There’s a section of my bookshelf right now devoted entirely to Resistance Manuals. It cuts across genres — history, biography, criticism, memoir, how-to — but each entry offers actionable guidance on navigating political moments like the one we’re living now. I know I’m not alone here; I see at least one other woman frantically reading up whenever I take the train to work. You may be cultivating a similar collection in your home library as we speak. Here’s a question: When is the last time one of those books actually challenged you? Made you uncomfortable? Held you accountable? For me, the new anthology Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People did all of the above.
Resistance and Hope is the brainchild of Alice Wong, Founder and Director of the Disability Visibility Project. If you’ve spent any time on the disability internet, you know Wong’s work, and she uses that platform to assemble an all-star team of contributors. Wong based Resistance and Hope on a set of questions: “Okay, who are the people I’ve learned from? Who are the people I’ve followed, and who I know?And [how do I] make this intersectional as fuck, without using the word ‘intersectional?’ It should sort of just be that way.” The result is an anthology that centers people of color, trans folks, and the queer community seamlessly. That’s the first big lesson of Resistance and Hope – how it looks when you live your values from the start.
Initially, Wong conceived of the project as a direct response to Donald Trump’s election. “The evening of Election Night 2016 was a very scary moment,” she admits. “Like so many other marginalized communities, we knew exactly what would unfold under this administration… [and] I just really wanted to think about the response and opposition to what the next four years would look like.” You can feel the shadow of Trumpism throughout the book; it’s somewhere in every essay, whether explicitly or lurking just beyond what’s written. As a whole, the anthology provides a forceful cross-section of reactions to, as Wong puts it, “this dumpster fire.”
The most intriguing offerings in Resistance and Hope ask something more of us as readers: to take a look at ourselves. That’s where this collection really levels up. “It’s not Resistance 101; it’s not Activism 101,” Wong says. “We gotta make people uncomfortable. We gotta challenge our own understandings and our own presumptions. And we have to challenge our praxis, the way we do things and think about things.” Whether you’re new to disability justice or a seasoned practitioner, Resistance and Hope is going to push you.
“Activist communities often relate to disability community as additional work, as people with problems that need to be addressed in order to participate,” explains Naomi Ortiz, who contributed the essay “Self-Care When Things Shatter.” “They often do not relate to disability community as one with a wealth of gifts, which of course we are.” In highlighting those gifts, the authors in Resistance and Hope don’t shy away from the realities of the work. If you’re looking for easy answers that preserve your bubble, you won’t find them here. That’s exactly why anyone who considers themselves an activist, an ally, or a member of the resistance writ large needs to read this book.
“It is so grueling to practice our ideals in the day to day,” admits contributor Stacey Milbern. “Sometimes it feels like all I do is make mistakes, but I know also that’s how we make our politics stronger — through practice — and it’s what makes them real, not just theory.” The difficult questions in Resistance and Hope are there to help us sustain our movement — to ensure that resistance survives as action rather than simply reaction. “To me, that’s what these contributors are offering,” says Wong. “They’re offering a pathway, they’re offering a vision, and they’re offering actual steps.”
Resistance and Hope doesn’t pretend that perfect activism exists. Instead, it offers blueprints for doing better, and dares us to pursue that goal. “This is an invitation,” Wong continues. “This is an opportunity to be part of that journey, or to start that journey, whether through discovery or internal work. That’s the only way that we can create a better world: if we are open about our vulnerabilities, what we know and what we don’t know, and that we can rely on each other.”
You can order Resistance and Hope on Amazon (all proceeds go to Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of Deaf Communities (HEARD)) or download the anthology on Smashwords.