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Runaway Inequality by Les Leopold (Labor Institute Press). This highly useful guide to economic justice explains with helpful facts and graphics that the wealth and power gap between the richest 1% and the rest of us is not a “single issue” but is closely tied to issues such as racism, immigration, equality for women, incarceration, climate change, health care, education, housing, trade policy, tax fairness, and military spending.
The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden (Akashic). Hidden history comes alive in this novel about an African American man from Georgia who became a musician in Harlem, played in Paris, lived through the horrors of the Buchenwald concentration camp, and spent his final years in the turmoil of the 1960s.
South Haven by Hirsh Sawhney (Akashic). A son of Hindu immigrants from India grows up in a New England suburb, where he struggles to find his way after his mother dies, while his father becomes immersed in anti-Muslim fundamentalism.
Rant, Chant, Chisme by Amalia Ortiz (Wings Press). An outstanding collection by a feminist Chicana performance poet from Texas artfully connects the personal and the political.
Someone Has to Die by Timothy Sheard (Hard Ball Press). In this mystery novel, a hospital nurse is wrongfully accused in the death of a patient. Meanwhile, the hospital’s new corporate owner is threatening to stop contributing to the workers’ health and pension fund. Our hero, a union steward and amateur detective, brings workers together to take on these challenges.
The Lamentations of Zeno by Ilija Trojanow (Verso). An irreverent scientist working as a travel guide on a cruise ship in Antarctica contemplates dramatic action as the intensity of his feelings about climate change increasingly clashes with the complacency of the passengers.
American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar (Little, Brown). This novelist, who was raised in a Muslim family in Wisconsin, explores the many different ways that Muslims in America face tensions between outside cultural pressures and their faith.
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez (Knopf). A love story between two teenagers anchors this novel about the experience of immigrants to the U.S. from Mexico and Panama.
Energy Revolution by Howard Johns (Permanent Publications). A British engineer and activist provides positive news from around the world about the shift to renewable energy sources and gives advice about how to help speed the transition.
The Hope in Leaving by Barbara Williams (Seven Stories). A successful actress and musical performer has written a memoir of her childhood that reads like a vivid novel about survival in poor logging towns, a dysfunctional family, and a close relationship with a brother suffering from mental illness.
Being in Pictures by Joanne Leonard (University of Michigan). A beautiful large format book presents nearly 200 creative photographs and collages produced over more than 40 years, together with succinct, revealing text about Leonard’s journey as a person and an artist. Themes include the end of a marriage, a miscarriage, single motherhood, the experience of being an identical twin, the decline of her parents, maleness seen from a woman’s point of view, and much more.
Pushout by Monique W. Morris (The New Press). Many black girls are criminalized by school systems, facing the dual threat of racism and sexism.
Incarceration Nations by Baz Dreisinger (Other Press). The founder of the Prison-to-College Pipeline program spent two years visiting and sometimes working in prisons in nine countries, including South Africa, Thailand, Brazil, Australia, and Norway. Prisons are a mirror of each society’s culture, she writes, but her experiences also suggested some universal truths about incarceration, prevention, intervention, and reintegration.
GMO Myths and Truths by Claire Robinson, Michael Antoniou, and John Fagan (Earth Open Source). A detailed guide to the evidence and arguments about genetically modified crops and foods has been updated and condensed in this third edition.
Unequal Time by Dan Clawson and Naomi Gerstel (Russell Sage). Our laws and employment relationships don’t take into account continual disruptions of work and family schedules by illness and family responsibilities. The impacts fall disproportionately on women and on people without wealth.
We Don’t Quit by Don Stillman (Chelsea Green). The former director of international affairs for the United Auto Workers describes that union’s efforts to support workers’ struggles in other countries, as well as support by unions from Brazil, South Africa, and Germany for auto worker organizing campaigns in the U.S.
Far Out edited by Wendy Barker and Dave Parsons (Wings Press). In this collection, poets writing now remember their experiences in the 1960s.
The Second Mother. A Brazilian woman left her daughter in her home village in order to find work in the city to support them both. For years, she has been a live-in housekeeper for a wealthy family and has internalized attitudes about class and her subservient place in the world. A crisis develops when her daughter, aspiring to go to college, comes to see her.
A Borrowed Identity. A brilliant Palestinian teenager is sent by his family to a top Israeli boarding school where he develops several close relationships and has to make choices about who he is.
Neptune. A 14-year-old orphan girl raised by a priest on an island off the coast of Maine is prompted by a tragic incident to start grappling with her own identity in this engaging feature film.
In The Game. This moving documentary focuses on the girl’s soccer team at a poor, mostly Latino public high school in Chicago, so underfunded that students have to bring toilet paper to school. Contrary to what Hollywood might have done with this subject, it shows not only the girls’ admirable determination and dedicated coach but also the ongoing consequences of denying them the resources that more privileged kids are given.
Boone. Beautiful footage, unusual editing, and the absence of narration or talking head interviews help this documentary convey the hard work and idealism of three young farmers trying to make a go of it in southern Oregon.
Invisible Scars. A filmmaker who was sexually abused by her father decided to talk openly about how that affected her life, to interview other victims of abuse, to show how widespread the problem is, and to explore how survivors are overcoming those experiences.
Cass County by Don Henley. The former member of the Eagles has written some good country songs. Praying for Rain is about climate change: “I ain’t no wise man, but I ain’t no fool, and I believe that Mother Nature is taking us to school. Maybe we just took too much, and put too little back. It isn’t knowledge, it’s humility we lack.” Waiting Tables is about a single-mom waitress. No Thank You is about not being fooled by corporate and political sales pitches at a time when we have “Space Age machinery (but) Stone Age emotions.”