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Patty Hearst, Double Agents and the Symbioses Liberation Army in Truth Dig

SLA members Donald DeFreeze, Patricia Soltysik (in foreground) and Patricia Hearst during the robbery of Hibernia Bank in San Francisco. (Wikimedia Commons)

By Paul Krassner
October 21st, 2016

Jeffrey Toobin’s new book, “American Heiress,” presents a mean-spirited approach to the kidnapping of Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974, but he’s clueless about the significance of the SLA, for which she was forced to rob a bank. I covered her trial for the weekly underground paper, the Berkley Barb.

At the end of a tape by Hearst, Donald “Cinque” DeFreeze, the SLA’s black leader of a white group, came on with a triple death threat, especially to Colston Westbrook, whom he accused of being “a government agent now working for military intelligence while giving assistance to the FBI.” This communiqué was sent to San Francisco radio station KSAN. News director David McQueen checked with a Justice Department source, who confirmed Westbrook’s employment by the CIA.

Conspiracy researcher Mae Brussell traced Westbrook’s activities from 1962, when he was a CIA advisor to the South Korean CIA, through 1969, when he provided logistical support in Vietnam for the CIA’s Phoenix program. His job was the indoctrination of assassination and terrorist cadres. After seven years in Asia, he was brought home in 1970 and assigned to run the Black Cultural Association at Vacaville Prison, where he became the control officer for DeFreeze, who had worked as a police informer from 1967 to 1969 for the LAPD’s Public Disorder Intelligence Unit.


If DeFreeze was a double agent, then the SLA was a Frankenstein monster, turning against its creator by becoming in reality what had been orchestrated only as a media image. When he snitched on his keepers, he signed the death warrant of the SLA. They were burned alive in a Los Angeles safe house during a shootout with police. When Cinque’s charred remains were sent to his family in Cleveland, they couldn’t help but notice that he had been decapitated. It was as if the CIA had said, literally, “Bring me the head of Donald DeFreeze!”

Consider the revelations of Wayne Lewis in August 1975. He claimed to have been an undercover agent for the FBI, a fact verified by FBI director Clarence Kelley. Surfacing at a press conference in Los Angeles, Lewis spewed forth a veritable conveyor belt of conspiracy charges: that DeFreeze was an FBI informer; that he was killed not by the SWAT team but by an FBI agent because he had become “uncontrollable”; that the FBI then wanted Lewis to infiltrate the SLA; that the FBI had undercover agents in other underground guerrilla groups; that the FBI knew where Patty Hearst was but let her remain free so it could build up its files of potential subversives.

In February 1976, while Hearst’s trial was still in process, a similar charge was made when a Berkeley underground group, Tribal Thumb, prepared this statement:

Donald DeFreeze escaped from the California prison system with help from the FBI and California prison officials. His mission was to establish an armed revolutionary organization, controlled by the FBI, specifically to either make contact with or undermine the surfacing and development of the August Seventh Guerrilla Movement…DeFreeze was let loose and given a safe plan to surface as an armed guerrilla unit. That plan was to kidnap Patty Hearst.

One warm afternoon I was surprised to receive a letter by registered mail on Department of Justice stationery.

Dear Mr. Krassner:

Subsequent to the search of a residence in connection with the arrest of six members of the Emiliano Zapata Unit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, San Francisco, has been attempting to contact you to advise you of the following information:

During the above indicated arrest of six individuals of the Emiliano Zapata Unit, an untitled list of names and addresses of individuals was seized. A corroborative source described the above list as an Emiliano Zapata Unit “hit list,” but stated that no action will be taken, since all of those who could carry it out are in custody.

Further, if any of the apprehended individuals should make bail, they would only act upon the “hit list” at the instructions of their leader, who is not and will not be in a position to give such instructions.

The above information is furnished for your personal use and it is requested it be kept confidential. At your discretion, you may desire to contact the local police department responsible for the area of your residence.

Very truly yours,
Charles W. Bates
Special Agent in Charge

However, a source informed me that the Zapata Unit was a front for the FBI. Was the right wing of the FBI warning me about the left wing of the FBI? Questions about the authenticity of the Zapata Unit had been raised by its first public statement in August 1975, which included the unprecedented threat of violence against the left. After publishing in the Barb the FBI’s letter to me, I received a letter from a member of the Zapata Unit in prison:

I was involved in the aboveground support group of the Zapata Unit. Greg Adornetto led myself and several others to believe we were joining a cell of the Weather Underground, which had a new surge of life when it published Prairie Fire. I knew nothing about a hit list or your being on one, and can’t imagine why you would have been. When we were arrested, FBI agent-provocateur Adornetto immediately turned against the rest of us and provided evidence to the government.

In 1969, Charles Bates was a Special Agent at the Chicago office of the FBI when police killed Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark while they were sleeping. Ex-FBI informer Maria Fischer told the Chicago Daily News that the then-chief of the FBI’s Chicago office, Marlon Johnson, personally asked her to slip a drug to Hampton; she had infiltrated the Black Panther Party at the FBI’s request a month before. The drug was a tasteless, colorless liquid that would put him to sleep. She refused. Hampton was killed a week later. An autopsy showed “a near fatal dose” of secobarbital in his system.

In 1971, Bates was transferred to Washington, D.C. According to Watergate burglar James McCord’s book, “A Piece of Tape,” on June 21, 1972 (four days after the break-in), White House attorney John Dean checked with acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray as to who was in charge of handling the Watergate investigation. The answer: Charles Bates—the same FBI official who in 1974 would be in charge of handling the SLA investigation and the search for Patty Hearst. When she was arrested, Bates became instantly ubiquitous on radio and TV, boasting of her capture.

And, in the middle of her trial—on a Saturday afternoon, when reporters and technicians were hoping to be off duty—the FBI called a press conference. At five o’clock that morning, they had raided the New Dawn collective—supposedly the above-ground support group of the Berkeley underground Emiliano Zapata Unit—and accompanying a press release about the evidence seized were photographs still wet with developing fluid. Charles Bates held the photos up in the air.

“Mr. Bates,” a photographer requested, “real close to your head, please.”

Bates proceeded to pose with the photos. But was there a search warrant? No, though they had a “consent to search” signed by the owner of the house, Judy Sevenson, who admitted to being a paid FBI informant.

Jacques Rogiers—the above-ground courier for the underground New World Liberation Front (NWLF) who delivered their communiqués—told me that the reason I was on the hit list was because I had written about Donald DeFreeze being a police informant.

“But that was true,” I said. “It’s a matter of record. Doesn’t that make any difference?”

Apparently, documentation didn’t make any difference.

“If the NWLF asked me to kill you,” Rogiers admitted, “I would.”

“Jacques,” I replied, “I think this puts a slight damper on our relationship.”

My 11-year-old daughter and I moved to another house.

Graffiti on our house included “SLA LIVES,” which was then obscured in the enigmatic made-over “COLE SLAW LIVES,” a slogan that baffled tourists and convinced one that a political activist named Cole Slaw was dead because it said that he was alive.

Paul Krassner’s latest book, “Patty Hearst and the Twinkie Murders: A Tale of Two Trials,” is published by PM Press.

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Understanding Jim Crow in Socialism and Democracy

by Barbara H. Chasin
Socialism and Democracy
October 21st, 2016

David Pilgrim’s Understanding Jim Crow is a look back at the images that helped justify the racist system that existed in the south from the end of Reconstruction in about 1877 until 1965 when the successes of the Civil Rights Movement ended the legalized separation of African Americans and whites.

The US version of an apartheid system was enforced by horrific violence. As with other instances of inequality, however, an ideology was created that legitimized it for the perpetra- tors and for all those who acquiesced in it. That ideology and the ways it was disseminated are the subject of this book.

