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Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements
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Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  1,573 ratings  ·  190 reviews
A nationally recognized activist's 21st century guide to liberation through a Black queer feminist lens.

Appearing on The Roots' annual list, in 2017, as one of the most influential young African Americans, Carruthers--at age 32--is among a handful of high profile activists. Her debut book upends mainstream ideas about race, class and gender and sets forth a radically inclu
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published August 28th 2018 by Beacon Press
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Joshunda Sanders
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Because I read this very close to reading When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele, it was interesting to see the parallels and differences between two extensions of the Black queer feminist radical tradition as conveyed through testimony. Charlene Carruthers' book is part handbook, part memoir and will be more useful than other accounts of modern day movement work on the left for young leaders looking for a template and guide for how to center themselves, identif ...more
As I said on twitter, this book is right on time. Required reading for any organizer, macro social worker, or person who claims to want to create a better world. I love how Charlene doesn't center whiteness in this book one bit. This book is all about the possibilities that Black people create everyday through organizing. I have renewed faith in the power of Black people. This book is already loved (destroyed) with highlights and notes, and I predict it will be put to use over time. ...more
Shannon (That's So Poe)
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-books
This is such an informative book! I learned so much about the importance of taking an intersectional lens to social justice movements and promoting imagination in the way we conceive of solutions to systemic issues. I think organizers of social justice movements will get even more out of it than I was able to (I'm definitely not the target audience), but I'd recommend it to everyone else who has an interest in understanding why we ought to look at things from beyond just the progressive/liberal ...more
Jun 11, 2020 rated it liked it
The subtitle describes this book as a mandate: it might also be described as a manifesto or an exhortation. I highlighted many lines as I read that gave me pause and made me think, and it was a bracing exposure to the perspective of radical thinkers and organizers who reject gently reformist, progressive, liberal POVs. I stopped to look up many of the events and persons Carruthers refers to, and have added a lot to my reading list. Because it’s an exhortation, and relatively brief, by its nature ...more
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I listened to this on audio, read by the author, which is something I love doing for memoir/nonfiction because there’s something special about hearing someone read their own story in their own voice. I learned a lot from this book, not least about the rich history of organizing in Chicago. I really love how Caruthers really *is* unapologetic about her and her comrades’ radical agenda. I’m a pretty pessimistic person about the state of the world re: the potential for the total paradigm shift requ ...more
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.75 stars. I do not think that there will be a time when this book is not relevant, but I hope I am wrong. I cherish this book because it was not trying too hard to be "on the nose" and was instead connected to the past, present, and future. Charlene A. Carruthers made clear that the current movement for Black liberation does not exist in a vacuum and linked it to previous actions by Black people and other people of color. She really did a great job of clarifying the message and mandate of Blac ...more
This was probably my most challenging read so far this year. I found myself having to constantly stop and unpack my negative responses to what the author was saying. Not because of the subject matter or intent but due to the language that they used.

I found I automatically started to dismiss things because they used terms like "radicalized" and "comrade".

I realised that I was responding automatically to much of the very valid things being said in a negative way because of biases around the words
Zoe's Human
Mar 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Unapologetic is a concise analysis of the complexities of organizing black liberation movements. It's a short but very heady read.

To be blunt, I don't think I'm qualified to review this book. It was clear from the outset that I was missing some assumed knowledge, and that always presents an extra challenge to reading. I'm walking away from it with a lot to think about as well as a plan to revisit it in the future when I'm more knowledgable about the history and terminology of radical black activ
Dec 12, 2018 rated it liked it
This was interesting. In a short 140-page primer, Charlene Carruthe shows she's not only an honest thinker with great insights, but compassionate, kind and fully devoted to her causes. The few disagreements I had were small and didn't affect my appreciation. That feels good. ...more
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: online-ebooks
"Anyone committed to collective liberation must acknowledge ignorance and take up the work of comprehensive political education."

Unapologetic was a real eye-opener. There are a lot of moments in our near history that are spoken about that I'd never heard about. What I love particularly about this book is that I didn't just have to read. I had to do. I had to conduct research, learn more about the history of black oppression, the history of different movements that exist today. I learned new
Dec 12, 2018 added it
This book is extremely good and practical. It is hopeful in a way as well even as it is clear the author is aware of the vastness of the work that needs to be done. It’s only about 140pgs but it’s FULL and I have a lot to think about. I’ll be revisiting this for sure.
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a must-read for people invested in the Black Lives Matter movement. Charlene Carruthers shows how many of the tenets of organizing and protesting of today started with efforts in Chicago, including the origins of #SayHerName in 2012 after the murder of 18-year old Rekia Boyd by police in Chicago. Helpful to understand how this movement can be sustained over time.
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, lgbtqia, 2018
I highly anticipated the release of this book and bought it the same night I saw the author speak. It's a must read for people working for change and I think would be a great companion book to read after/with Emergent Strategy. This book made me feel hopeful and that real change is possible if people are willing to put in the work- and I love that she highlighted the SELF-work part of the work. Are we willing to really work on ourselves? Change our own behavior? Admit when we make mistakes? Work ...more
Elizabeth ✨
I’ve had this on my shelf for a few months and this was the perfect time to read it; I just started a class on community organizing, and we’ve been discussing many of the themes Carruthers writes about. I first heard Carruthers speaking for a live panel on activism, policing, and prison abolition on the Intercepted podcast. This book describes her organizing and activism experience, lessons she’s learned, and some of the history of black radical movements whose work she’s continuing. She’s beaut ...more
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book had a number of gems that re-centered my commitment to my work and introduced me to organizers and organizations that are doing work that I hope to adopt and build on (such as the Trans Justice Funding Project and the Ruckus society). With that said, I'd give the book 3.5 stars. I was looking for the book to be a bit more actionable and really dive into the lessons learned and tactics that could be put into practice. There are many instances where Charlene could have dug deeper into her ...more
“I don’t expect my work to end here, with these pages. Whether your work begins and continues after digesting this, my greatest hope is that of any good organizer. I hope it shakes you, agitated you, and leaves you uncomfortable enough to take revolutionary action for the sake of our collective liberation.”

