Gayatri Sethi (Desi Book Aunty)
Reading sustains me. During uncertain or trying times, I seek refuge in books that offer renewal of hope, inspiration and care. I curated this list of some of my most sought out books that might offer something meaningful to any reader, no matter their reading preferences or needs. All of them are authored by brave feminist voices I admire and have been recently published within the last few months.
My Friend Fear: Finding Magic in the Unknown by Meera Lee Patel (Tarcherperigee: January 2, 2018)
This is a self directed reflection journal that offers respite from the stress and anxiety of our current times. I pour a cup of my favorite soothing beverage and sit in reflection with this guided illustrated journal to calm my nerves and get in touch with my inner knowing. The illustrations are soothing and prompts are helpful in easing anxiety or nervousness inevitably triggered by the news cycle and world events.
When You Ask Me Where I’m Going by Jasmine Kaur (HarperCollins: October 1, 2019)
If you are like me and unable to sustain reading an intense or long book at the moment, this volume of poetry stirs up my ability to pause and reflect. I read a verse or two at a time in between multitasking. I am left feeling as if I just had a heart to heart with a dear friend or sister. The topics tackled in poetry form range from mental health to relationships to personal growth. I read verses out of order, based on what pages catch my eye. The illustrations and innovations in the book are particularly appealing. This verse collection holds an innovative and distinct feminist perspective that I treasure and recommend to all the young women in my life.
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall (Viking: March 3, 2020)
If you consider yourself a feminist and intend to be an ally, this book is required reading. I acquired this book in audio format because I find that I need to listen carefully to the truths, and if I get overwhelmed, I pause the book or rewind in order to process or take notes. If I were teaching a global feminism class, I would be sure to include this book alongside readings by bell hooks, Brittany Cooper and Chandra Mohanty. This newly published book offers a much needed reboot to mainstream feminist approaches and movements. It is vital reading if we seek to revive and renew our feminist actions and futures.
Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement edited by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Ejeris Dixon(AK Press: January 21, 2020)
Those of us seeking ideas on how to be and do better to serve our communities will find much inspiration in this book. This is a potentially life altering book that will restore our faith in ourselves and each other. Unlike theoretical feminist writings, this book offers us anecdotes, tools and actions to renew feminist activist solidarity. Many folks who have picked this anthology up have noted that it is a rare kind of book, and they have not been able to put it down once they picked it up. The tone of the book is truthful, matter of fact and visionary. Although there are many practical wisdoms and personal stories embedded in the book, I am left with a deep motivation to partcipate in personal and community transformations. Trust me when I say that if you are the leader of a non-profit or a community organizer or activist, this book will offer radical new directions.
Labor of Loaf: Recipes by Pooja Makhijani
If you are like me, and need something feel-good to get unstuck, this e-book created by a friend is a fantastic way to learn how to bake treats with a desi (South Asian) twist while donating to a food bank. This mini cookbook is a meaningful way to enjoy innovative recipes while finessing new skills and giving to a worthy cause at the same time.
This is One Way to Dance: Essays by Sejal Shah
This book of essays by an exceptionally gifted South Asian writer is forthcoming this June. I highly recommend this book for folks seeking thought provoking essays on topics such as race, gender and mental health. Sejal Shah’s brilliant and distinctive writing based on her own life will renew and inspire readers seeking fresh feminist perspectives.
I sincerely hope that this reading list will offer you a way to renew your sense of hope, inspiration and care during trying, uncertain and troubled times.
Dr. Gayatri Sethi is an educator, writer and consultant based in Atlanta. She teaches and writes about social justice, global studies and education. When she is not writing verses, homeschooling or recommending readings as Desi Book Aunty, she travels the globe with her teen-aged children and college students. Follow her on Instagram @desibookaunty for further reading recommendations and inspiration.