Pilgrim, himself African American, was at once fascinated and disgusted, as an adolescent, by racist memorabilia. Over the years, he collected more than a thousand racist images and objects. He refers to these as “garbage” but nonetheless finds them useful for teaching tolerance and promoting social justice. He became a sociol- ogist, joining the faculty at Michigan’s Ferris State University in 1990. Six years later he established “the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia” there.1 At first the objects were from his own collection, but he continued to enlarge the holdings and has added objects pro- duced after legalized segregation ended in the 1960s. Visitors to the museum can view everyday pieces conveying the message that those of African descent were stupid, ugly, hyper-sexed, and not fully human.

Pilgrim gives a detailed description of the exhibits, discussing the meaning of a number of them. One of the book’s useful themes is that stereotypes change as social context changes. During slavery those of African descent were usually described as docile and unproductive. Male slaves were portrayed as Uncle Toms, loyal and dependable, while Mammy was a loving, faithful female. Children were happy- go-lucky picaninnies who weren’t even likely to be properly dressed by their ignorant black parents. Whether male or female, those of African descent needed whites to manage their lives and make them productive. No whites needed to feel guilty because the slaves were happy, or so the story went.

But when slavery ended in 1865 and 11 years later federal troops were withdrawn from the south, southern elites found ways of creating a labor force comprised of super-exploited and subservient former slaves. There was no powerful group that opposed this and racist forces were free to create a system of terror against blacks and anyone else posing a threat to white supremacy, including labor organizers.

The Jim Crow system bolstering white supremacy served to break up the fragile but important alliance that had been developing between working-class whites and blacks in the period of Radical Reconstruc- tion. During this time more African Americans were elected to public office than at any time in US history, desegregated public edu- cation began in the South, and there was a social mingling that later became impossible.

Racism was used to undo all these advances. Keeping blacks from exercising the democratic rights supposedly guaranteed by the 14th Amendment meant white elite interests would be served. More details on this historical context could add to the book’s impact. The lynch mob, shootings, beatings, evictions, etc. drastically reduced the numbers of black voters. For example, in Louisiana as late as 1898, 130,000 blacks were still on the voting rolls; by 1906 the number was 1,342.2 In the 1970s North Carolina still required literacy tests for
2. Richard T. Schaefer, Racial and Ethnic Groups, 7th edition, New York, Longman, 1998, 

voters.3 Then as, now, powerful institutions, including the Supreme Court, made racism an integral part of American life. Very few opposed the home-grown terrorism destroying black lives.

The list of racist objects described in this book is long, covering vir- tually any household object or item of popular culture, including salt and pepper shakers, ashtrays, postcards, note-pads, cartoons, and books, including those for children such as Little Black Sambo. Carnival “games” used African men as targets, normalizing violence against them. Popular songs and minstrel shows made racism fun, at least for some. The stereotypes were aimed not only at whites but at black self-conception. Norms and laws governed everyday white and black interactions so that these could not be egalitarian. Pilgrim has a long and useful list of these rules.

Summarizing the messages in the museum’s displays Pilgrim writes, “Blacks have been portrayed in popular culture as pitiable exotics, cannibalistic savages, hypersexual deviants, childlike buffoons, obedient servants, self-loathing victims, and menaces to society” (5).

New forms for conveying these racist messages appeared with the advent of radio, films, and television. Older readers might remember the Amos & Andy programs, or the servant who went only by the name Rochester on the Jack Benny show. Pseudo-scientific writings supported notions of white superiority, something which has not dis- appeared today. Racist objects are still being produced. Pilgrim men- tions, as examples, targets with Trayvon’s Martin’s face on the center and the game Ghettopoly, created in 2003, with projects and crack houses replacing Monopoly’s buildings.

One example that Pilgrim doesn’t mention is the popular Currier & Ives prints and calendars which included a print series called Darktown Comics, which like so many other depictions showed African Americans as incredibly stupid – like firemen who couldn’t see the fire in front of them.4

While describing the objects and their messages, Pilgrim also describes aspects of the Jim Crow south that very few who had not experienced it would be aware of. For instance, black men who owned new cars would wear chauffeur caps when driving so as not to arouse envy and possible violence from whites. When buying

    3.    Richard Fausset, “Battle Over Voting Laws Peaks in North Carolina,” New York Times, March 11, 2016, p. A1. 

    4. ives-print-unintentionally-funny; special-collections/exhibits/currier-and-ives-darktown-comics/darktown-comics- historial-context/ 

clothes, African Americans would need to know their clothing sizes since they were not allowed to try on clothes that might also be donned by prospective white customers at department stores.

This book is evidence of the validity of the William Faulkner saying “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” While the legal underpinnings of racism have been mostly abolished, there is still a high degree of racial inequality in the US. In spite of the election of Barack Obama we do not exist in a post-racial society. There have been gains. African Americans are more visible on television, in advertisements, in some occupations, etc. Nonetheless, housing seg- regation persists as described in the sociological study with the telling title American Apartheid. Along with segregated housing come segregated inferior schools, neighborhoods with high levels of unemployment, and a prison-industrial complex based on a system that in numerous ways treats whites and blacks differently from the moment of arrest through incarceration. Court rulings, once again, limit electoral access by reinterpreting the 1965 Voting Rights Act; laws against prisoners and ex-felons and new voter ID laws add to the difficulties African Americans have in being active citizens. Racist messages are employed, especially by Republicans, to win white voters.

This is a horrifying but important book that should be widely read to gain an accurate view of the long history of racism in the US. The Museum challenges its visitors to ask what they can do to fight racism. There is a “Death of de jure Jim Crow” area paying tribute to the “wonderful accomplishments” and heroism of many African Americans. These must be a welcome relief from the “mammies,” “coons,” and “Sambos” the exhibit-goer will have been bombarded with.

Another counter to the demeaning images, not mentioned by Pilgrim, was created by African American photographers. A number are depicted in the documentary “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photo- graphers and the Emergence of a People.” The photos serve as a remin- der that in spite of the massive propaganda and violence perpetuated by overt and covert racists, resistance was present then as now.

# 2016 Barbara H. Chasin Professor Emerita, Sociology Montclair State University Montclair, New Jersey

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The Struggle of organising Migrant Workers


By Andrea Bieler
Trade unions and global restructuring
October 20th, 2016

With precarious forms of work increasingly also emerging within the core of industrialised countries in the global economy, the issue of how to organise migrant workers has become an ever more pressing concern. In his talk at Nottingham University on Tuesday, 17 October, Aziz Choudry reported on related challenges, drawing on two of his recently co-edited books, Unfree Labour? Struggles of Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2016), together with Adrian Smith, and Just Work? Migrant Workers’ Struggles Today (London: Pluto Press, 2015), together with Mondli Hlatshwayo. In this blog post, I will draw out a couple of key insights resulting from Choudry’s analysis of a large range of different forms of migrant labour organising.

If we want to understand global restructuring of capitalism today, we need to focus on analysing the role of migrant workers, argues Choudry. They experience the most dramatic forms of super-exploitation within the global economy, characterised by ever more insecure working conditions and poverty pay. With their work permits often tied to a specific employer, they are directly subject to extra-economic compulsion, being unable to look for work elsewhere, if their employer treats them badly. In Canada, seasonal agricultural workers pay into the social insurance system without, however, being granted access to its benefits. Analysing the conditions of migrant labour allows us to understand better the ‘geographies of exploitation’, we are confronted with at this point in time. There is a danger that the working conditions of migrant workers demonstrate development in employment relations, which may become the future for the wider workforce. Hence the importance of organising migrant workers against exploitation in the first place.

And yet, traditional Northern trade unions often prove unable to organise precarious workers such a migrants, partly due to the temporary working status of these workers, but partly also because of these unions’ traditional bureaucratic focus on the permanent workforce in large companies. This is paired with an enormous self-confidence about how to organise workers. Trade unionists, if they are attempting to organise migrant workers, often tend ‘to teach’ migrant workers about what they should do. And yet, as Choudry makes clear, this completely overlooks that these migrant workers come with their own experiences and strategies of how to resist exploitation. Rather than us being the 'teachers', it may be us who have to learn from them about how to organise in precarious working environments. Unsurprisingly, it is often new, independent trade unions or more informal labour NGOs, which are more suited to this challenge and provide more space for migrants’ own experiences.

