Local and National Gifts for the Politically Minded
Goodwill to all and coal for a few
Who says the News desk can't deliver some holiday peace and goodwill instead of just bad news? Most importantly, check out the first installment of our 2022 Nonprofit Wish List, which will be running through Christmas. Then, bring a little joy into the lives of your politically and civically minded loved ones (including the smallest tots in your life) with help from our newsy gift guide. Bonus: Sales from many of these gifts benefit progressive organizations on the News team's Nice List.
Holly Jolly Texas Policies
Admittedly, writing about Texas politicians means a lot of bad news. To celebrate some of the good, get somebaby a Greg Casar onesie, because you're never too young to support a new member of the Squad. To scold the naughty ones, find spicy political stocking stuffers galore at the CraftyControversy shop on Etsy (etsy.me/3EX19TG). The shop out of Dallas sells lots of $3.50 stickers roasting our highest elected officials, taking a literal page out of the Mean Girls Burn Book to call Gov. Greg Abbott "the nastiest skank bitch I've ever met," or to say, "Whoever supports Abbott, your mom's a hoe." If those take things too far for your taste, may we turn your attention to stickers bearing the widely palatable slogan, "Don't blame me, I voted for Beto"? If none of these put a smile on your face, there's an 87% chance you're fixing to get a visit from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future this year.
But maybe for you, the onesies and cheeky stickers don't take things far enough. Maybe you want your Christmas shopping dollars to simultaneously bring joy to your recipient and financially support a city-by-city and county-by-county movement to mobilize Texas Democrats by rallying around widely popular issues such as the merriment of marijuana. If so, consider a mug that squishes the slogan "Workers, wages & weed" into the shape of Texas, or one of a plethora of "Pro Roe 1973" items (tote, pin, mug, crewneck – you name it) from Ground Game Texas, the nonprofit founded by former congressional candidates Julie Oliver and Mike Siegel that's largely responsible for the so-called "reeferendums" popping up to decriminalize marijuana in local jurisdictions. But it's more than that – recognizing that everybody and their uncle loves smoking weed, GGT has not-so-secretly used these ballot initiatives to get blue voters to the polls, where they then vote Democrat downballot. GGT has seen some great successes this year (example: Hays County's blue wave) and they're not slowing down. And, they've apparently hired a solid designer to adorn their merch. Win-win.
All I Want for Christmas Is Abortion Access for All
We know Christmas is all about celebrating teen pregnancy, but we also know that 78% of Texas voters believe Texans should have access to abortion in at least some cases, per a recent UT-Austin poll. Meanwhile, 100% of people who don't support abortion access of any kind are total squares, per my so-far-uncontested psychic intuition. And if you do have to interact with anti-abortion squares this Christmas, all the more fun to throw one of these gifts into the mix and just see what happens.
We'll start with our absolutely unbiased pick for the best gift recommendation in this whole issue: the Chronicle's own Aid and Abet Abortions T-shirts (austinchronicle.com/store). We partnered with award-winning local artist Billie Buck for the design, which references Texas' extreme abortion laws. 100% of the net proceeds on Aid and Abet merch will go toward helping longtime gynecological services and abortion provider Whole Woman's Health open a clinic in New Mexico on the border with Texas.
But that's not the only option to Christmas shop while supporting Whole Woman's Health. The Black-owned body-care brand Oui the People collab'd with Brazilian American illustrator Niege Borges on a green bandana inspired by those worn and waved by Latin American abortion rights activists. The $35 bandana (bit.ly/3U2QlYo) says, "All bodies one voice, one voice all bodies" and all profits go to Whole Women's Health.
If you're looking for something a little more subtle, check out the Clare V. 14-karat gold-plated heart-shaped locket engraved with "liberté, égalité, maternité" (bit.ly/3EyrqGz). That phrase is a nod to Clare V.'s longtime nonprofit partner Every Mother Counts, which supports maternal health priorities globally through storytelling, filmmaking, and data and research. EMC gets a donation of 30% of the locket's purchase price from Clare V.
