The staff at the YWCA Southern Arizona have one thing in common; the shared mission to eliminate racism and empower women. Each individual lives, works, and breathes this mission. Though admittedly, they may not have all the answers or know exactly how to achieve it. The solution is on the horizon as we actively learn and participate in the movement. Also, it can sometimes be as simple as reading a few new books.

These personal selections by YWCA staffers are books that encourage social and cultural compassion. With the intention to create positive change, empathy, and a never-ending stream of internal revolutions. In order to walk the talk, changemakers find information from many sources. One of them is through the printed, digital page, or audiobook during our daily commute. Learning about social change, about history, about all the injustices and the many different experiences can create a pathway to empathy and understanding. In reading these 27 books, the YWCA hopes you find the answers on how to win the fight against racism and empower others to escape complacency of the status quo.

YWCA 2019 Book Club featuring a young african american woman reading and "join us on the 3rd Wednesday at 5:30 pm in person or online via or Facebook Group"

Each book on this list provides insights into revolutionary perspectives. We warn you that these books can potentially open the minds, hearts, and all the tiny boxes that compartmentalize a complex world. That story is our story, your story, the story of the people. The folks at YWCA Southern Arizona want your help to make #HERstory. How? By reading and sharing these highly recommended books with your family, friends, and community this holiday season.

Mirra Matheson is the Campus Manager of YWCA’s South Tucson Campus aka House of Neighborly Service. Originally from Washington, Mirra enjoys her time in Tucson hanging around a campfire and singing her favorite songs at a local karaoke bar. Currently, the House of Neighborly Service is renting out office and meeting space. If you’re interested in being neighbors with the Women’s Business Center and Micro-Business Advancement Center, consider scheduling a tour.

Mirra recommends “Emergent Strategy” by Adrienne Maree Brown that explains “How our work as organizers can reflect and take shape in the natural world around us. It inspired me to look to nature for answers to building resiliency to change and adapting as a collective. Provides skills in facilitating learning with others and within yourself.” says Mirra.

Rhiannon O’Leary is the Executive Administrative Assistant for YWCA Southern Arizona and has a vital role in the Community Relations team. Her mastery of spreadsheets and analysis play a vital part in growing the organization. She keeps the team on the gratitude track, writing and sending hand-written thank you’s to the donors that make their work possible. Rhiannon recommends “Bad Indians” by Deborah A. Miranda.

”This book focuses on the erasure of Native American tribes, centered on the experience of the author and her tribal identity. I love her writing style, and she uses pictures, newspaper clippings, poems, analogies and a combination of different ways to tell her story rather than just through narrative. It’s a really good read and really illuminating.” If you’re interested in this book, you should also consider joining the YW Southern Arizona Book Club because ”Bad Indians” is on the list for December!

Jenny Stern is new to Tucson and to the YWCA Southern Arizona staff as Outreach and Marketing Manager. Jenny recommends “Native Wisdom for White Minds: Daily Reflections Inspired by the Native Peoples of the World” by Anne Wilson Schaef because “There is so much healing we need in the world today. Before you judge a book by its cover, read the author’s explanation of what it is to have a ‘white mind’. There are solutions available, long known by the Indigenous elders and Native people of the world. This wisdom and knowledge can be a guide for everyone and anyone who desires a new path, or introduction to Native perspectives.”

Excerpt from the book cover: “You don’t have to be white to have a white mind. What is white mind? As Anne Wilson Schaef learned during her travels throughout the world among Native Peoples, anyone raised in modern Western society or by Western culture can have a white mind. White minds are trapped in a closed system of thinking that sees life in black and white, either/or terms; they are hierarchical and mechanistic; they see nature as a force to be tamed and people as objects to be controlled with no regard for the future.”

Another book Jenny recommends is ”Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You” by Patricia Evans. This book outlined some psychological examples of controlling behaviors in relationships, including manipulation of individuals as well as large groups of people in patriarchal, political, and religious systems of oppression.”

Jenny’s final book recommendation is Eckhart Tolle’s, “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose”.  She suggests being used as “a guide to understanding the internal communications of intuition, ego, emotions, and the pain body. I highly recommend ‘A New Earth’ as an audiobook to listen to on a long road trip or spiritual journey. It helped me tune into the present by listening to those subtle gut tugs from my internal compass.”

The next two YW staffers head up the New Millennium Leadership Center at the YWCA Southern Arizona. The center offers professional training and support designed to help organizations build more inclusive, equitable and successful workplaces.

Liane Hernandez has a superpower of understanding and compassion with deep ties in Arizona’s activist community. As Community Outreach & Education Director for YWCA’s Stand Together Advocacy and Training (@YWCASTAT) programs she also heads up the YWCA Book Club that meets once a month for discussion and snacks. Click here to learn more about YWCA Southern Arizona Book Club list for 2019

Liane takes the lead in actively reading all the cool books about social justice and revolution. Here’s her list of recommendations that make it to the top of our list every time.

  • “Octavia’s Brood” by Adrienne Maree Brown.
  • “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz
  • “We Gon Be Alright” by Jef Chang
  • “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • “Black Dove” by Ana Castilo
  • “Freedom is a Constant Struggle” by Angela Y. Davis
  • “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie
  • “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay
  • “Brown Is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority” by Steven Phillips
  • “Open Veins of Latin America” by Eduardo Galeano
  • “If I Could Write This in Fire” by Michelle Cliff
  • “Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life” by Sari Nusseibeh and Anthony David
  • “New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander
  • “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin
  • “Between the World and Me” by Te’Nehisi Coates
  • “The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race” by Jesmyn Ward
  • “Zami, A New Spelling of my Name” by Audre Lourde
  • “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide” by Carol Anderson

Michelle Pitot is YWCA Southern Arizona’s Chief of Staff and the Director of the New Millennium Leadership Center. She is also a Certified Professional Coach with many years of successful leadership and coaching experience. She recommends the following books to help your social activist mindset:

“Witnessing Whiteness” by Shelly Tochluk. “She writes about whiteness, privilege, race, etc. and the legacy of oppression. A good resource for folk who want to be allies and need to do work around unraveling their own part in institutionalized racism.”

“Dare to Lead” by Brené Brown. Michelle says “Brené doesn’t just write about vulnerability and shame (although that is powerful work too). Her research into effective leadership offers powerful insights into leadership challenges as well as practical ways to be more inclusive as a leader.”

“Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell “is about the quick conclusions we draw about people, places and things. He discusses unconscious bias and the Harvard Implicit Bias test as well as artwork — great read (or listen, since I like to listen to his books on Audible.)”

“The way, my way” by Bill Bennett. Michelle suggests this book “because I read everything I can find about the Camino. This is one of my favorites because it’s super funny yet insightful — one of the few men whose Camino story I can relate to. I pick it up over and over when I need to laugh.”

The staff at the YWCA Southern Arizona also encourages you to explore outside of the box society put you in. Let’s water the seeds of change in your hearts and minds this 2019. Find out how your gifts can empower and support the programs at the YWCA Southern Arizona by visiting us at YWCATUCSON.ORG. The YWCA staff invites you to take a campus tour, join the YWCA Book Club, or schedule a workshop with the New Millennium Leadership Center. Let’s have a conversation and make #herstory together.

Join the conversation every 3rd Wednesday in person or online! #onamission