The way people are reacting (and/or responding) to our current political moment is all over the map. Some are taking the ostrich head in the sand approach: If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Some are happy that the end of the American experiment is closer than we ever thought possible. Some are going full-force with resisting, making sure that what is happening does not become the new default. Some are embracing the newly- burnished hate and division, their fantasies of a fourth and fifth Reich are invading our shared reality. Remember when these people used to be on the fringe? Some say this is the last gasp of a dying ideology. I’m of the mind that it is the first deep breath of a newborn. But what do I know? I’m a born pessimist.
Then there is this other contingent. Usually young, and politically nascent. They feel the enormity of the moment, but are at a loss regarding how to best address the moment, and their feelings about the times they are living in. I work with them every day, on the high school and university level.
About a week ago, I was talking to a student and we had this very brief exchange:
Student: “How do we resist? I’m so sad and lost.”
Me: Start with reading some science fiction. If you cannot imagine, you cannot resist.”
She asked me for some titles, and I gave her a few.
I’ve already written about how Gene Roddenberry is a useful frame through which to view current events. My politically progressive go to is almost always from the televised Star Trek universe. But now, I feel it is really important that we read. More so than television, your mind has to work when reading. You have to imagine the characters, their look and voice and demeanor. You have to imagine the spaces the characters occupy. You have to work to complete a picture. We could all read the same book, but come to wildly different conclusions about what it all means. And this is what makes books so absolutely amazing.
What follows is not an exhaustive list. It is my list. I see you The Hunger Games fans. Admittedly it is both male and white male heavy. These are some of the books that impacted me the most. I will not be providing you with an in-depth review because I truly want you to read these. Please add any additions (and why you think they should be added) in the comments section.
Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents (collectively known as the “Earthseed” series) are a given. We are less than a month into this new political regime and The U.S. is looking more and more like Octavia E. Butler was engaged in prophecy, not fiction creation. Ecological damage. The rise of a political demagogue who wants to erode the separation of church and state and establish a political system that is like the mutant child of a pseudo-theocracy and an autocracy. The primary villain also uses the slogan, “Make American Great Again.” The wonderful thing for me is that Butler shows us a way to resist. And like all resistance, there is a cost. Nothing Pollyanna-ish about it. Surviving and thriving in the face of terror hurts.
Steven Barnes’ Aubry Knight series. While there are few authors who craft action sequences as amazing as Barnes, there is so much more to this series. Ultimately (to me) this story is about how we respond to and recover from internal and external demons. It is also about moving from being a spectator in events, to being an informed and determined participant. It is also about how a functioning and loving family, blood or chosen, can be all the protection we need.
Along Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred, The Madagascar Manifesto gave me nightmares. What happens when childhood friends have to break up due to ideology and ethnicity? What if these same friends grow up to be the enemy of the other? One becomes a Nazi commander of a Special Forces group with weaponized German shepherds. The other, a reluctant mystic. Jewish mysticism, Nazism, and the sheer horrors of the Holocaust (and the mindset of the people who support it) are like a punch to the gut. You cannot resist an enemy unless you know how they think and operate.
The Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat. Because sometimes you have to be unapologetically badass. You have to know that you’re a badass and you have to make your own rules. You just might have to find the cheat codes of society, find the back door, and get yours when the powers that be are dead set against you having any piece of their pie.
The only graphic novel mention is G. Willow Wilson’s Air. If you read Air, you’ll better understand this. If you understand it, you will see its value and be able to use it to engage in resistance in the info-sphere.
Daniel José Older’s Bone Street Rumba trilogy. Sometimes you have to take the fight them. And in taking the fight to them, you have to be merciless. This is another series where the idea of non-traditional families as a source of both strength and resistance elevate the tale above mere action and spectacle. I will be reviewing the final book, “Battle Hill Bolero” in the coming days.
The power of a legend is extraordinary. Using story to affect the behaviors of others is a time worn tactic. Few things I have read have illustrated this better than Steven Perry’s The Man Who Never Missed. One man versus an empire, and the empire is terrified of this lone clandestine warrior. I will also add the prequel to this story, The 97th Step as it shows just why high-tech things like data-mapping and the ancient practice of marital arts (Sumito, the art trained in the book, is an analogue of Pencak Silat) are a near-perfect compliment.
There are more, but this list gives a well-rounded view of the differing forms resistance can take.
Be kind to yourself.
Be kind to others.