Nevertheless, while securing the rights of these super-exploited migrant workers is of utmost importance and makes a huge difference to their individual lives, the question remains of how securing the rights of some seasonal workers in agriculture, for example, can be translated in transforming the agricultural sector as a whole so that there are no precarious forms of work in the first place. In other words, the challenge is to upscale individual victories in a change of employment relations across industrial sectors and the economy as a whole. Migrant workers' organising strategies may provide us with a glimpse in this respect, but they can only be the beginning of a more fundamental process of transformation.  

Andreas Bieler

Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK
Personal website:

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From Punk to Professor: Livermore Teacher Details Journey in New Memoir

By Angela Ruggiero
East Bay Times
October 8th, 2016

LIVERMORE — Clues in Michelle Gonzales’ college English class hint there’s a deeper story: the dark hair with red highlights, black-rimmed glasses and tattoos peeking out from behind the professor’s sleeves.

Most of the Las Positas Community College students are too young to know that the woman at the head of the class was a hardcore punk rock star in a groundbreaking all-female punk band in the 1990s.

The band, Spitboy, set a standard for other female punk rockers at the time, performing in front of thousands at Bay Area venues such as 924 Gilman in Berkeley and on tours in Europe and Asia.

Gonzales was a drummer with a fierceness who, along with her three fellow bandmates, pushed boundaries when writing about feminist issues, such as domestic violence and sexism.
The band, she says, faced misogyny and sexism in a mostly male-dominated punk music subculture. And for Gonzales, who is of Mexican heritage and was the only person of color in the group, colorblindness and racism also were factors.

What Gonzales sang about when she was in Spitboy “translates to the types of projects that she’s taking on on campus,” said Los Positas College Dean of Arts and Humanities Don Miller.

Gonzales is the faculty adviser for the college’s Puente Project, which connects disadvantaged students to mentors and counseling programs. Gonzales also is co-chair of the Basic Skills Committee on campus, which focuses on helping students with achieving college-level English and math skills.

Miller said he didn’t know about Gonzales’ history as a punk star until he read her book,  “The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band,” released in April.

But now with her background and push for social justice through her involvement at the college, it makes sense, Miller said.

Gonzales, known as “Todd” during her band days and now by friends who knew her then, teaches English and creative writing courses at the Livermore college. At least once a year, Gonzales joins in the English department’s own band, the “Rawk Hawks,” changing the lyrics to popular songs to sing about community college budget cuts or grading papers.

Gonzales, who was born in east Los Angeles but grew up in rural Tuolumne County, lives with her husband, 14-year-old son and their two dogs in Oakland. She says the transition from hardcore punk band to college professor wasn’t all that far-fetched.

“I knew I needed another art form, another outlet. If I could teach, my art would continue,” she said.

While in Spitboy, or other bands such as Kamala and the Karnivores, Gonzales interacted with young people, exchanging ideas. Being a teacher is similar, she said.

Gonzales said she always considered herself a writer, helping pen songs for Spitboy with fellow bandmates. After the band split in 1996, and after a year stint with the group Instant Girl through 1997, Gonzales got married and went back to school.

She started teaching at Diablo Valley College in 2003 and took the full-time position at Los Positas in 2005. Her students usually are not aware of her punk past, except for the occasional one who recognizes the band’s name if she mentions it.

English teacher Michelle Gonzales speaks to her students enrolled in her English 1A class at Las Positas College in Livermore, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)English teacher Michelle Gonzales speaks to her students  at Las Positas College. 

“I’m aware it gives me a certain kind of ‘cool’ factor,” she said. ” I’m turning 50 in three years — I’ll take anything I can get at this point.”

In her book, which she will be reading from at a Lit Crawl event on Saturday in San Francisco, she talks about her coming-of-age during her punk days.

“We hated sexism, we didn’t hate men,” Gonzales writes in the book. Spitboy, she writes, was “a band that played as hard as men did but sounded like women.”

Spitboy’s sound was aggressive, perhaps more so than other female bands at the time, said Chris Appelgren, former owner of Lookout Records, which put out Spitboy’s first record.

While other bands, mostly “riot grrrl” feminist bands, went out of their way to exclude the opposite sex (have male fans stand in the back of venues and women in the front), Spitboy was inclusive, Appelgran said.

They specifically did not want to be labeled “riot grrrl,” but still their lyrics had a feminist edge. Although part of the punk continuum at the time was to get a rise out of people, “Spitboy had a sense of being provocative but not in that kind of way,” Appelgran said.

“They were influential specifically by example; they inspired women to play an aggressive, hardcore sound of music,” he said. “I don’t recall other female bands at the time necessarily playing that style of punk.”

Jim Ott, a fellow English teacher at Las Positas, teaches Gonzales’ book in his English classes. He says the book is relatable to his students, who are generally the same age Gonzales was during her Spitboy days.

The book represents a journey of Gonzales’ self-discovery as she faced obstacles to being comfortable with who she was and finding her own voice, Ott said.

On the face of it, Gonzales’ life today is a far cry from her days rocking out in cut-up jeans, short dyed hair and faded tank tops behind a drum set on world tours.

But all that has really changed is the stage.

“Being in the band is performative, and teaching is performative,” Gonzales said.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Michelle Cruz Gonzales’s Author Page 

The Fantastic Ursula K. Le Guin

By Julie Phillips
The New Yorker
October 17th, 2016

The literary mainstream once relegated her work to the margins. Then she transformed the mainstream.

Politics has been obsessing a lot of people lately, and Ursula K. Le Guin is far from immune to bouts of political anger. In an e-mail to me last winter, she wrote that she felt “eaten up” with frustration at the ongoing occupation of an eastern Oregon wildlife refuge by an armed band of antigovernment agitators led by the brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy. She was distressed by the damage they had done to scientific programs and to historical artifacts belonging to the local Paiute tribe, and critical of the F.B.I. for being so slow to remove these “hairy gunslinging fake cowboys” from public property. She had been mildly cheered up, she added, by following a Twitter feed with the hashtag #BundyEroticFanFic.

The high desert of eastern Oregon is one of Le Guin’s places. She often goes there in the summer with her husband, Charles, a professor emeritus of history at Portland State University, to a ranch on the stony ridge of Steens Mountain, overlooking the refuge. She has led writing workshops at the Malheur Field Station, a group of weather-beaten buildings used mainly by biologists and birders, and published a book of poems and sketches of the area, with photographs by Roger Dorband, called “Out Here.” She likes the awareness the desert gives her of distance, emptiness, and geological time. In a poem, “A Meditation in the Desert,” she imagines a stone being “full / of slower, longer thoughts than mind can have.”

She has roots in eastern Oregon that go back to the early days of white settlement. Not long ago, she told me excitedly that she’d rediscovered records in the attic of her grandmother’s childhood: “My great-grandfather, with my grandmother age eleven, moved from California to Oregon in 1873. . . . They drove three hundred and fifty head of cattle up through Nevada and built a stone house on the back side of Steens Mountain. I don’t think he made a claim; there was nowhere to make it. He was one of the very first ranchers in what is still very desolate country.” The family stayed there for five years before they moved on, in search of new grass or less isolation—her grandmother didn’t say. The story gives hints of what Le Guin already knew: that the empty spaces of America have a past, and that loneliness and loss are mixed up with the glory.

The history of America is one of conflicting fantasies: clashes over what stories are told and who gets to tell them. If the Bundy brothers were in love with one side of the American dream—stories of wars fought and won, land taken and tamed—Le Guin has spent a career exploring another, distinctly less triumphalist side. She sees herself as a Western writer, though her work has had a wide range of settings, from the Oregon coast to an anarchist utopia and a California that exists in the future but resembles the past. Keeping an ambivalent distance from the centers of literary power, she makes room in her work for other voices. She has always defended the fantastic, by which she means not formulaic fantasy or “McMagic” but the imagination as a subversive force. “Imagination, working at full strength, can shake us out of our fatal, adoring self-absorption,” she has written, “and make us look up and see—with terror or with relief—that the world does not in fact belong to us at all.”

