August 7, 2023

Exhibition-inspired reading list from the Denver Public Library

Tai Bickham


Take a deeper dive into the themes presented in this summer’s celebrated exhibitions, Tomashi Jackson: Across the Universe, and Anna Tsouhlarakis: Indigenous Absurdities. Our book savvy friends at the Denver Public Library have put together a great list of suggested books, music, and movies, informed by MCA Denver’s current exhibitions, that you can go and check out today! Don’t have a library card? You can register in-person or online for your free library card. Click here for more information.


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Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All. Martha Jones

According to conventional wisdom, American women's campaign for the vote began with the Seneca Falls convention of 1848 and ended with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. The movement was led by storied figures such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. But this women's movement was an overwhelmingly white one, and it secured the constitutional right to vote for white women, not for all women. In Vanguard, acclaimed historian Martha Jones offers a sweeping history of African American women's political lives in America, recounting how they fought for, won, and used the right to the ballot and how they fought against both racism and sexism. 

Spirit Run: A 6,000-Mile Marathon through North America's Stolen Land. Noé Álvarez

Growing up in Yakima, Washington, Noé Álvarez worked at an apple-packing plant alongside his mother, who "slouched over a conveyor belt of fruit, shoulder to shoulder with mothers conditioned to believe this was all they could do with their lives." A university scholarship offered escape, but as a first-generation Latino college-goer, Álvarez struggled to fit in. At nineteen, he learned about a Native American/First Nations movement called the Peace and Dignity Journeys, epic marathons meant to renew cultural connections across North America. He dropped out of school and joined a group of Dené, Secwépemc, Gitxsan, Dakelh, Apache, Tohono O'odham, Seri, Purépecha, and Maya runners, all fleeing difficult beginnings. Telling their stories alongside his own, Álvarez writes about a four-month-long journey from Canada to Guatemala that pushed him to his limits. 

We Chose Colorado: Japanese American Voices. Joyce Lebra

We Chose Colorado is a compelling collection of oral histories voiced by over 40 persons of Japanese birth or heritage who now reside in Colorado. They include the histories of original immigrants (Issei) who left Japan prior to World War II, doing so for a variety of reasons, including recruitment by US railroad companies as laborers, by mining companies as miners, or to pursue farm work. Those histories are narratives of ambition, struggle, and success. 

Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights. Gretchen Sullivan Sorin

The ultimate symbol of independence and possibility, the automobile has shaped this country from the moment the first Model T rolled off Henry Ford's assembly line. Yet cars have always held distinct importance for African Americans, allowing Black families to evade the many dangers presented by an entrenched racist society and to enjoy, in some measure, the freedom of the open road. Gretchen Sorin recovers a forgotten history of black motorists, and recounts their creation of a parallel, unseen world of travel guides, Black only hotels, and informal communications networks that kept Black drivers safe.


For the full recommended reading list, click the links below: 

Adult booklist

Teen Booklist

Music/Movies Booklist


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Nedí nezų = Good Medicine: Poems. Tenille K. Campbell

A celebratory, slyly funny, and bluntly honest take on sex and romance in NDN Country. nedí nezų (Good Medicine) explores the beautiful space that being a sensual Indigenous woman creates--not only as a partner, a fantasy, a heartbreak waiting to happen but also as an auntie, a role model, a voice that connects to others walking the same path. With a knowing smile, this book side-eyes the political existence and celebrates the lived experience of an Indigenous woman falling in love and lust with those around her--but, most importantly, with herself.

Laughing with the Trickster: On Sex, Death, and Accordions. Tomson Highway

Brilliant, jubilant insights into the glory and anguish of life from one of the world's most treasured Indigenous creators. Trickster is zany, ridiculous. The ultimate, over-the-top, madcap lunatic. Here to remind us that the reason for existence is to have one blast of a time, to laugh ourselves to death. Ever the trickster, Tomson Highway brings his signature irreverence to an exploration of five themes central to the human condition: language, creation, sex and gender, humour, and death. Within the endless circle of life in Indigenous mythologies, the Earth is a garden of joy unlimited. A world we must protect as the birthright of future generations. Laugh with the legendary Tomson Highway as he illuminates a healing, hilarious way forward.

Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

In fierce prose and poetic fragments, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's Noopiming braids together humor, piercing detail, and a deep, abiding commitment to Anishinaabe life to tell stories of resistance, love, and joy.

Unbroken: My Fight for Survival, Hope, and Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls. Angela Sterritt

As a Gitxsan teenager navigating life on the streets, Angela Sterritt wrote in her journal to help her survive and find her place in the world. Now an acclaimed journalist, she writes for major news outlets to push for justice and to light a path for Indigenous women, girls, and survivors. In her brilliant debut, Sterritt shares her memoir alongside investigative reporting into cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, showing how colonialism and racism led to a society where Sterritt struggled to survive as a young person, and where the lives of Indigenous women and girls are ignored and devalued.


For the full recommended reading list, click the links below:

Adult and Teen Booklist

Music and Movies List


Tomashi Jackson: Across the Universe and Anna Tsouhlarakis: Indigenous Absurdities are currently on view through Sunday, September 10. For more information on the exhibitions and to purchase tickets, visit