What We’re Reading

From expanding our policy fight to becoming a more inclusive and belonging organization, Food Bankers always seem to have our noses in books, blogs, and articles that help us be more effective in our work. Below is a list of recommendations that some Food Bankers have found helpful (or just really liked). We hope you find them helpful, too.

Please consider supporting one of our amazing local bookstores!

Bandung Books

Moe’s Books

Pegasus Books
Berkeley & Oakland

What we’re reading for Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month – Sept 15 – Oct 15, 2021

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Charles C. Mann

In this groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology, Charles C. Mann radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492.

Enrique’s Journey
Sonia Nazario

Story about a boy from Honduras traveling to the US to find him mother who left her family behind in search of work in order to provide for them.

In The Country We Love
Diane Guerrero

Diane tells her life experience living in the US without her parents after they were detained and deported. Great demonstration of resilience!

Open Veins of Latin America
Eduardo Galeano

Eduardo Galeano covers various facets of Latin American history according to the patterns of five centuries of exploitation of it natural resources and how US and Europe profited.

Decolonize Wealth
Edgar Villanueva

In Decolonizing Wealth, Edgar Villanueva looks past philanthropy’s glamorous, altruistic façade and into its shadows: white supremacy, savior complexes, and internalized oppression.

Decolonize Your Diet
Catrióna Rueda Esquibel and Luz Calvo

More than just a cookbook, Decolonize Your Diet redefines what is meant by “traditional” Mexican food by reaching back through centuries of history to reclaim heritage crops as a source of protection from modern diseases.

Like Water for Chocolate
Laura Esquivel

This classic love story takes place on the De la Garza ranch, as the tyrannical owner, Mama Elena, chops onions at the kitchen table in her final days of pregnancy. While still in her mother’s womb, her daughter to be weeps so violently she causes an early labor, and little Tita slips out amid the spices and fixings for noodle soup.

Sandra Cisneros

Told in language of blazing originality, Caramelo is a multi-generational story of a Mexican-American family whose voices create a dazzling weave of humor, passion, and poignancy—the very stuff of life.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
Julia Alvarez

The García sisters—Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofía—and their family must flee their home in the Dominican Republic after the discovery of their father’s role in an attempt to overthrow the brutal dictator Rafael Trujillo. They arrive in New York City in 1960 to a life far removed from their existence in the Caribbean.

The Devil’s Highway
Luis Alberto Urrea

The Devil’s Highway is a devastating story, but Urrea also makes it a humane one, a short book about hope and death, which presents an enduring argument for the need for U.S. border policy change.

The House of Broken Angels

Luis Alberto Urrea

The definitive Mexican-American immigrant story, a sprawling and deeply felt portrait of a Mexican-American family occasioned by the impending loss of its patriarch, from one of the country’s most beloved authors.

What Night Brings

Carla Trujillo

Marci Cruz wants God to do two things: change her into a boy, and get rid of her father. What Night Brings is the unforgettable story of Marci’s struggle to find and maintain her identity against all odds – a perilous home life, an incomprehensible Church, and a largely indifferent world.

The Inheritance of Orquídia Divina

Carla Trujillo

Perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, and Sarah Addison Allen, this is a gorgeously written novel about a family searching for the truth hidden in their past and the power they’ve inherited, from the author of the acclaimed and “giddily exciting” (The New York Times Book Review) Brooklyn Brujas series.

When I Was Puerto Rican

Esmeralda Santiago

In a childhood full of tropical beauty and domestic strife, poverty and tenderness, Esmeralda Santiago learned the proper way to eat a guava, the sound of tree frogs, the taste of morcilla, and the formula for ushering a dead baby’s soul to heaven. But when her mother, Mami, a force of nature, takes off to New York with her seven, soon to be eleven children, Esmeralda, the oldest, must learn new rules, a new language, and eventually a new identity.

Too Many Tamales

Esmeralda Santiago

While helping her parents make the tamales for Christmas dinner, Maria sees her mother set her precious diamond ring to the side. It’s so beautiful! And Maria only means to try it on for a minute. Then, all of a sudden, the ring is gone. Does she spy it in the tamale dough? When Maria loses sight of it completely, she realizes what has happened.