When I met Le Guin at her house in Portland this summer, she was in a happier mood. Coming out onto the back porch, where I was sitting with Charles in the late-afternoon sun, to offer us a bourbon-and-ice, she was positively cheerful, her deeply lined, expressive face bright under a cap of short white hair, her low, warm woodwind voice rising into an easy laugh. The bourbon is part of the couple’s evening ritual: when they don’t have company, they have a drink before dinner and take turns reading to each other. On the hillside below us, two scrub jays traded remarks through the trees.

The cheerfulness was relative, she told me: it was partly because a conference call set for earlier that day, with the fantasy writer Neil Gaiman and some film people who had a project to propose, had been postponed, leaving her with enough energy for a conversation. Her back is bent now with age—she’ll be eighty-seven this month—and she has to be careful with a resource she once had in abundance. “My stamina gives out so damn fast these days,” she said.

The house where Le Guin has lived for more than fifty years has, in certain respects, come to resemble its owner. Past the barriers at the entrance—Charles’s menacingly thorny roses, the lion’s-head knocker that guards the door—the dark-panelled Craftsman living room, with its Victorian feel, might stand for her books set in Europe, or for the great nineteenth-century novels she has always loved, with their warmth, humanity, and moral concern. The front hall is surveyed by a row of British Museum reproductions of the Lewis chessmen, souvenirs of the Le Guins’ two sabbatical years in London, when their three children were small. Some of her awards are in the attic, but she keeps several, notably her first Hugo, from 1970, discreetly displayed in the hall on the way to the kitchen. A place of honor at the right of the fireplace is given to a portrait of Virginia Woolf, a hand-colored print that is a treasured gift from a writer friend.

Later, I went with her into the kitchen, where it’s easy to end up in the Le Guin household. It’s a homey room with white appliances, cream cabinets, and no sign of steel or marble, as indifferent to fashion as its owners. Le Guin dresses well, but casually, favoring T-shirts, and wears little jewelry, though occasionally she puts on earrings fastened with clips or magnets. “You put the stone in front and a tiny magnet behind your earlobe,” she explains. “The trouble is that if you bend down near the stove, for instance, all of a sudden your earrings go wham!—and hit the stove. It’s kind of exciting.”

Europe ends and the West begins outside the windows, on the back porch, with its view stretching over the Willamette River, past the city, to three volcanoes of the Cascade Range: the white peak of Mt. Adams, distant Mt. Rainier, and the sullen ash heap of Mt. St. Helens. The span of it evokes the feeling of distance and isolation that runs through her work, and the awareness, more often found in science than in fiction, that what we can comprehend is a small part of everything there is to know. Imaginative literature, she has written, asks us “to allow that our perception of reality may be incomplete, our interpretation of it arbitrary or mistaken.”

Michael Chabon, a friend and admirer, sees her as “untiringly opening her work up to a perspective, to a nature that feels somehow beyond human, and yet fully human and recognizable. She gives us a view from the other side.”

To talk to Le Guin is to encounter alternatives. At her house, the writer is present, but so is Le Guin the mother of three, the faculty wife: the woman writing fantasy in tandem with her daily life. I asked her recently about a particularly violent story that she wrote in her early thirties, in two days, while organizing a fifth-birthday party for her elder daughter. “It’s funny how you can live on several planes, isn’t it?” she said. She resists attempts to separate her more mainstream work from her science fiction. She is a genre author who is also a literary author, not one or the other but indivisibly both.

Le Guin can be polemical, prone to what one close friend calls “tirades” on questions she feels strongly about. I once watched her participate in a panel discussion on gender and literature at WisCon, an annual gathering of feminist science-fiction writers, readers, and academics in Madison, Wisconsin. Scowling like a snapping turtle, she sat waiting for illogical remarks, which she then gently but firmly tore to bits. Yet a conversation with Le Guin is often full of comic asides, laughter, and—a particularly Le Guin trait—good-natured snorts. Humor seems to be her way of taking the edge off the polemic, as well as an introvert’s channel of communication.

Behind even the lightest remarks, one is aware of a keen intelligence and a lifetime of thought, held back for the purposes of casual conversation.

She has never felt at home temperamentally with establishments of any kind. But now she finds the establishment wanting to hear what she has to say. Her criticism of the economics of publishing—objections to Amazon, a fight with Google over its digitization of copyrighted books—is widely reported in the news. Earlier this year, a Kickstarter campaign for a documentary about Le Guin, by the filmmaker Arwen Curry, raised more than two hundred thousand dollars, nearly three times the requested amount. In 2000, the Library of Congress declared her a “living legend,” a designation that has made its way into many introductions to her readings. Last month, her “Orsinian Tales” and the novel “Malafrena” appeared as a volume in the Library of America. (She and Philip Roth are the only living novelists included in the series.) “I am getting really sick of being referred to as ‘the legendary,’ ” she protests, laughing. “I’m right here. I have gravity. A body and all that.”

In the late nineteen-thirties, in a tall house in Berkeley, California, a girl climbs out the attic window onto the roof in search of solitude. If she scrambles far enough up the redwood shingles, she can reach her own Mt. Olympus, the roof’s peak. From here, she can gaze out over the rough blue of the bay to the city of San Francisco, row upon row of white houses climbing the hills above the water. The city is strange to her—she rarely ventures so far from home—but the view is hers, and splendid. Beyond it she knows there are islands with a magical name: the Farallons. She imagines them as “the loneliest place, the farthest west you could go.”

Meanwhile, inside the house, the girl’s father is at work, thinking about myths, magic, songs, cultural patterns—the proper territory of a professor of anthropology. From him she will take a model for creative work in the midst of a rich family life, as well as the belief that the real room of one’s own is in the writer’s mind. Years later, she tells a friend that if she ended up writing about wizards “perhaps it’s because I grew up with one.”

Ursula Kroeber was born in Berkeley, in 1929, into a family busy with the reading, recording, telling, and inventing of stories. She grew up listening to her aunt Betsy’s memories of a pioneer childhood and to California Indian legends retold by her father. One legend of the Yurok people says that, far out in the Pacific Ocean but not farther than a canoe can paddle, the rim of the sky makes waves by beating on the surface of the water. On every twelfth upswing, the sky moves a little more slowly, so that a skilled navigator has enough time to slip beneath its rim, reach the outer ocean, and dance all night on the shore of another world.

Ursula absorbed these stories, together with the books she read: children’s classics, Norse myths, Irish folktales, the Iliad. In her father’s library, she discovered Romantic poetry and Eastern philosophy, especially the Tao Te Ching. She and her brother Karl supplemented these with science-fiction magazines. With Karl, the closest to her in age of her three brothers, she played King Arthur’s knights, in armor made of cardboard boxes. The two also made up tales of political intrigue and exploration set in a stuffed-toy world called the Animal Kingdom. This storytelling later gave her a feeling of kinship with the Brontës, whose Gondal and Angria, she says, were “the ‘genius version’ of what Karl and I did.”

Her father was Alfred L. Kroeber, one of the most influential cultural anthropologists of the past century. A New Yorker from a prosperous German immigrant family, he went west in 1900, when he was twenty-four, and did field work among the Indians of Northern California.

Throughout his career, he learned about cultures that were rapidly being transformed or destroyed from men and women who were among the last survivors of their people. At a time when the dominant story of America was one of European conquest, Ursula was aware, through her father and his Indian friends who came to the house, that there were other stories to tell and other judgments that might be made.

“With the money we’ll save by shutting down quality control, we can issue some truly spectacular apologies.”

Ursula’s mother was Theodora Kracaw Kroeber, born in Denver in 1897 and raised in the mining town of Telluride. A friend of Le Guin’s recalls seeing her, at the house in Berkeley, “coming down the long staircase, a majestic-looking woman with a long gown and a great big Indian silver and turquoise necklace. She was very stately.” Theodora took to writing in her late fifties, and produced “Ishi in Two Worlds,” a nonfiction account of the last survivor of the Yahi people. Le Guin loved her mother and admired her psychological gifts. But she says that their relationship also contained “something darker and stranger” that she has never quite understood. “We were very lucky, because we never had to act that out. But if I see daughters and mothers act it out toward each other it doesn’t shock me or surprise me. It’s there.”

