World Wide Work -- Books, Films, Music You May Have Missed

September 06, 2021

Garter Snake in Lilypad LakeGarter Snake in Lilypad LakeRed Buttes Wilderness, California

Here’s the latest World Wide Work update on films, books, and music you may have missed.

BOOKS

Aviary by Deirdre McNamer (Milkweed). In this mystery novel that tenderly explores the characters’ emotional lives, both old and young try to maintain human connection even as their lives are disrupted by corporate greed and social breakdown.

Variations on the Body by Maria Ospina (Coffee House Press). Unusually creative short stories illuminate life for women and girls in Colombia, often from a class perspective. In one story, a young woman who ran away from a group engaged in armed struggle against the Colombian government clashes with a publishing house editor who keeps trying to reshape the woman’s account of her experiences.  

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore (HarperCollins). In this exceptionally well-written novel, an oil boom in west Texas draws men seeking to cash in but brings trouble for working class women and girls who depend on each other for support and survival.

The Parted Earth by Anjali Enjeti (Hub City). The Partition – the division of India by Great Britain into two countries, one majority Hindu and the other majority Muslim (Pakistan) – left psychological and cultural scars that continue to be passed on from generation to generation. One main character in this novel is a Hindu woman who at age 16 is separated by the Partition from the Muslim boy she hopes to marry. The other main character is her granddaughter who lives today in Atlanta and yearns to learn about her heritage.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes (Viking). During the Great Depression the New Deal’s Packhorse Librarians program brought books to more than 100,000 isolated rural residents in Kentucky. This novel paints portraits of some of the women who rode horseback up remote hollows to deliver books, often over the objections of local coal magnates who worried that the spread of ideas would stir up trouble.

The Ocean’s Whistleblower by David Gremillet (Greystone). A fascinating biography describes the work of Daniel Pauly, a leading marine biologist whose groundbreaking research has documented the impact of excessive commercial fishing all over the world. It also follows his personal life, beginning with a most unusual and difficult childhood as the product of a brief affair between a white French woman and a Black American soldier.

Rich Thanks to Racism by Jim Freeman (ILR Press).  Racism in education, criminal justice, and immigration policy is not just a result of individual white people’s attitudes. It’s also crucial to look at the ways big corporations and billionaires use their political power to maintain racist systems they profit from.

Fulfillment by Alec MacGillis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Through case studies showing the impact of Amazon on communities, workers, people of color, the environment, small businesses, and the political process, a skilled journalist provides a valuable intersectional picture of a society falling apart under the changes huge corporations are imposing.

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (One World). A young journalist traveled the country to uncover dramatic stories of what being undocumented means to immigrants who toil far from the media spotlight.

Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain (One World). Ninety writers explore Black experiences in America in the past 400 years through powerful essays, short stories, poetry, and other writing.

What We Mean by the American Dream by Doron Taussig (ILR Press). Liberal rhetoric about “leveling the playing field” and “rewarding work” reinforces the idea that the goal of society is to make sure that who wins and who loses is decided “fairly.” This examination of “meritocracy” argues that society’s goal should instead be to make sure everyone has what they need, and that most achievement or failure is collective, not just individual.

The Cult of We by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell (Crown). Two Wall Street Journal reporters look at greed at the upper reaches of capitalism today by recounting the story of WeWork, a commercial real estate company that had Wall Street dreaming of making huge profits until it crashed, leaving thousands unemployed while the founder walked away with enormous wealth.

Stealing Home by Eric Nusbaum (Public Affairs). Written in the lively style of a columnist with an eye for memorable anecdotes, this is the story of Mexican American families who were displaced to build Dodger Stadium, the economic and political power structure that made that happen, and an activist who had hoped to build a public housing community on that land instead.

Drums in the Distance by Joe Mulhall ((Icon). A British researcher shares results of a decade spent investigating and at times infiltrating far right groups in the U.S., Europe, India, Brazil, and elsewhere. His report shows that the problem extends far beyond any single country or politician.

Girls Who Build by Katie Hughes (Black Dog & Leventhal). Interviews and photographs of 45 girls who use power tools for making things are combined with suggestions for 13 do-it-herself building projects and other tips.

The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble (Old Barn). When environmental apocalypse hits Australia, a young girl and her brother take their dogs on a harrowing journey in search of food and safety.

There’s No Base Like Home by Jessica Mendoza and Alana Mendoza Dusan (TU Books). Two sisters who were accomplished softball players themselves draw on their own experiences for this story about a Mexican-American girl in sixth grade who faces challenges in becoming a ballplayer and dealing with team dynamics and middle school.

 

FILMS

Reservation Dogs. An irreverent 8-part TV series created by an all-indigenous team focuses on four indigenous teenagers in rural Oklahoma.

Summer of Soul. In the summer of 1969 (the same summer as Woodstock and rebellion in many urban Black communities), the six-week Harlem Cultural Festival featured outdoor performances by many of the most famous Black performers. This documentary combines footage of some of those performances with evocative interviews with attendees conducted at the time and more recently. 

The Surrogate. A web designer for a nonprofit happily agrees to carry a baby for her best friend and his husband. But three months into the pregnancy, the results of a pre-natal test force the three of them to examine their values and their relationship.

Guie'dani's Navel. A Zapotec single mother leaves her small village to work as a live-in housekeeper for an upwardly mobile family in Mexico City, bringing her teenage daughter with her. While the woman does her best to please the family, her daughter rebels against the exploitation and indignities imposed on them.

Of Mind and Music. The lives of a Latinx Alzheimer's researcher and a Black street singer in New Orleans become intertwined as he tries to help her and her family recognize and cope with her condition.

My Wonderful Wanda. A poor woman from Poland takes a job in Switzerland providing care for the ailing patriarch of a wealthy, dysfunctional family to earn money she needs to provide for her own children back home. An unexpected turn of events challenges all concerned.

 

MUSIC

The Horses and the Hounds by James McMurtry. McMurtry knows how to tell a story in song, whether it’s about a rekindled old love or America’s recent wars or just a bad day made worse by not being able to find his glasses.

Family Reunion by Della Mae. We can’t go back, sings this all-women string band, to “The Way It Was Before.”


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