You Sound Like a White Girl

Julissa Arce

In You Sound Like a White Girl, Julissa offers a bold new promise: Belonging only comes through celebrating yourself, your history, your culture, and everything that makes you uniquely you. Only in turning away from the white gaze can we truly make America beautiful. An America where difference is celebrated, heritage is shared and embraced, and belonging is for everyone. Through unearthing veiled history and reclaiming her own identity, Julissa shows us how to do this.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Gabriel García Márquez

The brilliant, bestselling, landmark novel that tells the story of the Buendia family, and chronicles the irreconcilable conflict between the desire for solitude and the need for love—in rich, imaginative prose that has come to define an entire genre known as “magical realism.”

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Gloria E. Anzaldúa

Borderlands/La Frontera remaps our understanding of what a “border” is, presenting it not as a simple divide between here and there, us and them, but as a psychic, social, and cultural terrain that we inhabit, and that inhabits all of us.

What we’re reading for Pride Month – June 2021

The 57 Bus
Dashka Slater

Slater artfully unfolds a complex and layered tale about two teens whose lives intersect with painful consequences. This work will spark discussions about identity, community, and what it means to achieve justice. – School Library Journal, starred review

Fun Home
Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a graphic novel memoir of the author’s childhood, particularly focused on her relationship with her closeted gay father Bruce.

Against Equality: Queer Revolution Not Just Inclusion
Ryan Conrad (Editor)

These queer thinkers, writers, and artists are committed to undermining a stunted conception of “equality.” In this powerful book, they challenge mainstream gay and lesbian struggles for inclusion in elitist and inhumane institutions.

That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies For Resisting Assimilation
Matt Bernstein Sycamore (Editor)

It is both a blueprint and a call to action, bringing the post-identity politics of a new generation of pissed-off queers to a wider audience.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
Ocean Vuong

At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity.

Nobody Passes
Matt Bernstein Sycamore (Editor)

Nobody Passes is a collection of essays that confronts and challenges the very notion of belonging. By examining the perilous intersections of identity, categorization and community, contributors challenge societal mores and counter-cultural norms.

The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You
S Bear Bergman

With humour and grace, these essays deal with issues from women’s spaces to the old boys’ network, from gay male bathhouses to lesbian potlucks, from being a child to preparing to have one; throughout, S. Bear Bergman shows us there are things you learn when you’re visibly different from those around you.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Emily Danforth

“With echoes of Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle emily m. danforth’s debut novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post is perceptive, nuanced, and beautiful. Or maybe it’s enough to just call it a new coming-of-age classic.”— The Boston Globe.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal
Jeanette Winterson

Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded search for belonging—for love, identity, home, and a mother.

Exile and Pride
Eli Clare

Eli Clare’s revelatory writing about his experiences as a white disabled genderqueer activist/writer established him as one of the leading writers on the intersections of queerness and disability.

Surpassing Certainty
Janet Mock

Surpassing Certainty is a portrait of a young woman searching for her purpose and place in the world–without a road map to guide her. This memoir “should be required reading for your 20s”.

Redefining Realness
Janet Mock

“Redefining Realness is a classic American autobiography. Like Richard Wright and Maya Angelou, Janet Mock brings us into a world we may not know and with breathtaking insight, courage, and masterful craft makes her story universal.” – Barbara Smith.

Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire
Janet Mock

This lively collection asks important questions at the intersections of sexuality and environmental studies. Contributors from a wide range of disciplines present a focused engagement with the critical, philosophical, and political dimensions of sex and nature.

Glennon Doyle

Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live.

Broken Horses
Brandi Carlile

The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, producer, and six-time Grammy winner opens up about faith, sexuality, parenthood, and a life shaped by music in “one of the great memoirs of our time.”

Glitter Up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary
Sasha Geffen

From the Beatles to Prince to Perfume Genius, Glitter Up the Dark takes a historical look at the voices that transcended gender and the ways music has subverted the gender binary.

One Life
Megan Rapinoe

Guided by her personal journey into social justice, brimming with humor, humanity, and joy, Megan Rapinoe urges all of us to ask ourselves, What will you do with your one life?

