Books (and More) by Friends – December 2016

Family and Friends,

It’s another year where friends of mine have released a number of thought-provoking books and other creative works. Here’s a list of stimulating works for your holiday season reading (or gift-giving) enjoyment. Plus a few previews of volumes and films that you can pre-order and enjoy in 2017.

The list is long, but you will find it more than worth it to get all the way to the final item from Jen Soriano. And if you want to look at any or all of the 17 previous installments in this ‘Books by Friends’ series, you can find them all here.

First up: Give Me Life: Iconography and Identity in East L.A. Murals, by Tim Drescher (my teacher, friend and comrade beginning in 1967!) and Holly Bernet-Sanchez. With 200 photos and extensive analysis, this path-breaking volume sets East L.A. murals created during the politically and culturally vital era of 1970s Chicanismo in their aesthetic, political and cultural context. Full information, including how to order, is here.

Cartas a Karina, a collection of letters by Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera to his granddaughter Karina, is now available in a single, fully bilingual volume. Mariana McDonald, coordinator of the project that produced the volume, also wrote the introduction. Oscar writes: “I am a 70-year-old fighter. I have been imprisoned for 32 years… I only want to reiterate that above all else, I respect life, and that I have not hurt any human being, and never would.” To order, go here. Also bringing readers the voices of incarcerated men and women will be the volume Prison Wisdom by Katya Sabaroff Taylor, coming in 2017; look here.

Photographs by David Bacon are included in a powerful exhibit, Devolver Los Desaparecidos (Bring Back the Disappeared, of Mexico) at the EastSide Cultural Center Gallery in Oakland. For those living in or visiting the Bay Area it will be up through December.

Next are several volumes that address some of the hot-button issues and immediate strategic questions being discussed as we prepare to fight the racist and anti-democratic assaults about to hit us under a Trump administration. Click on the titles for full information about each volume:

*Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals, by Jonathan Matthew Smucker. Bill Fletcher writes: “Hegemony How-To challenges the Left to fight to win… but it depends on the Left getting outside of its comfort zones and fox holes…”

*Two (free!) pamphlets by Ethan Young, published by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung New York Office: A Political Revolution and Teachers on Strike, Lessons from Chicago on How to Fight Back, and an essay by Ethan in the collection Donald Trump and the Rise of the Nationalist Right These are not to be missed.

*No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality, by Jordan Flaherty. Robin D.G. Kelley writes: “Part memoir, part history, part political critique, a perfect gift for the age of Trump.”

*Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection, by Medea Benjamin. The co-founder of CODEPINK has a track record of taking on the powers-that-be and here she does so by exposing the sinister relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

 *We Will Not Be Silenced: The Academic Repression of Israel’s Critics, edited by William I. Robinson and Maryam S. Griffen. Bishop Desmond Tutu writes: “These testimonials provide a stunning portrait of the extent to which the forces that suppress free speech and academic freedom are at work in the U.S.”

*A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State, by Meredith Tax. From the preface: “All our movements face the same oppressive forces: a New World Order that props up modern dictatorships, and a reactionary traditionalism that represents the worst forms of patriarchal control.”

*Unsettled: Cambodian Refugees in the New York City Hyperghetto, by Eric Tang. A “brilliantly moving account of how politics, community dynamics and family relationships shape life for Cambodian refugees” (Beth Richie) – more than relevant as Donald Trump takes aim at immigrants across the country.

*On the exciting films-from Cuba (another country in Trump’s gunsights) beat, Barbara Maggiani is on the team that will soon give us 90 Miles from Paradise, which envisions Key West and Havana reaching out to each other and cooperating in the face of sea level rise and climate change. She is also working on a film exploring Cuba’s LGBTQ political movement and community. There’s a fundraising campaign underway to get 90 Miles enough resources to complete post-production (you can donate here); for more information about both films, send an e-mail to

*Stepping back to look at the world picture, Jerry Harris’ new book is Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Democracy. This book “packed with meticulously-documented facts, indicates the disastrous direction that global capitalism… is taking us.  But, Harris argues, ‘another world is possible’ – a genuinely democratic, economically viable, ecologically sustainable world.” – David Schweickart.

