Twelve New Books with Social Justice Themes

1. Decolonization: A Short History by Jan C. Jansen and Jürgen Osterhammel (Princeton University Press)

Decolonization examines the consequences of European, Japanese and American decolonization from World War I to the 1990s. It details the dramatic collapses of long-established imperial regimes, some in peace, others in a torrent of blood, and describes the long shadow cast by colonialism.


2. What Slaveholders Think: How Contemporary Perpetrators Rationalize What They Do by Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick (Columbia University Press)

This book, the result of 15 years of the author’s anti-slavery work, focuses on slavery in rural India. The conversations with slaveholders are shocking in their banality as the perpetrators justify their appalling treatment of other human beings.


3. Political Uses of Utopia: New Marxist, Anarchist, and Radical Democratic Perspectives by S. D. Chrostowska and James D. Ingram, eds. (Columbia University Press)

This is a series of essays from leading or emerging political theorists that tackle the age-old conviction that a better world must be possible.


4. We: Reviving Social Hope by Ronald Aronson (The University of Chicago Press)

Aronson’s theme is (the absence of) hope. He examines our catastrophic age – the violence and inequality – and argues that the seeds of change are being planted in from-the-ground-up environmental and social campaigns and in the movements spearheaded by the likes of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn.


5. Three Centuries of Conflict in East Timor by Douglas Kammen (Rutgers University Press)

Kammen explores the recurring violence that has afflicted this small kingdom: Portuguese colonialism, Japanese military rule, and the dreadful Indonesian invasion that resulted in massacres of hundreds of thousands of people while the west turned its back.


6. The Death Gap: How Inequality Kills by David A. Ansell, MD (The University of Chicago Press)

After four decades as a doctor in one of the poorest parts of Chicago, Ansell surveys the effects of the wealth gap on health. In a nutshell, the poor die young, Blacks die younger, and urban Blacks die even younger. The longevity gap between the rich and the poor is a staggering 35 years. Inequality, he argues, is a disease. It’s brought on by structural violence: racism, discrimination, and economic exploitation.


7. Witnesses of the Unseen: Seven Years in Guantanamo by Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir (Stanford University Press)

This book chronicles another sickening indictment of the U.S. justice system. In 2001, Boumediene and Idir were apprehended in Bosnia and falsely accused of participating in a terrorist plot. When no evidence was forthcoming, all charges were dropped. However, under intense U.S. pressure, Bosnian officials turned them over to American soldiers and the two were sent to Guantanamo Bay. Completely innocent, they didn’t win their freedom until 2008.


8. The Writing on the Wall: Rethinking the International Law of Occupation by Aeyal Gross (Cambridge University Press)

This book offers a critical perspective on international laws pertaining to occupation. While focusing on the fifty-year-old Israeli occupation of Palestine, the book extends the discussion to other occupied territories, including Iraq, Northern Cyprus, and Western Sahara.


9. How Did We Get Into This Mess? by George Monbiot (Verso)

How Did We Get Into This Mess? examines the major issues plaguing the world today: inequality, the destruction of the environment, and the pernicious obsession with profit at the expense of people. Monbiot, a British writer and activist, attempts to find solutions to these crises, focusing on personal and political actions and environmental stewardship.


10. A Half Century of Occupation: Israel, Palestine, and the World’s Most Intractable Conflict by Gershon Shafir (University of California Press)

Shafir asks three essential questions about the 50-year Israeli occupation of Palestine: What is it? Why has it lasted so long? And how has it transformed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Shafir describes the paradoxes, illegality, and conflicting interests involved, and suggests that the Israeli position may be untenable.


11. Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America by Nathaniel Frank (Harvard University Press)

Frank sheds light on the history of gay and lesbian struggles for equality in the U.S. Beginning his tale in the 1950s, he details social upheavals such as the gay rights movement that led, in recent years, to the legalization of same-sex marriage.


12. Fighting the Death Penalty: A Fifty Year Journey of Argument and Persuasion by Eugene G. Wanger (Michigan State University Press)

Wanger is a 50-year veteran of the battle against the death penalty. This book collects forty of his pieces arguing against it. Wanger’s eclectic background in forensics, law, and politics gives him a unique perspective in this struggle.


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