A number of people recently have talked to me about feeling like my (and previous) generation hasn’t passed down the lessons we’ve learned from our own experience and activism. Here are few books that are full of great essays.
That’s Revolting! : Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
I’m reading this right now and it is so excellent! A really wide range of essays. Stories from the 60’s to today, all of them really relevant. This should be on everyone’s reading list. It’s a great introduction to radical queer politics, and a great reinvigorator for those of us who have gotten comfortable in our own lives and taken a break from dealing with the world. There’s so many great essays in here, it’s hard to pick out a few to highlight, but I did really appreciate the two on Gay Marriage, one by Carol Queen. “Certainly, oppression in any context is wrong. Naturally, queer folk are irritated when straight people get benefits denied to same-sex partners … pissed off queers making a point can cause the culture to shift.” She argues that instead of trying to “squeeze our asses onto the park bench of Normalcy” it would better serve the world and ourselves if we celebrated and fought for our wonderful diversity – for more choices rather than fewer.
Another great essay is a conversation between Marlon Bailey, Priya Kandaswamy, and Mattie Udora Richardson called Is Gay Marriage Racist. They discuss all kinds of questions people pose in support of gay marriage (questions I’ve had myself) and provide alternative ways of looking at these questions.
There are so many other topics covered in this book. Rural queer teens, activism from the 60’s and today. Performance Art, Protests, Pipe bombs, Sex, Films, Queer Radio, more and more and more.
Uses of a Whirlwind: Movements and Contemporary Radical Currents in the United States, edited by Team Colors Collective
I’ve heard the Team Colors has a pretty theoretical and hard to understand website, and this book does start out with a pretty inaccessible introduction and first essay, but after that, it is really useful. The essay A Look at Resistance to Interstate 69 by Earth First, discusses lessons learned about positive and problematic roles activists play when they come into a community they are not from to organize and do direct action – lessons I’ve seen activists have to learn over and over, so I’m grateful someone has written about it! Another essay I really liked was Harvesting Solidarity: Farmworkers, Allies and the Fight for Fair Food, which talks about a successful campaign for Florida tomato workers against Burger King and Taco Bell. It discusses tactics and how the coalition between farmworkers and students worked.
There’s an essay about queer activism (an autobiographical essay about why the Human Rights Campaign sucks and why pushing for hate crime legislation is not the answer), and an essay about current art activism. There’s a section on theoretical analysis. This book is a little disjointed and has more theory than I generally am drawn to, there are some essays that seemed like they were written for an audience that doesn't know much of anything about alternative culture, but I would hate to see it lost to the theory heads, because there is a lot of great info in here that I think would be particularly useful to younger or new activists. Also important for seasoned activists to get us thinking of how to think about and articulate our experiences and what can be learned from them.
From Act Up to the WTO
I must have leant this out, because I can’t find it. I’ve leant it out so much and everyone loves it. It is a history of Queer activism from mainly the 80’s and 90’s. So much of our history, even our current history, gets disappeared, and this book helps