Books (plus Music, Art and Film) by Friends

August 2015

Family and Friends,

The first eight months of 2015 have seen another outpouring of books and other creative works by friends of mine. If you are interested in fresh insights (political or otherwise) or just a few hours enjoyment you are bound to find something to fill the bill in the list below. Just click on the title/link for more information about each volume as well as ordering information. And if you want even more ideas, you can check out all the books, films, musical performances and more listed in 15 previous ‘Books by Friends” messages sent since 2007 by clicking here.

First up is Ai-jen Poo’s groundbreaking volume The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America. Drawing on her experience leading the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Ai-jen goes beyond critiquing misplaced national priorities, the fraying social safety net, and backward attitudes towards both older people and their caregivers. She offers a compelling vision of an eminently practical “Care Revolution” that would lead to better care for our growing elderly population and provide millions of good jobs at the same time.

Tackling the foreign policy dimension of U.S. society’s interlocking crises, Phyllis Bennis has just published another contribution to Interlink’s Understanding Global Issues series, Understanding ISIS & the New Global War on Terror: A Primer. Like Phyllis’ previous primers on the U.S.-Iran Crisis, The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, and the U.S. War in Afghanistan, the short volume is without jargon and uses an accessible ‘frequently asked questions’ format. And for the first comprehensive analysis of one of the newest and most secretive of U.S. war-making tools, Medea Benjamin’s Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control is the go-to resource.

For an inside look at an earlier U.S. foreign intervention debacle, turn to Lou Sarris’ just-published memoir Sunrise, Sunset: An Immigrant’s American Odyssey. Coming to this country as an immigrant from Greece in the 1920s, Lou endured the Great Depression, saw combat in Europe during World War II, and eventually became a key figure – and targeted dissident – in the State Department during the Vietnam War. The memoir tells the whole story; you can also see a documentary about Lou’s unique journey on youtube here.

Also timely given current conflicts over immigration and U.S. policy in Latin America is the comprehensive new study from Susanne Jonas and Nestor Rodríguez, Guatemala-U.S. Migration: Transforming Regions. The book examines the experiences of both Maya and Ladino Guatemalan migrants and includes in-depth case studies of Guatemalan communities in Houston and San Francisco. And for gripping stories of the heroines of Mexico’s Zapatista movement – “grandmothers, mothers and daughters who became guerillas and political leaders, educators and healers” check out Hilary Klein’s Compañeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories,

Several friends have published valuable new books on U.S. radical history this year too:

Radicals in America: The U.S. Left since the Second World War, by Christopher Phelps and Howard Brick, covers the McCarthy period’s persecution of the Communist Party, Occupy Wall Street and just about everything in between.

Lineages of the Literary Left: Essays in Honor of Alan M. Wald is a fitting tribute to Alan’s groundbreaking work on U.S. radical writers in the twentieth century and includes a fascinating autobiographical essay by the honoree.

Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11, from Michael Heaney and Fabio Rojas, examines how peoples’ identification with social movements and political parties affects activism. People Power: The Community Organizing Tradition of Saul Alinsky, co-edited by Mike Miller and Aaron Schutz, includes classic texts, interviews and context-setting commentary in its examination of different initiatives rooted in the Alinsky-based organizing tradition.

In Daydream Sunset: The 60s Counterculture in the 70s, Ron Jacobs offers a fresh take on a decade full of complicated transitions. And Todd Wolfson has authored one of the first volumes examining how new media and communication technologies have shaped and reshaped social movements since the early 1990s in Digital Rebellion: The Birth of the Cyber Left.

I flagged Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’ An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, in a 2014 ‘Books by Friends’ message. Roxanne’s book has since won the 2015 American Book Award and you can now read this “explosion of the silences that have haunted the U.S. national narrative” in a new, paperback edition. Also mentioned in that earlier message, Tensions in the American Dream: Rhetoric, Reverie or Reality, a probing examination of empire, race, inclusion, and marginalization by Melanie Bush and her late and sorely missed soul mate Rod Bush, is now off the press.

In a different vein – speculation about possible futures – Autumn Brown is one of the contributors to Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements. The volume is an anthology of visionary science fiction and speculative fiction written by organizers and activists edited by Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown. For fiction about the gritty present, take a look at The Dixon Family Chronicles, the latest on-line serial from activist and writer Gary Phillips. Appearing in brief installments of 800 words or so, the Chronicles are part of a populist literary tradition tackling issues of class and social conflict that stretches back to Charles Dickens. And for poetry rooted in a similar tradition and experience, check out Sue Blaustein’s work here.

For film and video, the website for Natalie Reuss’ forthcoming feature about the ancient Italian hill town of Civita di Bagnoregio is now up; for striking images and full information click here. Jordan Flaherty has released two short films based on conversations he had in Gaza in 2009 with Professor Haidar Eid, a leader of the Palestinian movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions; they can be seen on youtube here and here.

If you are in New York between September 17 and October 8, visit the Carter Burden Gallery to see Diogenes Ballester’s Akashic Archives exhibit: “With global warming becoming ever more present in our lives… with the need to exist in a sustainable manner with the natural environment being an increasingly pressing issue… the concepts these ancestors have left us, as well as the images of balance and tranquility can teach us.”

On the music front, Ying-sun Ho is a member of the band Dialectic which released a new album in June: Acres and Continents. And this message closes with Looking for Freedom: A Celebration of the Music of Jon Fromer – a tribute to the San Francisco folk/blues artist whose soulful singing style and original songs about work, love, struggle, and triumph helped fuel movements for peace, human rights, and social justice for nearly fifty years.