In UNAPOLOGETIC the author provides a guide for collective liberation through the Black Queer Feminist Lens by centering the most marginalized voices and thus bringing intersectional oppressio
Apr 14, 2020 rated it liked it
I loved this book and it gave me a better picture of what movement building should look like, but it also assumes a lot of prior knowledge. She prefaces the book with that fact and includes a short glossary in the beginning and also endnotes, but there were definitely things I just needed to know more about before reading this. I look forward to coming back to it at some point!
M. Ainomugisha
Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Impressive, instructive, all-encompassing Black queer feminist literature. I’m so satisfied and proud to know that Charlene A. Carruthers is an educator and movement builder of our time.

“Ultimately, using a Black queer feminist lens is a critical intervention, whether in conversations, organizing, and or in envisioning movement building toward Black liberation.”

“Queer” isn’t simply another word for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. “Queer,” as I am defining it here, represents a continuum
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved every single word and paragraph and page of this book. It is brimming with energy and power and struggle and love. And overwhelming scholarship and theory and learning and smarts. Lots of smarts. I loved the structure of this book. Carruthers interweaves her personal history - growing up in Chicago - with US and world history, explaining the larger issues facing Black Queer Feminists with aplomb. Her idea of the BQF Lens for analyzing issues of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia is ...more
Kara Passey
I’ve decided I feel weird abt rating books that are more theoretical bc i think it would be sort of disingenuous of me idk! but still wanted to write a review. this was a really interesting read! I don’t know if I’ve ever read something that was so explicitly for an audience that was not me, a white woman who is not directly involved in activism and movement work, and think it was a good experience. I learned a lot about the work of movement building and organization on a technical level and on ...more
Kelsey Brennan
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
"While it is possible for someone from outside of a community to tell its history, why not invest in people who come from a community and the people who have made the history to tell it?"

I'm not an activist or a community organizer, but Carruther's book still gave me a lot of tools to critically look at my role as a researcher and evaluator. In particular, I will be using the idea of identifying self-interest as a tool for understanding my own motivation and building partnerships as I do my work
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
It feels natural, though maybe unfair, for me to compare this book to "when they call you a terrorist" - patrisse khan-cullors memoir about her life as an activist and the Black Lives Matter movement. Unapolgetic is still personal, but is much more what it says on the tin - a guide to how to build and think about movements and activist work. I valued Carruthers's perspective on doing movement work on Chicago, her discussion of governance, and her commitment to building radical, revolutionary fut ...more
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The way I kept forgetting this book wasn't written today but every single issue is still prevalent. History is repeating itself and it'd be ignorant of me to say I wasn't aware of this. Black people are being killed, black trans people are being killed. They matter. We need to change the powers in place.

Like the author said: this is not all the work that is needed. It is a guide to centering yourself and knowing when and how to step back and support those directly involved. We must all have a st
Dec 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I actually read this ages ago but forgot. Anyway I think at the time I was really in to it but my recollections now are more like 3 stars than four or five. Lots of detail about organising around social causes and even about managing through inappropriate behaviour from staff (see similarities: young labour camp). But I felt like it was more written for people who knew some backgrounds about the specific organisation (name I can’t remember cos it was months ago) than for someone who picked it ou ...more
Sab Cornelius
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
A short but very thorough and hefty read. I learned much more about how anti-racist movements need to be intersectional in order to be truly successful and not leave anyone behind. We need to all look at things with a Queer, Black/Brown, Feminist lens closely to be inclusive. This is definitely a mandate of what needs to happen to get organizations more streamlined and inclusive as well.

It was nice to see that even healers need to heal/be healed sometimes. Despite that this book came out a few
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Need a succinct primer on black queer feminism?—this is your book. Need an impressive dive into Chicago’s organizing history and its global impact? This your book. Need to be reminded change is possible? This your book. Honestly this book was beyond inspiring and Charlene writes with a sharp analysis where no sentence is wasted. For anyone who wants to know how to be in movement and how to lead in movements, this is OUR book. Audio version was wonderful way to listen to Charlene’s insights.
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Reading this book filled me with better knowledge to backup my beliefs and what I stand up as individual. It showed me the importance of being proactive towards what I believe and how using my privileges in favour of those in need can create a positive impact to transform our communities
Katrina Rigsbee
Feb 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
I am going to need to purchase a physical copy of this so I can take notes and highlight. This book is more of a How-to than other anti-racist books I've read. I enjoyed how Carruthers walked us through how she got involved, and the steps that any reader can take. ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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45 likes · 12 comments
“Black feminists and LGBTQ activists are labeled “hijackers” and said to be divisive or co-opting or distracting from what is important, and what is “important” is the mainstream narrative propped up by patriarchy and misogyny (straight-up hatred of women).” 2 likes
“Being radical is a choice, and it takes work. A person with a marginalized identity can engage in conservative, oppressive political work, and activists, organizers, and intellectuals living under capitalism, colonialism, anti-Black racism, and patriarchy require years of unlearning or decolonization.” 1 likes
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