I wonder if you find yourself reveling this year over the fact that we can forego the family Christmas dinners? Grieving the few sentimental bits, but realizing that this year you do not have to sit through exhausting, triggering, and squeamish conversations. When health authorities share their predictions that it’ll be a “your household only” affair, did you also think of your Uncle Jim and the joy you feel not having to enter a deep dive as he edges closer with intensity and combination red-wine-garlic-breath? Mmm. Glad we’re missing that.
Mixed with this JOMO (joy of missing out), I also felt a little disappointed. After many years of being the kitchen table debater, long eye contact holder, and “what did you mean by that” rebuttal professional, this year was going MY year. The aroma in the air has changed in 2020, because Uncle Jim is likely now FINALLY getting pressed at every angle that we need to be doing better as a society, it’s not just his nibling telling him this. Off I would prance into dining area and command attention (my favourite family passtime, sue me) and say: What’s up everyone, what work have you been doing this Christmas season to spend your power and learn to do better? Then withhold any booze until some conversation began. I’m only half kidding here because it’s not a bad plan. After dinner, we would all gather for a Christmas exchange that becomes all but too passive-aggressive, and so to mediate this I would be personally hilarious and genius. I was going to buy every member of my family a book about social justice and give them custom worksheets. Aunty Karen, don’t sweat not getting the fuzzy blanket and essential oil set — this one is for you babe!
If you think this isolation is going to get me down, you’re right, but we still have work to do. So now you all get to know what I was going to get every member of the family as a social justice read for the holidays, and why. Let’s begin:
For the Uncle whose every second comment is something riddled in misogyny and projection of inadequacies, I give you: Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad. I like to see this as a direct line of defense, we’re cutting through the crap this year.
For the Aunty who is a victim until the end of time due to how many people don’t go out of their way to be extra kind to her. From retail workers, any person in a service industry, people driving, her colleague at work that eats too loud, and her husband Tim…: The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes is the least spicy option, it’s a cute 2017 way to hint at her autonomy outside of the patriarchy. If we really want some action, I would give her Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski. It’s all about the vulva, it’s important for the liberation of the baby boomer cis woman.
For the cousin who is in the most codependent and dark relationship you’ve ever seen, but is already telling you their Instagram wedding hashtag and their family planning details: Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. You can be the psychic of the family after that gift and tell your cousin to stop making any further wedding related financial deposits, that money might be better spent in some couples councilling. I think at this point we would all gladly take therapy over a wedding anyway.
For the sibling that does not want to look at their own trauma: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk. No longer can you be the focus of their anger, it’s time they did the internal work.
For the mom that doesn’t know if the patriarchy is real, but wouldn’t be anything without the calligraphy wooden sign in the kitchen that says “God bless this house” and/or “live laugh love”… Love her, and let’s bring her along in complex, big and beautiful relationships with the book Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman.
For the dad that just started asking you what that one word meant that the activist shouted at the news anchor on CNN the other day: Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese. Let’s face it, it’ll be the audiobook. It has hockey in it, so that’s your buy-in. It ends up addressing child abuse and cultural genocide via residential schools in Canada. Surprise dad, we’re learning about the peak of Canadian White supremacy from your childhood. Welcome to historical and intergenerational trauma.
For YOU, most importantly for you: Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown. It’ll rock your world.
The great thing about this holiday gift list is that everything is able to be sent via snail mail. So find your local online book distributors, skip the Amazon purchases… And have yourself a Merry, Happy, whatever you please.