Taken from the JCUA New Year Email: WE LOVE THESE RECOMMENDATIONS.
As we work toward positive change within ourselves and our communities in 5783, we know that great books — about organizing, Judaism, and Chicago — can fuel our growth. What book would you recommend for members of the JCUA community?Please let us know!
Recommendations from JCUA members and staff:
There’s a great young adult graphic trilogy called Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch. It’s one of the first (and only) examples of really good, thorough representation of Orthodox Jews in young adult literature and graphic novels/comics. It allowed me to explore my own creativity in ways I never had before. Leela Wittenberg Trubowitz
I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle by Charles Payne is my all-time favorite book about organizing. Payne conducted extensive interviews with organizers and leaders in the Black freedom movement in Greenwood, Mississippi to provide a deep, local history of the movement that shows how everyday people, especially Black women, doing what Ella Baker called “spadework,” drove the movement forward. The book is an essential antidote to the “Montgomery to Memphis” charismatic male leadership narrative. It also thoughtfully explores some of the tensions within the movement — between local and national organizations; between organizers committed to nonviolence and leaders committed to self-defense; and between older and younger generations. Joe Grant
Prisons By Any Other Name by Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law. Maya Schenwar is a Chicagoan and this book is filled with examples of how “alternatives to incarceration” cause a significant amount of harm, and references Chicago organizing campaigns against carceral systems. Important and necessary reading for anyone doing any organizing around issues pertaining to policing and incarceration. Elena Gormley, MSW
It’s not quite a book, but I’d recommend reading the script of Lorraine Hansberry‘s classic play, “A Raisin in the Sun.” Hansberry paints a powerful portrait of postwar working class Black life in Chicago as the toxic forces of urban renewal take hold. As we work to Bring Chicago Home today, it’s important to remember the racist policy decisions that deprived generations of Black people in our city from access to wealth and housing. Jonah Karsh
Killing the Black Bodyby Dorothy Roberts is a seminal text on reproductive justice that is critical reading as many of Illinois’ neighboring states ban abortion. Allison Tanner
There are so many to recommend but these books I’m thinking about are some really good reads that relate to organizing, politics, and identity. I really appreciated reading Fire on the Prairie: Chicago’s Harold Washington and the Politics of Race several years ago. More recently, Emergent Strategy by adrienne marie brown; Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann, and Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation by Eli Clare. Marla Bramble
We Do this Til We Free Us by Mariame Kaba. This book was foundational for me! It helped challenge by understanding of what organizing and activism actually means. Highly recommend for anyone developing their political consciousness. asia smith
This book is all about abolitionist organizing and transformative justice. Sometimes these big ideas can sometimes feel abstract or theoretical, but they are written about clearly and feel so accessible in this book. I have learned so much from Mariame Kaba about how to think about short term concrete organizing wins leading to bold, hopeful visions for a more just world. And, I think transformative justice is a beautiful and important theme for the high holiday season. Thinking about this brings up questions for me like: What can I do in my everyday life to move towards the world I one day want to see? How can we use moments of repairing harm to practice creating systems that can be used on a bigger scale? Mara Wolkoff
We are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer, an amazing book about the relationship between climate change and consumption of animal products. Aitan Licht
The Body Is Not An Apologyby Sonya Renee Taylor. This book is a powerful exploration of radical self love. Taylor highlights the interconnectedness between love for ourselves and love for others and presents social justice work as “radical self love in action.” I loved the way this book not only changed the way I treat my own body but also how I treat all the bodies around me. Rose Shapiro
Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit. This is a short, sweet book. I read the whole thing on Yom Kippur a few years ago. Revisiting lessons from the global justice and anti-war movements, it’s a call to believe that what we do matters. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to feel more hopeful. Becca Lubow
The Jewish calendar allows us to mark time in ways that are powerful and joyful. We look forward to stepping back, spending time with our friends and families, and reconnecting with our deeper goals and purpose. We will return with renewed energy and commitment to co-create a Chicago and Illinois where everyone can flourish. JCUA’s power comes from our people. We are so grateful for the time and intention you continue to dedicate to our collective endeavor. As we find ourselves at a critical political juncture, we need all of us in the work. We are excited and prepared for the fights, campaigns, and challenges ahead, moving us closer — as we recite throughout the Days of Awe — to “a world where justice and righteousness prevail.” May the call of the shofar in 5783 awaken and inspire us. We are honored to be in community with you. L’Shana Tova U’metuka, with best wishes for a happy and sweet new year,