Heading into 2022 with advocacy and activism on our minds
As readers, how can we carry our activist mentality and momentum into 2022 and beyond?
[Dear readers: Before continuing on, please note that this newsletter edition contains discussions of ableism, reproductive justice, prison abolition, global health disparities, white supremacy, colonialism, and imperialism.]
In many ways, 2021 is ending just how it started: a surging pandemic, impending and frightening restrictions on basic (and essential) human rights, and many publishers failing to create an equitable, representative industry. And there’s a flip side: exciting new book releases and the growing bookish community of activists that constantly inspire their audience.
To put it plainly, there’s a lot that we are worried about, and we know that we aren’t alone in that feeling. But there is also a lot that we are optimistic about. For instance, a few months back, The New York Times released a list of “the best 25 books from the past 125 years” with the intent of selecting a singular title as the winner. However, white, straight, abled men dominated the list. Immediately, members of the book community began to share their #25BetterBooks to demonstrate four flaws in such a list: 1. That the definition of a “best book” is incredibly subjective based on an individual; 2. That there are countless books out there by a diverse range of authors that have shaped who we are and the course of global literature; 3. That such a list is a reflection of The New York Times’ readership and staff; and 4. That such a list is unnecessary, especially in trying to narrow it down to just one book.
This actionable mentality is one we are hoping carries into 2022, especially as we get a better sense of new book releases and signings. Based on the publishing cycle, many books signed in the wake of summer 2020 will be released in the next year. Whether publishers do so to fulfill a quota and check a box or to create real change based on their commitments to equity will become increasingly clear.
We won’t go into detail about how thankful we are for this community and those individuals we are inspired by (check out last month’s newsletter for more on that), but we are spotlighting a few key issues that are on our mind as we head into the new year, ideas for starting 2022 off strong (both in reading and activism), and an exciting update (hint: we’re launching a new-and-improved writing spotlight).
One critical framework that we often see left out of conversations about equity is disability justice. Disability Visibility, an essay collection edited by Alice Wong, combats such erasure. The collection adds almost 40 new stories to the activist canon, giving a platform to disability activists, designers, and writers who are trans, queer, Black, Indigenous, Asian, and more. It is, at its core, an intersectional read to a powerful degree.
Yet, at the same time, what does it reveal about our society, about the publishing industry, that when a large publisher publishes a title on disability activism, it’s an essay collection rather than 40 individual stories? Not only is Disability Visibility a call to action for readers, but it’s also one for the publishing industry. Publishers must expand their own employee representation to better inform the stories they are choosing to publish, to better understand their disabled authors’ needs. Until then, these critical stories won’t reach the amount of people they should.
Have you read the book or do you intend to? We’re curious: What stories from the collection have lingered with you? Do you have thoughts on how the book community can demand further disability representation in publishing?
As we know, while the year might be ending, there are many issues that still demand our attention. Heading into 2022, some of the ones at the top of our minds include:
Reproductive justice. With SCOTUS likely to make (at the very least) changes to Roe v. Wade this year, we need to fund grassroot organizations and support politicians and activists that are working to counter such issues, particularly those that support the communities most impacted by such regulations. You can learn more about reproductive justice, including resources to read/share and organizations to support, here.
Voting rights. 2022 is a big year for midterm elections. With the far-right attempting to restrict voting rights on baseless claims, there are steps we can all take to advocate for fair and widespread voting. Whether volunteering for organizations like Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight or the ACLU, or donating to candidates who resonate with you on critical issues such as the climate emergency, LGBTQIA+ equity, defunding the police, etc., there’s a lot we can do. Learn more here.
Global health disparities. The pandemic continues to surge. Until we put more resources into global health equality—such as for vaccination campaigns or anti-misinformation campaigns—it will continue to do so. More here.
