Recommended Reading on America’s Authoritarian Enclaves


When the civil rights era arrived and broke that authoritarian system, the result was not just civil rights for individual Black citizens, but a vast redistribution of political power in the United States just as democratic revolutions in other countries have entailed. Viewed through that lens, the chaos of the 1960s and 70s takes on a very different cast.

Jan Levine Thal, from Madison, WI recommended “The Mandarins” by Simone de Beauvoir

The first book that changed my life five decades ago was The Mandarins. I was 21, traveling in India with my brother from cheap hotel to tawdry youth lodgings. We stopped at some kind of hostel run by a church. The book sat on a shelf with the Bible and some other tomes. I opened it idly. I was entranced. Through it I understood what it meant for the lights to come back on in Paris after WWII. And about national loss and identity without fascism. I became an activist against war.

Felipe Fisher from Chicago, IL recommended “No Visible Bruises” by Rachel Louise Snyder

I read this book a few years ago and it completely changed the way I think about domestic violence. Snyder made me confront my own assumptions and stereotypes about domestic violence victims and the deeply rooted misogyny that allows this ongoing epidemic to flourish. It has stayed with me to this day.

Sandra Hager Eliason, from Minneapolis, MN, USA, recommended “Cost of Living,” by Emily Florence Maloney

I am a doctor. I have thought about and spoken about the problems in the medical system for years, but have not been able to succinctly find the correct words to distill these thoughts and feelings. In Cost of Living, Maloney describes how an attempted suicide forced her to pay for years, making her realize the true cost of living.

As an aide in the emergency room, as someone working for pharmaceuticals, she sees the medical system from both sides, patient and health worker, and is able to truly describe the problems in a way that made me continue to say “Yes!” and be thankful that someone knew how to describe the intricacies of this system, the nuts and bolts behind the patient interactions, in a way that lay people could relate to.

Thank you to everyone who wrote in to tell me about what you’re reading. Please keep the submissions coming!

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