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Book Review: A Choice of Weapons by Gordon Parks


From the cover of the republished 2010 book. Originally published in 1965.

If you’ve been following me on social media this spring, you will know that I’ve been working very hard at developing my photography skills. Gordon Parks was a multitalented artist who was best known for his photography, and I’ve been drawn to take a closer look at his work. I am also fascinated by his use of photography as a means of activism for social and racial justice, hence the camera as his choice of weapon.

This book is his first in a series of autobiographies. The first thing that struck me, within the span of reading the first page, is that he is a good writer. That first impression endured and became my lasting impression. He tells of his early life, starting with the teen years  and then into his young adulthood in the 1930s and 40s. It is a story about survival and his path to photography and had me hooked throughout. For those of you here in the Minneapolis area, some of this took place here and makes for fascinating historical reference and insight.

Another thing that struck me about this book is that it reminded me of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas which was the subject of my last book review, even though this one is fictional and Parks' book is non-fiction. Written over 50 years apart, there are parallel themes in the two books. These include black disenfranchisement, the temptation of drug dealing, police brutality towards African-American men, the experience of finding oneself in the midst of a riot, and the dilemma of where to focus the energy that arises from anger about the never-ending waves of injustice. Both books also depict the ties of love in family, friendships, and friends that influence and buoy the development of emotional maturity, grit and values to live by.

I recommend this book for both adults and teens and makes for a good read in celebration of Juneteenth (coming up on June 19th). Happy reading, my friends!