A lot of ink has already been spilled over the unique character of 2020, a year that defied all of our expectations to deliver the best and the worst plot twists of our lives. And while it may be that we're living through a period in history that will be "super cool to read about," we woke up every day eager to read anything but the latest presidential Twitter rant or another lukewarm media condemnation of Far-right violence. At times reading felt impossible, at other times it felt like all we had.
So what books were we getting lost in between Zoom calls or stuffing into care packages for quarantined loved ones? With the world outside feeling strangely like fiction, we found ourselves both living and reading in the liminal space between nonfiction and fantasy. The books we embraced, from works of futurism to activist social science, contributed to a vision of our lives beyond carceralism, white supremacy, and ecological crisis.
Feliz and McNeill approach queer veganism through the lens of "consistent anti-oppression" with a strong focus on interrogating and challenging white supremacy, patriarchy, and abelism in both queer and animal liberation movements. Queer + Trans Voices is an incredible collection that accessibly opens a neglected field of inquiry to a non-academic audience!
Moving from South Central Los Angeles to Harlem to Rikers Island to a speculative near-future in short bursts of fierce feeling, Riot Baby… is as much the story of Ella and her brother, Kevin, as it is the story of black pain in America, of the extent and lineage of police brutality, racism and injustice in this country, written in prose as searing and precise as hot diamonds… I read this book with frustrating double vision: seeing with one eye the gorgeousness of Onyebuchi's writing, the visceral heat of it, and with the other the vast indifference of the people who most need to be confronted with its power.
—Amal El-Mohtar, co-author of This Is How You Lose the Time War
Reading Undrowned, I am re-convinced of the revolutionary potential of the life sciences, and in particular, of the necessity of a Black feminist biology. Alexis Pauline Gumbs listens so carefully to everybody—humans, whales, dolphins, corals, all beings, living and ancestral. It is a blessing that she has shared with us both what she has heard and the experimental methods for how she enacted her expansive listening.
—Kriti Sharma, author of Interdependence: Biology and Beyond
Aoko Matsuda (translated by Polly Barton) collects a set of linked short stories reimagining Japanese folktales in contemporary settings, shot through with exceptionally witty societal critique… [R]ather than vengeful ghosts out to punish the living, Matsuda’s apparitions are complicated people in their own right with histories and interests.
—Lee Mandelo, author of Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction