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January 2022

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Becoming Abolitionists by Derecka Purnell

Written by , Posted in Abolition, Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
Those interested in one person’s journey to an abolitionist perspective. Those who are already or thinking of becoming abolitionists but looking for some answers to the tougher questions.

In a nutshell:
Organizer and lawyer Purnell shares her journey towards an abolitionist viewpoint.

Worth quoting:
“If we truly want to save lives in the US and beyond, we have to join in the traditions of activists who fight to end policing, wars and military operations across the globe.”

“It makes me wish that people were more curious than critical because it’s so much easier to learn that way.”

“Make policing obsolete by reducing the police, reducing the reasons why people need police, reducing the reasons why people think they need police, and building a society where we have just relationships to each other, to our labor, to our communities, and to our planet.”

“Policing was, and is, deeply connected to the control of land, labor, and people who threatened white supremacy.”

Why I chose it:
I follow Purnell on twitter, and this book seemed like one I would really enjoy.

Review:
Have you ever seen a movie, known it was good, heard people and critics raving about, but after watching it, just felt kind of meh about it? That’s how I feel about this book. I think it’s important, I think it’s well-written, I think the information is very helpful for any abolitionists. Yet it took me quite a long time to get through. But I think this is a case of ‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ because I do think this is likely a very good book.

Also, it was literally hard to read because the font choice was inexplicably bad. ‘Bulmer MT’ is the font, apparently. And it is SO TINY. I read a ton but this felt at times like I was attempting to read the ingredients on the side of a small jar of pasta sauce – I had to reread paragraphs because I literally couldn’t parse the words, which definitely slowed me down.

Alright, with all of those caveats, what about the actual content of this book? It’s good. Really good. There’s a lot of information, coupled with Purnell’s direct experiences, to make a strong case of police and prison abolition. I know that many people were exposed to the idea of defunding the police in summer 2020, but there are many activists and thinkers who have been promoting the idea of complete police and prison abolition for decades before, so there is a lot to learn. If you have questions, someone has thought about what the answers might be, and Purnell shares some of them here, along with her own thinking on matters.

If you’re at all interested in abolition and the history of policing and prisons, or if you’re interested in ways we can improve society, I think this is a good book to check out.

Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it – there is a lot of good information here

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