What readers are doing to change the world
The world feels heavy with unending sorrow, trauma, and injustice. At times like these, we like to focus on those fighting for change, and how we might get involved. Today, we want to highlight readers actively working to better our world.
[Dear readers: Please note that this month’s newsletter contains discussions of white supremacist violence, mass shootings, police violence, and reproductive justice.]
“Books contain everything worth knowing except what ultimately matters.” — Tookie from The Last Sentence by Louise Erdrich
In Louise Erdrich’s monumental novel The Sentence, protagonist Tookie routinely reflects upon books apt for specific moments and readers. Yet books only take an individual so far, she notes. They can only provide us with so much.
It feels more than anything like we are living through a permanent state of trauma. Too often we repeat the same sentiment, yet it’s the truth, as much as we wish it weren’t. On May 14, ten Black individuals were murdered in Buffalo, NY by a white supremacist who embraced the “great replacement” theory. On May 15, one man was murdered in Laguna Beach, CA by a man who considered himself tasked with destroying Taiwanese independence. On May 13, sixteen people were wounded in three separate shootings in Milwaukee, WI. On May 11, three Korean American women were targeted at a salon in Dallas, TX. And then, on May 24, twenty-one individuals, including nineteen children and two teachers, were murdered in Uvalde, TX, with seventeen people additionally wounded. We take a moment here to remember the victims who are no longer with us:
Roberta A. Drury / Margus D. Morrison / Andre Mackniel / Aaron Salter Jr. / Geraldine Talley / Celestine Chaney / Heyward Patterson / Katherine Massey / Pearl Young / Ruth Whitfield / Dr. John Cheng / Nevaeh Bravo / Jacklyn Cazares / Makenna Elrod / Jose Flores Jr. / Eliahna “Ellie” Garcia / Irma Garcia / Uziyah Garcia / Amerie Jo Garza / Jayce Carmelo Luevanos / Xavier Lopez / Tess Marie Mata / Maranda Mathis / Eva Mireles / Alithia Ramirez / Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez / Maite Rodriguez / Alexandria “Lexi” Aniyah Rubio / Layla Salazar / Jailah Silguero / Eliahana Cruz Torres / Rogelio Torres
May also brought the leak of SCOTUS’ ruling on Roe v. Wade, a decision that would primarily harm communities experiencing systematic and systemic discrimination. There is also fear that the ruling will open the gates to reversing other landmark cases such as Obergefell v. Hodges, which ruled the fundamental right for marriage equality. There’s also the incredibly threatening shortage of baby formula, one that 192 republicans voted against providing additional funding for.
Many of us—ourselves included—have the tendency to turn towards reading when we feel unhelpful or uniformed. We’ve noted before that this is a critical step, but we must also remember that it is only a singular, first step. Just as Tookie and other book-lovers in The Sentence demonstrate, reading must be coupled with action, whether via protesting, volunteering, voting, or other advocacy actions of choice. In this newsletter, we want to highlight and amplify a few book-lovers who are constantly advocating for critical causes in unique ways. In doing so, we hope that you find a new effort or two to support, all of us taking our love for reading one step further.
What books have you read that demonstrate the importance of advocacy? In Against the Loveless World, Susan Abulhawa writes of Nahr, a Palestinian woman confined in an Israeli solitary-confinement cell. The book outlines the links from oppression to resistance, Abulhawa demonstrating how the relationship of the oppressor to the oppressed cannot be weighed equally. In a world in which winners have always written history, it is a lesson that can be transferred to social justice issues across the globe. The book demonstrates the criticality of action, of taking what we consume—whether through word of mouth, literature, etc.—and putting change into motion.
Have you read Against the Loveless World? What other books come to mind?
Interested in sharing your thoughts with us on other books? In upcoming newsletter issues, look for spotlights on Violeta by Isabel Allende, Heartbroke by Chelsea Bieker, The Sex Lives of African Women by Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, and The Sentence by Louise Erdrich. Read along with us, and join in the conversation as we share future spotlights! And you can always find more reading reflections—and submit your own for consideration—on the site.
How are readers going beyond the book? What are booktubers, bookstagramers, and booktokers doing beyond social media? And how can we get involved?
It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of the Noname Book Club, the Black-led worker cooperative connecting community members both inside and outside carceral facilities with radical books. Through their Book Club Headquarters, Radical Hood Library, and book club chapters, they work towards the abolition of white supremacist institutions. Learn more and consider donating, sending supplies, or volunteering.