The Kroeber household was full of voices as well as stories. Alfred liked to pose philosophical questions or puzzles over the dinner table and ask his four children about anything that interested them. The kids were encouraged to take an active part in the conversation, but, as the little sister, Ursula rarely got a word in: “There were too many people, and I was outshouted by everybody else.” Learning how to be heard taught her persistence and gave her a tendency to appear fiercer than she is. “People think I mean everything I say and am full of conviction, often, when I’m actually just floating balloons and ready for a discussion or argument or further pursuit of the subject. It’s my fault—I speak so passionately. Probably because, as the youngest and shrillest child of an extraordinarily articulate and passionate family, I could only be heard by charging over the top, shouting, ‘Marchons, marchons! Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons!’ every time I entertained a passing opinion.”

Le Guin’s work combines a Berkeleyite’s love of alternative thought with a strong scientific bent that she sees as an inheritance from her father. In her fiction, she has tried to balance the analytical and the intuitive. “Both directions strike me as becoming more and more sterile the farther you follow them,” she says. “It’s when they can combine that you get something fertile and living and leading forward. Mysticism—which is a word my father held in contempt, basically—and scientific factualism, need for evidence, and so on . . . I do try to juggle them, quite consciously.”

If it was difficult to be the youngest and most precocious of the Kroeber children, leaving the house to enter the world made Ursula feel like “an exile in a Siberia of adolescent social mores.” In the fall of 1944, at fourteen, small for her age, disguised in the sweater, skirt, and loafers of a “bobby-soxer” (a term that still makes her shudder), she began her first year at Berkeley High School, a huge, impersonal institution where popularity mattered more than learning, and fitting in was the ideal. When Le Guin speaks of her teen-age years, she speaks of loneliness, confusion, and the pain of being among people who have no use for one’s gifts. “You’re just dropped into this dreadful place, and there are no explanations why and no directions what to do.”

She found a refuge in the public library, reading Austen and the Brontës, Turgenev and Shelley. In fiction, she could satisfy her deep romantic streak: she fell in love with Prince Andrei in “War and Peace” and once, at thirteen, defaced a library book by cutting out a still of Laurence Olivier’s Mr. Darcy and taking it home to look at in private, guilty rapture. From Thomas Hardy she learned to handle strong feelings in fiction by pouring them into landscapes, letting the settings carry part of the emotional charge. “There’s a patronizing word for that: the ‘pathetic fallacy,’ ” she says. “It’s not a fallacy; it’s art.”

As a child, she was painfully shy, and she still alludes to anxieties that she keeps hidden from the world. I caught a glimpse of that when she asked me, cautiously, “Wouldn’t you say that anybody who thought as much about balance as I do in my work probably felt some threat to their balance?” After a long pause, she added, “Of course all adolescents are out of balance, and very aware of it. To become adult can certainly feel like walking a high wire, can’t it? If my foot slips, I’m gone. I’m dead.”

Equilibrium is a central metaphor in Le Guin’s great works about adolescence, the six-volume Earthsea series, which began in 1968 with “A Wizard of Earthsea.” That book follows Ged, a lonely teen-ager with a gift for magic, who at wizards’ school learns a painful lesson in achieving balance rather than forcing change. There’s little resemblance between the school on Roke Island, with its Taoist magic (a mage is taught to “do by not doing”), and Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. There is some resemblance between Ged, the provincial boy with a chip on his shoulder, and Ursula Kroeber, the Californian in jeans arriving at Radcliffe College in 1947, all books and opinions, never before out of her home state, eager to prove herself as a poet. Her Radcliffe friend Jean Taylor Kroeber, who became her sister-in-law, recalls that, before she and Ursula bonded over Russian literature, jokes, and music, she found her “a little frightening. It’s not that she meant to be, but that’s the way it came across . . . that there was a good chance that she was ahead of you, in wherever the conversation was going. And one rather brief acute remark could set you back on your heels.”

Ursula had her first clash with the literary establishment when she and a friend signed up to read submissions for a new Radcliffe literary magazine, Signature. Rona Jaffe worked on the magazine, and its undergraduate contributors included Edward Gorey, Harold Brodkey, and Adrienne Rich, whose poem “Storm Warnings” was published there. The magazine accepted nothing of Ursula’s, and she found those fellow-students “cliquish and unfriendly”: “Their comments on what we submitted ourselves, even the comments on our comments, were often remarkably savage and dismissive. We got out again and gratefully went back to our invisibility.” When Rich won the Yale Younger Poets Prize in her senior year, Le Guin, still unpublished, felt pangs of envy.

On top of that, Radcliffe women were given a double message, receiving an excellent education while knowing, in Rich’s words, that “the real power (and money) were invested in Harvard’s institutions, from which we were excluded.” Though Radcliffe has long since become part of Harvard, Cambridge remains a place of mixed emotions for Le Guin. She has told me both that her college years were wonderful and that she has come to dislike the institution; the two emotions shadow each other. Her senior year was marred by a handsome and arrogant Harvard student, an accidental pregnancy, a broken heart, and an illegal abortion. “I’m often startled at the depth of my anger at Harvard,” she told me. “I know some of the reasons for it, but it wouldn’t be so immediate and uncontrollable if it were accessible to reason. I did get a splendid education there—there was wonderful Widener, the Fogg, the elmy campus, which I remember fondly. But the anger’s there like a mine, ready to go off at a quiver of the ground.”

Le Guin graduated from Radcliffe with a degree in French, in 1951. Over the decade that followed, she wrote poems, short stories, and at least four novels. She submitted them to publishers; they came back with encouraging rejections. She felt her way tentatively forward, unsure of her direction, lacking models. American literature was still under the spell of Hemingway, Faulkner, Richard Wright; realism held sway, and there was little interest in play or fantasy. “I was going in another direction than the critically approved culture was,” Le Guin has said. “I was never going to be Norman Mailer or Saul Bellow. I didn’t know who my fellow-writers were. There didn’t seem to be anybody doing what I wanted to do.” She was alarmed by the literary rivalries of the period; she remembers thinking, “I’m not competing with all these guys and their empires and territories. I just want to write my stories and dig my own garden.”

Instead, she found “allies in foreigners I never met,” reading Woolf’s “Orlando,” Isak Dinesen’s “Seven Gothic Tales,” and the short stories of Sylvia Townsend Warner, with their playful and revelatory shifts of perspective. She also became fascinated by the premature, failed revolutions of 1830 and the passionate political documents of the Romantic period, such as “My Prisons,” by the Italian poet and patriot Silvio Pellico. “Books like that were very exciting to me because I could handle them better than I could the contemporary works,” she says. They opened up “the distance that I needed, and probably have always needed, between me and the raw, implacable fact that’s going on right now. I’ve never really been able to handle that. If it’s right in my face, I can’t see it.”

Some writers of her generation embraced confessional literature and, later, memoir. Le Guin has always preferred self-concealment to self-exposure. In the introduction to the Library of America volume, she writes, “I have no interest in confession. My games are transformation and invention.” In college, she began setting her fiction in an imaginary Eastern European country called Orsinia and found that it freed her up as a writer. Away from the “small and stony” ground of realism, her imagination began to flourish. Orsinia also gave her the distance to comment, indirectly, on Communist repression, the persecutions of the McCarthy era, the unfreedom of the age, and her decision to follow her own path.

During the fifties, she worked on “Malafrena,” a novel about a young nobleman who obeys his moral compass by fighting for freedom of speech and thought. Freedom is “a human need, like bread, like water,” he insists. Pressed to define it, he replies, “Freedom consists in doing what you can do best, your work, what you have to do.” For Le Guin freedom is a complex ideal and a word “too big and too old” to be devalued as a platitude or appropriated by hypocrites. “Of course it gets misused,” she says. “But I don’t think you can really damage the word freedom or liberty.”

