Starting Point Book Recommendations and Summaries
If you are looking for ways to help reduce violence and support the healing of those affected, please consider reading and then recommending some of the following books on the topics of domestic and sexual violence, stalking, human trafficking, oppression, healing, advocacy, and healthy relationships.
Awareness is prevention!
If you are local and are looking for a book or would like to make a book donation, please contact us at [email protected].
This list is periodically updated, and we hold book discussions throughout the year, so please check back often.
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
“Half the Sky” tackles atrocities and indignities from sex trafficking to maternal mortality, from obstetric fistulas to acid attacks, and absorbing the fusillade of horrors can feel like an assault of its own. But the poignant portraits of survivors humanize the issues, divulging facts that moral outrage might otherwise eclipse.
The narratives respect nuance, revealing both the range of barriers and the possibility for solutions.
Lived Through This: Listening to the Stories of Sexual Violence Survivors, by Anne Ream
This is not a book that can or should be read in one sitting. It is devastatingly heavy in its bulk of tragedy and the oppression imposed on those who have experienced sexual violence.
It is, however, a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the complexities and the wide range of effects sexual violence has on victims and their loved ones.
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by John Krakauer
Missoula, Montana, is a typical town, home to a highly regarded state university whose beloved football team inspires a passionately loyal fan base. Between January 2008 and May 2012, hundreds of students reported sexual assaults to the local police. Few of the cases were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical.
I Will Find You, by Joanna Connors
A reporter investigates the life of the man who raped her.
This is a hard-to-read book that is impossible to put down as the author unflinchingly attempts to understand the circumstances behind the most brutal and humiliating moments in her life.
Connors provides a rare and unique look at rape.
Why Does He Do That? Inside the minds of angry and controlling men by Lundy Bancroft
A groundbreaking book written by a counselor who specializes in working with abusive men. He speaks directly to those who have been abused, offering ways to survive or leave an abusive relationship. Lundy covers early signs, abusive personality types, the role of drugs and alcohol, what can be fixed and what can’t, and how to get out safely.
Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse to Political Terrorism by Judith Herman
This book is part of the welcome package for new staff at Starting Point. Trauma and Recovery helps to highlight and create an understanding of a set of problems that have in the past, been viewed as individual concerns. Herman draws on her own cutting-edge research in domestic violence as well as on the vast literature of combat veterans and victims of political terror, to show the parallels between private terrors such as rape and public traumas such as terrorism. The book puts individual experience in a broader political frame, arguing that psychological trauma can be understood only in a social context.
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessell Van De Kolk
A staple for advocates, helping them better understand the effect that psychological trauma can have on individuals and how trauma can impact the way people perceive themselves and the world around them.
This book covers the intricacies of how trauma produces these effects by considering the neuroscience involved. The book can be, at times, technical but offers not just an explanation of why but also how neuroscience allows us to produce new, effective treatments for trauma survivors. Examples of these approaches include eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, yoga, and limbic system therapy.
The book is a guide through modern therapies practiced throughout Van der Kolk’s career and the patients he has seen. So this book also serves as a history of the mental health field of the last 30 years.
Video summary of the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSCXyYuT2rE
7 Day Chakras by Shai Tubali
A beginner’s guide but also a practice to help anyone interested in exploring holistic health practices.
Some might think of Chakra practice as new-age or trendy, but the Chakra system is not new, dating from 1500 to 500 BC to the Vedas, ancient Hindu scriptures.
Although Chakras can’t be mapped scientifically, there is some evidence that they align with specific endocrine systems. Practically every experienced doctor believes that the mind influences the body, and that’s the magic of Chakra practice.
As a result of domestic and sexual violence, survivors can often end up feeling separated from their own core, a form of disassociation. Helping survivors connect to their core (the heart of their bodies) can be very healing.
The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor
A mantra for activism that starts with self-love. “To build a world that works for everyone, we must first make the radical decision to love every facet of ourselves…”
If, as individuals, we led our lives with self-love and acceptance, we would be better stewards for eliminating the oppression of others. When one is not defined by their body and more defined by their spirit, capability, and vision, then avenues previously shut or, at best, bogged down by cultural misconceptions are open to all and become byways of opportunity and unity.
“The Body is Not an Apology” reflects on these possibilities and calls for greater discussion about creating them.
TED Talk by Sonya Renee Taylor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWI9AZkuPVg
KooKooLand by Gloria Norris
Gloria Norris’ KooKooLand is a memoir written primarily from her child perspective. It is from this voice that the reader gets a chilling, intensely moving, and darkly funny glimpse into the heart and soul of a deeply troubled family living in the projects of Manchester, New Hampshire in the early 1960s.
Gloria’s triumph of survival is uplifting in spite of the tragedies she witnesses AND experiences as a child. The story is also frustrating from an advocate’s perspective, having to grapple with the fact that many of the societal problems that allowed these tragedies back in the 60s and 70s still exist today.