Also be sure to check out this roundup of bookish orgs and spaces advocating for prison abolition.
Interested in purchasing books for a cause? Swati of @BookSnailMail hosts routine “drops” to fundraise for critical issues of the moment, such as reproductive justice and trans equity. In 2021, she raised over $1,500 for mutual aids and grassroots organizations. Watch her Stories for updates on when the drops will take place and how to participate.
Kate from @TreatYoShelvess is infamous for her photography of George, an adorable pup that loves to read. However, Kate is also incredibly passionate about the climate emergency. Her posts always shed light on critical reads and her other page, @EarthNeedsMoreLikes, breaks down important studies, reports, and policies on the emergency, making scientific information more accessible for everyone.
For more on the climate emergency and publishing, check out this post on what the Big 5 are(n’t) doing to create change.
Little Free Libraries are a big obsession for many book lovers—but many are unaware of how expensive these libraries cost to register, that they tend to be in wealthy neighborhoods, and that the books left in them tend to be pretty white. Diverstories works with schools and communities to create Little Free Diverse Libraries, wanting children to have easy, free access to stories that they can see themselves in. Whether donating books or money, Diverstories is an amazing organization to support.
Many book lovers end up working in publishing—but other than tote bags, it doesn’t have a ton of perks. There are a lot of problems happening behind the scenes and the tell-all account @XOXOPublishinggg provides a space for employees to anonymously share what is happening in the industry. By amplifying concerns, uniting employees across all companies, and not shying away from transparency, the account is pushing for real change.
So many of you! We recently were able to donate $1,000 to reproductive justice funds thanks to your help.
If there’s an issue you are passionate about that we haven’t discussed, send us an email or DM—we’d love to collaborate with you on a spotlight.
Is anything better than visiting new bookstores with a drink from your favorite cafe in hand? Inspired by our “exploring cities through cafes & bookstores” series, we’ve made phone backgrounds to help remind you of the joy such simple moments can bring. Just visit this page using the password BooksAndCafes to download.
As for the non-exclusives, we’ve made a few backgrounds to help us get into the mindset of long, summer days spent reading in the sun.
Bye-bye book buying ban…you weren’t fun while you lasted ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
This month, we want to share the words of our friend Kayla from @ReadKaylaRead. Kayla never fails to capture what it’s like to live in America. We encourage you to click through to read the entire piece.
We are looking for short (~150 words) writing submissions on any topic, as long as they are rooted in and/or guided by an intersectional feminist lens.
Each published writer will receive their choice of one of the following:
$25.00 gift card to bookstore of choice
$25.00 donation to organization of choice
More info can be found here. Feel free to email or DM us on Instagram with any questions.
Action is critical—we cannot stress enough how reading is only the first step. How else might we take action that goes beyond book-related activities?
Voting: Right now, voting might seem fraught. With all of the horrible news, why keep voting for politicians when they don’t seem to get anything done? Having a say in who represents us, as well as fighting for more leaders like us, is critical. With primaries underway and midterms coming up, getting an understanding of who and what are on our ballots, as well as preparing a voting plan, is needed. Head to Vote.org to register and learn more.
Donating: Whether supporting grassroots organizations or larger nonprofits, donating to causes we care about (especially routine donations vs. one-off) is incredibly meaningful if we are in the place to do so. Don’t know where to start? The ACLU always is fighting for equity, or you can check out some smaller recommended organizations at our website.
Volunteering: If you aren’t in the place to donate, no fear! Volunteering is an amazing effort to take. Find local organizations that resonate with your passions, or larger organizations—such as the ACLU for phone or text banking—that need remote help.
Supporting: And, as always, our local libraries are often at the forefront of supporting critical issues, whether through events, resources, etc. Signing up for a library card, checking out books, and attending their events demonstrate to the government a library’s importance, potentially leading to greater funding.
Gun control: We’ve rounded up resources that span across the above—voting, donating, and volunteering—to help push for gun control. Check out the caption of this post.
To learn who running for office is pushing for gun control, visit Gun Sense Voter.
As always, thanks so much for reading. If you have any thoughts, questions, or concerns, be sure to get in touch or leave them in the comments.
Take care of yourselves.
Olivia and Fiona