Another of Le Guin’s places is Cannon Beach, a summer town on the Oregon coast where she and Charles have a small house on a street leading to the ocean. Although she claims to share her father’s “incapacity for reminiscence,” she and I went there to talk about her past. The prospect made her uncomfortable at first, and when we entered the shut-up house she threw nervous energy into cleaning, enlisting me to stand on a chair and brush cobwebs off the ceiling. At a little kitchen table, over tea served in the indestructible handmade earthenware mugs of the seventies, she commented, somewhat defiantly, that she had always taken pleasure in cooking and keeping house. It sounded like criticism of the heroic writer, alone in his garret, but there’s more to it than that. She feels that marriage and family have given her a stability that supported her writing—the freedom of solitude within the solidity of household life. “An artist can go off into the private world they create, and maybe not be so good at finding the way out again,” she told me. “This could be one reason I’ve always been grateful for having a family and doing housework, and the stupid ordinary stuff that has to be done that you cannot let go.”

When Ursula graduated from Radcliffe, her plan was to get her doctorate and become an academic, like her three older brothers. She got her master’s in Romance languages at Columbia University, then received a Fulbright fellowship to do research in France for her dissertation. On the boat going over, she met Charles LeGuin, a historian with an attractive Georgia accent who was writing his thesis on the French Revolution. They shared a sense of humor; they liked the same books; in Paris, they went together to the opera and the Louvre. Within two weeks they were engaged. When they applied for a marriage license, a “triumphant bureaucrat” told Charles his Breton name was “spelled wrong” without a space, so when they married they both took the name Le Guin.

Ursula abandoned her Ph.D. thesis on medieval French poetry, and while Charles finished researching his own thesis she read, wrote, and talked with him about Europe and revolution. Charles became the first reader for all her work, made sure she got time to write, and when they had children shared in their care. They spent the next few years in Georgia and Idaho, until, in 1959, Charles got the job at Portland State. Ursula recalls flying up from Berkeley with a child on her lap and pregnant with her second. “The plane came in low up the Willamette Valley and circled the city, and I was in tears, it was so beautiful. I thought, My God, I’m going to live there.”

Stubbornness and a self-confessed arrogance about her work helped Le Guin through her unpublished years. Then and now, she feels that she is the best judge of her writing; she is unmoved by literary trends, and not easily swayed by editorial suggestion. “Writing was always my inmost way of being in the world,” she says, but that made rejections increasingly painful:

“I suffered a good deal from the contradiction between knowing writing was the job I was born for and finding nowhere to have that knowledge confirmed.” Then, in 1961 and 1962, two of Le Guin’s stories were published. One, set in Orsinia, a meditation on the consolations of art, went to a small literary journal. The second, about a junior professor liberated from academia by an act of magic, was bought by the science-fiction magazine Fantastic.

“I just didn’t know what to do with my stuff until I stumbled into science fiction and fantasy,” Le Guin says. “And then, of course, they knew what to do with it.” “They” were the editors, fans, and fellow-authors who gave her an audience for her work. If science fiction was down-market, it was at least a market. More than that, genre supplied a ready-made set of tools, including spaceships, planets, and aliens, plus a realm—the future—that set no limits on the imagination. She found that science fiction suited what she called, in a letter to her mother, her “peculiar” talent, and she felt a lightheartedness in her writing that had to do with letting go of ambitions and constraints. In the fall of 1966, when she was thirty-seven, Le Guin began “A Wizard of Earthsea.” In the next few years—which also saw her march against the Vietnam War and dance in a conga line with Allen Ginsberg, when he came to Portland to read Vedas for peace—she produced her great early work, including, in quick succession, “The Left Hand of Darkness,” “The Lathe of Heaven,” “The Farthest Shore,” and “The Dispossessed,” her ambitious novel of anarchist utopia.

Science fiction opened her up further to writing from alien points of view—composing the political manifesto of an ant, wondering what it would be like if humans had the seasonal sexuality of birds, imagining love in a society in which a marriage involves four people. Le Guin says her ambition has always been “not just trying to get into other minds but other beings.”

She adds, “Somewhere in the nineteenth century a line got drawn: you can’t do this for grownups. But fantasy and science fiction just kind of walked around the line.” Another use of the fantastic for Le Guin was to bring her ethical concerns into her fiction without becoming didactic. Take a metaphor far enough and it becomes a parable, as with her widely anthologized story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” Le Guin’s story begins with an ethical question posed by William James: If all could be made blissfully happy by the fact that one person was being kept in torment, would we accept that condition? She gives the problem just enough reality for the reader to picture the single abused child and feel the consequences of the bargain.

Her influential thought experiment “The Left Hand of Darkness” uses this strategy to explore gender and alterity. Genly Ai, a man from a future Earth, arrives on the planet Gethen, which is inhabited by human beings who are neither male nor female but, for a few days a month, in a sexual phase, can become either. Ai, as a permanent male, is to them a “pervert.” His isolation and wariness are mirrored in the landscape of Gethen, a place of perpetual winter.

No one trusts Ai but Estraven, a Gethenian who is in exile; these two characters take turns narrating the book, so that we see how strange they appear to each other, and how they struggle to connect. Among the book’s central themes are balance—light is the left hand of darkness, the Gethenian saying goes—and trust. These are set against anxieties about otherness, about control and the loss of it. Estraven hopes that Ai can prevent impending war between two rival states, and asks him:

“Do you know, by your own experience, what patriotism is?”
“No,” I said, shaken by the force of that intense personality suddenly turning itself wholly upon me. “I don’t think I do. If by patriotism you don’t mean the love of one’s homeland, for that I do know.”
“No, I don’t mean love, when I say patriotism. I mean fear. The fear of the other. And its expressions are political, not poetical: hate, rivalry, aggression. It grows in us, that fear.”

To fulfill this mission, Ai must see beyond his own narrow perspective and learn to trust, even love, this person whose nature calls his own into question.

The novel earned Le Guin her first Hugo and Nebula awards, the top honors in science fiction; her migration from the margins was well under way. Despite her growing success, she suffered periods of depression in the nineteen-sixties—“dark passages that I had to work through” is how she described them to me, as if they were vexed sequences in a novel. She wrote them into her fiction, she added, in the Earthsea novel “The Farthest Shore,” exploring a metaphor she borrowed from Rilke’s “Duino Elegies”: depression as a journey through the silent land of the dead.

Another difficult time for her came in the long period that began after “The Dispossessed” was published, in 1974, when she was rethinking the subjects of her work. She had been writing about imaginary revolutions, but by then an actual liberation movement, feminism, was gaining traction. In the light of “the personal is political,” her “Left Hand of Darkness” seemed to some readers too oblique and metaphorical, her sense of play not illuminating but evasive. Up until then, almost all of Le Guin’s protagonists had been male, and she wasn’t sure how to write from a woman’s perspective, especially since she had long resisted writing directly from personal experience. As a wife and mother who had always had her husband’s support, she was wary of the angry anti-family rhetoric of some mid-nineteen-seventies feminists. She explained, “I had lost confidence in the kind of writing I had been doing because I was (mostly unconsciously) struggling to learn how to write as a woman, not as an ‘honorary man’ as before, and with a freedom that scared me.”

She went on working steadily, writing short stories, essays, poetry, and young-adult fiction. She revised and published some of her older work: “Orsinian Tales” (which was a finalist for a National Book Award) appeared in 1976; “Malafrena” in 1979. She did begin writing from female points of view. But her turn to “writing as a woman,” while it won her new readers, alienated part of her old audience. Some of her new work was criticized as unsubtle or moralistic. Her mother died in 1979, a painful loss. She came to think of this time as “the dark hard place.”

Le Guin emerged from this period by stepping over the boundaries that separated science fiction and literature. Starting in the nineteen-eighties, she published some of her most accomplished work—fiction that was realist, magic realist, postmodernist, and sui generis. She wrote the Borgesian feminist parable “She Unnames Them,” and in 1985 an experimental tour de force of a novel, “Always Coming Home.” She produced “Sur,” the epic tale of an all-female Antarctic exploring party that may be her greatest and funniest feminist statement. Her short stories began appearing in The New Yorker, where her editor, Charles McGrath, saw in her an ability to “transform genre fiction into something higher.”

