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When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir

"If we know nothing else, we know that in the wake of the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's killer, we have to change the conversation." At the forefront of this devastatingly urgent conversation about systemic racism and unpunished violence against people of color is Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement and author of When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. Along with coauthor asha bandele, memoirist and former senior editor at Essence magazine, Cullors constructs a meditative, meaningful work.

Now a Fulbright scholar, community organizer and performance artist, Cullors grew up poor. Her mother always worked multiple jobs; her father struggled with a cycle of addiction and imprisonment. All the while, Cullors strove tirelessly to advocate for her brother, whose schizophrenic episodes led to prison sentences more often than medical treatment, and even once led to a charge of terrorism.

Cullors's story is fascinating and important. In recounting her life so far, she stitches together a quilt of perspectives, weaving her experiences as a queer black activist with reflections shaped by deep and nuanced understandings of the social forces that continue to shape race relations. Writing in present tense, Cullors asserts her topic's immediacy. At times the narrative repeats itself or offers retroactive interpretations of events that unsettle the narrative flow, yet this too feels apt given how racism and subjugation continually rear and disrupt lives. And despite tragedies she has endured, Cullors beautifully expresses empathy, honesty and hope. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer