At The Booksmith in San Francisco, they’re trying to keep up with all the anti-Trump releases and other works of the “resistance.”
“It’s staggering, the number of books,” says store manager and leader buyer Camden Avery. “Politics has a much more prominent place in our store and for our customers than we’ve had for a long time.”
The rise of Donald Trump has been mirrored by an expanding literary genre that will intensify in 2018, with dozens of new works expected, on top of the dozens from last year. Books of “resistance” will include guides to activism, reflections on democracy, investigations of Russian interference in last year’s election and legal analysis, along with poetry and fiction.
Trump’s election revived interest in such classic Dystopian novels as “1984” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and an upcoming compilation, “It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art,” also uses narrative as a form of social consciousness. The book, which will help support the American Civil Liberties Union, includes original material by such popular authors as Neil Gaiman and Mary Higgins Clark.
“I asked that contributors write stories and fiction because I didn’t want more political rhetoric,” says the book’s editor, Jonathan Santlofer. “I wanted to do something people would enjoy reading and holding and looking at. A story is something that can convey feeling and even a message without being more polemic.”
This month marks not just the 1-year anniversary of Trump’s presidency, but also of the massive women’s marches staged the day after his inauguration. “Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World” includes essays by Roxane Gay, Ashley Judd and America Ferrera. “Keep Marching: How Every Woman Can Take Action and Change Our World,” by activist and Women’s March speaker Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, features “proven tactics, policy solutions and strategies any woman can use to build her power.”
Several new works will address challenges to our system of government. “How Democracies Die,” by Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, traces the demise of political rights in countries around the world. David Frum’s “Trumpocracy” warns against the “complacent optimism” that American politics are immune from fatal damage. Amy Siskind’s “The List” compiles her widely read online annal of breaks from democratic tradition during 2017. Timothy Snyder is following his bestselling “On Tyranny,” a brief handbook about signs of authoritarianism, with “The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America.” Snyder is a history professor at Yale University and his new book looks at threats to democracy in the U.S. and overseas.
“For me at least the point of ‘On Tyranny’ was to get ahead: knowing what we know of the past, we have to act quickly in the present,” Snyder wrote in a recent email. “In the next book, I try to show us our own moment in history, so that we see what we treasure by observing how it is attacked. The point of ‘Road to Unfreedom’ is responsibility: as we act to preserve threatened political virtues, we make ourselves into the kinds of citizens who can make a better future.”
Labeling a “resistance” book can be as challenging as defining the resistance movement. Disdain for the president is the unifier for authors who might otherwise have little to say to each other, from Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors, whose memoir “When They Call You a Terrorist” is due this month, to Frum, a former George W. Bush speechwriter; to author-journalist Sarah Kendzior, a prominent commentator on authoritarianism whose 2015 e-book “The View from Flyover Country” is being reissued this spring in paperback.
“I think a diverse resistance is a positive force,” Kendzior wrote in a recent email. “Everyone has different insights on how the situation happened and how inhumane and unconstitutional policies can be stopped. This doesn’t mean we have to agree about everything — I’m sure we don’t — but we can agree we do not want an American autocracy.”
Harvard law professor and former Obama administration official Cass R. Sunstein has edited “Can It Happen Here: Authoritarianism in America,” essays by a diverse range of scholars on American democracy. The book was clearly inspired by Trump, but Sunstein said he doesn’t consider it a work of “resistance.” He calls it an “exploration of self-government” touching upon currents events and such historical moments as the internment of Japanese during World War II.
Trump opponents have been enjoying “Fire and Fury,” Michael Wolff’s explosive tell-all about the administration that became an immediate bestseller. But booksellers hesitate to put it in the “resistance” category. At Unabridged Books in Chicago, owner Ed Devereux says that the book has been placed in a more traditional setting, new nonfiction.
“I don’t think you’re going to read that book to learn how to resist, or think of ways to deal with the political system,” he said. “It’s just a bestseller.”