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Book Review: Pleasure Activism

Title: Pleasure Activism

Author: Adrienne Maree Brown

Year Published: 2019

Main Topics Covered: Feminism/Feminist Theory, Social Science, Sexuality, Politics

Written for: Black women, women of colour, female-identifying individuals, trans women

Recommended for: Female identifying individuals

Perspectives taken: Black Queer Female-Identified

Type of Resource: Autobiographical novel

APA Citation: Brown, A. M. (2019). Pleasure activism: The politics of feeling good.

Adrienne Maree Brown’s book Pleasure Activism is a radical, mind-expanding read for anyone looking for personal liberation through pure pleasure. Brown is an experienced feminist and black activist who has had countless well-documented experiences with other creative black women who have inspired her journey to the heights of pleasure. Olivia Butler, Audre Lorde, Toni Cade Bambara, are just a few of the names mentioned in this book as having been a sweeping influence on Brown’s life and work. The central notion of this fast-paced, descriptive and exciting book is that the erotic is a source of power in everyday life. Another focus is how the history of black women’s sexuality has been downplayed if not distorted. Brown seeks to reclaim the complex and joyous world of black woman sexuality and queer sexuality through full access to pleasure and personal revelation.

Brown identifies as queer and writes beautifully about gender in all aspects. She documents different types of relationships she has had, those which she aspires to have, and many fantasies which have guided her over the years. She is open and exploratory about her growth as a human and believes that we should all come together to celebrate diversity and meet each other's needs in a variety of pleasurable ways in order to build a new future.

The entire spectrum of human experience is touched upon in this book: self-love, sexuality, feminism, friendship, family, activism, sickness, old age, extending to more somber subjects such as trauma and abuse. Brown has such an effortless style of writing that it is difficult not to get wrapped up in her narratives of discovery. According to Brown, everything should be seen through a lens of pleasure and experienced without shame. For Brown, pleasure is political.

Drugs, fashion, BDSM, sex work is all fair game as she seeks energy for change and transformation for all communities. She has experienced so much in terms of academic life, culture, grass-roots initiatives, community-based wisdom, and wants to weave the emotional, sensual, intellectual together with the details of her experience to share with her audience.

This book has a feminist lens, is LGBTQIA+ friendly, politically radical/left-leaning and incorporates colourful language. Although an exciting read, it may not appeal to individuals with more conservative or traditional social and political views or who are looking for a more conventional book on sexuality. It also goes includes explicit detail on childhood sexual abuse and other difficult topics such as sickness, death and other forms of trauma.

About the Author: Adrienne Maree Brown is the author of Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds and co-editor of Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements. She is a social justice facilitator focused on black liberation, a doula/healer, and a pleasure activist. Adrienne lives in Detroit.


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