Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis
Best for: Anyone interested in fighting back.
In a nutshell: A mixture of interviews and speech transcripts that seeks to connect struggles for freedom across the world.
Line that sticks with me: “But those protest movements would not have been necessary – it would not have been necessary to create a mid-century Black freedom movement had slavery been comprehensively abolished in the nineteenth century.”
Why I Chose It: I decided to kick off participation in my fifth Cannonball Read with this book because I am hoping to be more intentional with my life, including my reading. Sure, there will be the occasional airport purchase, but what I’d like to do is choose books this year that can help me be a better activist, citizen, partner, and friend. Part of that means reading up on topics I don’t know enough about, and part of that means choosing authors that don’t look like me.
Review: Hopefully you’ve heard of Ms. Davis. She is a legendary activist and academic – you can read about her on her faculty page at UCSC or just employ the Google machine. I had only a passing familiarity with her work and life, but was motivated to pick up her writings after seeing her in Ava Duvernay’s excellent film “13.”
This book is deceptively brief, comprising only ten chapters and 145 pages. But those pages contain enough ideas to keep my mind going non-stop for years. One area that receives the focus of Ms. Davis’s work is prison abolition and its connection to the overall struggle for freedom. I have – partly due to my upbringing and the space I occupy in the world – found it challenging to fully understand how a world without prison could look, but I am learning, and this book helped direct me to further resources.
More importantly, the essays in this collection make the case for connection between so many struggles that may not be immediately obvious to those not well versed in history. I recall seeing murals depicting solidarity with Palestine when I was visiting the Catholic parts of Belfast in the north of Ireland, but I haven’t done the work to connect fight against occupation in Palestine with other fights for freedom. Ms. Davis makes a compelling case for the ways so many of these struggles are connected, and how much we have to learn from each other.
There are just two areas that kept me from rating this a five-star read. The first three chapters are in the form of an interview, and while Ms. Davis’s responses are full of interesting information, complex connections and suggestions for further exploration, the choice of interviewer left something to be desired. Condescending is probably too strong of a word to describe his questions, but I would have preferred to read Ms. Davis’s words uninterrupted. The second area is that while it makes sense that there would be a constancy of theme across the book, the chosen talks included often contained some repetition. For a relatively short book, I would have like to see a bit more variety.