Social justice activism and aiming to bring about change doesn’t happen overnight. However, one misconception that many people have about social activism is that they always view it in a political light. That is not always the case. 

Reading a book to me is like discovering a new purpose, finding something to ponder upon and just being able to reflect on someone else’s viewpoint and reflect. I recently read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a book on social justice activism that revolves around a 16-year-old, trying to make terms with her high-class school while dealing with the reality that brings her back to the narrow streets of her neighborhood.

I was intrigued to read this fictional account of Starr Carter who had to suffer from the trauma of watching a close friend getting shot before her eyes. Thomas beautifully deals with the complexity of standing up for your values from a young age.

In search of more such social justice activism books, I have listed down 13 books that will easily become any social justice activist’s absolute favorite in no time:

1. Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change by Stacey Abrams

social activism
[Image Description: Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change by Stacey Abrams] via Amazon.com
Leadership is hard but convincing others about what you believe in is harder. This is a handbook for everyone looking to work towards combatting the challenges that hinder women, people of color, the working class, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and millennials, who are ready to make a change. With the help of her insights, Stacey manages to break down how ambition, fear, money and failure function in leadership, going hand-in-hand.

Get it for $15.64 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

2. Internment by Samira Ahmed

social activism
[Image Description: Internment by Samira Ahmed] via Amazon.com
Written by the bestselling author of Love, Hate, & Other Filters, the book follows Layla Amin, a Muslim-American who leads a revolution when she and her family are forced into an internment camp in the United States. Internment will inspire you to reflect upon Islamophobic rhetoric and politics, ensuring this scenario remains a work of fiction.

Get it for $10.11 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

3. Front Desk by Kelly Yang

social activism
[Image Description: Front Desk by Kelly Yang] via Amazon.com
Mia Tang, the main character of the books has a lot of secrets. Front Desk is all about Tang’s courage, kindness and the hard work she shows to get through whatever comes her way. How she can hold on to her job while chasing her dreams, is for you to read and find out for yourself.

Get it for $7.35 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

4. Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis

social activism
[Image Description: Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis] via Amazon.com
This handbook is more of a collection of essays, interviews and speeches. Davis brings her perspective of working for civil rights advocacy to present-day movements such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) and prison reforms to the forefront through this compilation.

Get it for $14.67 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

5. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

social activism
[Image Description: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin] via Amazon.com
The author turned photographer Kuklin interviewed six transgender to represent them thoughtfully for this book. The book is full of portraits, family photographs and candid images that augment the emotional journey of each one of them. Each discussion, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other.

Get it for $11.95 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

6. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

[Image Description: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo] via Amazon.com
White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable and triggering. These triggers may include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear and guilt. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium which this book depicts perfectly.

Get it for $14.72 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

7. A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

[Image Description: A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara] via Amazon.com
Targeted for children, this illustrated book can come in handy for everyone, considering how ill-informed some people are despite easy access to information. Every letter is the definition of a different social movement. For F — you learn about Feminism, when we get to G –  you can learn about the meaning of grassroots organizing and why it is important. Learn ABC, the social justice activist way!

Get it for $10.99 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

8. As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker

[Image Description: As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker] via Amazon.com
This historical take on how the indigenous people have fought for environmental justice will bring back the social activist inside you to life. Journalist turned scholar Whitaker puts into perspective everything. From treaty violations to the efforts to protect sacred sites, you won’t want to stop reading.

Get it for $14.72 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

9. Social Justice Activist by Ellen Rodger

[Image Description: Social Justice Activist by Ellen Rodger] via Amazon.com
Social Justice goes beyond individual human rights. Young budding social justice activists will get a sense of how the words and contributions of activists like Nelson Mandela and Marian Wright Edelman inspired others to choose the path of what is right.

Get it for $8.95 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

10. Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel

[Image Description: Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel] via Amazon.com
Hand up is a story of a black girl who has a habit of raising her hands regularly, be it for playing peek-a-boo or getting dressed. As she grows older, the girl uses the action of raising her hands for a more powerful cause. Read this book out to children to help them understand the meaning of empowerment.

Get it for $16.55 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

11. Friendship as Social Justice Activism by Niharika Banerjea, Debanuj Dasgupta, Rohit K. Dasgupta and Jaime M. Grant

[Image Description: Friendship as Social Justice Activism by Niharika Banerjea, Debanuj Dasgupta, Rohit K. Dasgupta and Jaime M. Grant] via Amazon.com
This compilation of essays brings essential conversations around love and friendship together, from a variety of contributors from across the globe. Each essay narrates how living and organizing within friendship circles and kindness offer new ways of struggling for social justice.

Get it for $42.00 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

12. Technology, Activism, and Social Justice in a Digital Age by John G. McNutt 

[Image Description: Technology, Activism, and Social Justice in a Digital Age by John G. McNutt] via Amazon.com
This book offers a close look at both the present and prospects of social change. McNutt delves into the cutting edge of the latest technology while discussing developments in social media, civic technology and leaderless organizations, not leaving behind the traditional approach to technology.

Get it for $36.95 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

13. Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America by Noah Rothman

[Image Description: Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America by Noah Rothman] via Amazon.com
This book is all about the two problems with social justice, one that it is not social and the other that it is not just. Rothman uncovers the real motives behind the social justice movement and explains why, despite its occasionally ludicrous public face, it is a threat to be taken seriously.

Get it for $28.99 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores. 

All of these books are close to my heart as at some point or the other, they have shaped the person I am today and have enabled me to first think and then act.

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  • Haddiqua Siddiqui

    Haddiqua Siddiqui is a Multimedia Journalist based in Karachi, Pakistan. Haddo, as her close friends call her, identifies as food-sensitive and stays away from anyone who does not have a sweet tooth. Currently, her wandering soul is on a quest of unlearning and relearning life. Send help!!

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