Books (and Films) by Friends #25, for the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond

May 18, 2020

Family and friends,

Here is Installment #25 promoting the creative works of friends of mine that you might not otherwise hear about. This time the list starts with film and video, continues with fiction and then memoir, proceeds to other non-fiction volumes, mentions two books previewed in installment #24 that have since come off the press, and ends with information about Organizing Upgrade and the “2020: This Is Not a Drill” column I’ve started to write.

“Millions know the music, but few know the artists” – until now anyway. The new documentary Streetlight Harmonies tells the story of Doo-Wop; Nate Kamiya co-produced.

Adamu Chan is part of First Watch, a film crew currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison. Though forced to suspend filming during the COVID-19 crisis, you can watch the team’s powerful video of incarcerated people asking questions of the Democratic presidential candidates and other First Watch installments on the Re:Store Justice channel here.

Gene Bruskin’s musical The Moment Was Now, set at an imaginary meeting convened by Frederick Douglass in 1869 Baltimore, is now a film. Screenings on the internet are being sponsored by several labor and progressive organizations: watch for publicity about an upcoming showing hosted by Organizing Upgrade or contact Gene to arrange a screening by your own organization.

Francesca Fiorentini is back on AJ+ Newsbroke! Check out her combination of political commentary and zinger-filled humor in Joe Biden Is a Tool, But Can He Be Used?

Livin’ the Dreamboat, a filmed short musical composed by Blake Allen, bookand lyrics by Claire Tran, will be streamed on The Astoria Performing Arts Center’s website and on their YouTube channel on May 22. It’s one of six musicals about the COVID-19 crisis in The Insiders: Musicals from the Quarantine.

Dan Geiger’s story-telling stage debut, My Green Halloween with George Shultz, is now available to watch on YouTube. Be ready for some surprises!

Most photography exhibits are indoors and hence postponed because of COVI-19, but COVID Workers on the Wall is displayed out-of-doors in Davis, California. The exhibition, by A Working Lens, a project of the Class Conscious Photographers Collective, features photos by David Bacon, Glenda Drew, Jesse Drew, Najib Joe Hakim and Antonio Nava.


In the fiction department, Leslie Simon’s novel, The Divine Comic, tells “the story of two dissenting sisters, estranged, entrenched in their positions, every bit as emotional and polarized as counter-demonstrators yelling at each other outside an Israeli embassy.” With a foreword by Aurora Levins Morales.

Low Down Dirty Vote Volume II: Every Stolen Vote Is a Crime will be published July 20. It is a crime-fiction anthology that will raise $10,000 for the Southern Poverty Law Center to fight voter suppression, Gary Phillips’ story in the collection is High Sheriff Blues.

In 1959, Bette Steinmuller watched Fidel Castro visit Harlem and the United Nations on television; 20 years later she visited Cuba for the first time. Her novel, From Havana: A Novel, begins in Cuba’s “Special Period.”


First up of four ‘memoirs by friends” is Joel Rocamora’s Impossible Is Not So Easy: A Life in Politics: “the footprints of a life spent working for difficult political causes. This is not history, much of the book is on Duterte.

In 1969, Jody Forrester was in transition from pacifist anti-Vietnam War activist to ardent revolutionary. Her forthcoming memoir, Guns Under the Bed: Memories of a Young Revolutionary revolves around her three years in the Revolutionary Union, a flagship organization of the 1970s New Communist Movement.

Arthur Bronson tells his story in How Is That Working for You?; Arthur’s son writes in the introduction: “vigilant, proactive, and always seeing the forest for the trees! He taught me and my cousins to be the same way.”

Ted Glick’s Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War recounts the author’s experiences of hunger strikes, imprisonment and nonviolent direct action, painting a vivid picture of an important component of the anti-war upsurge of the late 1960s and early ’70s. With a foreword by Frida Berrigan.


Moving to other non-fiction, Marcy Rein, Mickey Ellinger and Vicki Legion give us the story of the years-long fight to keep open the largest community college in the country. Free City! The Fight to Save San Francisco’s City College and Education for All is a lesson-filled recounting of the five years of organizing that turned a seemingly hopeless defensive fight into a victory.

Bigger Than Bernie: How We Go from the Sanders Campaign to Democratic Socialism by Jacobin’s Micah Uetricht and Meagan Day, “gives us an intimate map of an emerging movement to remake American politics top to bottom, profiling the grassroots organizers who are building something bigger, and more ambitious, than the career of any one candidate.”

James Tracy and Hilary Moore’s new book, No Fascist USA! The John Brown Anti-Klan Committee and Lessons for Today’s Movements, draws important lessons from the fifteen-year history of the group “without romanticizing or condemning.”

Socialist Practice: Histories and Theories by Victor Wallis discusses key issues in our current political history on a global canvas. Free access to abstracts of each chapter can be found here.

Beyond Classical Marxism by Dave Jette presents a vision of socialism that is completely democratic. This is a “preliminary edition” of the book and Dave would welcome reader comments as he prepares the final version; email him at

Peter Frase’s Four Futures: Life After Capitalism is not new, it was published in 2016. But given what the COVID-19 health and economic crisis has exposed about the unstable, unequal and unsustainable structures of global capitalism, the book’s exploration of “the utopias and dystopias that could develop from present society” is not surprisingly attracting renewed attention.

Closing out the book list are two volumes flagged in the previous “Books by Friends” that have since come off the press:

Dominga Rescues the Flag/Domingo Rescata La Bandera, by Margaret Randall and Mariana Mcdonald: “The bilingual oral history of Dominga de la Cruz, the Puerto Rican heroine ‘who picked up the flag at Ponce’ amid the bloody U.S. assault on a peaceful demonstration March 21, 1937.”

All American Nativism: How the Bipartisan War on Immigrants Explains Politics as We Know It, by Daniel Denvir: “A major recasting of American history from the vantage of immigration politics.”

Finally, check out the latest from Organizing Upgrade. You can find the full collection of my columns, including Selma 1965, Wisconsin 2020: Multiracial Democracy vs. A White Republic and Trump and the Militias Consummate Their Marriage at this link.