My mom used to tell me to turn on the lights whenever she found me reading in the dark. “If you don’t listen to me, you’ll end up wearing glasses.” I must’ve been a committed night time reader (and maybe not always the best listener haha) because here I am now, wearing my fifth pair.
Since I’m finishing up my graduate programs this academic year, most of what I’ve been reading has been for my Asian American Studies thesis project (and for personal and political growth too!). Here are my current favorites:
How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood | Peter Moskowitz
I think I’ve been recommending this book to everyone I know. I’m only a few chapters in but have learned so much already, honing my own critical analysis of gentrification that I’ve been processing for the past few years for my thesis project and organizing in Los Angeles Chinatown. Moskowitz unpacks this heavy term by exploring how this process has culturally, socially, and economically affected and transformed New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco, and New York. He highlights the experiences and narratives of low-income people of color who are residents fighting against the threat of displacement and cultural community loss and fighting for their right to continue to exist and thrive in neighborhoods they’ve called home for years, while also exploring the unequal power and wealth of developers, governments, and non-profits that drive gentrification. Written in a style that is engaging and easy to follow but definitely about a topic that will make you furious (if you’re like me and rooting for working-class people of color).
Power at the Roots: Gentrification, Community Gardens, and the Puerto Ricans of the Lower East Side | Miranda J. Martinez
I’ve been reading quite a bit about gentrification! But also about community gardens and ways that communities of color resist oppression, such as racism and classism, through food, storytelling, and collective spaces. I’ve only read a few chapters of this book too but am inspired by the history, creativity, and grassroots organizing of the Puerto Rican community in New York’s Lower East Side. If you have any recommendations on similar readings, I’d love to know!
Rice Bowl Tales | Lihui Zhu (Jane Lee)
I recently came back from a weekend of learning from, listening to, and sharing space with some badass progressive housing and tenant organizers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and Chinatown who are fighting for 100% social housing for poor and working-class folks. On my last day, I walked around Vancouver Chinatown and spent some time in a small local bookstore full of Chinese-language books. My first instinct was to head straight to the food section. Rice Bowl Tales is the newest to my collection of “cookbooks I love but have yet to cook any of their recipes”. It’s organized by special traditional occasions and holidays and highlights some of the dishes I grew up eating and loving in my Chinese-Vietnamese household. Zongzi (glutinous rice, meat, and boiled peanuts wrapped in bamboo leaves). Tang yuan (sweet rice balls). It’s written in Chinese and English. Also check out her blog here.
Book worm / school tip:
Buy secondhand. I usually go to bigwords.com to find the most affordable price for books but have been trying to support small and independent bookstores more often. Some of my favorites include Powell’s Bookstore and In Other Words (independent feminist bookstore AND community center!) in Portland. If you’re looking for Chinese-language books, check out New Great Wall Books & Culture on Ord Street in LA Chinatown!
Pro tip on glasses:
If you’re searching for a new pair of glasses to wear while you read these books, Warby Parker is a good option. I’ve been wearing my pair for the past year and a half after using their free at-home try-ons and these have by far been the most durable and cool looking glasses I’ve ever had (sorry glasses that looked like they were straight out of old school movie depictions of librarians). They offer high-quality glasses at better prices compared to many designer brands and recently launched their Winter 2017 Collection. I’m still learning how to be more socially conscious (as a consumer and human being) and they are too! Learn more about their story here. Here are some of my favorite picks from the collection:
If you have any favorites books (and articles!) you’d like to share with me, please do!
*All thoughts (and any lame jokes) are my own. I only choose to write about sustainable, socially conscious businesses that I genuinely support and WP is one of them.
*Photos of glasses belong to Warby Parker.