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

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

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.Raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles, Patrisse Khan-Cullors experienced firsthand the prejudice and persecution Black Americans endure at the hands of law enforcement. For...

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Title:When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir
Author:Patrisse Khan-Cullors
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Edition Language:English

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

  • Stacie C

    When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

    We live in a world where we need to tell people that Black Lives Matter. It’s not meant to say other lives don’t matter, we simply need to address that Black lives do in fact matter and their deaths, murders and killings should be addressed, their lives should be whole and they shouldn’t be forced to live in fear. This book isn’t a discussion on whether you should believe or even appreciate that

    When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

    We live in a world where we need to tell people that Black Lives Matter. It’s not meant to say other lives don’t matter, we simply need to address that Black lives do in fact matter and their deaths, murders and killings should be addressed, their lives should be whole and they shouldn’t be forced to live in fear. This book isn’t a discussion on whether you should believe or even appreciate that stance. This book is about the life of the one of the women who started the Black Lives Matter movement.

    This book is split into two parts. The first reveals Patrisse’s upbringing in a poor neighborhood in Los Angeles. She describes how she witnessed her brothers being approached by the police for doing nothing more than playing outside. She details her experiences going to different schools outside of her community in affluent neighborhoods during both middle school and high school and the affect that had on her upbringing. Patrisse also talks about her parents: the mother who was ostracized from her parents and her religion for having sex and becoming pregnant outside of marriage and her father who struggled with addiction most of his adult life. Patrisse also talks about being Queer, coming out and the family’s struggle with her brother’s mental illness and stints in jail.

    The second part of the book brings with it many of the topics introduced in the first part but it delves deeper into the organizer that Patrisse has become. Her personal experiences dealing with law enforcement and the criminal justice system with her father and brother’s cases helped drive her to make a change. She works with different organizations working directly with youth, and eventually is called to even more action after the killing of Trayvon Martin and the decision made to let his killer go free. Patrisse, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi would eventually begin the Black Lives Matter movement, an organization that would eventually have over 40 chapters across the globe.

    I was automatically drawn to this book after reading the title. I was well aware of the Black Lives Matter movement after the marches in Ferguson after Michael Brown’s death, but I feel like there was a lot of confusion and no credit was given to the original founders Patrisse, Alicia and Opal. It wasn’t until recently that I learned their names and heard some of their actual story. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read a memoir written by one of the founders. It centers the narrative of someone who throughout her life has been part of a world that was actively working against her and the people she had in her life, because she was black and poor. Khan-Cullors has created with this memoir a passionate, well written, documentation of the abuses she has personally experience. It is heartbreaking and sobering and grounded in reality. Not everyone will share these same experiences with her but that does not take away how valid each of these experiences are and how they need to be addressed.

    This is such a relevant book in this political climate. This is a book that will make people stop and think before they try to center themselves and utter All Lives Matter. This is a book that will force people to rethink the way the criminal justice system in the U.S. really works. This is a book that will make you question how people are taught to police and carry out their duties. This is a book that will make you think about mental illnesses, how they are discussed and treated throughout the U.S. And it will make you think about the roles of women and what it means to be Queer or Trans in this continual fight for change. Necessary, well thought out, emotional and direct. This is a book I highly recommend.

  • Barbara (The Bibliophage)

    Originally published at

    .

    When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors absolutely gutted me. I couldn’t breathe in so many parts of the book. I was holding my breath in sorrow, anger, outrage. With all this, you should know that I’m not a particularly emotional reader. I cry while reading maybe once a year. And this book was a punch in the gut and a wake up call. It did the opposite of making me cry—it made me angry.

    Patrisse Khan-Cullors tells her deeply personal story wi

    Originally published at

    .

    When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors absolutely gutted me. I couldn’t breathe in so many parts of the book. I was holding my breath in sorrow, anger, outrage. With all this, you should know that I’m not a particularly emotional reader. I cry while reading maybe once a year. And this book was a punch in the gut and a wake up call. It did the opposite of making me cry—it made me angry.

    Patrisse Khan-Cullors tells her deeply personal story with such eloquence. Her writing is direct and forthright, as I imagine she must be. But in her straightforward way, the love she feels for her family, friends, community, and the world is utterly palpable. But this book, and this movement, isn’t about just love. It’s about the anguish of loss. In Patrisse’s experience, there is loss of beloveds to drugs, prison, mental illness, and death come too soon. In some cases she has lost the beloved person to all four things.

    Khan-Cullors tells about her family life, with two brothers, a sister, and a mother working two or three jobs. She talks about the men in her mother’s life, including her own father. And as she develops connection with her father and his family, she learns about a world outside her Los Angeles hometown.

