Since landing in North Carolina in 2013, Ashlee has been winding their way through the weeds of social activism, political development, and community organizing. Committed to the work of tearing down illegitimate racial, gender, and economic hierarchies, they seek to explore new (and old) ways of being in relationship with one another and the larger living world. Ashlee envisions Firestorm as a place to cultivate and unleash the kind of radical imagination required to transform systems of oppression and build communities rooted in social justice and ecological sustainability. They like books on plants, politics, and philosophy, and recently started reading fiction again. They do event coordination for our community room and can be reached at email@example.com.
Ash's Staff Picks
An anthem for queer survival in a world so desperate to deny it, Stay and Fight is a celebration of what it means to be alive, flawed, and human. With a rotating cast of first-person narrators, Madeline Ffitch writes distinct voices that create a detailed snapshot of living off the land and working to make ends meet in rural small-town Appalachia. Honest, raw, quirky, harsh, stubborn, fun loving, heartbreaking, and gut-wrenching, I absolutely fell in love with the authenticity of these characters and their struggle to understand themselves, their commitment to one another, and what it looks like to build home together.
"Delivered with her signature sharp wit, expansive humor, a heartfelt story-telling, Lindsay Ellis blends a familiar first-contact adventure narrative into an alternative timeline of millennial nostalgia for the early aughts. With clever and nuanced explorations of language, love, truth, and humanity, Axiom’s End is a real treat for anyone seeking a brief but engaging escape from the nightmarish reality of our current timeline."
George Orr exists like a jellyfish in the ocean: fluid, free flowing, and deceptively dangerous. His mild demeanor covers for the unpleasant truth that his dreams can alter reality. When an ambitious psychiatrist and sleep researcher discovers George's power, the doctor attempts to use his ability to change the world for the better. What follows is a mind-bending meditation on the limits of knowledge and what it means to shape the world around us. A philosophical musing on the clash between the drive toward progress and the willful equanimity of acceptance, Le Guin’s science-fiction classic is a meaningful read for anyone struggling to understand and respond to the scale of human-made suffering in our world today.
Written with an atmospheric and hallucinatory quality that gets under your skin and rearranges your head space, Jeff Vandermeer's Annihilation is unlike anything else I have read. A genre-bending work of fiction, the story is set up with a sci-fi premise but quickly devolves into a mind-melting eco-horror mystery thriller that leaves readers in an otherworldly state of utter confusion, discomfort, and awe. Serving as book one of the Southern Reach Trilogy, Annihilation sets a tone few titles have achieved, and starts readers down one of the more unique story paths I've ever encountered.
Tochi Onyebuchi’s Riot Baby blasts open the door of possibility we need to carry on in a world hell-bent on beating us down. The supernatural connection between siblings Ella and Kev weaves readers through all-too-real instances of racist policing, the carceral state, dystopian surveillance, and a never ending cycle of intolerable injustice. As their pain and suffering increase, so too does their power, until their special bond bursts the world open at its seams. With love and rage, Onyebuchi exemplifies what it means to write angry while remaining grounded in the forces that give us meaning.
This is the first book I read after the 2016 general election. So many people in my life had been protesting, marching, sitting in, shutting down, and organizing for a world free of oppression, and that project had just been dealt a huge blow. It felt like the start of an especially horrific turn, and Octavia Butler had seen it all coming in 1993. And through the life and words of Sower's protagonist, Lauren Oalmania, was telling us what we could do about it. Or, perhaps more accurately, what we might have to do about it, much like Lauren is forced throughout the story. A bleak depiction of our future that feels alarmingly close to our present, it is only through Lauren's creativity, innovation, and self-determined faith that we receive any relief from the desperate and violent world crumbling around her. I'm forever grateful to Octavia for warning of what might come and offering a visionary resource in what we might do to adapt, change, and survive.
First published in 1974, Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed shook the core of what I believed possible. It's imagined anarchist utopia, and resulting societal struggles, take place on the barren moonlike planet of Anarres. The story that follows inspires a rigorous intellectual exercise while managing to maintain an emotional quality. Through compelling characters and world building, Le Guin questions and challenges our ideas of language, land, love, and humanity and juxtaposes an attempt at an ethical society with a home planet that continues to exploit, oppress, and extract from its people and land. In the end, little is resolved but everything has changed. There are no easy answers, but The Dispossessed opens up a world of wonder and imagination that can, possibly more than any other work of fiction, aid in the move towards a liberated society.
An impactful read for anyone working at the intersection of anti-racist, feminist, and social movement organizing, especially folks who identify as white and/or male. Chris Crass shares a passionate and seasoned perspective on the development of liberatory practice told from over a decade of experience in various grassroots and anarchist projects. Full of strategy, tactics, interviews, and analysis, the lessons explored in Towards Collective Liberation offer profound realizations which warrant multiple reads. A valuable contribution to the toolbox for any on-the-ground community organizers and activists.