In fact, it was the mainstream that ended up transformed. By breaking down the walls of genre, Le Guin handed new tools to twenty-first-century writers working in what Chabon calls the “borderlands,” the place where the fantastic enters literature. A group of writers as unlike as Chabon, Molly Gloss, Kelly Link, Karen Joy Fowler, Junot Díaz, Jonathan Lethem, Victor LaValle, Zadie Smith, and David Mitchell began to explore what’s possible when they combine elements of realism and fantasy. The fantasy and science-fiction scholar Brian Attebery has noted that “every writer I know who talks about Ursula talks about a sense of having been invited or empowered to do something.” Given that many of Le Guin’s protagonists have dark skin, the science-fiction writer N. K. Jemisin speaks of the importance to her and others of encountering in fantasy someone who looked like them. Karen Joy Fowler, a friend of Le Guin’s whose novel “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” questions the nature of the human-animal bond, says that Le Guin offered her alternatives to realism by bringing the fantastic out of its “underdog position.” For writers, she says, Le Guin “makes you think many things are possible that you maybe didn’t think were possible.”

Le Guin still has strong feelings about artistic liberty. In November, 2014, she travelled to New York with her son, Theo, to accept the Distinguished Contribution medal at the National Book Awards ceremony. In a new collection of nonfiction, “Words Are My Matter,” she writes that drafting her six-minute speech took her six months. “I rethought and replanned it, anxiously, over and over. Even on a poem, I’ve never worked so long and so obsessively, or with so little assurance that what I was saying was right, was what I ought to say.” But, having clashed with corporate publishing in the past, she felt an obligation to take the industry to task.

Standing at the lectern, she gave an uncharacteristically apologetic smile. Then she scowled at her audience of editors and publishers and unleashed a tirade. “I see sales departments given control over editorial. I see my own publishers, in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an e-book six or seven times more than they charge customers. . . . And I see a lot of us, the producers, who write the books and make the books, accepting this—letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant and tell us what to publish, and what to write.” Instead, she admonished them, “We’ll need writers who can remember freedom—poets, visionaries—realists of a larger reality.” At her conclusion, members of the audience hesitated, looked around, and then slowly rose to their feet for an ovation.

Starting in the nineteen-nineties, Le Guin returned in earnest to historical fiction, in “Lavinia,” and to science fiction and fantasy. Some of her best late work in this mode appears in “The Found and the Lost,” a new eight-hundred-plus-page compendium of her novellas. But a few years ago Le Guin stopped writing fiction, saying it took an energy she didn’t have—although she doesn’t rule out anything in the future. “Never” and “last,” she wrote in a recent blog post, “are closing words. Having spent a good deal of my life trying to open closed doors and windows, I have no intention of going around slamming them shut now.”

She still gives readings, which attract a notably youthful audience. And she writes nonfiction, including book reviews for the Guardian, in which she is glowing in her enthusiasms and fierce in her dislikes. (The enthusiasms include works by Saramago, Rushdie, and Atwood; the dislikes include present-tense narration, fiction about “dysfunctional American suburban families,” and mainstream writers who attempt science fiction without understanding its rules.) She is turning more now to poetry; her most recent collection, “Late in the Day,” was published last year. She told me she was writing some poems exploring extreme old age, playing with the metaphor of an explorer’s sea voyage to the West. “I think some testimony from the late eighties could be useful to people,” she said. Then she added, laughing, “Other people in their late eighties might want to read it. I don’t know about anybody in their late fifties: ‘Oh, God, I don’t want to go there.’ ”

At the house in Cannon Beach, she showed me the family’s photo albums. Over the years, Le Guin’s author photos show a steady progression from a wary young woman, ill at ease in front of the camera, to someone more at home in a public role. But I had asked about the private photos, and here was Ursula, age six or seven, with short black hair, bare-legged on dusty California ground, playing with a toy car and staring into the distance at something unseen.

“I like that one,” she told me. “I look feral. I guess I was rather feral.”

Then there was Ursula at the Arc de Triomphe, a gamine holding an armful of roses, and Charles, looking dashing in a new Parisian coat, climbing Mont Sainte-Victoire. Infants enter the pictures, then small children. In a photo of Ursula in her twenties, she glances up from a typewriter with a look I’d come to recognize: startled, her eyes unfocussed, her thoughts in a place the camera can’t follow.

The next morning, Le Guin stood in the front yard of her house at the edge of the world, feeding a family of crows. The sun was out, and a block away the surf beat gently on the broad beach, where the town meets the waters of the North Pacific. Here the land seemed undone by the unknown distances of the ocean, and Le Guin seemed to be standing where the forces met, gazing beyond her garden to some farther shore. ♦

Julie Phillips is working on a book on writing and mothering, and is researching a biography of Ursula K. Le Guin.

This article appears in other versions of the October 17, 2016, issue, with the headline “Out of Bounds.”

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Damnificados in World Literature Today

DamnificadosBy Yang Jing
World Literature Today

It is said that historians provide accuracy while artists provide truth, which can be best illustrated by the novel Damnificados. According to author JJ Amaworo Wilson, the novel is based on the true story of the Tower of David in Caracas, Venezuela—an unfinished and empty building later taken over by a group of homeless families (the damnificados who give the book its title) and turned into a thriving community. Wilson takes this real-life story and molds it into a fantastic fable about the collision between the haves and the have-nots in a fictional South American city. The difference is this: the tower was depicted in the documentary TV series as a haven for criminals, but in the novel it becomes more of a sanctuary for the oppressed class, the damnificados who are the damaged and wounded victims of life’s effluvia—they are everywhere.

The book starts with Nacho leading his band of outsiders into the tower. Nacho is a teacher, steeped in the lore of ancient books like The Epic of Gilgamesh, who tells stories to understand the world. Despite his disabilities, his stories are stories of hope, inspiration, and rebuilding. He is Moses preparing his people for the trek in the wilderness. His brother Emil, the pragmatist, arrives at the tower in a boat, weathering a torrential rain that almost wipes out the damnificados.

When the evil Torres brothers who control the political, economic, and military power of the city decide to drive away the homeless from the tower, the Trash War breaks out. The damnificados use their combined strength and unorthodox faith to organize themselves and to outwit the powerful evil that threatens their survival.

The end of the novel is not a dispersal of victory for the damnificados but a diaspora of hope: “There’ll be other towns and other places to call home.” The epoch of the tower becomes history when it is swallowed by a sinkhole.

Damnificados is a great read. Two-headed beasts, biblical floods, dragonflies to the rescue, massacres involving multilingual ghosts, and a trash truck acting as a Trojan horse—magical realism threads through this very human struggle. Wilson introduces archetypes of hope and redemption that are also deeply familiar—true love, vision quests, the hero’s journey, even the possibility of a happy ending. In this sense, the novel can also be read as documentary literature, which illustrates and predicts that social justice will prevail in the end.

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By Logan Jaffe
New York Times

October 6th, 2016

The salt and pepper shakers that you see above sat in my grandmother’s kitchen for decades. For much of my life, I saw them as I’d see anything in her home: her wind chimes on the porch; her garden shoes by the door; and those colorful pepper shakers on the kitchen table.

I didn’t think even twice about holding them up to my cheeks in an impromptu selfie photo shoot with my sister over Thanksgiving in 2010.

Now I cringe at that memory. My sister and me, white women, 18 and 21 at the time, smiling, making funny faces and posing with objects that contained significance we did not understand.
I’m ashamed to say I didn’t see that those salt and pepper shakers were mammies, a racial caricature created to perpetuate the narrative of black women’s servitude to whites.

I didn’t see that in my hands, there was physical proof that, for much of this country’s history, many white people did not simply see black and brown people as inferior; the white world that I come from also created mechanisms and characters – from Jim Crow to Aunt Jemima – to maintain that narrative of inferiority.

