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

May 09, 2024

Partial EclipsePartial EclipseCascade-Siskiyou National Monument Oregon

Many of America’s most iconic natural places are protected by “national monument” designation, but a policy blueprint prepared for a second Trump administration calls for removing those protections, as explained in my column appearing in multiple newspapers. 

 

BOOKS

Dixon, Descending by Karen Outen (Dutton). A school psychologist named Dixon and his brother set out to become the first Black Americans to climb Mount Everest. This unusual and profoundly sad novel toggles between their time on the mountain and Dixon’s work and personal life before and after the climb.

Fire in the Canyon by Daniel Gumbiner (Astra). Ben and Ada get by financially on their small family farm in rural California, where he grows wine grapes and she writes novels. But the new reality of climate-fueled fire and smoke that is affecting so many communities threatens the future for them and their grown son.

In The Pines by Grace Elizabeth Hale (Little, Brown). According to legend in the author’s family, her grandfather, who served as sheriff in a rural Mississippi county, stood up to a mob that wanted to lynch a Black man jailed for allegedly raping a white woman. A meticulous historian and skilled writer, Hale uncovered the ugly truth about what actually happened. 

Defensible Spaces by Alison Turner (Torrey House). Ten interconnected short stories take the reader to a small community in Colorado where a mine no longer operates and where the possibility of fire is always lurking.

The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi (Picador). A very readable history begins in 1917 when the British government announced that it planned to support creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, where Jews constituted 6% of the population. In 1919, a commission established by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson went to the region and reported that the Zionists who supported that plan “looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.”  The commission warned Wilson that “if the American government decided to support the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine they are committing the American people to the use of force in that area, since only by force can a Jewish state in Palestine be established or maintained.” The book recounts how force has been used since then to steadily expand the territory taken from Palestinian families and deprive them of basic human rights. It also describes how many Palestinians have become increasingly desperate as their situation worsens. 

Deluge: Gaza and Israel From Crisis to Cataclysm edited by Jamie Stern-Weiner (OR Books). A book written since October provides context from 13 analysts, including past efforts by Hamas to negotiate a permanent solution, the history of Israel’s policy toward Gaza, and opposition in the U.S. to continued military aid for Israel.

Wall Street’s War on Workers by Les Leopold (Chelsea Green). A respected researcher and educator presents facts to challenge myths commonly asserted by the corporate media and national leaders of the Democratic Party. Working class voters are rebelling primarily because politicians have stood by while big corporations and billionaires have destroyed jobs and communities in ways that are not allowed in some other industrialized countries. Rebuilding a winning political coalition will require challenging corporate power with effective policies, not just rhetoric at election time.

Behind the Startup by Benjamin Shestakofsky (University of California). Problems with tech companies are often attributed to the technologies themselves. But most of the tech industry is dominated by venture capital “investors” who demand rapid growth so they can reap huge gains when a company or their stake is eventually sold. Their profits often come at the expense of workers, customers, and communities, and are a major cause of inequality in America. Especially since venture capitalists often benefit from public funding and investments from pension funds, public officials and regulators should support other models, including nonprofit corporations and cooperatives.

Dignity Not Debt by Chrystin Ondersma (University of California). We are taught that debt and bankruptcy result from personal failings and bad choices. But debt is built into our economic system of inequality and exploitation. Many households must incur debt for medical needs, groceries, utilities, housing, education, transportation, or other basic needs, and then are subject to financial predators. Systemic change is required so people can meet those needs without going into debt.

National Parks, Native Sovereignty edited by Christina Gish Hill, Matthew J. Hill, and Brooke Neely (University of Oklahoma). People who have participated in or studied projects that involved collaboration between the National Park Service and Tribal nations discuss the possibilities and limitations of those experiments.

Journalists and Their Shadows by Patrick Lawrence (Clarity). A veteran journalist critiques the close relationship between the corporate media and those who wield economic and political power, and encourages the public to look to independent journalism for factual information. “We can no longer read…the corporate press to…know what happened,” he writes. Now we read “to know what we are supposed to think happened. Then we go in search of accurate accounts of what happened.”

My Life with Sea Turtles by Christine Figgener (Greystone). A marine biologist provides an introduction to the fascinating world of sea turtles. She also discusses ways that humans can support the turtles’ survival in a time of climate change, pollution, and overdevelopment.

Ride Beside Me by Lucy Knisley (Knopf). A picture book for young readers celebrates a neighborhood where many people ride bikes instead of driving cars.

What’s Inside a Bird’s Nest? by Rachel Ignotofsky (Crown). A simple illustrated science book breaks down for young and old alike the life cycle of birds and the diversity found in the bird world.

Ron Carey and the Teamsters by Ken Reiman (Monthly Review). A retired UPS driver has written a tribute to the former head of his local union, the late Ron Carey, who courageously took on the corrupt leadership of the Teamsters in the 1990s. With the support of a longstanding rank-and-file movement called Teamsters for a Democratic Union, Carey became the union’s national president and led the historic UPS strike of 1997. The strike was a groundbreaking challenge to corporations’ shift to low-paying, “throwaway jobs” and helped set the stage for the Occupy movement, the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016, organizing at companies like Starbucks, and more recent high-profile national contract campaigns by the Teamsters and the UAW. Under Carey, the union also became a leading grassroots voice urging Democratic politicians like the Clintons not to join the push by big corporations and Republicans for trade agreements like NAFTA that hurt workers in all the affected countries. Had the Democrats listened, perhaps fewer voters in industrial states would eventually have turned to a candidate like Trump. A short afterword to the book by two experienced labor organizers draws a few lessons for today’s union reformers.

 

FILMS

A Very British Coup. In this three-part series made in 1988, a third-generation steelworker is elected prime minister of England and begins to implement the policies he promised: pro-worker, pro-environment, and anti-imperialist. The real powers that be, including the British economic royalty, military, media, and spy agencies and the U.S. government, mobilize to try to bring him down.

Farewell Amor. Seventeen years after he immigrated to New York from Angola, a cab driver is rejoined by his wife and teenage daughter. In this sensitive feature film, each of them struggles to adjust to their new reality.

Three Summers. A working class Brazilian woman who serves as property and events manager for a rich family proves to be more resourceful and resilient than her bosses.

The Blue Caftan. A husband and wife team who operate a traditional caftan shop in Morocco hire a young man to help with sewing. As the two men become attracted to each other and as the woman’s health deteriorates, all three of them learn about what love truly means.

Disturbing the Peace. This frank documentary profiles the work of Combatants for Peace, an organization of Palestinians and Israelis working together for a resolution that would bring peace and justice to all. The group includes Israelis who lost family members in the Holocaust and in wars since then, as well as Palestinians who have lost homes and loved ones to attacks by the Israeli army and “settlers.”. 

La Syndicaliste. Based on the true story of a union leader at a French nuclear power company who became a whistleblower, first her body and then her credibility are attacked in an attempt to cover up corporate and political wrongdoing.

Arc of Justice. A 22-minute documentary tells the story of the first community land trust in the U.S. It was started in 1969 by Black voting rights organizers in southwest Georgia who decided that building a cooperative community on Black-owned land should be the next step in their struggle.

 

MUSIC

After the Revolution by Carsie Blanton. No singer writes better songs for our time. Blanton sings about hope, love, and friendship as the empire falls and people revolt all over the world.

Great Wild Mercy by Carrie Newcomer. Soothing songs find spirituality, without religion, in nature and in bonds with other people.

 

Photo of eclipse, April 2024

 


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