YouTube NHPR Interview with author (spoiler alert) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJOKKCv4y-w
Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World by Katharine Hayhoe
In Saving Us, Hayhoe argues that when it comes to changing hearts and minds, facts are only one part of the equation. We need to find shared values in order to connect our unique identities to collective action. This is not another doomsday narrative about a planet on fire. It is a multilayered look at science, faith, and human psychology.
Drawing on interdisciplinary research and personal stories, Hayhoe shows that small conversations can have astonishing results. Saving Us provides us with the tools to open a dialogue with our loved ones about how we all can play a role in pushing forward for change.
The lessons within this book can be easily translated as a guide for any conversation involving polarized persons.
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advise for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron
One of the more challenging aspects of being an advocate (or friend) is realizing that you cannot just “fix things”. An advocate’s heart wants to repair, but an advocate’s job is to empower, to provide the support and the resources a victim needs in order to be safe and to heal. This often means just being present when a client needs to fall apart
Sitting safely in the pain can be the best way of moving away from the paralyzing feelings that can hold us back. Right-sizing fear and anxiety and recognizing the tremendous strength it takes to stay and then leave is empowering.
Pema Chodron shows that moving toward painful situations and becoming intimate with them can open up our hearts in ways we never before imagined. Drawing from traditional Buddhist wisdom, she offers life-changing tools for transforming suffering and negative patterns into habitual ease and boundless joy.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Some time ago, the Starting Point staff adopted the edict of the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz as an ideal for advocating and as a self-care guide.
Not making assumptions or taking things personally are helpful reminders to be true to our word and to do our best.
Shedding ‘agreements’ that society/culture or our families thrust upon us is one way of freeing up our egos and allowing us to see ourselves as ever-evolving.
The edicts of the Four Agreements can help us all see that who we are does not have to be decided by others.
The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help by Jackson Katz
In the Macho Paradox, Jackson Katz brings forward the basis for involving men in the anti-violence movement.
Jackson’s writing style models the very approach needed to create change, listening. He has been listening to women, victims, and those who are and have been doing anti-oppression work for decades.
In the Macho Paradox, Katz brings what he has learned through active listening and what he knows about the “macho paradox” together to highlight the unique opportunity men have and must leverage in order to bring an end to violence against women, children, and other men.
Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller
Chanel Miller takes control of her story after a lengthy period of being known only as Emily Doe after Brock Turner raped her behind a dumpster while she was unconscious.
An outstanding book for learning more about the court process and the emotional turmoil of being a victim of sexual assault.
interview with Chanel Miller: https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=PTvHn2_0evo
Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture Edited by Roxane Gay
If you are looking for a book to curl up on the couch with, this is not it.
Not That Bad is a difficult but critical read if you want to understand what rape culture truly is and all it encompasses.
The voices are varied and widely representative.
Interview with the editor Roxane Gay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vRwzCE4hAE
We Were Witches: A Novel by Ariel Gore
Gore’s memoir of sorts tells readers about the rejection from society she experiences as an impoverished, queer teen mom and budding feminist, but she also unpacks it all in a messy, engaging, and unique literary style. She probes the world around her and reaches the root that her rejection is born from as a larger context increasingly unravels.
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches By Audre Lorde
A collection of fifteen essays and speeches by an influential voice of the twentieth Century. Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social differences as a vehicle for action and change.
What if I Say the Wrong Thing? 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People by Verna A. Myers
A compelling and user-friendly tip book on moving one’s diversity commitment forward. 25 bite-sized and informative practices that help develop habits for culturally effective people.
Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal by Donna Jackson Nakazawa
A groundbreaking book that connects the dots between early life trauma and the physical and mental suffering so many live with as adults.
Childhood Disrupted summarizes the effects of childhood adversity, incorporating the current science in a very personalized and approachable way.
The more we understand childhood adversity and its imprint on our body and brain, the more we can help each other recover from its harmful effects.
This is an essential read for anyone looking to help those afflicted by childhood hardship, whether personally or in a caring role, such as parents, teachers, advocates, and healthcare workers.
It’s My Life Now: Starting Over After an Abusive Relationship, 3rd Edition By Meg Kennedy Dugan
Those who have never experienced an abusive or violent relationship often believe that upon finding a way out, victims’ difficulties are solved: their life is good, they are safe, and recovery will be swift. However, survivors know that leaving is not the end of the nightmare — it is the beginning of an often difficult and challenging journey toward healing and happiness.
This book covers the practical guidance, emotional reassurance, and psychological awareness that survivors of relationship abuse and domestic violence need to heal and reclaim their lives after leaving their abusers.
Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky
A guiding publication for advocates everywhere.
Laura van Dernoot Lipsky shares her insight on providing for others while preserving and refilling one’s own tank. She uses humor and poignant examples to illustrate when things have gone awry and professional and personal insight to outline how to step away from the cliff!
