The Year in Books: 15 Nonfiction Books from 2016 to Bolster the Resistance


Election 2016 and its aftermath brought unprecedented attacks on women, LGBT people, muslims, Latinos, immigrants, Black people, Jews, journalists, union leaders, and dissidents of all stripes — all from Donald Trump and his supporters. Now that the Trump regime is preparing to take power, it’s a good time to take strength from books.

We’ve chosen a group notable nonfiction books, all published this year — from memoirs to history to reportage and essays — that can help bolster our understanding of the world we’ve found ourselves in, support and educate ourselves about the groups under threat by Trumpism, and strengthen the power of our resistance.

The Doulas, Radical Care for Pregnant People, Mary Mahoney and Lauren Mitchell

The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine and Motherhood, Belle Boggs

From different ends of the spectrum, these two books expand our understanding of the relationship between reproduction and the medical establishment — whether it’s IVF and unconventional family creations, or the efforts to care for individuals undergoing childbirth, arming them with support, knowledge and agency.

How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS, David France

“If you want to know how to resist in the next four years, find someone who was with ACT UP,” a friend of mine said after the election. Indeed, in the heyday of the AIDS epidemic the uncompromising, bold activists of ACT UP kept fighting while their friends were dying, making strides despite a government that laughed at their fate. This book looks at how they, and science, turned the tide.

Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly

A look at the contributions of women of color in NASA that inspired the film. Uncovering the story of how women triumph despite racism and misogyny is crucial given our new political establishment, one that reinforces workplace discrimination — and also frowns at science.

Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

This memoir by Al-Khatahtbeh, who runs the eponymous website, is about the other kids of 9/11, the Muslim kids that had to deal with growing up under an aura of unfounded suspicion. The Times called this “an exposition of how two realities, a besieged and defensive Muslim American community and an endlessly suspicious America that constantly demands proof of the community’s patriotism, come together to create the constrictions that she and many million young Muslim Americans must push against.”

Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League, Dan-El Padilla Peralta

A passionate, widely-acclaimed memoir by an Ivy-League classics scholar who began his American journey as an undocumented immigrant; its value in Trump’s America (and any America) is self-evident.

No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality, Jordan Flaherty

Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt, Sarah Jaffe

A thorough examination of recent waves of activism’s triumphs and flaws is crucial to the “movement” going forward with energy and accountability. Flaherty specifically interrogates the need for savior figures and leaders in movements; Jaffe looks at a wide-range of recent movements to find common threads and motivators — including drawing out the conditions that have outraged both Trump voters and more progressive protesters.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond

America has never fully recovered from the housing crisis of 2008, and since long before that, eviction has been a part of the fabric of poverty and racism. Desmond looks closely at Milwaukee, still reeling from those events. “By examining one city through the microscopic lens of housing, however, he shows us how the system that produces that pain and poverty was created and is maintained. I can’t remember when an ethnographic study so deepened my understanding of American life,” wrote Katha Pollitt in the Guardian.

In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, Christina Sharpe

Sharpe’s exploration of the notion of wake, a word with many meanings evolve into an artistic, personal and poetic look at race in the country. Sarah Schulman writes: “She uses her own experience of the familial ‘wake,’ and multiple meanings of that word, to open a door to the larger political and global revelations of Blackness as a force for expression, resistance, and therefore, existence in the face of the ‘on-going ruptures of chattel slavery.'”

Girl: My Childhood and the Second World War, Alona Frankel

Children’s book author Alona Frankel describes her life in hiding during World War II and her family’s experience with anti-Semitism in Russia after the war. Always relevant, but sadly even more so now.

Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America, Patrick Phillips

History is vital to unpacking the truth of white supremacy in America. This single story of a mob that drove out a town’s entire black population is one of many; it show how systematic racism’s mechanisms were, and how far-reaching its effects. “I always had the feeling that the place itself was kind of haunted,” Phillips, who lived in Forsyth as a child, told NPR.” And I thought about these vanished black people, this whole community of black people and had always wondered, you know — as a child, I wondered where did they go?” This book is his answer.

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, Carol Anderson, Ph.D

While Anderson’s “unspoken truth” is being spoken about (at least by some) in the post-Trump era, her examination of white anger and resentment feels essential.

We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation, Jeff Chang

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward

Two books of essays on race, written and edited by brilliant younger thinkers; both are timely and urgent. These are thoughtful ideas for gifts and also for perusing on our own time.