#GetLit: Make 2018 A Year of Emergence
And just like that, the first month of the year is over.
I hope you’ve spent the last month reflecting on the past year’s feels and struggles, a critical process as we face another stretch of months ahead. Because as fly Pilipinxs in the diaspora - especially in the age of Trump - we need to strengthen our resolve and look to each other for love and support.
I’ve been thinking long and hard about the necessary tools we need, as artists, healers, changemakers. Some of the questions that came up when I was putting this list together were:
- How do we take care of ourselves, our communities, and our planet, as we struggle to thrive in our respective spaces?
- How do we navigate a constantly shifting society that gives us mixed messages?
- And how do we transform our pain and our traumas and heal with resilience - and help others heal as well?
One of the lessons I learned last year is the practice of emergence: that how we live, how we relate with our communities, and how we take space on the planet are intrinsically interconnected. It wasn’t until I finished adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds (AK Press) that I realized I was functioning disjointedly - which may have explained the onslaught of frustration and burnout in many aspects of my life.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve long carried the idea of changemaking borne out of my own struggles as a queer, immigrant Pilipinx. I’ve also been fortunate enough to find spaces where I could harness pain, anger and trauma into something transformative for myself and other people. The work is hard, but beautiful. You get to build with fierce community organizers whose energy and sense of justice is empowering. You become a witness to the liberating power of collective action. And at the end of the day, even though your bones are tired, you know you can lay in bed and continue to dream of a better world.
That’s where I was for several years, until I found my own heart and spirit weary. Suddenly, I started feeling detached, disconnected. My hair started falling out. Friends and family would assume I couldn’t make it to certain events so they didn’t bother inviting me (which hurt, a lot). My work felt compartmentalized, and I was different things to different people. Many times I wished to be in two places at once, my heart in some other place my feet weren’t. I couldn’t afford to be overwhelmed, so I kept pushing. Over time, this feeling of disjointedness crept up and I caved in.
I’m still in a weird limbo as I write this, but what I’ve discovered is that when you make room for what you want to happen, it all comes to fruition. Clarity that was once elusive comes to the forefront, as long as you treat yourself with patience and gentleness. Slowing down works wonders, and in the process of making art, writing, changemaking, or anything worth pursuing: sustainability is key.
And what a joy it is to find strength in literature, especially the kind that nourishes, equips, and empowers you. Below are five books I’ve lovingly compiled that ask the right questions; the critical ones we need to be asking as we endeavor to create and make change.
Emergent Strategy: Shifting Change, Changing Worlds
(adrienne maree brown)
Inspired by Octavia Butler's explorations of our human relationship to change, Emergent Strategy is radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help designed to shape the futures we want to live. Change is constant. The world is in a continual state of flux. It is a stream of ever-mutating, emergent patterns. Rather than steel ourselves against such change, this book invites us to feel, map, assess, and learn from the swirling patterns around us in order to better understand and influence them as they happen. This is a resolutely materialist “spirituality” based equally on science and science fiction, a visionary incantation to transform that which ultimately transforms us.
The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century
(Grace Lee Boggs)
In this powerful, deeply humanistic book, Grace Lee Boggs, a legendary figure in the struggle for justice in America, shrewdly assesses the current crisis—political, economical, and environmental—and shows how to create the radical social change we need to confront new realities. A vibrant, inspirational force, Boggs has participated in all of the twentieth century’s major social movements—for civil rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and more. She draws from seven decades of activist experience and a rigorous commitment to critical thinking, to redefine “revolution” for our times. From her home in Detroit, she reveals how hope and creativity are overcoming despair and decay within the most devastated urban communities.
The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
The Artist’s Way (Julia Cameron) is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life. Still as vital today - or perhaps even more so - than it was when it was first published one decade ago, it is a powerfully provocative and inspiring work.
The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities
(edited by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha)
Long demanded and urgently needed, The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities finally breaks the dangerous silence surrounding the “secret” of intimate violence within social justice circles. This watershed collection of stories and strategies tackles the multiple forms of violence encountered right where we live, love, and work for social change and delves into the nitty-gritty on how we might create safety from abuse without relying on the state. Drawing on over a decade of community accountability work, along with its many hard lessons and unanswered questions, The Revolution Starts at Home offers potentially life-saving alternatives for creating survivor safety while building a movement where no one is left behind.
How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective
(edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor)
The Combahee River Collective, a group of radical black feminists, was one of the most important organizations to develop out of the anti-racist and women's liberation movements of the 1960's and 70's. In this collection, founding members of the organization and contemporary activists reflect on the legacy of its contributions to black feminism and its impact on today's struggles.
These are only some books that I hope can guide us as we usher in a new year of sustainability with the things that we care most about. If you have any other books to add to this list, feel free to share them with us below!
Pia Cortez is a Bay Area-based community organizer and the creator of Libromance, a blog dedicated to book reviews and literary features with a queer Pinay immigrant perspective. She believes in the power and beauty of the written word: how stories stretch time and transcend boundaries, how books simultaneously challenge and console, how reading becomes an act of resistance. Pia hopes to transform reading from a solitary pursuit and turn it into a tool for community-building, a catalyst for ruckus-raising. When she’s not currently reading the world, she’s experimenting with #booklooks, a play on books and fashion.