World Wide Work -- the latest books, films, music

October 27, 2016

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BOOKS
Alibi Creek by Bev Magennis (Torrey House Press). In this exceptionally well written novel, a New Mexican ranch woman’s life is turned upside down when her brother returns from prison, the county commissioners she works for order her to facilitate corrupt financial practices, her husband leaves her, and she begins to see her Christian faith in a new light.
Cold Blood, Hot Sea by Charlene D’Avanzo (
Torrey House Press). A plot-driven mystery novel follows a young climate scientist on the Maine coast whose life is in danger because she is investigating big energy companies.
The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash (
Seven Stories). Three innovative novellas cast a light on class in today’s India. A janitor stumbles on a cache of money. An untouchable has his identity stolen by an upper-caste thief. A slum family faces a crisis when their baby keeps getting smarter by leaps and bounds.
Pale Harvest by Braden Hepner (
Torrey House Press). The young men in a western dairy community who are at the center of this touching novel struggle to understand faith, hope, and fate as they cope with poverty, isolation, and lack of power in the face of larger economic forces.
The Creatures at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea by Rosemary McGuire (
University of Alaska). A woman who worked for years in commercial fishing gives an insider view of that life in this collection of short stories.
Woman Missing by Linda Nordquist (
Hard Ball Press). In this novel written by a former steelworker, a worker disappeared 20 years ago while challenging a mill closure, and the authorities had no interest in investigating. Now, her daughter returns to her hometown to discover what happened, putting herself in danger.
Dirt Work by Christine Byl (Beacon). A woman who has spent much of her adult life on trail crews in the western states provides an entertaining memoir of her experiences.
The Big Book of Nature Activities by Drew Monkman and Jacob Rodenburg (New Society). An extremely useful 350-page guide describes specific activities and games to engage young people in the natural world, have fun, and develop skills.
The God of the Whole Animal by Lewis Mundt (
Beard Poetry). This collection of highly original and personal poems comes from Beard Poetry, an independent publisher based in Minneapolis.
Tomlinson Hill by Chris Tomlinson (
St. Martin’s). A journalist who is the great-great-grandson of slave owners returns to his roots in a small town in Texas to tell the unvarnished story of the relationship over many generations between his family and black residents, including retired NFL star LaDainian Tomlinson. One striking aspect of the story is the similarity between what the white elite did to maintain political and economic power and cheap labor after the Civil War and the tactics being used today.
Environmentalism of the Rich by Peter Dauvergne (
MIT). A professor argues that an environmental movement focused on recycling, energy efficiency, and wilderness preservation is not making change fast enough because it does not challenge the root issues of overconsumption, extreme inequality, destructive growth, and excessive corporate power over decision making.
Secrets of a Successful Organizer by Alexandra Bradbury, Mark Brenner, and Jane Slaughter (
Labor Notes). While designed for use in a workplace context, this guide contains useful tips for any kind of organizing.
Among Wolves by Gordon Haber and Marybeth Holleman (
University of Alaska). A compilation of the writings of a scientist who studied wolves in Alaska for 43 years provides comprehensive information about how these animals live, the important role they play in their ecosystem, and what it will take to allow them to thrive rather than disappearing.
Listen, Liberal by Thomas Frank (Metropolitan). The Democratic Party presents itself as the party of working people, yet at the top it is run by a corporate and cultural elite whose economic and foreign policy positions benefit Wall Street and global companies at everyone else’s expense. The history of how that transformation has taken place is essential reading for all Americans, including those who may choose to vote Democratic anyway for tactical reasons.
The American War in Vietnam by John Marciano (Monthly Review Press). The U.S. government has launched a multi-year project to “commemorate” its war in Vietnam, framing that invasion as a patriotic effort to promote democracy around the world. A retired professor reviews the actual history of the war and debunks the myths being created by those who seek to build support for similar military interventions today.
The Drone Eats With Me by Atef Abu Saif (Beacon). A Palestinian writer describes how he and his young family and neighbors tried to maintain some normalcy in their lives during a nearly two-month conflict with Israel on the Gaza Strip in 2014.
Black Power 50 edited by Sylviane A. Diouf and Komozi Woodard (The New Press). Anniversaries of major events in the civil rights movement of the 1960s get far more attention than the 50th anniversary in 2016 of the emergence of the Black Power movement that was more militant, more critical of capitalism, and more concerned with local black empowerment than with racial integration. This collection of essays is accompanied by personal accounts by participants and more than a hundred dramatic photographs and other images.
Achieving Workers’ Rights in the Global Economy edited by Richard P. Appelbaum and Nelson Lichtenstein (Cornell University Press). A collection of essays by activists and academics examines how giant retail supply chains controlled by companies like Walmart, Apple, and Nike hold working people in poverty around the world. Includes discussion about possible reforms.

FILMS
The Measure of a Man. This highly unusual French feature film focuses on an unemployed man put through absurd and humiliating “retraining,” “coaching,” and interviews for jobs he won’t get, until he finally accepts a position as part of the surveillance staff in a big box store.
Lamb. A beautiful Ethiopian feature film tells the story of two characters who don’t fit into traditional rural life in that country. One is a young boy more adept at cooking than typically male tasks. The other is an outspoken teenage girl who is being drawn into local radical political debates.
When Two Worlds Collide. Backed by a “free trade” agreement with the U.S., the president of Peru launched a plan to turn over indigenous Amazonian land to big corporations for mining and oil and gas extraction. Indigenous communities fought back. The filmmakers immersed themselves in this drama and produced incredible footage showing the courage and sacrifice of the native people, juxtaposed with the familiar invoking of “progress” and “the rule of the law” by the corporations’ allies in government.
Deepwater Horizon. A Hollywood thriller recreates the 2010 disaster in which a BP oil rig caught on fire and exploded, killing 11 people and releasing tens of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. High-level acting and special effects help tell the story of BP’s greed that led to the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
The Ruins of Lifta. A Jewish filmmaker whose family was devastated by the Holocaust has made a film about a Palestinian village whose inhabitants lost their homes when Israel was established. Survivors of both experiences meet at the present-day village site, now a battleground among developers, the Israeli government, and Palestinians.

MUSIC
War Surplus
by Becky Warren. This 12-song album by a country rocker now touring with the Indigo Girls tells a continuous story about a soldier who was sent to Iraq and his girlfriend, following each of them from the time they meet to his return with PTSD.
Haas, Marshall, Walsh and Borderland by Joe Walsh. Two new albums of tuneful roots music, some original, some traditional, some instrumental, with innovations like a rendition of Phil Ochs’ “There But for Fortune” or a Yeats poem put to music.
American Band by
Drive-By Truckers. The dynamic white southern rockers have been touring with a Black Lives Matter sign on stage, and sing about a school massacre in Oregon, religious hypocrites, the Confederate flag, and police shootings of black men:

“If you say it wasn’t racial when they shot him in his tracks,
Well, I guess that means that you ain’t black,
I mean Barack Obama won and you can choose where to eat,
But you don’t see too many white kids lying bleeding on the street.”