History & Issues
Short, simple, and just repetitive enough, this primer on prison abolition covers all the basics but never makes you feel talked down to. The prose is patient and kind and meets you where you are (especially if where you are is at the beginning). It might not convert your conservative uncle...but that's where you come in.
A small, yet mighty reprint of the 1923 “Little Red Book”, these tunes were sung during historic marches to ensure minimum wages and 8 hour work days. They are still sung today by workers in the ever relevant struggle for union rights. Get this book, organize, and start singing. Solidarity forever!
A survey and critique not just of the atrocities of the carceral and capitalist systems (which are addressed as intricacies of a larger symbiosis), but also a critique of the left's organizing against these systems. You are at once reading Marx, Foucault, Luxemburg, etc, as well as something new and strikingly personal, accessible even at its headiest. Jackie Wang makes a strong argument for a most sinister tool of oppression: inclusion. A luminous read, as Wang refuses to discuss the ugliness without making room for poetic beauty.
In this examination of the origins of fat phobia, sociologist Sabrina Strings weaves together the racialized and racist underpinnings of the slender ideal. Moving from the Renaissance to the modern “obesity epidemic,” Strings analyzes a breadth of material including paintings, articles from women’s magazines, and medical studies to reveal the ways in which fat phobia isn’t about health but a means of using the body to validate race, class, and gender prejudice. This is an incredibly important work on a subject that is a foundational to Western culture yet woefully absent from the cultural conversation.
Trying to find footing, this book opened me up to new ideas on how I can move forward as a woman. Left with angst when posed with the statement, "As long as she has to fight to become a human being, she cannot be a creator.” Yet again, I feel I have no ammunition, no armor to defend myself. More than irritated, I hope to go “beyond the pretext” of what is expected of me. And to think I’d have to boost my masculinity to be taken seriously. I am feminine and strong and those qualities are enough.
I devoured this book, reading it in two days and was truly sad to have to put it down when it came to an end. Patrick Radden Keefe dives into the history of the IRA and the lives of its most prominent members. Beautifully told, Say Nothing prompts its readers to think about their own perceptions of identity, conviction, and ethics. Say Nothing is a wonderful introduction to the Troubles for anyone looking to know more.
I hadn't even gotten through the table of contents and already had an emotional breakthrough and cried. Don't let the scholarly format scare you: this book is engaging enough to read on the subway (and a great place to cry, too!). You won't agree with everything Schulman says, but you will learn a lot about the (probably unhealthy) ways you deal with conflict. Get ready to dig deep.
The explosive first chapter about pop stars sets the pace for this stunning debut book from Lauren Michele Jackson. White Negroes, nominally about blackness without black people, rightfully and powerfully reorients the discussion of appropriation around power and desire, not around mere aesthetics (where "colorblind" handwringers repeatedly hope to corral it). Jackson's writing is a brilliant blaze, its depth, precision and driving force reminiscent of the best longform journalism, but with book length stamina and gravity, making scholarly mastery look easy. Compassionate, funny and deeply heartbreaking, an examination not just of works but entire identities (see the table of contents). The best 2019 release I've read yet.
Everything thing you ever want to know about the ineffective, profit-driven Frankenstein’s monster that is the American healthcare system and why single payer is the best solution to prevent it from unnecessarily killing our loved ones. Peppered with endnotes, of which, usually provide examples through the exploration of case studies, also occasionally include wrestling references.
For most of us in the West, the collapse of the Soviet Union is abstract history, but for those who lived through it it was an indelible personal trauma. Alexievich adds little, letting her subjects speak for themselves: a mother whose daughter goes off to fight (and die) in Chechnya, a devoted wife who leaves her husband to marry a convict she's never met, an eighth-grader obsessed with death. (Whatever else the "roaring nineties" were, they were definitely brutal; gangsters made fortunes and PhDs became daylaborers as the market reasserted itself with a vengeance.) Sometimes bitter, sometimes defiant, and always raw, these testimonies give a body to the ghostly frame of historical fact.
An essential text in this ‘New Gilded Age’ of worker exploitation and extravagance amongst the one percent, Loomis focuses on what the labor activists throughout American history did as opposed to what happened to them - making his writing more urgent and ultimately inspiring. ‘The slaves freed themselves’ begins the chapter placing slave labor and the resistance movements emerging from its abolition into the context of modern movements against dominance and exploitation, where they belong. While redefining how we conceive of labor this book helps in providing a model to harness our power as workers, as humans.
Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for pioneering the kind of writing you find in this book. She works with oral history, using years and years of taped interviews, to create poetry out of real people’s stories and the absolute bloody catastrophe of Chernobyl. You have never read anything like this. You will find it difficult to sleep afterwards.
The second amendment's marriage to white supremacy-nothing new.
You know that scene in Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams hugs weeping Matt Damon and repeats It's not your fault? Reading this clarifying structural analysis of the millennial generation made me (an old millennial) feel sort of like that.
This is an unflinching look at the US from the perspective of those who witnessed its birth, and continue to watch it grow. Dunbar-Ortiz follows the development of diplomacy, military campaigns and American expansion from their earliest stages to the present. You can expect the jarring facts and alternate histories you never learned in school; what you won't expect is how the light is shone on the ideas we are surrounded with and take for granted daily, their legacy, and their implications for the future.
An addicting collage of a glamorous, pseudo-bohemian princess. This beautifully edited compendium of references coalesces into a deeply personal account of an entire person. Sightings as reported by various news outlets, excerpts from conversations overheard and had blend seamlessly with actual snapshots of the complicated figure. Accounts from friends, family members and historians are blended with snippets of gossip in a moving scattershot blend of testimonial and historical account.
