World Wide Work: Films and Books You May Have Missed

November 10, 2022

Tidal PuddlesTidal PuddlesOceanside, Oregon

Here’s the latest World Wide Work update.

FILMS

Language Lessons. A Cuban-American woman living in Costa Rica begins giving Spanish lessons by Zoom to a gay white man in Oakland. As crises develop in each of their lives, they both come to value their growing friendship.

The Other Tom. A Mexican-American single mom who barely scrapes by on her job in a warehouse has a young son who has trouble concentrating and is prone to angry outbursts. In this brilliantly acted and directed feature film, she grapples with how to help and protect him, and in the process clashes with the school system and child protective services. All the characters are presented not as one-dimensional figures but as humans trying to do the best they can, and the film remains a drama, not a polemic for one side or another in debates about treatments for ADHD.

The Messenger. Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster star in this skillfully written, Academy Award-nominated feature film about an American soldier returning from Iraq who is assigned to partner with an older officer to notify families when their loved one has been killed at war.

Tickling Giants. Inspired by the Arab Spring upheaval in Egypt, a comedian named Bassem Youssef started a show modeled after Jon Stewart that grew to have 30 million viewers per night. But his satire and commentary about the country’s rulers soon got him in serious trouble.

Riders of the Purple Sage: The Making of a Western Opera. The classic novel by Zane Grey was turned into an opera with an evocative set that combined painting and digital images. This documentary takes viewers behind the scenes to see how the director, composers, actors, musicians, and designers collaborated to pull off this unusual production.

Behind the Shield. Sports, we are told, should be a refuge from politics. But the National Football League is a powerful political and cultural force promoting racism, unquestioned support for military profiteering and endless war, ripoffs of taxpayers by billionaires, unnecessarily unsafe working conditions, hyper-masculinity and exploitation of women, and homophobia, according to this well-researched documentary.

BOOKS

The Fishermen and the Dragon by Kirk Wallace Johnson (Viking). Corporate greed was undermining economic security for white commercial fishermen on Galveston Bay in the 1970s, but instead of organizing to fight back, many of them made scapegoats of the refugees who were brought to the area after collaborating with the U.S. war in Vietnam. One woman who was born and raised in the area took a different tack, using direct action and other tactics to challenge the corporate pollution that was destroying jobs and the environment for everyone.

The Larger Voice edited by Rena Priest (Native Arts & Cultures). A free downloadable anthology features eloquent writing by 13 Native authors, including poetry and excerpts from longer works of fiction and nonfiction.

Chasing Me to My Grave by Winfred Rembert (Bloomsbury). Rembert was raised in rural Georgia in the 1950s and 1960s and was nearly lynched, spent years on a chain gang, and eventually moved to the North, where he became an accomplished painter, focusing on scenes from the Jim Crow South. In this stunning book he tells his story and presents more than 75 vivid paintings.

Dividing Paradise by Jennifer Sherman (University of California). A sociologist spent nearly a year studying a small rural community in eastern Washington where extractive industries have been replaced by tourism and new residents who moved from larger cities or now have second homes there. Through 84 in-depth interviews, she found that many of the more well-off residents have little contact with or understanding of their lower income neighbors, and that many residents who are struggling economically blame “liberals,” “the government,” or people with even less privilege rather than the big corporations and billionaires who have systematically widened the country’s wealth gap.

My Days of Dark Green Euphoria by A.E. Copenhaver (Ashland Creek). A woman in her 30s can’t compartmentalize to shut out constant awareness of intensifying injustice and climate disaster in the world. Is she going insane, asks this clever novel, or is it the society around her that has gone off the deep end?

The Lost Women of Azalea Court by Ellen Meeropol (Red Hen). Women who live in a small community on the former grounds of a state mental hospital come together to confront the ghosts of the past.

Out of Patients by Sandra Cavallo Miller (University of Nevada). A novel by a retired family medicine doctor provides a window into how today’s health care “system” feels from the physician’s point of view. With help from her dogs and two men who have taken a romantic interest in her, the main character copes with burnout, divorce, a difficult medical student, an aging mother, and an embezzler at the clinic.

This is Happiness by Niall Williams (Bloomsbury). Extraordinarily lyrical writing is the attraction of this novel set in an isolated rural community in Ireland that is one of the last to get electricity toward the end of the 20th century.

Wire Women edited by Sharon Szymanski (Hard Ball). A children’s book with colorful illustrations shows why women who are union electricians find their jobs satisfying and rewarding.

The 1619 Project edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones (One World). 19 edifying essays show how the legacy of slavery still affects most aspects of American society, including economics, politics, culture, religion, the justice system, health care, and much more.

Dancing for Our Tribe by Sharon Hoogstraten (Shikaakwa). A descendant of the Potawatomi Tribe presents in a coffee table book more than 150 formal portraits of today’s tribal members of all ages in traditional regalia adapted to their current lives, along with comments from each of the subjects. It all adds up to a powerful message that “we are still here.”

The Greatest Evil is War by Chris Hedges (Seven Stories). A war correspondent for two decades in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa, and Central America was prompted by cheerleading for the war in Ukraine to put together past writing and plainspoken new commentary to address what war is actually like: the damage it leaves for the survivors, soldiers, and communities; the corporate, political, and media profiteering that drives it; and the myths about heroism that are used to perpetuate it.  

Understanding the War Industry by Christian Sorensen (Clarity). A comprehensive, myth-busting guide shows how U.S. military policy is made not in the White House or Congress or the Pentagon but in corporate boardrooms based on how best to maximize profits.

The Trillion Dollar Silencer by Joan Roelofs (Clarity). One main reason there is so little anti-war protest in the U.S. is that military spending, which represents more than half of the federal government’s discretionary budget, is spread throughout the economy to big corporations, contractors, universities, state and local governments, and nonprofit organizations. While there are huge human, economic, and environmental costs, many Americans benefit in the short term.

Our Members Be Unlimited by Sam Wallman (Scribe). A cartoonist created this lively 250-page comic with images and text about working people and unions that can serve as a useful entry point for young people who are interested in organizing.


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