The Goddess Reads: Too-heavy-for-the-beach Summer Reading

A person holds a book to their face with color coded books on a shelf behind them.

It’s not surprising that this summer’s reading recommendations have a distinct social justice focus. Our small but mighty team has been reckoning with race and pandemics and finding our footing in the fight for a more equitable world. We present a range of reading options that have informed and inspired our efforts, and we hope you consider adding these books to your list.  


Toni Morrison’s Beloved is no light read. She weaves a heartbreaking story of the psychological effects of slavery and the trauma passed down through generations. Dealing with difficult family relationships stemming from the enduring pain of living as a slave, Morrison’s book gives us something we all need to take in and process.  


Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe “falls” into the same category as Belovedheavy. Achebe tells a story of familial pain that develops not in the US but in 19th century Africa at the beginning of White colonialism. We learn about the deeply rooted cultural history of the thriving Igbo people and how the onset of forced European assimilation created lasting trauma passed down through generations. Another heartbreaking, but nonetheless important story. 


So You Want to Talk About Race by  Ijeoma Oluo is a Pacific Northwest account of lived experience with racismOluo was raised in Seattle and lives just minutes from the childhood home of Minerva Goddess Malia MackeyOluo leads us through examples of racism she encountered—from microaggressions to scenes that will leave you speechless—in a refreshingly conversational and candid tone. She provides a helpful definition of racism for those who have trouble understanding systemic oppression: “Racism is any prejudice against someone because of their race, when those views are reinforced by systems of power (italics ours).  


For a lighter read that still gets to the heart of racism and people of color’s often uphill battle to be accepted in all arenas of life, check out Dear Girls by Ali Wong. We recommend the audiobook version read by the comedian herself. Wong is laugh-out-loud hilarious without sacrificing serious discussions on race and gender from her perspective as an Asian-American woman. It’s your crass college roommate delivering a lesson in authenticity and telling the story of success in a world designed to keep her out.   


Pleasure Activism by adrienne marie brown crosses into uncomfortable territory for those who steer clear of the erotic. Inner Puritans, be warned. This collection of essays and conversations explores a simple idea—a socially just world is one in which all people are allowed to freely pursue pleasurable experiences—and shows how this pursuit is a political act for those whose bodies and desires are widely viewed as beyond the pale. brown argues that repression of the erotic is the attempt to repress the power of marginalized groups. The book’s sex and body positivity messages suggest that to achieve our social justice aims, we need to make activism the most free and pleasurable path we can pursue.  


For more light reading, turn a few pages of The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. This account of the 1918 Spanish Flu explains how the deadly virus happened and how modern medicine ended it—but only after 50+ million people died worldwide. More than just a book about a bloodchilling pandemic, it’s a love letter to American medical research and public research, and how we quickly progressed from being a backwater in the 19th century to a real powerhouse of science. The bottom line is something we need to be front and center during the current pandemic: believe in science. 


In a similar infectious disease realm, we highly recommend The Great Believers from Rebecca MakkaiIt’s a fictional account of the intertwining lives of gay men and their families and friends in Chicago during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the US. If you remember the fear of AIDS during this time but were not directly connected to the gay community, it’s an eye-opening, beautiful, and wrenching read. 

About The Author

Sara Veltkamp

Sara Veltkamp

Vice President

Sara lives in New Orleans, Louisiana and is Minerva's vice president. She takes a lead role in all aspects of Minerva Strategies’ smart communication strategies and implementation. She loves a challenge and is obsessed with learning new things, from how to use new platforms and tools for storytelling to languages like Amharic, French, or Farsi to mastering a difficult yoga pose. She applies this energy and curiosity to all clients’ communication challenges. Learn more about Sara.