Porter House Reads: Revolutionary Literature
Oct 10 ● BY The Editors
In the wake of the Supreme Court of the United States overturning the ruling of Roe v. Wade, I have found myself struggling to write. I struggle not because my mind is empty, but because it is racing with words, thoughts, and overwhelming feelings. I struggle to organize all these things—where do I even begin? With the rage, the fear, the sadness, and the deep, gaping hopelessness?
I find myself feeling smaller than I ever have before. I have always voiced my thoughts, even as I grew up in a largely conservative environment, at the ripe old age of 12 I had declared myself a feminist to my family. With every historical injustice I learned about, my stance grew stronger. I could feel this identity, feminist, etched into my core. At that point in time, I didn’t know any other person who claimed this label. So I was loud about it. Disturbed that my peers didn’t understand that there was a time when we weren’t seen as whole people.
I will start with the rage. This emotion is useful. This is the emotion that led us to march then and leads us to march now. At first, I leaned into this emotion when it bubbled up. Rage gives way to movement, but it also exhausts.
Next, and perhaps strongest, comes fear. Sex takes on a new energy—a different type of power. It can hold your body hostage. And yet, abstaining in an attempt to preserve one’s autonomy is also an act of subjugation. It is another way to be controlled—I reject this. My chastity or lack thereof will not be dictated by a court that is trying to pull us backward in time. I refuse to be taken there. I refuse to be threatened into partaking in their skewed idea of morality. Let me be clear, the fear is strong, but I look back to my 12-year-old self—she is stronger. I take deep breaths. I remind myself of the networks that people braver and stronger than myself have set in place. I have options. We have options. The fear is real and it is understandable, but it will not dictate my behavior. For that, I look to my rage. I trust my rage to guide my pen on the page and my feet on the streets.
Then there is the sadness. It comes in waves. Even when I am not actively thinking of the rights that are being taken away from us. When I am watching TV or walking my dog or taking a shower,I feel it creep up. It caves my chest in. I remember then the way they have told me that my body is not mine. That it belongs more to a fetus than myself, it belongs more to an unviable pregnancy than myself, it belongs more to a rapist than myself, it belongs more to SCOTUS than myself. This immediately reminds me of past violations. People who have taken my body from me before. People who have decided that what they want from my body matters more than what I want for my body. I feel the sadness; I honor the sadness, but I remind myself—that despite every violation that has come before, I have taken my body back. My body will always be mine, no law will take that away. No one gets to tell me what I can or cannot do with my body. I resist. We resist.
When the sadness grows too large, it morphs. It deepens, it carves out the body into hopelessness. This is the hardest. This reminds me of the atrocities that have come before—the genocides of whole groups of people, the way in which the powers that be can decide that one group is unworthy of life. I curl into myself. The overturning of Roe wasn’t the first sign. The anti-trans laws have been slithering through this country. They have laid the groundwork—they have declared that a person does not have the ultimate say over their own body. They have made it clear that the State gets the final say. That we as a constituency are inept at making decisions for ourselves. And if we cannot be trusted to make choices for our individual bodies, what choices will be taken away from us next? This hopelessness is an endless pit of dystopic possibilities.
So, I now return to rage. I return to this anger so that I might claw my way out of hopelessness. I return to rage, because it pulses in the blood. It drives the body to action. My body, the body I choose to never surrender. The rage reminds me that this injustice is not mine alone and this is not the first time it has reared its head. Those who came before faced much worse and they did not give up, they were not silenced. Instead, they took action and they called us to do the same.
My thoughts are clearer now. The emotions are strong, but they give way to a resolve. In these times, I turn to the writers whose words hold the force of an army—the revolutionaries who have the power to change minds and elicit action with their written work.
– Jessica Bagwell
Poems from the Women’s Movement Edited by Honor Moore
As the title suggests, this book is a compilation of poems from the Women’s Movement. From Sylvia Plath to Lucille Clifton and Audre Lorde to Eileen Myles, this collection sheds light on what women have endured and continue to endure. Muriel Rukeyser empowers women to speak in her poem “Käthe Kollwitz” when she says, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?/ The world would split open.” In this collection, it is made abundantly clear that when women come together to demand justice, the reckoning that will follow will be something to behold. So, I will conclude with the immortal words of Alice Walker: “Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.”
Pick this book if you are looking to hear from many voices that share a common goal: liberation & revolution.
Jessica Bagwell, Assistant Field Notes Editor
The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
It seems slightly wrong to list The Undocumented Americans as a book I recommend, lest I appear to be saying that it is a book that you will like. Indeed, its author, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, clearly advises, “I didn’t write it for you to like it.” This National Book Award Finalist was not written for enjoyment or inspiration; its purpose is to open its readers’ eyes to the untold stories of “the people underground.” Motivated by the tension surrounding immigration reform in the 2016 election cycle and its aftermath, Cornejo Villavicencio conducted a series of interviews with undocumented people to provide a comprehensive, nuanced portrait of what it really means to be “undocumented” in the United States. In The Undocumented Americans, Cornejo Villavicencio resists the common language, images, and tropes that are pervasive even in pro-immigration rhetoric and instead engages in specificity and particularity, with biting humor and sarcasm.
Pick this book if you wish to learn what it means to view the issues of immigration, naturalization, and citizenship through a human lens.
Molly Yingling, Managing Editor
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Machado
In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Machado masterfully blends the real and the fantastic to make space for female stories. In this short story collection, Machado demonstrates the hardships women endure, from prioritizing male fantasy vs. their own, feeling the need to look perfect for the patriarchal gaze, and even tearing apart our bodies and our daughters’ bodies in hopes of gluing them back together in a way that wins societal and familial approval. With notes of horror, queer theory, and paranormal sightings, Machado pulls out all the stops to bring attention to the very real horrors women experience in their day-to-day lives, and with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, there is no better time to read a collection as powerful as this.
Pick this book if you want to read a haunting collection that goes beyond the ordinary to bring attention to the narratives the world keeps trying to ignore.
Diamond Braxton, Copy Editor
There Are Trans People Here by H. Melt
I recently finished reading There Are Trans People Here by H. Melt. From Haymarket Books, “This poetry collection describes moments of resistance in queer and trans history as catalysts for movements today.” As a trans Texan, it’s easy for me to fall into unhealthy doom scrolling. If you find yourself doing the same, pick up this book instead, where H. Melt delves into what our liberation could look like, “Where there are no borders / between who we were / & who we are // Becoming.”
Pick this book if you’re interested in trans poetry and liberation written by trans poets.
SG Huerta, Nonfiction Editor
No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age by Jane McAlevey
I first discovered Jane McAlevey in an eight-part interview with Paul Jay (seriously—eight parts and I was hooked on every single one) where she detailed her path to organizing and her first book Raising Expectations (And Raising Hell). I was immediately captivated by her life, her storytelling, and above all, her ability to plan and execute change within her community. No Shortcuts is no less captivating, showing the power of organizing through immensely engaging real life examples. Each section details a different case study, showing the reader how each success and failure unfolded. McAlevey teaches how to do right by your community with your community, and that makes all the difference.
Pick this book if you are looking for avenues of tangible change but feel lost about where to begin.
Riley Welch, Assistant Managing Editor