What we’re reading for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – May 2021

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister
Jung Chang

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister is a gripping story of love, war, intrigue, bravery, glamour and betrayal, which takes us on a sweeping journey from Canton to Hawaii to New York …

They Called Us Enemy: Expanded Edition
By George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steve Scott and Harmony Becker (Illustrator)

Now with sixteen pages of bonus content from George Takei and his co-creators: a new afterword plus a behind-the-scenes tour of the process of researching, writing, drawing, and promoting They Called Us Enemy, featuring historical documents, scripts, sketches, photos, and more!

How Much of These Hills Is Gold
By George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steve Scott and Harmony Becker (Illustrator)

Born in Beijing, C Pam Zhang is mostly an artifact of the United States. She is the author of How Much of These Hills Is Gold, winner of the Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Award and the Asian/Pacific Award for Literature.

Honor Before Glory: The Epic World War II Story of the Japanese American GIs Who Rescued the Lost Battalion
By Scott McGaugh

On October 24, 1944, more than two hundred American soldiers realized they were surrounded by German infantry deep in the mountain forest of eastern France. As their dwindling food, ammunition, and medical supplies ran out, the American commanding officer turned to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team to achieve what other units had failed to do.

Eat a Peach: A Memoir
David Chang

From the chef behind Momofuku and star of Netflix’s Ugly Delicious—an intimate account of the making of a chef, the story of the modern restaurant world that he helped shape, and how he discovered that success can be much harder to understand than failure.

The Sympathizer
Viet Thanh

A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties.

He Mele A Hilo: A Hilo Song
Ryka Aoki

Ryka Aoki is a writer, performer, and educator who has been honored by the California State Senate for her “extraordinary commitment to free speech and artistic expression, as well as the visibility and well-being of transgender people.”

The Accidental Asian
Eric Liu

In The Accidental Asian, Liu writes with a heavy dose of humor and irony as he explores themes of race and identity. 

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning
Cathy Park Hong

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America.

Strangers from a Different Shore
Ronald Takaki

Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans is a work of nonfiction by Ronald Toshiyuki Takaki. First published in 1989 by Back Bay Books, the work discusses 150 years of Asian American history through recollections, interviews, and historical facts.

America is Not the Heart
Elaine Castillo

There is much more than the average “Asian expatriate in the US” story to be found in the debut novel by Elaine Castillo. America Is Not the Heart offers some genuine insights into love, life and what constitutes a home as well as an absorbing family saga set between the Philippines and the Bay area of San Francisco.

My Year of Meats
Ruth Ozeki

A cross-cultural tale of two women brought together by the intersections of television and industrial agriculture, fertility and motherhood, life and love — the breakout hit by the celebrated author of A Tale for the Time Being.

The Stationery Shop
Marjan Kamali

A poignant, heartfelt new novel by the award-nominated author of Together Tea—extolled by the Wall Street Journal as a “moving tale of lost love” and by Shelf Awareness as “a powerful, heartbreaking story”—explores loss, reconciliation, and the quirks of fate.

Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama
Diane C. Fujino

On February 12, 1965, in the Audubon Ballroom, Yuri Kochiyama cradled Malcolm X in her arms as he died, but her role as a public servant and activist began much earlier than this pivotal public moment. Heartbeat of Struggle is the first biography of this courageous woman, the most prominent Asian American activist to emerge during the 1960s.

What we’re reading for Black History Month – February 2021

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
Edward E. Baptist

A groundbreaking history demonstrating that America’s economic supremacy was built on the backs of slaves.

Thick: and Other Essays
Tressie McMillan Cottom

In eight highly praised treatises on beauty, media, money, and more, Tressie McMillan Cottom—award-winning professor and acclaimed author of Lower Ed—is unapologetically “thick”: deemed “thick where I should have been thin, more where I should have been less,” McMillan Cottom refuses to shy away from blending the personal with the political, from bringing her full self and voice to the fore of her analytical work. 

Racism: Science & Tools for the Public Health Professional 
Edited by Chandra L. Ford, PhD, Derek M. Griffith, PhD, Marino A. Bruce, PhD, and Keon L. Gilbert, DrPH

This important publication builds on the racial health equity work that public health advocates and others have been doing for decades. They have documented the existence of health inequities and have combatted health inequities stemming from racism. This book, which targets racism directly and includes the word squarely in its title, marks an important shift in the field’s antiracism struggle for racial health equity. 

