Features  McGill Daily Book Recommendations

Our Anti-Oppressive Book List

According to Forbes magazine in 2013, there are between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone. There are more books out there than anyone could ever read in a lifetime, and we know that your time is limited. Choosing authentic content within this wealth of knowledge can be tedious. Further, throughout history, white men’s voices have been prioritized in literature and art with marginalized people rarely recognized or given attention for their work. With this article, we’d like to share some of our favourite books written by authors of various backgrounds to share some lesser-known works our readers will definitely love.

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya (2018)
Kate Ellis (Culture)
content warning: gender dysphoria, transphobia, homophobia, sexual harassment

Raw, real, and refreshing, this 2018 creative nonfiction piece tackles gender and how we view femininity and masculinity. It is a breath of fresh air in the world of cis authors writing sappy “wrong-body” narratives and just plain-old getting it wrong. I’m Afraid of Men perfectly articulates those feelings of not “doing” gender in a way that cis people approve of and the frustrations that come with it. It’ll hurt, make you uncomfortable, and make you go “ah, someone finally gets it,” all in one sitting. At 85 pages, you really have no reason not to read it.

Aye, and Gomorrah, and Other Stories by Samuel R. Delany (2003)
Phoebe Pannier (Illustrations)
content warning: suicide

Every story in Aye, and Gomorrah is unified by the idea of displacement – no matter how many galaxies may exist between its settings. Samuel R. Delany’s collection features protagonists who are, in one way or another, part of a diaspora. First published in 2003, the stories were mostly written in the 1960s and 70s. When reading it, though, it doesn’t feel like your typical 1960s sci-fi. In many ways, even today this collection pushes the envelope with its questions about sexuality and relationships. Other themes include communication (both in terms of linguistics and in terms of interpersonal connection), mythology, and complex epistemologies (it sounds pretentious, but I swear it isn’t). Aye, and Gomorrah, and Other Stories is a good way to dip your toes into Delany’s challenging but ultimately worth it, prose.

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (2002)
Cadence Thakur (Staff Writer)
content warning: genocide, anti-semitism

Published by Jonathan Safran Foer in 2002, Everything is Illuminated is a historical fiction novel written from autobiographical and epistolary points of view. It chronicles three narratives detailing the author’s own fictionalized journey to Ukraine accompanied by a quirky translator, an old chauffeur, and a one-eyed dog. As they search for Augustine, a woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis, Safran Foer spins a tale that’s brilliant, hilarious, and all too real (despite the hints of magical realism which pepper the text). This novel takes you on a wild ride that’ll have you screaming with mirth, laughter, and tears until the very end.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (2017)
Willa Holt (Sci+Tech)
content warning: abuse, sexual assault, gendered violence

Through a new take on an old fable and a series of other short stories, Machado expresses the struggle of existing in the systems of womanhood. Her razor-sharp prose cuts to the heart of indescribable aspects of moving through the world as not only a woman, but as a gay woman. If you’re looking for lesbian art, beautiful writing, or an author who seems to just get it, look no further. Anything I write about this book would do it an injustice. Go read it.

Evicted: Property and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (2016)
Rosa Sundar-Maccagno (Contributor)
content warning: racism, classism

Evicted discusses the reality of the housing market, with a specific focus on the lives of low-income tenants and their landlords, using Milwaukee as a model for other major metropolitan areas in North America. It reads like fiction, as it follows different individuals and families through their experiences. This book is brutally revealing and packed with statistics; because of the accessible way in which it’s written, you don’t realize how much you’re learning until you put it down. This book will remind you of the necessity of ending capitalism, but it will also make you smile and maybe even tear up.