How technology shaped our politics and culture has been the focus of Lepore’s work long before social media and troll- factories. A Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, she has a well-honed eye for stories others have overlooked, like that of Benjamin Lay, the Anglo-American Quaker who was so disturbed by the prospect of benefiting from slave labor he moved into a cave he promptly filled with books - and walked across the states advocating for abolition. Essential and gripping, These Truths is important not only in this political moment, but always.
When Mikhal Dekel was a little girl, she left a note under her father's pillow asking him why he loved his mother more than her. His resultant rage spurred her lifelong search for her father's lost past which she uncovers with the skill of a historian and the heart of a beloved daughter. This is a Holocaust refugee saga unlike any other, taking us through Poland, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tehran and ultimately Palestine as her family wanders in search of home.
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Ketcham is irate about what is happening to our public lands, as we all should be: overgrazing by entitled ranchers, aggressive deforestation by private logging companies, and the ‘culling’ of wild animals getting in the way of industries turning a major profit off of ‘America’s Backyard’. His writing about the beauty of the remarkable protected lands and organisms that are unique to this region of the world, some of the last remaining wild places on planet earth, is what truly sets the book apart.
Early in the 20th century there was no community on earth wealthier than the Osage Nation. A book focused only on the origin of this wealth, and the ironic fact that it was the inadvertent result of racist federal relocation policies, would be worthy enough of our attention. The ensuing series of murders of members of the Osage Nation make for one of the most tragic and bizarre stories of the century. It's not much of a spoiler to reveal that, as is the case with most historical whodunits, the "who" in question is colonialism.
The characters in Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments are rarely written about. For the most part stories about women of color born into poverty are lost or erased, they survive only as names in the ledgers of correctional facilities, or a point of evidence in some sociologist's dissection of a social problem. Hartman's book is an in-depth study of just these kinds of girls, women who were part of the great migration to the north after Emancipation, girls who ended up in riots, or a chorus line, instead of a home or a steady job. Because there's so little concrete evidence about these women, Hartman's book is part fiction, part history, filled with exquisite descriptions of heartbreak and lost virginities and long nights, of the smell of summer in Harlem and the screech of voices on the Atlantic City boardwalk. This is history told as fiction because it is, in part, the only way it can be recovered, and I promise you it will be one of the most astonishingly beautiful books you have ever read.
Calling neither for lawlessness nor 'reform', Vitale's critique of American law enforcement shows not what role police should fill, but the innumerable roles that they do fill. Trained primarily in violence, police act as social worker, psychiatric counselor, mediator, mentor, hall monitor, all to predictable detriment. The breadth alone is shocking, but if you yearn for evidence that most crises call for a humane response, and that a militarized police force is incapable of humanity, worry not - Vitale has plenty of that as well.
Lauded by today's most noteworthy sportswriters but recommended to me by, of all people, my grandmother. Among the most dominant teams ever assembled, these Blazers were characterized by their immense talent and their tragic flaws. Halberstam's portraits of Kermit Washington--the soft spoken forward who never managed to live down having nearly killed an opponent with a punch, and Bill Walton, the lanky redhead of mythic talent whose feet were so fragile and whose lifestyle was so groovy that he ultimately attended more Grateful Dead dates (855) than NBA games in which he played (468)--stand out. Though the hoops stars of the day were among the first to be paid like celebrities, exploitative team management and our racist society made it patently clear that they were still a class of laborers.
Unlike "In Cold Blood," "Helter Skelter" is a book chilling in spite of its author. Seriously, this book is pretty clunky. Nevertheless, it will give you high quality nightmares. Want to lose your innocence? Claw off a part of your soul? Help your loved ones feel needed? Read this book before bed.
The five lengthy interviews collected here are not only an ars poetica from one of the most significant writers of the twentieth century; together they comprise an important statement of vocational solidarity between poets and the dispossessed, conveying Palestinian reality to a global readership, and the author's own history to multicultural reservoirs of myth. Darwish's worldliness is coerced, of course, as an artist's response to the difficulty of exile, yet he identifies himself as a "Trojan poet," on the side of all those who refuse surrender in apparent defeat.
A beautiful piece of literary crime reporting, Under The Bridge is one of the best true crime books I have ever encoutered. Begun when Godrey was twenty-seven and still finishing her first novel, Under the Bridge tells the story of a murder that took place in the Canadian island town of Victoria during the autumn of 1997. Reena Virk, a fourteen year old girl, was beaten to death by a group of her peers under a bridge, and then drowned by two of the teenagers in the water. All but one of those involved were girls. A stunning narrative touching on the violence of young women, this book was before its time, and this reissue is well overdue.
Heather Ann Thompson’s minute-by-minute account of the 1971 Attica uprising is my pick for best nonfiction book of the past decade. With over 100 pages of end notes, Blood in the Water is exhaustively researched and chillingly relevant. Thompson brings humanity and context to an event that has become for too many of us a glossed-over historical touchstone.
Jon Krakauer combines the best of crime journalism and historical research to take us on a deep dive into the short yet wild history of Mormonism. I made my whole family read this just so I would have people to talk about it with--now it's your turn. When you're done and need another fix, try Going Clear.
Iphigenia makes American justice seem more like a menacing catchphrase than a functional system. Mazoltuv Borukhova's innocence or guilt? Inconsequential compared to the self-aggrandizing hoke of the court that tried her.
My favorite nonfiction book. Feels weird saying that given the subject matter, but Columbine is masterful. And respectful. And painful. And crucial.
Ugh. What Cristin said.