The U.S.’s ongoing colonialist and imperialist efforts. It’s not a surprise that the U.S. has a militaristic, capitalistic agenda. And that agenda continues to harm individuals around the globe and at home. For a brief moment this year, the media focused on the impact of this strategy in Palestine and Afghanistan. We also saw Cuba and MMIWG2S in the news, both directly tied to the U.S.’s violent past and present. But now that the attention is gone, that doesn’t mean the issues are as well. We must continue to advocate for a decolonized framework (which also again ties back to the 2022 midterms). Here’s some reading on decolonization and on prison abolition. And remember to follow activists all-year long on social media—these individuals consistently share updates when the news will not.
Inequity in the publishing industry. We fundamentally believe in the importance and value of reading to change the world. While it is just a first step, it’s a crucial first step for many to get a better understanding of what is happening beyond their bubble and how they might take action. Books are also incredibly important to ensure there is representation in publishing, so that readers can see themselves in the stories they consume. Until the publishing industry fully commits itself to equity work, both in their hiring and publishing practices, the books that most need to be read won’t be shared with the world. There are many ways to hold the industry accountable, and we have a few roundups, like here and here.
Banned books. A few newsletter issues back, we dove into censorship and the current challenges white politicians, well-known figures, and parents are weaponizing around the country. Learn more about what you can do here.
If there’s an issue you are passionate about that we haven’t discussed on Instagram, send us an email—we’d love to work with you on a spotlight.
More often than not, pressure and new year resolutions go hand in hand. Instead, we choose to set intentions. This month, we’ve created intention cards for you to share on Instagram, catered towards both writing and reading. You can download them here. When sharing on social, be sure to tag us so we can see!
For your newsletter exclusive, we’ve created a new phone background featuring some of our favorite characters from the year.
Visit this page and use the password 2022! to download.
Just your end-of-year, friendly reminder that you are not defined by the number of books you did (or didn’t) read.
Introducing “Collected Words.” For a few newsletter issues now, we’ve featured writing from our community members. We are excited to share updates to this program, and encourage you to submit and share with others who may be interested as well.
Going forward, we will be looking for writing submissions on any topic, as long as they are rooted in and/or guided by an intersectional feminist lens. We will accept these on a rolling basis, with one piece being selected to share in each month’s issue. Each piece will also be featured on our website, accompanied by one of Fiona’s custom graphics.
Published writers will receive their choice of one of the following:
$25.00 gift card to bookstore of choice
$25.00 donation to organization of choice (must also be rooted in intersectional feminism)
We’re looking for short (~150 words or less) prose/poetry pieces, along with a brief abstract (2-3 sentences) as to what you hope to accomplish with said piece. If you’re interested in submitting a piece for a future newsletter issue, send us an email. More info on the journal and editing process can be found here. Feel free to email or DM us on Instagram with any questions.
Traditionally, the start of a year brings to mind new beginnings and possibilities. With messaging splattered everywhere about resolutions, goals, and promises of “new year, new you,” we may feel as if we need to accomplish those intentions immediately. However, advocacy more often than not requires taking one step at a time. So how can we stay critically-minded and focused as we enter the new year?
Tune into the authors that you love: Whether reading their books, their blogs, social media, or interviews, these authors can help us remember why we are fighting for change, particularly those focused on issues we are passionate about. Need recommendations? Check out our bookshelf.
Find or build a community of people working to achieve a similar goal: Not only does this create a support group, it also can help you and others discover and talk through new ideas for accomplishing that goal.
Take small steps continuously rather than one large leap infrequently: Large projects have the tendency to overwhelm. While they are sustainable here and there, start small and build the action into your day-to-day routine. For those passionate about the climate emergency, this might mean composting or thrifting instead of purchasing fast-fashion. For those working to abolish the U.S. policing system, this could look like partaking in the Noname Book Club or donating $5.00 a month to an organization of choice.
And remember to rest: You can’t fight for equity if you’re not caring for yourself. Boundaries are critical. (Note: Not all boundaries are made equal. Those of us acting as allies must acknowledge that we have a privilege in our ability to disconnect that many do not. How we use this privilege is up to us.)
As we enter the new year, we want to reiterate our gratitude and our excitement for what’s ahead. And, as always, if you have any thoughts, questions, or concerns, be sure to get in touch.
Olivia and Fiona