“We are not terrorists. I am not a terrorist. I am Patrisse Marie Khan-Cullors Brignac. I am a survivor. I am stardust.”
Blurb: “A poetic and powerful memoir about what it means to be a Black woman in America—and the co-founding of a movement that demands justice for all in the land of the free.”
Note: I am fully aware of my position of privilege and that there are some aspects it’s not my place to discuss. If you know of any own voices reviews, please let me know and I will add them here.
I discovered this book after Patrisse Khan-Cullors was a special guest on the bookish podcast Mostly Lit and I found her incredibly compelling to listen to. When she read a snippet, I knew I needed to hear her story in full and, of course, I decided to go with the audiobook as I feel this is the best way for me to consume non-fiction.
When They Call You A Terrorist is split into two parts: the first focuses on Patrisse’s life growing up, while the second documents what led to her becoming a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. I expected it to be centred on the latter but as I continued to listen, I became so invested in Patrisse’s life. She talks about growing up in her neighbourhood, her family and how she started to notice particular things as she got older such as how the white girls at her school face no reprimands for smoking weed whereas she ends up in handcuffs. She openly addressees how frequently people she knows are stopped by the police because they happened to match the description of someone who robbed a store, and if the same sort of thing happens to white people. For example: “how many skinny white blonde men have been pulled aside simply because they matched a description?”
Her brother, Monti, forms a lot of the narrative which I found incredibly difficult to read. Frankly, the treatment he’s received is absolutely disgusting and just highlights how much of a stigma there is around mental illness.
As someone who has seen the movement of Black Lives Matter from the media side and conversations online, it was really interesting to see the “behind the scenes” of how the movement started and grew to something more than could possibly be imagined. What I took away from this book, besides the important discussions on diversity, is the reminder that Patrisse Khan-Cullors is just a person. When you think of big movements fighting for change and hear the name of/see the person leading at the front, it’s easy to forget that they are a real person with feelings and life experiences just like everyone else. She talks candidly about struggling with her sexuality, loss, and growing up.
The phrase “it’s a difficult read but it’s so important” is thrown around a lot in refers to books dealing with current events. But if you’re looking for just one to read, I highly recommend you listen to Patrisse’s story.
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