United States of Grace by Lenny Duncan

Rev. Lenny Duncan's first book, Dear Church, implored the ELCA—the whitest denomination in the US—to stop hiding behind its social statements and take action for racial equality and justice. His newest book gets even more personal. United States of Grace is a memoir of growing up Black and queer in the US while experiencing racism, homelessness, addiction, incarceration, and redemption. The book hit me as I was spiraling into such a deep cynicism about this country (hello anti-trans legislation at every turn) I was pretty sure I would be stuck there. It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. It gave me much-needed perspective and made me think more about my own beliefs and principles. "I believe systemic…

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The Sandbox Revolution edited by Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

Edited by Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, The Sandbox Revolution: Raising Kids for a Just World is a collection of essays about parenting with social justice at the forefront of our lives. I need to state upfront that trans readers will want a content warning for two of the essays: Jennifer Castro's essay included gender essentialist phrases like "the power of the feminine body and the sacredness of feminine knowing" when speaking out biological functions such as pregnancy. The essay attempts to be inclusive, but using more personal phrases (like "my feminine body") could have warded off the bio-essentialist feel. Michelle Martinez's essay refers to gendered bodies and uses the term womyn. I want to be clear that, reading these essays in full, I…

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Nothin’ But a Good Time by Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock

Nöthin' But a Good Time is a flashback to 80s hard rock music and its history, in uncensored glory. I've never been so giddy to receive a book in the mail. I had my 80s rock Spotify playlist at the ready! The nostalgia was unreal. I loved so many of these bands as a kid, and still do! I was struck by how young these musicians actually were at the time. I was in elementary and middle school in the 80s, so even young 20-somethings seemed "old" to me then. And of course as a kid, especially pre-internet and living overseas, I didn't know much about these musicians' backstories, and didn't hear about all of their antics, which is probably…

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30-Day Journey with Dorothy Day edited by Coleman Fannin

Broadleaf Books has a wonderful 30-Day Journey series featuring important spiritual thinkers. I requested a copy of the 30-Day Journey with Dorothy Day because I've been drawn to Christian anarchism in recent years, and thought it would resonate. (It did.) It's hard to sum up a life like Dorothy Day's in a brief introduction, but Coleman Fannin does a great job helping us get to know what Day accomplished, what motivated and inspired her, and making us to want to learn more about her. Day was one of the founders of the Catholic Worker Movement, so her Catholicism is deeply woven into her writing. But as someone who isn't Catholic, I didn't find that alienating at all. I enjoyed learning…

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Ladder to the Light by Steven Charleston

I truly needed the boost of hope and courage that reading Steven Charleston's Ladder to the Light gave me this past month. This is one powerful little book. Charleston, a retired Episcopal priest and bishop, is also an elder of the Choctaw Nation and a practitioner of Zen meditation. He leaves interpretation open for the phrase "the Spirit" so that as many people as possible feel at home in his writing, saying, "theological debates are for another day." He throws those doors open wide and invites readers "to interpret the nature and meaning of the Spirit for themselves." This book is radical in its inclusion and unity without falling into syncretism, and avoids the trap of offering spiritual platitudes and…

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Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo

"History is very kind to the memory of mediocre white men." Ijeoma Oluo's Mediocre is a history of how the United States has upheld white male power, the systems they created, and how this has impacted society and given us the systemic issues we all continue to face today. Oluo sets a tone from the start of the book, when she gracefully, effortlessly shows how simple it is to be trans-inclusive: "Men without uteruses should not control our reproductive choices." "When I talk about mediocrity, I talk about success that is measured only by how much better white men are faring than people who aren’t white men." It was nice to see that allyship so clearly, right off the bat. I…

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Nonfiction November: Books for Leftists

Books for Leftists The prompt for week 3 of Nonfiction November is "Be the Expert" (hosted by Rennie of What’s Nonfiction). I thought it would be timely to talk about books for leftists. Let's use the word "expert" more like the word "enthusiast", because I'm always learning and listening and I still have a lot of theory to read up on. Obviously this would include books by Dr. Angela Davis (especially Are Prisons Obsolete? and Freedom Is a Constant Struggle). I see her books all over social media, so I'd like to highlight some other books that center leftist ideals—including anarchist principles of non-coercion, voluntary association, and mutual aid. These books have made a huge impact on me, just as…

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Novellas in November: Nonfiction

The theme for Novellas in November week two (hosted by Rebecca at Bookish Beck) is nonfiction novellas. I didn't realize novellas could include nonfiction as well. That word always insinuated "fiction" to me. But it turns out, there is room for the word "novella" in the nonfiction world. It's a way to describe nonfiction that's longer than an essay, but not quite the length of a book. There's a thought-provoking post about it over on the Brevity blog from way back in 2009. Regardless of what terminology we use, this week's topic fits in perfectly with Nonfiction November, and I'm excited to share some shorter nonfiction works I've enjoyed and recommend. On My Way To Liberation by H. Melt (28…

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Nonfiction November: Book Pairings

The prompt for week 2 of Nonfiction November is "Book Pairing" (hosted by Julz of Julz Reads), where we pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. I've got three book pairings for you today! The fiction titles I've chosen have the same subject matter as their nonfiction counterparts. C and I have been reading through the young people's version of Neil deGrasse Tyon's Astrophysics for People in a Hurry and are enjoying his goofy sense of humor and knack for explaining huge concepts in an easy-to-understand manner. I recently read To Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu [my review], which incorporates a lot of astrophysics and quantum physics in its hard sci-fi short stories. Some of those…

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Nonfiction November: 2020 Year in Review

Nonfiction November week one is hosted by Leann of Shelf Aware. This week, we're taking a look back at our year of nonfiction and reflecting on the following questions: What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? This is always a tough question, but I'm going to have to say Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, a memoir about growing up undocumented in the United States. I didn't end up formally reviewing it because I had so many feelings after reading it, everything in my head was a jumbled mess. It's a tough, heartbreaking, often frustrating read (frustrating in a way that only bureaucracy can achieve). But Castillo's writing is absolutely dazzling and there is joy, too.…

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