Tessa Altman joins Tofu Reader with her favorite titles from Vegan Book Club, the online community dedicated to vegan-related and animal-friendly literature and discussion. Check out Tessa’s book picks and commentary below!
Tessa Altman: As a vegan, it’s almost impossible to pick up a book – especially a novel – and see yourself represented in a positive light. Enter Vegan Book Club, where plant-based bookworms read a variety of fiction and non-fiction that is all vegan-related or animal-friendly and have the chance to discuss those books (and more) with like-minded people. Since Vegan Book Club’s formation nearly two years ago, I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of books – genres and authors that I would have never bothered to pick up previously. Of course, I rate some of these books higher than others, so here are a few books we’ve read that I think are absolute must-reads!
My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki
TA: Ruth Ozeki’s debut may have been published in 1998, but it’s still wildly relevant today, forcing readers to take a hard look at our plates. What are we eating? How exactly was it produced? How do the hormones given to livestock impact us as humans? These are important questions to ask, and My Year of Meats does so while analyzing the differences between Japanese and American culture, with a vegetarian couple featured as a bonus.
Esther the Wonder Pig by Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter with Caprice Crane
TA: Is there a more heartwarming presence on social media than Esther the Wonder Pig? Take a look at Esther’s Instagram and tell me you don’t want to learn more about her. Esther the Wonder Pig is filled with equal parts wit and heart and provides an excellent primer on compassion.
Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
TA: Like a Love Story isn’t the norm, as far as Vegan Book Club picks go – it takes no particular stance on animal rights, but one of the main characters happens to be a vegetarian – but I’d argue that this YA novel is essential reading. Set in 1989, Abdi Nazemian’s debut novel tackles some heavy issues: homophobia, sexuality, AIDS, first love, first heartbreak…Like a Love Story is, in a word, powerful.
Always Too Much and Never Enough by Jasmin Singer
TA: Always Too Much and Never Enough details vegan writer, podcaster, and activist Jasmin Singer’s efforts to find herself. When Singer first went vegan, she defied the “skinny vegan” stereotypes and eventually realized that, for as much compassion she had for animals, she didn’t have a whole lot of that for herself. At its core, Always Too Much and Never Enough is, all at once, witty, painful, and inspiring.
Dawn by Octavia E. Butler
TA: Octavia E. Butler pulls no punches in Dawn, the first novel in her Xenogenesis trilogy, and certainly doesn’t shy away from the anti-meat attitudes. Butler exposes us to a unique brand of aliens, who, despite having livestock, refuse to eat animals and won’t let the humans eat them either. It’s fascinating really, as the entire series explores themes of sexuality, gender, and race as well – all essential for an intersectional approach to veganism.
Sistah Vegan by A. Breeze Harper
TA: Veganism is often perceived as a rich, white person thing, and it’s no surprise why: more often than not white people are at the center of the movement. That’s why it’s important for books like Sistah Vegan to exist. Here, A. Breeze Harper provides a space for Black-identified female vegans to discuss their personal experiences and thoughts on health, animal rights, and liberation for all.
Tessa Altman is a reader, writer, and vegan who loves an animal-friendly protagonist. After reading one too many novels portraying vegans/vegetarians in a negative light, she founded Vegan Book Club, an online community for plant-based bookworms.