’Tis the Season to Tex-ify Your Tree (and Life)
We've recommended it before, we'll recommend it again: You just cannot go wrong with the State Preservation Board's annual collectible Capitol Christmas ornament! The 27-year-old tradition has raised more than $10 million for Capitol upkeep, and this year's design is appropriately ornate. It's modeled after an 1889 photo of the Capitol with an arch saying, "Willkommen zum Saengerfest," German for "Welcome to Our Victorian-Era Battle of the Bands." The fancy collectible ornaments come finished in 24k gold and presented in a velour-lined gift box. Nothing screams Christmas like 24k gold (and frankincense, and myrrh).
The Texas Capitol Gift Shop has lots of past years' ornaments, too, if those suit you better. But while you're browsing, check out the million other Texas-themed things available – jewelry, throw pillows, art, old maps of Austin, the works. For the kids, there's more than one bat plush toy option, and if all else fails, there're always the Texas-flag-bandana-wearing Armadillo and/or Longhorn stuffies. All of it raises money to maintain the Capitol and its grounds.
Bushels of Fun & Bundles of Banned Books
There's no better way to establish yourself as the cool aunt than giving your nieces and nephews the banned books their school's library may not have on the shelves, but which could make a great gift for any loved one of any relation and any age. The great thing about banned books as a gift-giving theme is that there are more than 800 in Texas, so you're sure to find one to suit any age or reading taste!
Banned classics to bundle together include Toni Morrison's Beloved, a ghost story that follows a formerly enslaved family in 1873, and Maya Angelou's And Still I Rise, the third collection of poems by the celebrated poet. Modern classic Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow is also on the list. While Anne Frank's diary is so far safe in Texas, the graphic adaptation of it by Ari Folman is in peril, and would make a great gift for kids or adults.
Banned books ideal for preteen and teen readers include George M. Johnson's "memoir-manifesto" about coming out, All Boys Aren't Blue, and Ashley Hope Pérez's Out of Darkness, about a 1930s East Texas romance between a Mexican American girl and a Black boy. Giftable graphic novels (of the banned variety) include Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning comic book history of the holocaust, Maus; Cathy G. Johnson's graphic novel about a kids soccer team that includes a transgender teammate, The Breakaways; and DC Comics graphic novel V for Vendetta, which deals with anti-fascist themes and is banned for that reason by the highly reasonable and admirable dictatorial governments of China and Russia.
For the ittiest bittiest readers among us, some rockin' illustrated books that have been banned or repeatedly challenged include Justin Richardson's And Tango Makes Three about two male penguins who fall in love and adopt an abandoned egg; Christopher Paul Curtis' The Watsons Go to Birmingham, about a Black family who experiences Jim Crow law on a visit to Alabama; and Jessica Herthel's I Am Jazz, the real story of a girl who says she was born with a girl's brain in a boy's body, and how people around her begin to accept her as she is.
For even more banned book gift ideas (or to work yourself up into a rage spiral) check out this Google Sheet from PEN America listing all 1,600+ unique titles that have been banned in schools across the nation: bit.ly/3XqALJc.
Lots of Empowering Toys & Goodies on His Sleigh
Some toys are just fun, some toys teach you about the heroes of past and present, and some toys make you feel like you experienced the Civil War firsthand. If you're looking for the latter two, we've got the goodies.
For any little future leaders you know, skip a $20 Barbie and get them a $20 Stacey Abrams action figure that kicks more ass than Batman. At shop.fctry.com, you can get Kamala Harris, Dr. Fauci, the Notorious R.B.G., Elizabeth Warren, AOC, and a host of other progressive government icons for kiddos.
For full-on tactile history lessons, look no further than History Unboxed, where you can get roughly $60 boxes or subscriptions to monthly boxes tailored to kids, teens, or adults. The Civil War box for kids includes a harmonica (to play like a soldier), a buildable Morse code machine, a lesson on the Underground Railroad, and materials to paint a dipper gourd with a symbol for freedom.
But maybe you're still looking for something that will benefit a cause when you buy it. Then consider this Little Feminist 500-piece puzzle – it benefits Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, which organizes to elect candidates who support reproductive rights. The puzzle, available at bit.ly/3i91REw, introduces kids to important women in history, including creatives like Frida Kahlo and Ella Fitzgerald, activists like Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai, and pioneers like Marie Curie and Amelia Earhart.