Books (plus Poetry, Films & Music) by Friends – December 2012

Friends and Family,

It’s been an exciting time on the “friends-publishing-books” front since my last “Books by Friends” message arrived in your in-box. Many excellent volumes have been released since February and several more will appear in the next few months. Creative works of poetry, music and film are in the mix as well.

Few of these works get publicity from the mainstream media or their corporate sponsors. So especially at a time when alternative viewpoints are more needed than ever, please consider spreading the word about these volumes or buying one for  yourself or as a holiday gift. Or pick a book from last February’s or a previous year’s list: you can find all nine on the Revolution in the Air website. (Hard for me to believe, but it’s been 10 years now since my own book came out, and six years since the paperback edition.)

It’s a long list, but if you persevere, you’ll find two of the most exciting items at the end.

Happy reading, watching, listening and thinking in new ways!

Peace on earth, good will to all,


How about relaxing over the holiday season with a new novel? Check out Valerie Haynes Perry’s latest, Members (“Isalene Will is a black girl from the projects on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The summer of her ninth birthday presents her with several intense transitions”). Or dive into one of her earlier books like Tanner Blue, and while you are at it read an interview with her about the creative writing process.

Jim Russell’s debut novel, Escape from Texas: A Novel of Slavery and the Texas War of Independence, would be another good choice. You won’t find many novels written from the point of view that the extension of slavery – not yearnings for “freedom” by Texas frontiersmen – was the true underlying cause of the Texas War of Independence.

Another first novel, Kitty Kroger’s Dancing with Mao and Miguel, is the story of a young radical activist in 1970s trying to find her path in life, while infatuated with two inspiring but unreliable dance partners. The book’s political setting will be familiar to many of you receiving this message, but all readers may find some new ways of looking at things after following the heroine’s roller coaster journey.

Tom Angotti’s short stories may also intrigue you; his collection is titled Accidental Warriors and Battlefield Myths. Tom, the director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development, is also editor of a new book that challenges the standard protocol for university-initiated design and planning projects in the community – Service-Learning in Design and Planning – Educating at the Boundaries.

If it’s something for a very young child you are looking for, you can’t do better than A Is for Activist: An ABC Board Book for the Kids of the 99%, written and illustrated by Innosanto Nagara. “It’s the real thing! An ABC book for kids ages 0 to 3+ that you can truly enjoy reading over and over and over again. Every night!”

There’s pioneering non-fiction out from friends this year as well:

Topping this category is the first-ever national survey of domestic workers in the U.S., Home Economics: The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work, co-authored by Linda Burnham and Nik Theodore. This groundbreaking effort, which surveyed 2,086 workers in 14 cities, was compelling enough to be flagged in a New York Times editorial and is already making a difference in the organizing efforts of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin will be released by the University of California Press next month. Here’s what Robin D.G. Kelley says about the volume: “This is the book we’ve all been waiting for: the first complete history of the Black Panther Party, devoid of the hype, the nonsense, the one-dimensional heroes and villains, the myths, or the tunnel vision that has limited scholarly and popular treatments across the ideological spectrum.”

A perfect companion read to Black against Empire is the 2012 new edition of Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin’s study of urban revolution, Detroit I Do Mind Dying. This third edition of the now-classic work includes a new introduction by Manning Marable.

Friends Sasha Lilley and Eddie Yuen, along with James Davis and David McNally, are authors of the provocative Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth, with an introduction by Left Business Observer Editor Doug Henwood.

This year also saw Van Jones follow up on his earlier big seller The Green Collar Economy with Rebuild the Dream, which offers a vision of a fully integrated green economy and practices of sustainable living and draws on the lessons of the last five years of political battle to propose strategies of getting there. .

 We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism & Militarism in 21st Century America, edited by longtime friend, comrade and War Times co-founder Betita Martinez along with Matt Meyer and Mandy Carter, offers a set of historic and contemporary essays by a range of scholars and activists, including friends (and War Times collective members) Francesca Fiorentini and Clare Bayard.

Milwaukee is not only my home town, but it’s also the “Iconic American City” whose racially fraught history of – and battles over – public education are detailed in Barbara Miner’s new volume, Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City.

Joshua Kahn Russell and Matt Smucker are among the contributors to the creatively put together volume, Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution.

Ying Lee’s remarkable life journey is told in Ying Lee: From Shanghai to Berkeley, An Oral History, edited by Judith Scherr.

Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics and Activism, by Nadine Naber, tells the stories of second generation Arab American young adults living in the San Francisco Bay Area, most of whom are political activists engaged in movements that work in the conditions of diaspora, drawing on Muslim global justice and Leftist Arab perspectives.

Maybe a ‘zine rather than book would be to your liking? Check out Totally Radical Muslims Present – Islamophobia: A Bitchin’ Zine, published by a group of Oakland-based Muslims, including my friend and War Times comrade Shenaaz Janmohamed, to confront, share, name and re-imagine experiences of Islamophobia.

Or perhaps a cookbook? Recipes on the Move is a 70-page collection of delicious recipes from migrant groups representing over 18 nationalities, now living in 21 cities across the U.S. and around the globe. Proceeds from sales benefit the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Cathy Tashiro’s Standing on Both Feet: Voices of Older Mixed-Race Americans explores questions of identity and the significance of family experiences, aging and the life course, class, gender, and nationality.

The Best of ‘The Way I See It‘, by veteran organizer Jamala Rogers, is a compilation of the author’s columns documenting people’s pursuit of self-determination, democracy and peace in the face of their country’s history of broken promises and repression. Covering another front in the fight against racism and inequality is In Defense of Civil Rights: The 40 Year History of the Asian Law Caucus, by Sam Cacas.

Organizing to Change a City, by Kitty Kelly Epstein (with Kimberly Mayfield Lynch and Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor), describes five specific organizing efforts used by activists, including the authors, to change urban conditions for the 99% in Oakland, California.

Casino Women: Courage in Unexpected Places, by Jill Jones and Susan Chandler,  based on extended interviews with maids, cocktail waitresses, cooks, laundry workers, dealers, pit bosses, managers, and vice presidents, describes a world whose enormous profitability is dependent on the labor of women.

Chris Crass’ Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis and Movement Building Strategy will be out in March, with a foreword by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and an introduction by Chris Dixon.

I’ve flagged many books by prolific radical historian and old friend Paul Buhle in these messages; here’s another one more than worth a read: Robin Hood: People’s Outlaw and Forest Hero, A Graphic Guide.

Need some music to listen to while you are reading – or while taking a break? Rebecca Bortman, formerly of My First Earthquake, has a new band: Happy Fangs, that’s worth your attention. Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project is sending off 2012 in style by releasing an album, Back in Tune, as a rhythmic ode to organizers, educators, cultural workers, parents and all those working daily for ecological justice; you can get one by becoming a Movement Generation sustainer. And check out Alan Senauke’s new CD of ‘buddhistic music,” Everything Is Broken: Songs About Things as They Are.

Poetry can add another dimension to your life. Myesha Jenkins has been writing since before she relocated to South Africa after the fall of apartheid. In her new collection, Dreams of Flight, Myesha will take you on a journey of sensuality, memory and resilience. Aimee Suzara’s new poetry chapbook, Finding the Bones, will be available for ordering in February. Gary Hicks’ second poetry collection, Itching for Combat, is now available from Vagabond Press. Sue Blaustein has three new poems published in the Stickman Review. And Marian McDonald’s poem “Father’s Day, Lake Pontchartrain,” dedicated to Mumia Abu Jamal, will be available in the forthcoming Anthology of Georgia Poets.

How about some moving images? The exhibit from All Of Us Or None: Social Justice Posters of the San Francisco Bay Area – curated by Lincoln Cushing – has closed at the Oakland Museum of California, but you can view an online catalog of this extensive collection here. And for a first-hand recounting of what it was like to grow up as a Chicano in Colorado Springs, Colorado during the 1940s and ’50s, with vivid stories of the racism and struggles to survive it, see this video featuring longtime Colorado Chicano and LGBT activist Donaciano Martinez.

And for an exciting end to this message…

Remarkably, there has never been a documentary feature film on the birth of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s. Up to now that is. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, from Mary Dore and Nancy Kennedy, is in the final stages of editing and production. For details about this groundbreaking project, or to make a much-needed  donation or sign up for regular updates on the project’s progress, go to the film website and take a look.

As the Rolling Stones sang, besides making trouble for the powers-that-be, what can a poor boy do but play for a rock’n’roll band? My brother Len has done his share of both. And now he’s made the breakthrough he’s dreamt of for 40-plus years. Len played the guitar riffs on a cut that made the top ten of the Bachata charts – All My Life, by Migz – recorded in late-night sessions in a Miami studio.

Short of the too-long delayed world revolution, you can’t beat that.