What I’m reading: December 2022

I know, I know. I just published a “What I’m Reading” post. So what!!! I read a lot!!! Sue me!!!

Book cover of "Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice" by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

A collection of essays that make an excellent introduction to disability justice, which is a theory and a practice/movement that is distinct from disability rights, as it centers sick and disabled folks who are queer and trans, and Black, Indigenous, and brown. It opens:

“What does it mean to shift our ideas of access and care (whether it’s disability, childcare, economic access, or many more) from an individual chore, and unfortunate cost of having an unfortunate body, to a collective responsibility that’s maybe even deeply joyful?

What does it mean to wrestle with these ideas of softness and strength, vulnerability, pride, asking for help, and not—all of which are so deeply raced and classed and gendered?…

If collective access is revolutionary love without charity, how do we learn to love each other? How do we learn to do this love work of collective care that lifts us instead of abandons us, that grapples with all the deep ways in which care is complicated?”

Extremely yes to all of this.

Personally, I’ve found this book instrumental in helping me address my own ableism, racism, and internalized ableism, and in reinforcing the reality that the health and wellbeing of our community is a collective responsibility.

If you’re curious about the ways in which different aspects of identity and existence intersect and interact in the context of disability—the joys and the challenges; the nuances and complexities; and the whitewashing of health, wellness, and healing—this book is a great place to start.

Book cover of "Thick: And Other Essays" by Tressie McMillan Cottom.

Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom.

[Content warnings for this book: racism, rape + sexual violence]

WOW WOW WOW. I inhaled this book. I appreciate writing that makes me think, and each of the eight essays in this book did exactly that. A mix of history, cultural analysis, and philosophy through the lens of white supremacy (and anti-Blackness in particular) and capitalism, the writing in this book is sharp and witty and smart.

Book cover of "Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity" by Dr. Devon Price.

Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity by Dr. Devon Price.

[Content warnings for this book: ableism, mentions of: disordered eating, self harm, suicidality]

I’ve read a lot of books about autism. This is easily one my Top Three (Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed for You and We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation are the other two).

The focus of this book is the phenomenon of autistic masking, which is a trauma response and “a camouflaged version of” autism, and, because it’s neglected by many researchers and mental health professionals, a big reason why so many people are misdiagnosed, underdiagnosed, or go undiagnosed for so long.

In the context of autism, masking refers to “any presentation of the disability that deviates from the standard image we see in most diagnostic tools and nearly all media portrayals”—which is, like, A LOT. Seriously. There is a massive fundamental misunderstanding among the general population about what autism is and isn’t, who can be autistic (literally anyone), and what autistic people look and sound and act like (there’s no special look or sound or behavior that is exclusively autistic), because there is a massive lack of accurate representation of autistic people and our experiences. This book does a good job of calling those misunderstandings out and providing accurate information.

This book also does a fantastic job at describing how autistic people process information: from the bottom up, rather than the allistic way of processing information from the top down. Understanding this difference in how our brains intake, process, and associate input is so, so important to understanding autism and autistic peoples’ experiences.

I really like the way that this book is structured and formatted. Each chapter builds on the preceding one, and interviews with a variety of autistic people from different backgrounds and with different support needs are included throughout. This gives a much richer, more accurate representation of autism, and autistic people and our experiences.

While Unmasking Autism is written for autistic readers, specifically those who learn they’re autistic later in life, I think allistic (non-autistic) people would get a lot out of this book, too. In fact, if you’re not autistic, this is the book I think you should start with.

Book cover of "White Women: Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How to Do Better" by Regina Jackson and Saira Rao.

White Women: Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How to Do Better by Regina Jackson and Saira Rao.

If you’re white, and especially if you’re a white woman, you should read this book. It will not be an easy or comfortable read. You may not make it past the first few pages, or paragraphs, the first time you pick it up. Keep trying. It’s worth it.

This book is from the women behind Race2Dinner, and it’s an excellent, straightforward resource for better understanding white supremacy and how we white people uphold it—via our fragility, our entitlement, our silence, our (one-dimensional) feminism, our “allyship” and saviorism—in every facet of life, from our relationships with our friends and neighbors, to schools, to the workplace.

The entire book is *chef’s kiss*. I especially liked the discussions about niceness v. kindness; white feminism; the hollowness of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), especially when it comes to anti-racist work; and hyper-indivudalism and toxic positivity. These are all things I spend A LOT of time thinking and writing about, and I appreciate the depth and dimension the discussions about these things in the book have added to my own understanding of each. Absolutely one of my favorite reads this year.

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