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"I don't give refunds." Eye-popping interviews with writers: PEN America Journal 2017

Being black in America ...

Walter Mosley: "It's hard to feel nostalgic, being black in America. It's not that you don't like it, or remember it, it's just hard to feel nostalgic for it. "I miss those times when they used to lynch us," and "Those cotton fields were so much fun. I liked going to the special toilets that were made for only me."

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RIP Liu Xiaobo, 1955-2017

Chinese poet, essayist and activist Liu Xiaobo has died while in custody. Xiaobo was President of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, and in this role he supported writers all over the world in their struggles against tyranny. His death from cancer, which he contracted while in prison, is a terrible indictment of China’s human rights failures.
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"Rad Women Worldwide" - by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

I'm reading Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History with my 8-year-old son, who won it in a raffle. It's awesome.
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Here there is no why: on re-reading Primo Levi

Desperate times call for great books.

Primo Levi, a Jewish prisoner arriving at Auschwitz, is thirsty. He reaches to break off an icicle with which to sate his thirst and a guard snatches it away. Levi asks, “Warum?” (Why?) The guard replies, “Hier ist kein warum.” (Here there is no why.)

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Review of "We the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movement in the United States"

“Communities are saying to the government and corporations, “We’re no longer willing to be fracked, poisoned and polluted.” They are mobilizing against a system of law that empowers corporations over communities … Communities are saying this is not acceptable, it’s not sustainable, it’s not democratic, and it’s going to change.” (Chad Nicholson, consultant for Grant Township, Pennsylvania)
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“The End of Imagination” by Arundhati Roy

"Terrorism is the symptom, not the disease." (Arundhati Roy, The End of Imagination)

Arundhati Roy is a superhero. She wears a sari instead of a cape. She has written one novel - The God of Small Things - and it won the Booker Prize. She is an award-winning screenwriter and an award-declining dissenter. She is an architect by training and an activist/intellectual by vocation. She has the face of an angel and the toughness of a tiger. Whatever she does, she does it brilliantly, with consummate style and candor. Her writing is as flawless as a summer sky, and her themes are those that will haunt humanity forever: justice, violence, and how to make a better world for everyone.

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Margaret Atwood on the role of the artist in testing times

I met Margaret Atwood last year. It was at an author party at the Brooklyn Book Festival.  She appeared to be quite shy – although maybe it was just me boring her to death – and her physical stature was in inverse proportion to her talent. What I’m trying to say is that, for a giant of modern literature, she’s small. But so what? My estimation of this brilliant novelist just rose because of a piece she wrote for The Nation recently (Feb 6/13 issue). In it she ponders the role of the artist in these appalling times.
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Review of "The Football Factory" by John King

John King’s novel was first published in the UK twenty years ago. It has recently been reissued by PM Press in a handsome and suitably eye-catching edition for North American readers. Curious then that the title remains The Football Factory, because Americans think football is a game with helmets and padding.

More curious to the North American reader will be the random acts of violence which do not involve loners with guns. The violence is very much of a European hue and it’s associated with Doc Martins, swastikas, and gangs of skinheads walking the streets in broad daylight armed with chains, bricks and knives. Welcome to the world of the football hooligan.

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RIP Tom Hayden

On October 23rd we lost writer/activist/politician Tom Hayden. He’d lived a life of service in the pursuit of social justice.

Hayden was one of the original Freedom Riders, journeying to the Deep South in 1961 and getting beaten up for his efforts. The following year, while in jail in Georgia, he drafted the Port Huron statement that was to provide the manifesto for the SDS (Students for  Democratic Society), an organization that became central to the promotion of peace in the Sixties.

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The Most Important Publication of 2016

Nope - it's not Karl Ove Knausgaard's Some Rain Must Fall or Annie Proulx's epic novel Barkskins or even Zero K by the master, Don DeLillo. It's not Postcapitalism by Paul Mason or Thomas Mallon's biography of George W. Bush, although we're getting warmer.

It's the Chilcot Report.


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