Books (and More) by Friends – December 2013

Family and friends,

I hope all of you find time to relax and recharge over the holiday season. If you have a few extra hours to read and want to go beyond the best-seller lists, you might be interested in one of the volumes below. And if nothing in this list captures your imagination, take a look at the books, films and music flagged in the 11 previous ‘Books by Friends’ messages I’ve sent since 2007 (!!) collected here.

Almost none of the dozens of creative works listed had a 5-figure promotional budget or got major play in the mainstream media. But every one offers a provocative perspective and stimulating experience.   So enjoy the holiday season, have a healthy new year and have some fun while you are doing your bit to bring about a more peaceful, just and sustainable world in 2014.


It’s not a book, but I think it’s fitting to lead off with a special book-length issue of the journal Social Justice celebrating the life and work of Elizabeth (Betita) Martínez. Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez: A Life in Struggle includes appreciations of Betita and her decades of activism by more than a dozen of her friends and comrades including Angela Davis, Barbara Dane, Carlos Muñoz, Olga Talamante and Tony Platt; a complete bibliography of her published writings; art and photography by Favianna Rodríguez, Fernando Martí and other artists; and several of Betita’s unpublished and out-of-print articles. Ellen and I have a piece in the issue recounting Betita’s role as a “21st Century Activist for Peace” with War Times/Tiempo de Guerras. And you will both learn from and be moved by the contribution of Betita’s daughter, Tessa Koning-Martínez: “With All The Struggles, Remember To Keep Life Sweet.” Officially released at an event honoring Betita’s 88th birthday, the full contents of the journal and ordering information can be found here.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz has a piece in the issue titled “How Betita Saved My Life.” Roxanne is also the editor of a just-released new edition of the 1977 classic The Great Sioux Nation: Sitting in Judgment on America.  The collection tells the story of the Sioux’s fight to regain their land and sovereignty, highlighting the siege of Wounded Knee 40 years ago this year. It features pieces by prominent scholars and Indian activists as well as primary documents and a new  introduction by Roxanne.

Poet and playwright Aimie Suzara’s first full-length book, Souvenir, will rivet your attention on a Filipino-American woman encountering the narratives of her history from the “living exhibits” of Filipinos in the 1904 World’s Fair to the migration of her family across seas and continents. Now in its advance sale period, this collection of archival material, poetry and multiple voices will roll off the press in February.

Adding another volume to his growing list of graphic books with provocative radical themes, Radical Jesus: A Graphic History of Faith is the latest from left historian Paul Buhle. The book tells the story of Jesus and his social message, not just in his own time, but also through the Radical Reformation, recent centuries and right down to the present.

Until the Rulers Obey: Voices from Latin American Social Movements, edited by Marcy Rein and Clif Ross, is about to be released by PM Press. This unique collection of interviews features five dozen leaders and grassroots activists from fifteen countries presenting their work and debating pressing questions of power, organizational forms and relations with the state. Organized in chapters by country, each chapter is introduced by a solidarity activist or scholar with deep knowledge of that nation’s history and politics.

George Snedeker, the book review editor of Socialism & Democracy journal, writing under the pen-name David Lansky – has written a novel that tells it like it is regarding the situation of public higher education in the early 21st-century U.S. The Cutting Edge has imagination, humor and politics! Barbara Foley of Rutgers University writes that “this satirical novel cuts to the chase in its astute portrayal of the connections between contemporary capitalism and the working-class college experience.”

In Seeing through the System: The Invisible Class Struggle in America, Gus “Kosta” Bagakis offers a detailed argument for “taking off the filters we’ve been indoctrinated with” in order to understand how personal, social and international problems develop. Gus’s mission is to help readers analyze the roots of society’s problems – so that we can better find a road to social transformation.

Turning to film, if you want a paradigm shifting experience, check out the documentary from Patty Berne and the whole crew at Sins Invalid: Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty. Sins Invalid witnesses a performance project that “incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists. The film is an entryway into the absurdly taboo topic of sexuality and disability, manifesting a new paradigm of disability justice.”

Last, bring in 2014 with some music from the new generation. You can find the latest from Electric Guest, featuring Asa Taccone, (son of Suellen Ehnebuske and Tony Taccone), here and here, or find more videos and information about the group here. Talk about forward ever!

Peace on Earth, Good Will to All.