Amy of Opinions of a Wolf, asks this month’s BAND question: Do you read nonfiction to support a cause?
Similar to what Amy writes in her response, the phrase “doing it for a cause” immediately evokes my college life. I went to a school full of idealists and do-gooders, in a city brimming with non-profit organizations. Pick your cause and you could find an outlet for it on campus or off. Attend a speaking event about any social issue and you were sure to hear audience members ask, “What can we do?”
In my experience, the answers to that question are more complex than the “action steps” model suggests, but understanding a problem you’re aiming to change is always necessary. That’s where I think the idea of “reading for a cause” can be considered. Study must inform social struggles; It’s vital to understand the conditions people are experiencing and the powerful forces that shape those conditions. Action without these components is fighting without a weapon.
In college I read lots of nonfiction on political violence in Palestine and Guatemala, though I can’t say I was particularly connected to the actual causes associated with those issues beyond awareness-raising and college-y activism.
Nowadays, I’m reading a range of materials to get a sense of what problems are affecting Pennsylvania, who’s benefiting from the way things are, and who’s organizing to change things. I’d also like to read any books I can find on movements that have existed in Pennsylvania (most likely ones being labor-related), because knowledge of the past can be a tool for engaging people and strategizing.