Reading for Social Consciousness

Interested in learning more about how we got where we are, politically and otherwise?

With the remainder of the winter, or even over spring break, read up on the systems and institutions influencing our lives and our nation. A longer list, including podcasts and movies, is available here.

Illustrator: Jaye Ahn

Illustrator: Jaye Ahn

“Appalachian Elegy”
bell hooks

bell hook’s compilation of poems draws on her harsh upbringing in Appalachia. “Meditative, confessional, and political,” it explores the experience of loving a place suffering from socioeconomic marginalization and resource pillaging.


“1491”
Charles C. Mann

Radically challenges the ‘noble savage’ myth of pre-Columbian American Indian life, showing the complexity of American Indian culture and asserting that Indians, too, actively molded and influenced their environments.


“Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City”
Matthew Desmond

Explores how the devastating process of eviction becomes part of a cycle of impoverishment for tenants, and profit for landlords, courts, and companies.


“Gender Trouble”
Judith Butler

A foundational text in queer theory, arguing that gender is an improvised and constantly constructed performance.


“Guns, Germs, and Steel”
Jared Diamond

Chronicles how Western hegemony came to be, emphasizing the effects of geographical and environmental happenstance and dismantling race—and nation-based theories of human history.


“White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America”
Nancy Isenberg

Isenberg dispels the myth of a classless society, following the white poor from their origins in England through to Honey-Boo-Boo, exposing the widespread contempt for the poor and systems maintaining class divisions.


“Zami”
Audre Lorde

This fast-moving novel created the genre of biomythography; it chronicles Lorde’s life as a young Black lesbian growing up in Harlem, outlining how she came to be one of the most influential Black feminist thinkers.


“Globalization: A Very Short Introduction:” Part of a series offering concise discussions of complex issues: written by experts, but for a general audience

Also: “Borders,” “Capitalism,” “Citizenship,” “Decolonization,” “Democracy,” “Postcolonialism,” “International Migration,” “Islamic Ethics,” “Jewish History,” “Modern War,” “Neoliberalism,” “Terrorism”


“Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison”
Michel Foucault

Essential to understanding the modern prison system, Foucault’s brilliant (but dense) treatise explores how so-called reforms of prison systems have shifted the focus from control of the prisoner’s body to control of their soul.