Ted Talk by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOzDGrcvmus&t=371s
What Happen to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing By Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey
Dr. Perry, renowned brain development and trauma expert, and Oprah Winfrey, who has been championing work all over the world in the field of trauma and child abuse, have comprised a book that is filled with the neuroscience of trauma that reads like a conversation. This is an important book not only for people who work in social services but for anyone who has had a childhood!
Bearing the Unbearable by Janne Cacciatore
Addresses the “taboo” of grieving and offers a path to embracing our grief rather than a guide to getting over it.
The Grieving Brain by Mary-Frances O’Connor
An approachable way to understand how our brains process grief. Giving us tangible practices and perhaps a relief in knowing that how we cope is the hard wiring of being human.
Finding Meaning by David Kessler
Opens the reader to the Sixth Stage of grief, finding meaning. In the search for meaning, one is not asked to dismiss or accept the loss or to discover reason but instead to search for an honoring for the life of our loved ones and a landing for our loss.
The Gratitude Project: How the science of thankfulness can rewire our brains for resilience, optimism, and the greater good Edited by Jeremy Adam Smith, Kira M. Newman, Jason Marsh, Dacher Keltner
The Gratitude Project is the result of a collaboration between the Greater Good Science Center and Robert Emmons of the University of California. The book explores gratitude’s deep roots in human psychology—how it evolved and affects our brain—and the transformative impact it has on creating a meaningful life and a better world. With essays based on new findings from research and by renowned positive psychologists and public figures, this important book delves deeply into the neuroscience and psychology of gratitude and explores how thankfulness can be developed and applied, both personally and in communities, large and small, for the benefit of all.
Evicted Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
What if the dominant discourse on poverty is just wrong? What if the problem isn’t that poor people have bad morals – that they’re lazy and impulsive and irresponsible and have no family values – or that they lack the skills and smarts to fit in with our shiny 21st-century economy? What if the problem is that poverty is profitable? These are the questions at the heart of Evicted Matthew Desmond’s extraordinary ethnographic study of tenants in low-income housing in the deindustrialized middle-sized city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
YouTube interview with author https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24M9wUaCEKo
Books for Children and Teens:
We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra
A love letter in proper epistolary form. Written for lovers of poetry and romance. It contains multitudes in expressions of love, including self-love, first love, love of family, love of friends, and a love of words. It explores the depths of grief, the consequence of great love. Most of all, Henstra offers a loving platform for LGBTQ+ youth to read of protagonists who look and sound and love like them without making the story a curriculum for love is love but instead a lesson in love being complicated in any form and worthy of our efforts. Although categorized as a CYA (Children and Young Adults), it leans more toward young adults in content. Adults will enjoy the form and poetry and the remembrance and joy of young love.
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love is a beautiful conversation about acceptance, sparse in prose and rich in illustration. A must-have for a children’s book collection!
Death is Stupid, by Annastasia Higginsbotham
A direct account of a child grieving and struggling to make sense of the normal wave of loss, a grandchild grieving a grandparent.
Freddie the Leaf, by Leo Buscaglia PhD
A conceptual approach to the life cycle. It was first published in 1982. It offers multiple layers for conversation starters.
The Brain is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk
The Brain is Kind of a Big Deal by New York Times bestseller Nick Seluk is a hilarious and informative book for kids about the amazing computer that lives inside our heads. Teaching kids early on about their brains will help create strategies for them later in life that will add to their resilience toolbox
Free to Be You and Me by Marlo Thomas
A classic! It is a collection of stories, poems, and songs about equity, empathy, respect, and healthy communication. Ahead of its time, it never gets old.
A Chocolate Moose for Dinner by Fred Gwynne
Fred Gwynne, yep the actor who played Herman Munster, wrote a sweet book on wordplay from a child’s perspective. It is an excellent reminder for adults to check in with children about what they perceive as opposed to what they hear, like when we say that we are having a chocolate moose for dinner!
Listening to My Body, by Gabi Garcia
An activity book that helps children connect emotion and sensation and helps them to understand how their body works. Through practice activities in the book children can develop greater control of their emotions by developing ways to regulate as well as strategies for self-soothing. Teaching children to be in tune with their bodies and how to regulate their feelings, combined with awareness of appropriate touch can help reduce sexual abuse between children.
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nag
A board book for up-and-coming activists!
Celebrate Your Body: The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls by Sonya Renee Taylor and The Boys Body Book by Kelli Dunham, RN
Celebrate Your Body” and “The Boys Body Book” are both excellent guides and discussion starters that help children not only recognize the physical and emotional changes but celebrate them as normal and healthy. The topics cover puberty changes and everyday health-related habits from brushing teeth and hand washing to moral compass guides.
Listening to My Body by Gabi Garcia
A guide for helping kids understand the connection between their sensations and feelings so that they can get better at figuring out what they need.
I am a Rainbow: A Children’s Guide to the Chakras by Sarah Smid and Amanda Cottrell “I Am A sweetly illustrated introduction to centering for children. Learning how one’s body feels when it is centered, or off-center can help a child recognize situations that unhealthy or unsafe.