By Jake Sexton | La Mesa Reads
The unavoidable news of the moment is, of course, the results of the presidential election. While some people are thrilled by the outcome, others are frightened and uncertain about what the future holds. What I can say from us here at the library is that we are here for everyone. It doesn’t matter your age, race, faith, employment status, gender, country of origin, sexual orientation or who you voted for. We will help everyone with respect — with the one caveat, that you treat each other with respect.
On that general theme, here are some books that can help us all see each other’s points of view, books about the struggles, suffering and successes of some of the diverse members of our nation and community.
Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild decided that she needed to get out of her bubble in Berkeley, California, and went to live in one of the poorest regions of Louisiana. In-depth stories of the lives of rural white families on the edge of poverty make up her acclaimed book “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.” Along similar lines, Matthew Desmond’s “Evicted: Power and Profit in America” is about the appalling way in which once-rare evictions have become commonplace among some of the nation’s poorest.
Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” is about racism faced by African-Americans, particularly as it relates to law enforcement, prison and the “war on drugs.” The book also pushes back hard against the idea that American racism is over. Wesley Lowrey’s upcoming “They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement” is a highly-anticipated book about the journalist’s experiences covering police violence and the protest movement that has sprung up to oppose it.
“We Too Sing America: South Asian, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multicultural Future” is Deepya Iyer’s examination of the lives of these immigrant groups, and the impact of terrorism, fear, and bigotry on their lives. The book focuses on the racial profiling and attacks that this group has faced since Sept. 11, 2001.
“An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz won an American Book Award in 2015 for its look at 400 years of American history from the point of view of Native Americans instead of European immigrants. Erika Lee’s “The Making of Asian America” is another history book, featuring Asian immigrants’ experiences from the nation’s earliest days, their struggles against racism, and the complicated social situations of modern times.
Juan Gonzalez’s “Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America” is a hefty volume chronicling Latinos in North America from the colonial period to the present, including new immigrants and long-time citizens. If you want a quicker read, there is also “Latino USA: A Cartoon History,” which tells the long tale of Latinos with a lighter tone, fully illustrated by artist Lalo Alcarez and written by Ilan Stevens.
Gail Collins’ book “America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines” tells the stories of generations of individual women of all ethnicities and backgrounds, while also looking at how women’s lives were shaped by changing times, and how women themselves also did the shaping. And Adrian Brooks’ “The Right Side of History: 100 Years of LGBTQ Activism” is a compendium of essays and first-person accounts of life for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks, with focus on the individuals involved in the struggle for their civil rights.
—Jake Sexton is librarian at the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2151, visit in person at 8074 Alison Ave., or get information online at sdcl.org.