required reading for a young activist

28 Nov

what would you add to a list of “required reading” for an eager young activist? I’m thinking of the following –  of course, I’m a reader. These really reflect my own political/activist coming-of-age. I’m sure a more concise list would be more useful. Please comment/add your recommendations.

  • AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism [Douglas Crimp]
  • AIDS Demo Graphics [Douglas Crimp/Gran Fury]
  • Ain’t I A Woman [bell hooks]
  • And the Band Played On [Randy Shilts]
  • The Art of AIDS: From Stigma to Conscience [Rob Baker]Black Feminist Thought [Patricia Hill Collins]
  • Autobiography of Emma Goldman (Living My Life) [Emma Goldman]
  • Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About [Carla Trujillo]
  • Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration [David Wojnarowicz]
  • The Dialectic of Sex: The Case For Feminist Revolution [Shulamith Firestone]
  • articles [Emi Koyama]
  • The Empire Strikes Back [Sandy Stone]
  • The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions [Larry Mitchell]
  • Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings [Miriam Schneir]   all in 1 convenient location
  • For Lesbians Only: A Separatist Anthology
  • Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us [Kate Bornstein]
  • Good Intentions: How Big Business And the Medical Establishment Are Corrupting the Fight Against AIDS [Bruce Nussbaum]
  • The Gravest Show on Earth: America in the Age of AIDS [Elinor Burkett]
  • Illness as Metaphor/AIDS as Metaphor [Susan Sontag]
  • Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia [Gore Vidal]
  • La Frontera / Borderlands [Gloria Anzaldúa]
  • Last Watch of the Night: Essays Too Personal and Otherwise [Paul Monette]
  • My Mother/ My Self [Nancy Friday]
  • The Naked Civil Servant [Quinten Crisp]
  • On Lies, Secrets and Silence [Adrienne Rich]
  • Paris Was Yesterday [Janet Flanner]
  • People’s History of the United States [Howard Zinn]
  • Political Fictions [Joan Didion]
  • Race Matters [Cornell West]
  • Reports from the holocaust: The making of an AIDS activist [Larry Kramer]
  • Reweaving the web of life: Feminism and Nonviolence
  • Second Sex [Simone De Beauvoir]
  • Seize the Time the Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton [ Bobby Seale]
  • Sex Change, Social Change: Reflections on Identity, Institutions, and Imperialism [Viviane Namaste]
  • Sister Outsider [Audre Lorde]
  • Sisterhood Is Powerful [Robin Morgan]
  • Skin [Dorothy Allison]
  • Soul on Ice [Eldridge Cleaver]
  • Stone Butch Blues: A Novel [Leslie Feinberg]
  • Surviving AIDS [Michael Callen]
  • This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color [Cherrie Moraga]
  • The Tragedy of Today’s Gays [Larry Kramer]
  • The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She Male [Janice Raymond]
  • War Talk [Arundhati Roy]
  • Why I’m Not a Christian [Bertrand Russell]
  • Women, AIDS, and Activism [ACT UP New York]
  • Women, Race and Class [Angela Davis]
  • Zami [Audre Lorde]


  • ACT UP documents [ACT UP]
  • Eden Built by Eves [Bonnie Morris]
  • Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People [Viviane Namaste]
  • The Politics of Silence [Paul Monette]
  • Queer Nation Manifesto
  • Stonewalled: Police Abuse and Misconduct Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People In The U.S. [Amnesty International Report]
  • The Tales of Hoffman (transcript from the trial of the Chicago 8/7) [Mark Levine]

I originally posted this on facebook in 2009 in response to an email someone sent me. Many friends added to the list:

Lynn H. Ballen added:

  • sisterhood is forever anthology: ‘Gen X Survivor’ by Kathleen Hanna

Jeanne Cordova added:

  • Age of Turbulence, Alan Greenspan (as sequel to Das Kapital)
  • Autobiography of Malcom X (for all activists, organizers)
  • Centuries of Struggle (feminist, 1st wave)
  • Das Capital, or Karl Marx primer (basic for everyone!)
  • The Dialectic of Sex (fundamental to understand feminism)
  • GAY LA (history of who’s who and how it unraveled in LA)
  • Gender Outlaw (trans, basic text)
  • On Lies, Secrets & Silence (feminism & fundamental politics)
  • Persistent Desire (butch/femme)
  • Politics of Silence
  • Queer Nation Manifesto (all queers)
  • Rules for Radicals [Saul Alinksy]
  • Stone Butch Blues (butch & trans oppression)
  • “Woman Identified Woman” (essay) basis of Lesb. Fem.
  • anything by Dorthy Alllison

Tony Espinosa added:

  • Critical Race Counter stories Along the Chicana/Chicano Educational Pipeline [Tara J. Yosso]
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed [Paulo Freire]
  • We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords [Miguel “Micky” Melendez]
  • Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement [Carlos Munoz, Jr.]

Jacob Hale added:

  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X [Malcolm X]
  • Borderlands/La Frontera [Gloria Anzaldua]
  • This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color [Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, eds.]
  • Gay LA [Stuart Timmons and Lillian Faderman]
  • Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us [Kate Bornstein]
  • History of Sexuality, Vol. I [Michel Foucault]
  • Intersex (for lack of a better word) [Thea Hillman]
  • Occupied Americas: A History of Chicanos [Rodolpho Acuna]
  • Transgender History [Susan Stryker]
  • The Trouble with Harry Hay [Stuart Timmons]
  • The Wretched of the Earth [Frantz Fanon]

Melissa Lopez added:

  • Why are all the Black Kids Sitting together in the cafeteria? [B. Tatum]

Vek Lewis Lopez added:

  • Crossing Borders, Reinforcing Borders [Pablo Vila]
  • I’m not racist, but [Anita Heiss]
  • Institutional Ethnography[Dorothy E. Smith]
  • La gesta del nombre propio [Lohana Berkins & Josefina Fernandez]
  • Sovereign Subjects [Aileen Moreton Robinson]
  • Any work by Lionel Cantu

Waiyde Palmer ‎ added:

  • Scum Manifesto [Valerie Salerno]

Josh Riley added:

  • A Certain Terror: Heterosexism, Militarism, Violence and Change
  • Refusing to be a Man [John Stoltenberg]

Sarah Schulman added:

Vreer Sirenu added:

  • Intersex   by lack of a better word [Thea Hillman]

Judy Ornelas Sisneros added:

  • Lesbian Nation [Jill Johnston]
  • Out of the Closets Voices of Gay Liberation anthology
  • Queer in America [Michelangelo Signorile] (shameless plug)
  • Stonewall [Martin Duberman]
  • Virtual Equality [Urvashi Vaid]

Hank Thompson added:

  • capital
  • rules for radicals

One Response to “required reading for a young activist”


  1. required reading for a young activist | - November 28, 2010

    […] would you add to this list of “required reading” for an eager young activist? The books listed here really […]

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