TALKING BACK: VOICES OF COLOR (Red Letter Press, 2015), presents an unusually diverse group of writers speaking out on issues affecting communities of color. Contributors share tales of survival, explore little-known history, and offer insightful cultural reviews. Nellie Wong, a widely published Bay Area poet and social justice activist, is the book's editor and author of the introduction, a striking meditation on the importance of "talking back" in asserting identity and power on an individual and collective level.
Like Wong, the book's contributors are involved in community organizing. Based in a number of locations, their identities include Asian/Pacific American, Black, indigenous North American and Aboriginal Australian, Latino, Palestinian, immigrant, feminist, youth, elder, LGBTQ, students, unionists, former prisoners, and more. Make no mistake about it, many of the writers are out-front radicals. Their aim is to communicate and mobilize. Speaking from and to the grassroots, their offerings are readable, persuasive, free from academic jargon, and rich with personal experience.
Some highlights include: Nancy Reiko Kato's discussion of the contributions of women of color to the movement for reproductive rights; an interview with 90-something Norma Abdulah, a radical Black activist and Harlem resident; Australian aboriginal leader Lex Wotton's discussion of racism and police violence Down Under; Palestinian exile Farouk Abdel-Muhti's harrowing description of being held in U.S. prisons without charges for nearly two years following 9/11; Miriam Padilla's account of her evolution from an impoverished "graffiti girl" to single mother, college student and political organizer.
African American scholar, unionist, and former civil rights organizer James Wright calls the book "a treasure" by a "rainbow of radical authors." Another reviewer, Arab American artist and writer Happy Hyder, says the book's "fearless and varied voices" reveal "the true meaning of political action." Sociologist Dr. Jesse Díaz, Jr. says the book will lead to increased understanding of the activist of color's "toils for equality and justice." Alice Goff, a Black immigrant labor leader and community activist, predicts that even readers who don't share the opinions of the authors may "come away with a different perspective and possibly be moved to question the status quo." Karin Aguilar-San Juan, an associate professor and Filipina American lesbian, describes the writings as resonant with "pain and rage… light and power and hope."