The fast approaching warm weather calls for lazy hours spent reading. Consider adding these five books to your summer reading list; they unravel myths surrounding resistance movements, settler colonialism and racist pseudoscience so you don’t have to.
“As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock,” by Dina Gilio-Whitaker (Beacon Press)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker argues for an “Indigenized environmental justice” movement that centers Native sovereignty and confronts the legacy of White supremacy in corporations, the federal government and mainstream environmental movements. By elevating the activism of Native women, the activist and scholar demonstrates how Indigenous people have fought environmental racism for centuries.
“The End of Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America,” by Greg Grandin (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Co.)
Historian Greg Grandin documents the course of United States history by examining the mythos of the frontier, which once promised White Americans limitless opportunity and expansion. With the rise of xenophobia, and the ascent of President Donald Trump, the U.S.-Mexico border now serves as a monument to the promises that never were. “Whether the wall gets built or not, it is America’s new symbol,” Grandin writes. “It stands for a nation that still thinks ‘freedom’ means freedom from restraint, but no longer pretends, in a world of limits, that everyone can be free—and enforces that reality through cruelty, domination and racism.”
“Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia,” by Sabrina Strings (NYU Press)
During the Renaissance era, large, curvy, fat bodies were revered in major works of art and medical journals. But by the turn of the 18th century, Enlightenment scientists and thinkers deemed fatness as evidence that Black people and other people of color were racially inferior “savages.” Sociologist Sabrina Crystal traces centuries of this racist pseudoscience up to the 20th century, demonstrating that today’s ideal of thinness is inherently both sexist and racist.
“Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy and the Rise of Jim Crow,” by Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Penguin Press)
Literary critic and historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. examines Black people’s struggle for racial justice after Reconstruction and the White supremacist ideology that emerged to violently suppress them. Using imagery from this era, Gates demonstrates how systematic racism continues to reinforce the division between White and Black Americans.
“Superior: The Return of Race Science,” by Angela Saini (Fourth Estate)
Journalist Angela Saini links the latest surge of racism and White nationalism to the invention of so-called “race science” by 18th century European colonizers who saw themselves as racially superior to people of color around the world. “Race science had always sat at the intersection of science and politics, of science and economics,” writes Saini. “Race wasn’t just a tool for classifying physical difference but was also a way of measuring human progress, of placing judgment on the capacities and rights of others.”