New and worth noting…
The Talker by Mary Sojourner (Torrey House). Touching, down-to-earth short stories feature relationships among working people trying to survive and find human connection in western desert communities.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf). An absorbing historical novel traces many generations from the time in Ghana when people were being sold to Europeans who shipped them as slaves to America to the present day in the U.S.
The Politics of Immigration by Jane Guskin and David L. Wilson (Monthly Review Press). This useful guide provides readable answers to the most common questions about immigration policy and potential reforms.
White Trash by Nancy Isenberg (Viking). Economic exploitation and cultural discrimination against rural and small-town working class white people have been an important part of American life since the nation’s beginning, according to this revealing and readable history.
Direct Action by L.A. Kauffman (Verso). Disruption to create a crisis that those in power must respond to has been used in a wide variety of movements during the past 40 years, with varying degrees of impact.
The Takeover by Monica R. Gisolfi (University of Georgia). A short book powerfully describes how cotton plantation magnates and others developed today’s southern poultry industry with enormous environmental cost, converting landowners essentially to sharecroppers who assume much of the financial risk, all with massive government subsidies.
The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale (Verso). Policing has drastically expanded in America over the past 40 years, but has that improved communities and made them safer? A thorough analysis examines the War on Drugs, criminalization of homelessness, school-to-prison pipeline, gang suppression, anti-immigrant policies, repression against movements for economic and social change, and other issues, and proposes alternatives.
Good Guy Jake by Mark Torres (Hard Ball Press). A bilingual book for young people tells a story to explain how a union grievance procedure can protect workers from unfair treatment.
Edge of Morning and Red Rock Stories (Torrey House). Native voices and 35 writers (some of them native as well) talk about the significance of Utah’s redrock wildlands that President Obama designated as Bears Ears National Monument – a modest level of protection that the Trump administration is trying to slash, pending legal challenges.
Requiem for the American Dream by Noam Chomsky (Seven Stories). This resource is focused on how the wealthy have maintained power throughout American history, with useful quotes and excerpts from speeches, documents, and other materials.
A Redder Shade of Green by Ian Angus (Monthly Review Press). Those seeking ecological and climate action and those seeking economic justice must work together as we can’t achieve one without the other.
The Wedding Portrait by Innosanto Nagara (Seven Stories/Triangle Square). A simple book for secondary school students uses examples to explain basic movement terms such as boycott, direct action, civil disobedience, and more.
Knocking on Labor’s Door by Lane Windham (University of North Carolina). Five million workers tried to form unions during the 1970s, but there was a sharp increase in the percentage of organizing drives that were defeated by corporate threats and pressure. This readable history looks at both the big picture and some particular organizing efforts, often led by women and people of color.
Company Town. A mostly admirable feature-length documentary gives voice to courageous residents of Crossett, Arkansas, who work in and live next to a Georgia-Pacific paper and plywood mill owned by the Koch Brothers. Local people, including children, are suffering high rates of cancer after being exposed to toxic chemicals in the workplace and in their air and water. With company officials refusing to be filmed, the visible villains of the story become the hapless EPA and state officials who clearly are not going to do anything about it. Missing from the film is the question of why this level of pollution was tolerated during the supposedly environmentally friendly Obama administration, the Clinton presidency, and the Clinton governorship of Arkansas, as well as under Republican rule. The film opens with a prominent credit for “executive producers” Sidney Blumenthal and David Brock, two political operatives who are part of the Clinton family’s inner circle. It also features several talking-head appearances by Van Jones, identified as a “former environmental adviser to President Obama.” As a result, the powerful story told by local people and their scientific allies will be more easily dismissed as just another partisan attack on Republican funders.
Whose Streets? This film about the events in Ferguson, Missouri, that followed the police killing of Michael Brown is not a typical documentary with narration to provide facts and context or with talking-head professors telling what they think it all means. Instead, it is a call to action that presents the voices of young black activists who emerged to lead the protest movement, combined with on-the-scene footage of clashes between police and local residents.
Denial. Taking advantage of access to his father, who is the head of a Vermont utility company, a young filmmaker started work on this documentary about the transition we need to make to cleaner energy. While making the film, his father announced a personal transition from man to woman. The two stories run parallel.
The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell (Southeastern Records). One of the best songwriters working today continues to present real songs about personal lives and the larger world.
Where the River Meets the Road by Tim O’Brien. “Guardian Angel” about an older sister who died in childhood is just one of these effective bluegrass songs.
Binary by Ani DiFranco (Righteous Babe). Words with a beat:
“For what it's worth,
Next time I watch a man give birth,
I'll try to picture the creator as a dude with a beard,
'Cause right now I gotta say it's seeming kinda weird.”
Ranky Tanky. Traditional songs from the Gullah culture among African Americans in southeastern U.S., rendered with present-day energy.
Pure Comedy by Father John Misty (Subpop). Unconventional lyrics and wry humor, with classic titles like “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution.”
The Eternal Getdown by Quetzal (Folkways). Using indigenous instruments mixed with modern Chicano musical traditions, this politically oriented group tries to look forward as well as protest.
Roll Columbia (Smithsonian Folkways). 26 songs by Woody Guthrie, some never before recorded, performed by Pacific Northwest artists. Many have to do with construction of dams along the Columbia River to provide electricity, which at the time was considered progress for working families.
Joy Comes Back by Ruthie Foster (Blue Corn Music). A mixture of angry political messages and blues, with titles like “Working Woman,” “What Are You Listening To?” and “War Pigs.”
Letters from Iraq by Rahim Alhaj (Folkways). Eight emotional instrumental pieces by an Iraqi-American composer and oud player with a string quintet blending Iraqi and Western classical styles. Inspired by letters from Iraqis about their war-ravaged country.
All proceeds from photo sales at MattWittPhotography.com go to the Rogue Action Center, an independent nonprofit hub for Rogue Valley community organizing for social, economic, racial, and climate justice.
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