protest movements or community initiatives.
Call, email, and write letters to sheriff departments and demand officers involved in violence are held accountable. Sign and share petitions.
Amplify action items to your audience— both virtually and in person— to help raise awareness.
In the book world, authors and bookstagrammers were called out for harmful practices — such as writing stereotypical, racist character depictions, directing resources away from #OwnVoices, and refusing to acknowledge their wrongdoings. But other creators, such as @_litmedown, @rvreader, @mnmbooks, and @DearPublishers (which Fiona and I are ecstatic to be a part of) all shared critical messaging, calling out these malpractices, and encouraging the rest of us to do the same.
And also... Spring came, and after a year-plus in the pandemic’s new world, one-third of all adults in the US are vaccinated (although the equity in the vaccination system, both within the US and our assistance of communities abroad, has been horrific. Here are some ways to help the COVID crisis abroad). Books including Crying in H Mart and Caul Baby were released (which I personally cannot wait to read). I spent the month re-reading Toni Morrison, making my way slowly through three of her novels while also re-reading essays here and there from her nonfiction title The Source of Self-Regard.
We’re that much closer to reading in libraries and coffee shops again, that much closer to meeting some of our new bookish friends in person.
Thanks for reading our first newsletter issue, and, as always, we are so grateful for you and your support.
Olivia and Fiona
Amazing first issue you two <3