Books by Friends – February 2012

Family & Friends,

The most recent outpouring of creativity by so many dear friends is not limited to books. Music, film, video and poetry are also part of the mix. The list below is long, but well worth looking at beginning to end if you are interested in creative endeavors that may move you, inspire you, entertain you, or increase your understanding of the world and your capacity to change it. You might want to look over past “Books by Friends” messages as well, the eight previous ones I’ve sent since 2007 are all available on the Revolution in the Air website.

Happy reading, viewing, listening – and making a difference!


Kicking off 2012’s roster is a labor of love that tells the story of a pioneering institution of the women’s liberation movement. Former Women’s Building Board of Directors Member Sushawn Robb’s Mothering the Movement: The Story of the San Francisco Women’s Building starts its narrative with the incorporation of the San Francisco Women’s Centers in 1969 and takes the reader through 30 years of both movement and institutional history. More information about the volume – which also includes the full script of the play She Rises Like a Building to the Sky by Mercilee M. Jenkins – as well as ordering information can be found here.

Speaking of pioneers, it’s a good time to listen – or listen again – to the voice of activist Barbara Dane. Barbara has been singing blues, jazz and folk non-stop for 66 years since kicking off her career as an 18-year-old firebrand. Due to the workings of a music industry that discriminates against true rebels, only a small percentage of Barbara’s many recordings are still commercially available. But recently most of her albums have been reissued on CD by Dreadnaught Music. You can order her classic I Hate the Capitalist System (Barbara still does!) and others here.

Engaging the urgent struggles of the day, Phyllis Bennis has managed to get her radical perspective on U.S. war-making, Palestinian rights and the structure of the U.N. aired in mainstream outlets from NPR to the Los Angeles Times. The updated fifth edition of her widely used primer Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict is just rolling off the press. The project Phyllis directs at the Institute for Policy Studies – the New Internationalism Project – is in need of funds; please consider making a donation to support it here.

The upsurge in Wisconsin was among the inspiring and lesson-filled popular battles of the last year. (As a Milwaukee native and veteran of the 1960s student movement in Madison it has resonated strongly with me.) A number of moving and insightful first person accounts of the upsurge are collected in the new volume It Started in Wisconsin: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Labor Protest, edited by Mary Jo Buhle and Paul Buhle. Many other old friends and comrades – including Frank Emspak, Elly Leary, David Bacon and Fernando Gapasin – have contributed essays to another new book on the struggle, Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back, edited by Michael D. Yates.

The spirit of Wisconsin fed into the Occupy upsurge, which has already changed the national conversation and lifted the spirits of all partisans of the 99%. A high point of the movement was the November 2 General Strike here in Oakland. The day and its political meaning was captured in the top-notch video made by the talented people of the LeftBay99 Media Team; if you haven’t watched it already it is a must-see here.

Only A God Can Save Us is a documentary that examines the longstanding controversy over philosopher Martin Heidegger’s relationship with Nazism. Produced by Terry Davis and directed by his award-winning brother Jeffrey van Davis, the film debunks the notion that Heidegger’s was a mere “flirtation” with Nazism. Rather it was a lifelong commitment propelled by ideas deep in his philosophical outlook. The film is now touring college campuses, or you can order a DVD here.

If you need a break, check out the Laugh to Not Cry channel featuring one-woman standup comedy by my War Times/Tiempo de Guerras compañera Francesca Fiorentini. My favorite episode is Don’t Be Tricked, where a tea party mummy learns about the value of human solidarity – and a dance number ensues.

Or maybe it’s poetry that recharges your thoughts and energy. If so, check out Sue Blaustein’s moving poem This Can’t Be on page 42 of the new journal Kudzu Review, or check out more of her published work here. Or spend some time reading the eloquent words of “literary vato loco, teacher, creative writer, husband, father and grandfather” Joe Navarro here. Aimie Suzara’s poetry always moves and inspires; you can find her work here. And Lewis Grupper published his poem Occupy Wall Street in the tenth edition of the Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology (p. 479).

How about music, either live or on CD? Sonny Singh plays trumpet with New York City’s Red Baraat – “a raucous, blaring, clashing celebration of a multitude of cultures come together as one joyous explosion.” They’ll be at Slim’s in San Francisco Feb. 23, check out their site for full info and other tour dates, and while you at it look at Sonny’s personal site as well. You can also get your body and spirit both moving by listening to Nora Roman and the Border Busters’ I Belong to No Man’s State.

Now back to books that demonstrate the rich diversity of friends’ interests and talents:

*Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail!: Stories of Crime, Love and Rebellion, edited by Gary Phillips and Andrea Gibbons, is an “incendiary mixture of genres and voices… a unique set of work that revolves around riots, revolts, and revolution. This one is ideal if you are a fan of noir or science fiction – or of revolution.”

*Tony Platt’s Grave Matters: Excavating California’s Buried Past explores the history of the treatment of native remains in California, centering on the Yurok people and the movement to repatriate remains and reclaim ancient rights.

*Written Out of History: Memoirs of Ordinary Activists is a new collection of “stories, memories and legacies” that illuminates the texture of radical social movements of the last 40-plus years, from vantage points that don’t often get a hearing. It’s authored by Madison student movement veteran Kendall Hale and Bette Steinmuller, Nancy Teel, Linda Stern, Beatrice Nava and Steve Norris.

*The latest volume edited by Carl Davidson, Revolutionary Youth and the New Working Class, features some of the most creative and controversial work of the U.S. New Left of the late 1960s, including the Port Authority Statement and the original White Blindspot documents. Fascinating reading in the era of Occupy!

*Wheel of Belonging collects the faith columns Katya Taylor wrote for her Florida local newspaper along with seven sermons delivered to the Unitarian Church in Tallahassee Florida.

*White Anti-Racist Organizing Since 1960, edited by Cile Beatty and Sharon Martinas, is now available on-line via the Solidarity Institute. It’s a reader for a 10-session Challenging White Supremacy Study Group that includes numerous resource documents as well as facilitation guidelines.

*Archie Green: The Making of a Working-Class Hero celebrates one of the most revered folklorists and labor historians of the twentieth century. This “intimate, first-person account” of Green’s life is just off the press by author Sean Burns.

*For a comprehensive volume explaining the nature of the Military Industrial Complex, where it comes from, what damage it does, what further destruction it threatens, and what can be done to stop it, get a copy of The Military Industrial Complex at 50. Friends contributing chapters to the book include Judith LeBlanc and Allen Ruff.