Book Review: Sistah Vegan
One of the first books I found after going vegan was an anthology called Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society. I had already been vegetarian for two years and that was more than enough time to give me the sense that vegetarian/vegan communities are often predominantly white, or at least portrayed as such. I was so excited to finally dive into veganism, but I was concerned about the patterns of racism, ableism, and classism that I already saw in vegan spaces. Veganism, like feminism, must be intersectional in order to be meaningful. Books like Sistah Vegan, then, are immensely important for vegans to develop a triple consciousness of race, class, and gender as they intersect with our lifestyle choices.
In Sistah Vegan, editor A. Breeze Harper amplifies the voices of an impressive array of Black vegan women. Essay titles include "Veganism and Ecowomanism," "Nutrition Liberation," and "Being a Sistah at PETA," and touch on everything from health disparities in Black communities to the connection between food and sex. The anthology includes a few poems as well, which was a powerful way to connect the reader even more closely to the lived experience of Black vegan women. I found myself questioning a great many of my beliefs as I made my way through the anthology, and have changed my behavior significantly as a result. Chief among these changes was starting to purchase organic and fair trade much more often (which I recognize is a privilege), thanks to A. Breeze Harper's excellent piece, "Social Justice Beliefs and Addiction to Uncompassionate Consumption." Another change I made was dropping the phrase "cruelty-free" to refer to plant-based products, as it's a misnomer that tends to hide the racialized human costs of everyday vegan items.
Regardless of whether you make any lifestyle changes as a result of this book, it's a must-read for any social justice-focused person, vegan or not. What I love most about Sistah Vegan is that the authors reflect an incredibly diverse set of perspectives, and at times even directly contradict each other. This disagreement is vital to demonstrate not only that there are many ways to be vegan, but also to banish the myth that vegans, particularly Black vegans, are a monolith that does not merit extensive exploration. Sistah Vegan is the first book of its kind - let's make sure it's not the last.