To get both lessons and inspiration from earlier experiences:

*Women Against Marcos: Stories of Filipino and Filipino American Women Who Fought a Dictator, by Mila De Guzman. Featuring the recollections and insights of seven women (including Mila) who contributed in unique ways to defeating a dictatorship, this volume is a powerful reminder of what people can accomplish in the face of severe repression. And also focused on the rich experience of Filipinos in struggle, A Time to Rise: Memoirs of the Katipunan ng mga Demokratikong Pilipino (Union of Democratic Filipinos), edited by Bruce Occeña, Rene Ciria-Cruz and Cindy Domingo, will be released by the University of Washington Press in April 2017.

*The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration, by John Marciano. A “deft overview of the American War in Vietnam with all its deceits and horrors while demonstrating how the true history has been sanitized and distorted in class-room history texts…” – Jeremy Kuzmarov

*Two more outstanding graphic histories edited by Paul Buhle: A Full Life: James Connolly the Irish Rebel and Len, A Lawyer in History: A Graphic Biography of Radical Attorney Leonard Weinglass.

Here are offerings designed for kids in their formative years:

*Laurin Mayeno’s One of a Kind, Like Me/Único Como Yo is an illustrated, bilingual story about children who don’t fit gender stereotypes. “Tomorrow is the school parade, and Danny knows exactly what he will be: a princess. Mommy supports him 100%, and they race to the thrift store to find his costume…”

*The second and third children’s books from Inno Nagara: Counting on Community, the follow-up to Inno’s earlier A is for Activist; and My Night in the Planetarium, a picture book about Indonesia and the art of resistance. “I loved this story so much, my God, it is just like the reality we are living in…” – Nabil Al-Raee, Artistic Director at the Freedom Theater in Jenin refugee camp, Palestine.

Friends of mine also write novels, memoirs, reflections and musicals:

Terry Tarnoff – he and I go back to junior high school – has just released The Refectionist, a long-in-the-coming sequel to the widely praised The Bone Man of Benares. “The Reflectionist reminds me of Daguerre’s description of photography as a mirror with a memory, with the significant twist that Tarnoff’s is a circus mirror…” – Phil Cousineau.

Steve Cole’s labor of love for almost ten years has come to fruition with the release of Citizen Cardenas. “Friends call him Gato. For decades, he lived in a run-down Chicago neighborhood until it was gentrified and he and other poor people were pushed out to make room for the Yuppie generation…”

Nina Serrano’s Nicaragua Way is an international novel of love and revolution in the 1980s, telling the story of Lorna Almendros, a San Francisco Nicaraguan-American poet, passionately engaged in the Sandinista solidarity movement. A single mother, Lorna searches for her roots and falls in love while she faces deaths, griefs, intrigues and aging.

Gene Bruskin’s Pray for the Dead – A Musical Tale of Morgues, Moguls and Mutiny tells the story of a group of morgue workers facing wage cuts and potential job losses. The villains of the story: the wealthy owners of the local morgue and steel factory, aptly named Doug Graves and Rusty Chrome, and their contemporaries in the top one tenth of 1 percent. It’s already been performed for union audiences, you can view a 30-minute section here, and you can donate here to raise funds for bringing live productions to workers across the country.

Dan Georgakas’ memoir/history, My Detroit: Growing Up Greek and American in the Motor City is now available in Greek as well as English. “A poignant yet humorous history of the rise and fall of the community he grew up in. – Vicki James Yiannias.

Finally, I close with this moving personal tale from Jen Soriano, published and available for you to read in Issue 10 of Waxwing Magazine: A Brief History of Her Pain:    “What would my story be if I had lived in 500 BC? In 1800 or even 1960 AD? Or what would their stories become, if they would live in their bodies in our time. How many witches would have lived to write, how many hysterics would have healed to tell.”

Peace on Earth, Good Will to All,