Eeks! Summer is fast winding to a close and you haven’t gotten in all the reading time you wanted? Never fear…it’s not over yet. Here’s our book list of 5 social justice reads we recommend. Use this book list to top off your summer reading goals!
A Hope More Powerful than the Sea by Melissa Fleming
Why are people fleeing from Syria in crazy numbers? Why are they risking their lives in rickety ships to get to Europe? We know of the devastation occurring in Syria through photos and stats and news reports. But do we understand? Do we see through the eyes of those whose lives have been forever upended by the violence?
Melissa Fleming invites the reader to gain new perspective on the tragedy in Syria, experiencing the conflict through the eyes of Doaa, a Syrian girl. As a writer and a journalist, Fleming skillfully weaves together the narrative of a normal Syrian family, leading the reader to a deeper understanding of the Syrian refugee situation.
From the first days of unrest to the decision to flee Syria to a blossoming romance, we see Doaa change as her world changes. None of the book is an easy read, but in particular, the description of Doaa’s days stranded at sea was truly horrifying and sickening. A Hope More Powerful than the Sea is a highly recommended social justice read to better understand the situation in Syria.
From the description: A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea chronicles the life of Doaa, a Syrian girl whose life was upended in 2011 by the onset of her country’s brutal civil war. Doaa and her fiance, Bassem, decide to flee to Europe to seek safety and an education, but four days after setting sail on a smuggler’s dilapidated fishing vessel along with five hundred other refugees, their boat is struck and begins to sink. This is the moment when Doaa’s struggle for survival really begins.
The World is Not Ours to Save by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson
When you care about justice and seek to look at the world through a lens of compassion, you’ll quickly get overwhelmed. The needs are huge and there’s no easy solution. This can easily lead to burn-out and/or disillusionment with being a “social justice warrior”.
Author Tyler Wigg-Stevenson understands. His work in nuclear disarmament advocacy brought him to terms very quickly with the impossibility of his calling…at least in his own strength. The World Is Not Ours to Save is written from this perspective, as Wigg-Stevenson seeks to help Christian activists see their work in the bigger framework of God’s plan.
He points out that we ourselves are not saviors. We don’t have the power, the sovereignty, the understanding to instantly fix deep brokeness. But what we do have is a powerful God who calls us to work alongside Him. And that is the key to effective Christian social justice work.
One reviewer summarized the book’s message aptly: This is a call for realism, sanity, and trusting in God for the final outcome. Our conclusion? This is a social justice book read that is a must for Christian activists.
City of Thorns by Ben Rawlence
How easily we in the west assume that people can be categorized and understood solely based on religion or nationality. The current debate and discussion regarding Somalian refugees has epitomized this flaw in American thinking. And it’s not just a problem in one political party. As Ben Rawlence points out in the book, even under a different administration, the discussion about Somalia has remained relatively unchanged.
We wrote a review of City of Thorns earlier, but feel it’s an important read still. The strength of the book lies in the author’s deep dive into the lives of 9 different Somalian refugees. This gives a breadth to the book, as the situation in the Dadaab refugee camp is examined through different lenses of experience.
Rawlence spent 5 years in and out of the Dadaab refugee camp, interviewing his subjects, spending time oberving their lives and situations, AND learning how the aid community and world governments were responding to the human crisis in Somalia. As one reviewer points out, “…what’s so remarkable about his account is how he complicates the notion of “refugee” as a faceless, nameless condition. Everyone in Dadaab, he insists, is an individual; each resident responds differently to the lunacy that unfolds around him or her.”
The Power of Proximity by Michelle Warren
Poverty in certain areas of town just seems stubbornly baked into the community’s fabric. Often visitors from outside will come in for a quick look-see or volunteer project, and then make pronouncements on why poverty persists or come up with a new program to “make a difference.”
Unfortunately, most outside intervention is of limited use. Uninformed opining can result in crafting solutions that are detached from the reality of life in the ‘hood. So how to make a true difference? For Michelle Warren, the answer came as she and her family relocated. They moved into the neighborhood, choosing to plant their lives among those to which God had called them to minister.
Life outside the “safe neighborhoods” hasn’t been easy, but Warren shares how being proximate has allowed her family to bring meaningful impact, as well as gain a much deeper understanding of the hows and whys of poverty in their community.
The Power of Proximity is a recommended read for community developers who care deeply about making an impact in neighborhoods. As Warren points out, “When we build relationships where we live, we discover the complexities of standing with the vulnerable and the commitment needed for long-term change. Proximity changes our perspective, compels our response, and keeps us committed to the journey of pursuing justice for all.”
Let Justice Roll Down by John M. Perkins
If you only add one memoir to your summer list, John Perkins’ Let Justice Roll Down should be a top contender. His story is an amazing example of how God transforms a life. But beyond just being a beautiful story of Gospel redemption, Perkins exemplifies a life committed to justice and service because of that redemption.
His childhood was on a sharecropper’s farm. He escaped the poverty and blatant racism in the South and became a successful businessman in California. But then God’s call came. No longer could he and his wife, Vera Mae, be content in a comfortable life. John knew God wanted him to return to his home state, back into poverty-ridden and racially charged Mississippi, “to identify with my people there, and to help them break the cycle of despair — not by encouraging them to leave, but by showing them new life right where they were.”
Let Justice Roll Down points its readers to a life of Gospel centered justice, a vision that should impact every corner of our lives. But even more than that, it’s a story of how the love of God is the force that changes the world. “It’s a profound, mysterious truth — Jesus’ concept of love overpowering hate. I may not see its victory in my lifetime. But I know it’s true. I know it’s true, because it happened to me. On that bed, full of bruises and stitches — God made it true in me. He washed my hatred away and replaced it with a love for the white man [who beat me nearly to death] in rural Mississippi.”
In a time when our nation is suffering deep divides and grappling with systemic racism that is just now coming to light, Perkins points us to a way forward that’s centered on the power of the Gospel to change lives AND change unjust systems. This social justice read is our number one pick for 2018.
Have a favorite social justice book you’ve read this year? Share it below!