World Wide Work: Films, Books, and Music You May Have Missed

January 14, 2023

Shadow ShapeShadow ShapeThree Sisters Wilderness, Oregon

Here’s the latest World Wide Work update.

FILMS

The Swimmers. This feature film is based on the true story of two Syrian sisters, both competitive swimmers, who fled their war-torn country by sea and courageously helped save other refugees in the process. One of the sisters, along with dozens of others, is facing trial in Greece for refugee assistance work they undertook in recent years.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo. In this 16-part series from South Korea, a woman with autism is in her first year as an attorney at a big law firm. Each episode introduces a new case, while following interpersonal dynamics involving the attorney, her coworkers, and her family.

Causeway. Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry star in this skillful feature film. She is recovering from brain injuries suffered while deployed in Afghanistan. He is still dealing with the trauma of a car accident. They get to know each other in a way that avoids a predictable romance storyline or Hollywood ending.

Glass Onion. The makers of the film “Knives Out” this time skewer the tech billionaire class who think that because they are rich they are smarter than everyone else and have no obligation to respect or protect the public interest. It becomes the job of detective Benoit Blanc to disrupt the disrupters.

Carmen. Inspired by true events, this feel-good feature film is about a woman who was essentially a servant for 16 years for her brother, the local priest in a small community in Malta. When he dies, will the village overlook her gender and take advantage of the skills and knowledge she gained during her long years at her brother’s side?

The Sign Painter. A young Catholic man in Latvia in the 1930s makes his living as a sign painter while violating local taboos by wooing a young woman who is Jewish. As a series of authoritarian regimes take over the area, from a homegrown dictator to the Soviets to the German Nazis, the situation for local residents like him goes from absurd to tragic.

Fixing Food. Five documentary segments, each 8 to 12 minutes, profile small-scale, innovative projects to make quality, affordable food more accessible and sustainable. One shows a couple who are producing high-protein crickets. Another features a Native American restaurant that grows and uses foods in traditional ways, without dairy, wheat, or sugar. A third focuses on a multi-story vertical greenhouse in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Another describes a community in Maine that is farming kelp as lobstering and other fishing work declines due to climate change. The final segment shows a project in Pittsburgh that is turning food waste into quality meals.

Moroni for President. A gay man who runs for president of the Navajo Nation is the subject of this documentary that sheds a light on the nation’s internal politics and its cultural attitudes.

BOOKS

Diary of a Misfit by Casey Parks (Knopf). A Washington Post reporter bares her soul in this autobiography that focuses on growing up gay in a poor, church-loving family in small-town Louisiana; her complex relationship with her mother; and her life since she moved to Portland, Oregon.

The Angel of Rome by Jess Walter (Harper). These creative and entertaining short stories have a broad range. Climate scientists’ personal lives take a wacky turn as they wonder how to cope with how much they know about humans’ impending doom. An old couple discovers an aspiring writing student taking notes on their conversation in a restaurant. A gay man repeatedly has to come out to his father who suffers from dementia. And more.

The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner (Flatiron). A Jewish woman in German-occupied Poland during World War II hides with her daughter for months in a sympathizer’s barn. They eventually separate for security’s sake and then face a series of obstacles trying to reunite.

A Cowardly Woman No More by Ellen Cooney (Coffee House). Trisha has done her best to fit into her roles as an employee in a bureaucratic corporation, a wife, and a mother. But when she is denied a promotion she has earned, it’s time to rebel.

Fighting in a World on Fire by Andrea Malm (Verso). A thoughtful activist argues that the global climate movement must adopt more militant strategies. Current tactics have proven to be inadequate to force corporations and governments to change course significantly enough and fast enough to prevent rapidly escalating disasters. He discusses what those new strategies might be and responds to likely objections.

Feels Like Home by Linda Ronstadt and Lawrence Downes (Heyday). The famous singer shares stories about her family heritage and growing up in the U.S.-Mexico border region. She also includes recipes and beautiful photos by photographer Bill Steen.

Most Dangerous, Most Unmerciful by J. Malcolm Garcia (Seven Stories). A reporter who spent time in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2015 shares unadorned nonfiction stories about the people he knew there, from U.S. soldiers eager to kill to a woman who set up a detox center for destitute drug addicts to a nine-year-old who hustled on the street to help support his siblings.

Not for Sale edited by Romero, Zuniga, Hernandez, and Torres (Routledge). Many cities provide subsidies and tax breaks for wealthy developers to “redevelop” or “revitalize” areas of “blight,” often with disastrous consequences for low- and middle-income residents and communities of color. In this collection of case studies, analysts look at examples both of harmful projects and community resistance.

The Future We Need by Erica Smiley and Sarita Gupta (ILR Press). Two organizers provide a brief overview of recent efforts in the labor movement to become more inclusive and to challenge the real powers in the economy on issues that affect not only the workplace but also family and community life.

Pandemic, Inc. by J. David McSwane (One Signal). While vaccines and masks saved many lives and kept many cases of illness from becoming more serious, the impact of the Covid pandemic could have been greatly reduced if it weren’t for the greed of corporate profiteers and their political allies.

How to Become an American by Daniel Wolff (University of South Carolina). An historian follows several generations of a Jewish family from the time of the Civil War to World War II as they migrate from Bohemia to the American South and then to Minneapolis. A diary and family letters are supplemented with anecdotes and context about economic, social, and political developments around them. All in all, it becomes a story about a family and a society pursuing an ultimately empty American dream.

Insectpedia by Eric R. Eaton (Princeton). A collection of fascinating stories describes insects all over the world, including their habits and their role in human culture.

The Unforgettables edited by Charles C. Eldredge (University of California). An anthology shines a light on the work of 70 American artists from the past three centuries who deserve greater attention in the opinion of the academics and curators who wrote short essays to go along with samples of the artists’ work.

MUSIC

Dancing on the Moon. Eight peaceful lullabies sung by Sage Meadows.

Old Californio Country Tuneful, easy listening covers of songs by John Prine, Neil Young, Guy Clark, Jason Isbell, Merle Haggard, and more.


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