When They Call You a Terrorist

Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele

Nonfiction memoir 2018 | 257 pages


At first, I wasn’t all that thrilled about reading When They Call You a Terrorist.  I am not sure what I expected.  Some sanitized ... or perhaps glorified ... biography of the woman who first posted #BlackLivesMatter ... that is what I thought I was about to read. But it is not. It is her personal memoir.  It is the story of Kahn-Cullors' childhood and her youth, growing up poor and Black in LA County, with her two brothers and one sister, raised by a mother who works three jobs, and still does not rise about the poverty level.  It is the story of her two fathers.  It is the story of unjust prison sentences and unrecognized and untreated mental illness.  It is the story of immeasurable discrimination, violence, assumptions, injustice, and more.  It is the tale of lives gone awry, with no possible redemption.  Her narrative is personal; her writing is easy to read; but the content of her story is profoundly disturbing.  Reading this memoir left me with a single question .... how could she NOT start the Black Lives Matter movement?  With her intelligence, wisdom, compassion, passion, and history, it is inexorable.

Yes, read this book and learn about a woman whose name we should all know, but don’t.  Which, in itself, is part of her story.

March 2021