I know it is only January 24th, but this is the book: if you only read one book this year, please make it this one. This is the book I am going to spend the rest of the year thinking about, wrestling with, coming back to over and over again. This is the book that I am going to tell every person in my life to please, please ready immediately.
The only thing I knew when I picked up this book was that it was written by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. I didn’t bother reading anything else about it; that was enough to make it a must-read for me. I expecting a book entirely about the creation of Black Lives Matter–and this book was that–but it was also a deeply personal memoir about growing up a black, queer, poor woman in a white supremacist society. It is absolutely the story of Black Lives Matter, which is a story that began long before anyone knew what a hashtag was.
The depth of love and devastation, tenderness and violence, trauma and resilience in the pages of this book is simply staggering. Khan-Cullors shares intimate details about the ways in which racial violence, police brutality, the war on black neighborhoods and mass incarceration have harmed her and family, her community, the people she loves. Woven throughout and alongside is the seemingly unfathomable depth of love she finds in family and community, both born and chosen.
There is no “but” here. I do not want to minimize the magnitude of the atrocities committed against black people in this country with a “but”. There is an and. Khan-Cullors lays bare both the terrors her community and communities of color across the country have endured because of white supremacy and the power and strength and joy and celebration that thrives in those communities.
Her writing is always powerful and present. Sometimes the horror of it makes it hard to read, as when she describes being forced out of her home at gunpoint by police–police who have no reason to be be there and no reason to threaten her life. Elsewhere, her joy sparks off the page, as when she writes about sharing weekend meals with her father’s large and sprawling family soon after she connects with them for the first time.
Patrisse Khan-Cullor’s vision blazes across these pages. She does not proclaim to be the voice of anyone but herself, but hers is a voice–black, queer, woman–that we all desperately need to listen to. Her voice is brilliant and powerful. It is her leadership, and the vision of the Black Lives Matter movement–one that centers women’s voices, queer voices, trans voices–that gives me a little smidgen of hope.
The audiobook, narrated by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, is exceptional. I listened to it in two days. I’ll be buying the print version so I can read it again.