5 Books for the Politically Aware College Student

Now that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are President and Vice President-elect, you could be asking yourself questions such as: "How did we let Trump happen?" and "How can we make sure he doesn’t have a place in history, or even better, the future?" As we saw represented in the electoral college map, states with great education systems and cities with colleges were overwhelmingly blue, or leaned blue, even in states like Alabama and Florida! If there’s anything I learned from this election, it's that education, knowledge, and appreciation for people who look nothing like me, is the cure for ignorance. So, I’m going to share some of the books I’ve read in my high school years and in my previous semester in college that have helped me better understand the political climate in America and people’s experiences apart from my own. 

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

Original photo by Isabelle L'Huillier

Matthew Desmond, a Princeton sociologist, travels with eight families in Milwaukee for several months and relates his experiences with them in this book, exposing the truth about evictions and extreme poverty in rural America. I learned a lot from this book, and at the end, I felt like I had seen so much about the families he follows that I cried when the story ended because I wanted to know more about how they ended up! The book explains the housing crisis, and especially the side we don’t hear much about: families with disabled members, those on welfare, and more. 

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

Original photo by Isabelle L'Huillier

As one of the most honest and pioneering books about government-sponsored segregation and racism, Rothstein investigates the truth behind US government-urged segregation and its vast socioeconomic impacts on African American citizens to this day. The author explores redlining in several major cities (Boston included) as well as the racism that Black citizens faced in the armed forces during World War II, putting them at an extreme disadvantage as they returned home from protecting the same nation that refused to advocate for them. I learned so much about government-sponsored racism and how unjust the impacts are today for BIPOC citizens. 

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

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Adichie’s 52-page book that can fit in the palm of your hand is packed with her life experience growing up in Nigeria, how she became a feminist and believes everyone should be one. In her short book, I learned a lot about how feminism isn’t a man versus woman or woman versus woman fight. It’s an everyone versus society, stereotypes, and stigma fight. 

$2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer

Original photo by Isabelle L'Huillier

I read this book in 10th grade, and it was my first look into the poverty facing over half a million households, according to the authors. Edin and Shaefer’s book delves deep into why so many families are forced to choose between heat and dinner or rent and electricity, and how America is allowing this to happen. I was shocked to read it, and hope you learn something about the truth behind welfare and how vital it is to so many Americans. 

A Bed of Red Flowers: In Search of My Afghanistan by Nelofer Pazira

Original photo by Isabelle L'Huillier

As you might be able to tell from my picture, I read this memoir over the summer for a college class and became consumed by Pazira’s story. I had to mark up the book with post-its to remember the best parts of her life to come back to them. Nelofer Pazira relates her life story growing up as part of a wealthier family in Afghanistan under the Taliban and the identity crisis she undergoes as her wealth and privilege cease to protect her from the harm of the Taliban (until she is able to flee to Canada, unlike so many of her friends). After reading this book, I learned a lot about Afghanistan before the Taliban took control, but also the perspective of a native Afghan woman with a progressive father, whose experience shines the truth on US involvement.   

 

After reading all these books, I got a greater sense for the world around me, and even more so, what role I play in our government and beyond. If you are looking for some purpose and guidance politically, I highly recommend educating yourself and doing some self-care by reading some life-changing books. Happy reading!