Kiese Laymon

A personal narrative that illuminates national failures, “Heavy” is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family that begins with a confusing childhood—and continues through twenty-five years of haunting implosions and long reverberations. 

Recipes from two centuries of African American Cooking: A Cookbook
Toni Tipton-Martin

Throughout her career, Toni Tipton-Martin has shed new light on the history, breadth, and depth of African American cuisine. She’s introduced us to black cooks, some long forgotten, who established much of what’s considered to be our national cuisine. After all, if Thomas Jefferson introduced French haute cuisine to this country, who do you think actually cooked it? In Jubilee, Tipton-Martin brings these masters into our kitchens. Through recipes and stories, we cook along with these pioneering figures, from enslaved chefs to middle- and upper-class writers and entrepreneurs. 

From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century
Andrea Kirsten Mullen and William A. Darity Jr.

“William Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen confront racial injustices head-on and make the most comprehensive case to date for economic reparations for U.S. descendants of slavery. After opening the book with a stark assessment of the intergenerational effects of white supremacy on black economic well-being, Darity and Mullen look to both the past and the present to measure the inequalities borne of slavery.” 

Are Prisons Obsolete?
Angela Davis

Oakland native, feminist, and Black Panther, Angela Davis, argues for the abolition of our prison system.

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
Audre Lorde

“Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider celebrates an influential voice in twentieth-century literature. In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change.”

Envisioning Emancipation
Audre Lorde

“Renowned photographic historian Deborah Willis and historian of slavery Barbara Krauthamer have amassed 150 photographs—some never before published—from the antebellum days of the 1850s through the New Deal era of the 1930s. The authors vividly display the seismic impact of emancipation on African Americans born before and after the Proclamation, providing a perspective on freedom and slavery.”

Stamped from the Beginning
Ibram X. Kendi

“Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists.” Winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction.”

Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party
Ibram X. Kendi

“Black Against Empire is the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the history and politics of the Black Panther Party. The authors analyze key political questions, such as why so many young black people across the country risked their lives for the revolution, why the Party grew most rapidly during the height of repression, and why allies abandoned the Party at its peak of influence.”

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy
Ta-Nehisi Coates

“We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.”

The Bluest Eye
Toni Morrison

“A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity, Toni Morrison’s virtuosic first novel asks powerful questions about race, class, and gender with the subtlety and grace that have always characterized her writing.”

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom
Angela Johnson (Author), E.B. Lewis (Illustrator)

“Told in Angela Johnson’s signature melodic style and brought to life by E.B. Lewis’s striking paintings, All Different Now is a joyous portrait of the dawn breaking on the darkest time in our nation’s history.”

What we’re reading about equity, justice, racism, inclusion …

Antiracist Baby
Ibram X. Kendi and Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky

“With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism.”

The Color of Law
A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
By Richard Rothstein

“Few people can distill the profound reverberating effect institutional racism has on the world today like Rothstein.” 

White Fragility:
Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism
By Robin DiAnglo

“I really appreciate how she frames racism and sets up a safe space to engage in dialogue.” – Allison, Chief of Partnerships and Strategy

How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind
Self-Care Lessons for the Resistance
By Mirah Curzer

“Great self-care tips to considering during times like these!” 

Decolonize Your Diet:
Plant-Based Mexican-American Recipes for Health and Healing
By Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel

Read about our client-centered nutrition work with Dr. Calvo in the Fall 2019 issue of Community Harvest

A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty
By The National Academy of Sciences

The strengths and abilities children develop from infancy through adolescence are crucial for their physical, emotional, and cognitive growth, which in turn help them to achieve success in school and to become responsible, economically self-sufficient, and healthy adults. Read full description

Mobilizing Inclusion: Transforming the Electorate through Get-Out-the Vote Campaigns
by Lisa Bedolla Garcia and Melissa R. Michelson
“Premised on the understanding that being a voter is part of one’s identity, and not just something one does, Dr. Garcia and Dr. Michelson provide advocates committed to civic engagement the tools to help empower communities to make their own voices heard.” – Ezer, Policy Advocate