This is a hard week. This blog is not centered around politics, but around books; and yet I feel I have to address what’s going on in my country right now. I’m deeply worried about the future of our nation, about the racial hatred, the silencing of press, and the religious intolerance that’s going on right now.
But I’m not a political analyst; I’m a book critic. So while I can contact my elected representatives (and I have), when I’m frustrated or depressed or in need of some inspiration, I turn to books. Here’s a few I found helpful that I want to share.
1. Animal Farm by George Orwell
Orwell didn’t ever go for the easy, happy ending – he went straight for the gut. Want to see how bad it could get? Here you go. I know a lot of folks read this in school, but it’s time to pull it out again, and instead of inserting famous Communists, stick some current political figures in there. Some pigs is more equal than others, he says. Sound familiar?
2. Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson
Yeah, Jefferson was a lying hypocrite. But dude could write. This one is in here mainly to remind us that dissent is a central part of our nation’s history. The Boston tea party was not an actual tea party, remember? It involved destruction of property, threats of violence, trespassing. It was a crime. But it is remembered today as a bunch of dudes in culturally inappropriate dress perpetrating a prank. Don’t be fooled into thinking that we’re the only ones whining about politics – our country started as an act of treason.
3. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
This book is a reminder that dissent can have consequences. Corrie’s family living in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam and hid a Jewish family in their attic. When they were caught, they were all sent to the concentration camps. Corrie’s beloved sister died there. But Corrie clung on, and when she was liberated she spend her WHOLE LIFE preaching forgiveness. It’s amazing. But it’s a true story.
4. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
The previous books are written for adults, although I think a teen could enjoy any of them. But this one is written for teens. Holling is the only one in his class who doesn’t go to the religion class, so he winds up studying Shakespeare with his teacher. In the meantime, his sister is embracing the Counterculture revolution of the 60s, his dad is impossible, and the Vietnam War is raging. How Holling decides where he stands will have you feeling inspired, and we could use that right now.
5. Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation by John Carlin
This book is not perfect, but what I loved about it what the way it showed two very different groups coming together to unite their country. Nelson Mandela is a 20th century giant of resistance, and he’s shown at his best in this book. There was also a LOT of rugby, South African politics that I didn’t understand, and names I didn’t know. But it was powerful. Even better (and I’m sorry, but it’s true), check out the movie with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. It will make you stand up and cheer.
I hope these books will motivate you to keep resisting. Make a call to your senator. Send an actual letter. Join a protest group. Donate to a good cause. Do something.