Power to the People: Books to Inspire You in 2017

Power to the People: Books to Inspire You in 2017

If your emotional response to the state of the world in 2017 has oscillated between mildly concerned to deeply depressed – you’re probably not alone. 

Trump’s executive order, which blocks immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, and stops all refugee resettlement for at least 120 days, is a heartbreaking attack on the values of equality, empathy and common humanity that many of us hold dearly. Devastatingly, the policy change is predicted to have lasting and damaging impacts on refugees, including Syrian refugees, who under Trump are blocked from entering the US indefinitely.

Witnessing this systematic cruelty unfold can naturally feel disempowering. But now is not the time for despair. Now is the time for action. Whether it’s supporting and welcoming former refugees with SCARF (Volunteer recruitment open NOW!), standing up for what’s right through your creative practice/work/social network, or advocating change at policy level, history will tell you that it all counts. You count. 

If you’re a SCARF volunteer or donor, now is a probably a good time to remind you that without you, SCARF would. not. exist. Because of you and others like you, we’ve been able to provide friendship, an atmosphere of welcome, and practical support to thousands of former refugees navigating the challenges of resettlement in a new country. You did that (yes you!).

To help you turnaround what might have been shaky start to the year, we’ve compiled a list of books to ensure you stay positive and keep fighting the good fight in 2017. These stories will remind you of your own power and the power of communities to make a meaningful, positive impact.

1. I Am Malala – ‘The Girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban’ – Malala Yousafzai

If ever you need reminding that one person can inspire change in the world, read up on Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousefzai. In ‘I am Malala’, Malala tells the story of her journey from  a remote valley in northern Pakistan, where she was shot by the Taliban for standing up for girls education, to the halls of the United Nations. In the years since, Malala has come to represent the power of peaceful protest and bravery in the face of injustice. If you’d prefer to watch rather than read her story, you can check out the equally powerful documentary, ‘He Named Me Malala’ (2015).

2. Hope in the Dark – Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities – Rebecca Solnit

In Hope in the Dark, Solnit argues that the consequences of activism are slow to emerge and progressives should not see setbacks as defeat but as part of a long history of transformative victories. She argues that hope is a commitment to act in a world where the future holds unknown possibilities, and that pessimism and despair rest on an unwarranted presumption that what will happen next is knowable. Solnit’s book is both reflective and a powerful call-to-action for activists. Funnily enough, the decade old novel has recently had surge in sales!

3. The Help – Kathryn Stockett

The Help, a fictional novel, is a deeply moving portrait of three women who start a movement of their own forever changes a town. Set in Mississippi circa 1962, the novel explores racial and gender inequality, courage and hope. We can’t promise you won’t cry reading this, but we can promise you’ll be inspired. The Help also has a commendable film adaption you can check out.

4. Switch – How to Change things When Change is Hard – Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Written using engaging storytelling, the Heaths bring together research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or personal growth. A must-read if you’re interested in the psychology of social change, and how to utilise this to your advantage.

5. Little Daughter: A Memoir of Survival in Burma and the West – Zoya Phan and Damien Lewis

Little Daughter follows the tumultuous journey of Zoya, who was born to committed resistance fighters in the Karen State of Burma. Despite the horror faced by Zoya (oppression from Burma’s military regime, the hardships of a refugee camp, facing uncertainty in the UK) you’ll be uplifted by her courage, resilience and determination in the face of many challenges. If you’re a SCARF volunteer working with someone from the Burmese community – you’ll find Little Daughter particularly informative and enlightening.

6. Unbowed – A Memoir – Wangari Maathai

In Unbowed, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage. When Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, she began a vital poor people’s environmental movement, focused on the empowerment of women, that soon spread across Africa. Maathai’s story will remind you of the power we have when we act with courage and persistence.

We hope that these books will put a spring back in your step as you continue working towards a better future in big and little ways. Because without people who care, who get up and volunteer, donate, share and advocate – the world would be a bleak place. You only have to look around at how far we’ve come (granted, with some setbacks) to see the collective impact of the game-changes and world-shakers!