Book Reviews – Social Justice

On my ongoing quest to find excellent sociology books, I have come across some great books related to social justice, including sexual assault and racial relations.  Have a look…

  1.  Good Kids, Bad City, by Kyle Swenson.  This book is an account of three
    African-American Cleveland boys who were wrongfully accused of murder and imprisoned for many years – nearly half a natural lifetime – based entirely on the testimony of a visually impaired twelve year old boy.  The details of the history of the city of Cleveland and the racist bias that led to the conviction are sad, but impeccably researched and dramatically narrated by the author.  The miscarriage of justice is dramatic, yet the three men had maintained hope all those years that the wrongs against them would be righted, and in the end they prevail.  This is a great, engaging read.
  2.  Shattering Silences, by Christopher Johnston.  This book discusses the rape crisis throughout America, and solutions that might work to alleviate issues like cases not going to trial because of untested rape kits (which has been an issue in Cleveland).  Much of the book, in fact, is based in Cleveland, talking about rape from the viewpoints of victims, a nurse, a police commander, the sex crimes laboratory, the head of the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force, and a researcher seeking best practices going forward.  There are no punches pulled, all of these resources describe their problems and potential solutions in great detail.  Though it may seem overwhelming, the solutions to the crisis that are discussed seem to have been feasible in many communities around the country, and I look forward to these solutions being universally implemented.  Fantastic read.
  3.  I’m Saying No!, by Beverly Engel.  This book is designed specifically for woman who have dealt with sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or rape.  It discusses how to mentally fortify oneself to be able to say no in certain situations where a man is pushing for a sexual encounter (unless it threatens a woman’s life, of course, which is also discussed).  The book deals with the feelings of shame, anger, and body dysmorphia surrounding a body violation.  There is also specific discussion of childhood sexual abuse that I found very enlightening.  If you’re a bit of a “too nice” woman, this book will help level the playing field with men who might want to take advantage of that niceness.
  4. Bonus:  How To Be An Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi.  This one isn’t out yet, but I got to read an advance copy and I’m so glad I picked it up.  I took copious amounts of notes because I learned so much about racial relations, and I didn’t want to forget anything or forget his fantastic style of writing (much of the notes were direct quotes, that I am unfortunately not allowed to share).  It turns out that a white girl raised in a tiny Midwestern country town full of white people, sure had a lot to learn from a black guy the same age but raised in New York City and then the south.  Ibram really conveys a lot of truths in a compelling way, and made me think of things I haven’t thought about before.  For example, he talks about the ways that Black people can be racist towards each other by valuing lighter over darker skin.  He talks about how being “color blind” is a sham for maintaining racist structures.  And he talks about how racism is a construct wholly invented by elites to maintain their power.  He also mentions possible solutions, related to active anti-racism activism, that can reduce the problems that are induced by this fantasy that we all participate in.  This is one of the best books that are coming out this year, and in my opinion, everyone should read this and be prepared to learn.  (Out August 20, 2019)
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