    Our school experiences also forge our identity. Khan-Cullors begins the journey that brings her into adulthood in a truly unique high school. The students study history and culture as it applies to them—with emphasis on challenging classism, racism, sexism, and heteronormative thinking. They read authors like James Baldwin, Nelson Mandela, bell hooks, and Emma Goldman. It shapes Khan-Cullors and gives her the connections that begin her journey to Black Lives Matter.

    Throughout all that she’s learning, Patrisse still lives with suffocating emotional pain. At least, I think I would suffocate. But she does not, because ultimately this is the only world she knows. There have always been problems, often without solutions. Her gentle brother descends deeper into mental illness. The world around her becomes harder, with the advent of the prison industrial complex fed by racist policing policies. As Khan-Cullors shares her story, I imagine a young woman wise beyond her years. Not because she wanted to be, but because she had no choice. The world forced this on her. Racism and classism forced this on her. I mourn for her lost childhood.

    A review of this book wouldn’t be complete without some discussion of Khan-Cullors’ writing on sexuality. As a teen attending a school that encouraged students to challenge heteronormative thinking, she also had a cousin who was an out gay teen. She tells what it was like to find her sexual identity, while also managing all the crises in her life. She is raw and vulnerable about the relationships she’s had along the way, including her current one. This experience also shaped the principles of Black Lives Matter, because LGBTQIA+ people of color are often subjected to tremendous brutality.

    As I began this book, I thought I had a fair understanding of the underpinnings of the Black Lives Matter movement. In fact, this book taught me just how limited my knowledge really was. Khan-Cullors improved my understanding with stories, history, herstory, and activism. She and her fellow founders are women pushing for change, in whatever way they can. Black Lives Matter has thrived under their guidance and passionate leadership. They have grown to include chapters in the U.S. and other countries. The work they do is needed more than ever.

    Perhaps Black Lives Matter has thrived because the pain is still a daily reminder for each activist. Khan-Cullors makes it clear that no one in the movement is likely to be untouched by pain. I would encourage everyone to make the time for this book. Not only is it an important record of the fight for social justice, it’s an amazing AF memoir.

    Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and especially Patrisse Khan-Cullors for opening her heart and soul to the world in this book. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review the digital advance copy. I also listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author, and would recommend it as well. As always, my opinions are my own.

  • MissFabularian

    When They Call You a Terrorist is a soon to be classic in black literary thought and canon. This is a stunning memoir that poignantly captures the vitality of Patrisse and her family's strong spirit and determination struggling against brutal and relentless injustice. bandele's signature writing style is prevalent and gives Khan-Cullors narrative an almost poetic feel. This memoir packs all of the fire, all the receipts and brings down the full weight of harm perpetuated in the black community.

    When They Call You a Terrorist is a soon to be classic in black literary thought and canon. This is a stunning memoir that poignantly captures the vitality of Patrisse and her family's strong spirit and determination struggling against brutal and relentless injustice. bandele's signature writing style is prevalent and gives Khan-Cullors narrative an almost poetic feel. This memoir packs all of the fire, all the receipts and brings down the full weight of harm perpetuated in the black community. To read more of this review, see some of my pictures from Tampa's MLK Day Parade, and to see a book trailer about this stunning memoir

    .

  • Kate Olson

    A heartbreaking read. I was expecting the whole book to be about the immediate genesis of #blacklivesmatter, but it is really a true memoir in the sense that it gives Khan-Cullors' life story and how the horrors that befell her family and community led to this work. It opened my eyes, and while I used to consider myself fairly knowledgeable on this topic, this book humbled me and reminded me I do NOT really know. It also taught me just how diverse the movement is, with a large percentage of the

    A heartbreaking read. I was expecting the whole book to be about the immediate genesis of #blacklivesmatter, but it is really a true memoir in the sense that it gives Khan-Cullors' life story and how the horrors that befell her family and community led to this work. It opened my eyes, and while I used to consider myself fairly knowledgeable on this topic, this book humbled me and reminded me I do NOT really know. It also taught me just how diverse the movement is, with a large percentage of the founding activists being Queer and non-gender-conforming.

    As a white, cis reader, I will not attempt to actually review this work beyond saying that it provided an education I very, very much needed. Required reading for all.

    ** Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the review copy of this title - all opinions are my own. **

  • Dawn Michelle

    I am not black.

    I am not queer.

    I am not a former prisoner, have never been in jail or had family in jail.

    I grew up poor, but I have no idea. No. Idea. Whatsoever.

