Reads for the Rest of Us: 2021 Best of the Rest

Each month, I provide Ms. readers with a list of new books being published by writers from historically excluded groups.

You’ve read the other “Best of” lists—now read the other one. You know, for the rest of us. Each year, I review my monthly Reads for the Rest of Us lists and choose my favorite books of the year. It was such a wonderful challenge to review all the lists and choose my top 50, but here they are. 

The White Lotus: Lessons on Black Lives Matter, Reparations and Queer Liberation

This summer’s finale of The White Lotus (TWL) garnered 1.9 million viewers and has been renewed by HBO for a second season. Overall, critics cast the first season of TWL as an entertaining, if bleak, satire of wealthy whiteness. In the words of one headline, “Nothing changes on The White Lotus. That’s the point.”

What’s missing from previous critical reviews is how TWL explores themes related to Black Lives Matter, reparations and queer liberation—or how TWL offers useful lessons for white progressives.

Who’s Silencing Whom on University Campuses?

Right-wing outlets—and sometimes mainstream ones, too—tell us that individual professors are being silenced by a “woke orthodoxy” that is overtaking college campuses.

From where I sit at a state university in the Pacific Northwest, this is incredibly ironic. My experience has been precisely the opposite: The faculty loudly decrying their victimhood are the ones who succeed in silencing the rest of us. 

Black Feminist in Public: Black Life, Literature and the Black Feminist Imagination—a Conversation Between Farah Jasmine Griffin and Janell Hobson

On September 25, Black feminist scholars Farah Jasmine Griffin and Janell Hobson took part in a public conversaton about their respective new books, discussing Black literature and the Black feminist imagination.

“When I talk about ‘Black feminist imagination,’ I am thinking of how Black women have been able to articulate the presence of an absence. How do we give voice to silence?”

Anti-Racism Should Be Taught to Students—And Their Parents: “This Is About the Future of Our Schools”

It was an important step forward when the North Kingstown School Committee in Rhode Island unanimously approved the creation of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity (DEI) Subcommittee. But by the time it held its third meeting, it was already under fire.

We must allow children to think critically, ask questions and draw conclusions for themselves—even in topics that do not reflect proud moments of history.

Keeping Score: California Schools to Provide Free Period Products; Title X Gag Rule Reversed; Texas Abortion Ban Reinstated

In every issue of Ms., we track research on our progress in the fight for equality, catalogue can’t-miss quotes from feminist voices and keep tabs on the feminist movement’s many milestones. We’re Keeping Score online, too—in in this biweekly round-up.

This week: Biden administration reverses Title X gag rule; federal courts halt, then reinstate Texas’s six-week abortion ban; school districts crack down on BLM and pride flags; Playboy features first gay man on its cover; California overrides workplace NDAs *and* requires free menstrual products in schools; and more.

A Global Commitment to Combatting Anti-Blackness: Why The World Needs a Permanent Forum on People of African Descent

Structural and systemic anti-Black racism manifests in the climate crisis, global public health crisis, state violence, economic inequality, and various other markers of human life. A permanent forum on people of African Descent—in place of the current patchwork of U.N. efforts—is the most appropriate mechanism to address systemic anti-Blackness globally.

U.S. Acts Decisively to Protect Asian Americans—But Drags Its Feet on Protecting Black Americans

The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act sailed through Congress with fanfare, while the human rights report on police violence was ignored by the U.S. media and government, and the bill to curb police violence is on life support in the Senate. What explains this combination of developments?

The unspoken message is that Asian American lives matter more than Black lives, and that the U.S government cares more about Asian Americans than it does about Black people.