    I have never had family ripped from their beds by police in the middle of the night just because they "might" fit the profile of someone the police are looking for.

    I was [nor were any of my friends] never thrown in jail just for hanging out together.

    I have never been shot at just for having different color skin than those around

    I am not black.

    I am not queer.

    I am not a former prisoner, have never been in jail or had family in jail.

    I grew up poor, but I have no idea. No. Idea. Whatsoever.

    I have never had family ripped from their beds by police in the middle of the night just because they "might" fit the profile of someone the police are looking for.

    I was [nor were any of my friends] never thrown in jail just for hanging out together.

    I have never been shot at just for having different color skin than those around me.

    I have never had to live in fear of being pulled over by police [and possibly being shot and dying] simply because of the color of my skin.

    I have never had to live in fear and be afraid of retribution or jail or attacks simply for who I have chosen to both be and love.

    I am a cis, white female who strives daily to preach and believe in equality for all.

    I used to believe I was knowledgeable in this topic.

    I was wrong.

    This book has completely changed me. I spent much of it crying and apologizing for the atrocities that have been inflicted in Patrisse, her family, her chosen family and indeed, all black lives and POC. This book humbled me. It reminded me of how much I DO NOT KNOW. And that head knowledge is not the same as heart and life knowledge. But it DID teach me. It made me angry. And it reminded me over and over again that I. HAVE. NO. CLUE.

    It reminded me that I do have to learn; I had to educate myself and then get involved. I have to practice more compassion and empathy. I have to fight harder against injustice. And I have to let go of the fear of what people think of me when I stand up for what I believe is right because clearly, THAT is not a true fear.

    This book educated me.

    This book reminded me of who I want to be as a human being.

    This book should be required reading for everyone.

    May we all strive to make this a world where everyone belongs and lives without fear.

    #BlackLivesMatter

  • Victoria Schwab

    Oh man, a difficult, but powerful book.

  • Raymond

    This memoir is beautifully written. Patrisse Khan-Cullors is one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. This book is her story. It is about the effects of mass incarceration and the war on drugs, all on this one woman and her family. Patrisse lived under all these pressures. It is not surprising that she became an activist when you see what she lived through. This book is not a story of a terrorist as some have called BLM activists. It is a story of survival, perseverance, and the e

    This memoir is beautifully written. Patrisse Khan-Cullors is one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. This book is her story. It is about the effects of mass incarceration and the war on drugs, all on this one woman and her family. Patrisse lived under all these pressures. It is not surprising that she became an activist when you see what she lived through. This book is not a story of a terrorist as some have called BLM activists. It is a story of survival, perseverance, and the endless pursuit of freedom.

  • Thomas

    What a powerful memoir, both about a movement and a woman's strength in the face of absolute racism and horror. Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, shares her story about growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles in a poor and loving family. We learn about the intimacies of her childhood, about how her mother worked multiple jobs and still struggled to make a living wage, the development of her queer identity, her brother's unjust and devastating

    What a powerful memoir, both about a movement and a woman's strength in the face of absolute racism and horror. Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, shares her story about growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles in a poor and loving family. We learn about the intimacies of her childhood, about how her mother worked multiple jobs and still struggled to make a living wage, the development of her queer identity, her brother's unjust and devastating imprisonment, and more. My heart broke for Khan-Cullors when she wrote about how the police terrorized her family. She does an excellent job of connecting the personal with the political, by describing her emotional reactions with raw, vivid language while also holding systems, like white supremacy and the police state, accountable.

    The second part of the book delves more into the development of the Black Lives Matter movement. As a non-black person of color, I know I need to interrogate my anti-black racism and the various privileges I had growing up in the United States without black skin, and I must do more to support the BLM movement. I hope that others non-black people of color - and white people, of course - will do this work as well. While Khan-Cullors shows phenomenal resolve in her dedication to justice through the formation of this movement and others, we all should do more to fight for black lives (the movement's

    looks like a good place to start.)

    Overall, recommended to everyone. My Goodreads friend Gabriella voices some nuanced criticism of the book in her

    ; I agree with her the points raised in her review generally and recognize she is in more of a position to speak about these critiques than me. I feel grateful for Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele yet heartbroken and angry for what the racism that thety, and black lives collectively, must endure.

  • Shirley Revill

    A book that everyone should read because it carries such a strong but equally sad message.

    I find it sad that people can be treated differently by some people just because of the colour of their skin.

    To me we are all the same and what really matters is the love we have for each other, that's the important thing.

    All lives matter but till the day arrives that people realise this I can only live in hope that one day this will become a reality.

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