When I recounted the experience to Dr. David Pilgrim, the founder and director of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, he said many people have their own stories and experiences with racist objects.

More than you’d think.

CONTRIBUTE: If you own or have encountered a racist object, we want to hear from you. 

Which is why he considers his museum, which houses about 12,000 objects in a winding hallway of the basement of the Ferris State University library in Big Rapids, Michigan, as much a “storytelling facility” as it is a contextual, educational and painful anti-shrine to the pervasiveness of American racism by way of everyday physical objects.

“Everyone who walks in that door,” he told me when we met at the museum, “they’re not just coming to the objects. They’re bringing themselves and their racial luggage – and in some cases, baggage – to the objects.”

Dr. Pilgrim, who is multiracial but identifies as black, acknowledged that many people feel disgust, pain and outrage when they visit the museum or see these items. He said that’s understandable. Especially for African-Americans – especially now at a time of increased racial tension – the playful portrayals of racism and racist violence often conjure up horrific real-life experiences.

Still, Dr. Pilgrim said, the items have value because they force us to not only confront the ubiquity of racism – from government policy to kitchen tables – but also to talk about the many ways that’s experienced, or not experienced by some of us, often for many years or an entire lifetime.

Objects are also tangible representations of stories. They are one of the many ways that narratives about race and ethnicity are expressed, told and understood.

“These objects were made by everyday Americans making money,” Dr. Pilgrim said. And, he added, they had a purpose: “The millions and millions and millions of everyday objects that belittled African-Americans were made to support the racial hierarchy in the United States.”

Take, for example, the objects Pilgrim’s collected that depict black men as targets. They’re from decades-old carnival games as well as modern-day shooting ranges.

What do they communicate about black men?

“The implication is that they don’t experience pain in the same way,” Dr. Pilgrim said. “Then that justifies physical punishment against them.”

For decades now, at least since the Civil Rights era, there has been an effort by many black families and luminaries (Oprah Winfrey included) to collect these objects, too. But hardly for nostalgia’s sake.

As the late Civil Rights leader and activist Julian Bond wrote in a 1996 collector’s price guide of black memorabilia: “They speak of triumph and overcoming, and inform us that despite what others thought and believed, we were never what these figurines and objects suggest. We see them as sentinels guarding the past, doorkeepers who prevent our ever returning to it, harsh – if even sometimes beautiful – preservers of the history we have overthrown.”

Dr. Pilgrim also stresses that while these blatantly racist objects aren’t as common as they once were, the narratives they embodied still linger, alive.

“I think there’s a narrative that has always existed in this country, and that is the narrative that blacks and whites are just different,” Dr. Pilgrim said.  “And not only are they different, but different in ways that one is superior to the other. And that when they share the same space that conflict is inevitable. I think that narrative still exists in this culture. And I think it’s still reflected in our movies, in our books, and in our politics, certainly.”

WATCH: Dr. Pilgrim explains why he studies racist objects.  

Of course, many other groups – Native Americans, Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, poor whites, Jews, women and gay people, to name a few – have also been, and continue to be, targets of commodified hate.

But the number of objects that dehumanize African-Americans far outnumber those of any other group; Mammies, Piccaninnies, Sambos, Sapphires, Jezebels, Toms, Coons were an industry.

Today, I’m acknowledging my role in that industry. While I have not personally bought these objects or promoted their ideals, I have benefitted from the comfort of not seeing them at all – of not having to.

I’m bringing my experience with these objects out into the open, shame included, because Dr. Pilgrim has convinced me that they not only carry with them both pain and responsibility, but also that there’s value in talking about them – their origin stories, their significance, and how different people interpret their messages.

Plus, as a mediamaker embedded at the New York Times’ Race/Related in partnership with POV, I’m tasked with creating work that reflects how race is experienced today. And in my mind there’s no good way to do that alone.

So, we’re asking you, Race/Related readers, to help us shape an interactive project about offensive objects.


– Because the way race is experienced today can’t be tackled without a thorough and thoughtful examination of the way it’s been experienced in the past.

– Because I’m not convinced the work I create on my own for this subject will be better or more meaningful than the work we can create together.

So here’s the deal.

We’re asking for the stories of people who have encountered these items. If you’re someone who has experience with or a story to tell about these objects, and if you’re interested in using them to understand their origins and impact, then we want to hear from you.

Our goal is to come back to you with more information about these objects and we’ll also try to create some of the meaningful conversations that Dr. Pilgrim also aims to inspire.

SHARE: Have you seen a racist object? Tell us about your experience.

To be crystal clear, our intent is not to promote or champion these items. If you use these objects to promote hate and intolerance, this project is not for you.

Our aim is to create a respectful, engaging and thought-provoking space to talk about personal stories and facilitate honest, constructive discussions.

For me, that process has already started. I’m still not sure what to do with my grandmother’s mammy salt and pepper shakers. But maybe as this project develops, there will be answers to that question, and many more. 


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Racist Objects: A Painful Past Still Present

By Logan Jaffe
New York Times
October 6th, 2016

What’s to be gained from confronting the uncomfortable?

The video above is full of blatantly racist images and objects – old children’s books that infantilize African-Americans, vintage kitchenware that perpetuates white supremacy, T-shirts and bumper stickers that promote hate and violence.

They are hard to look at. But we can’t ignore the horrors of our racist past, because they influence our present.

The objects in the video can all be found at the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, where David Pilgrim, the museum's founder, uses them to help people contemplate the pervasiveness of racism. But there are many more out there, depicting African-Americans and other groups.

I shared my own experience with an object owned by my grandmother in this week’s Race/Related newsletter. Now we're asking you for your stories and experiences with racist objects.

Why? Because we aim to create a meaningful conversation about race and racism.

Why are you asking me to share my experiences involving racist stuff?

This is the first part of a larger interactive project with The New York Times and POV that aims to examine how narratives about race are expressed, communicated and manipulated. We’re asking for your participation to help us understand how common racist objects really are, who has them, why, and to explore what impact they have on individuals and on society.

What will you do with my submission?

We promise to read every submission. We’ll contact a selection of participants for follow-up interviews. We hope to help some of you uncover the back stories to your objects. We also hope to connect you with others who have varied experiences with these objects so we can explore their impact together, with moderated online chats and future installments of this project.

But aren’t you just stirring up more racism and hate?

We know this is a difficult and painful subject. If you use these objects to promote hate, this project is not for you. Our intention is not to promote or champion the existence of these objects. Our goal is to create a respectful, engaging and thought-provoking space to facilitate honest, meaningful discussions about race and prejudice.

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Racist Memorabilia Teaches Awareness at Jim Crow Museum

Dr. David Pilgrim is the founder and curator of the Jim Crow Museum - YouTube
Courtesy Dr. David Pilgrim is the founder and curator of the Jim Crow Museum on the Ferris State University campus in Big Rapids, Michigan. Pilgrim, who has collected racially-charged items most of his adult life.

by Konnie LeMay

Dr. David Pilgrim is the founder and curator of the Jim Crow Museum on the Ferris State University campus in Big Rapids, Michigan. Pilgrim, who has collected racially-charged items most of his adult life, believes cartoon and stereotypical  images of Aunt Jemima, Jim Crow, Chief Wahoo and the Redskins all rob the dignity and identity of the races portrayed.

Though Pilgrim uses the items as teaching tools, he admits his disgust for the objects and a relief in moving them to the museum in 2012. “I hated my collection most of my life. I hated having it in my home and I was glad to get it out of my home.”

However, he added, the desire to sweep away or ignore these images – past and present – leaves unhealed wounds.

The Jim Crow Museum has nearly 12,000 objects depicting racial imagery, with 5,000 pieces on display at any time.

On display on the museum is a Ku Klux Klan knife - with a Cherokee head logo.

Though the museum primarily emphasizes the stereotypes of African Americans, Pilgrim, along with the university’s gallery director, Carrie Weis, also created two traveling exhibits, including one titled “Them: Images of Separation” with 35 examples of stereotyping of African, Native, Jewish, Mexican and Asian Americans as well as the stereotype of  ‘Poor Whites.’

In developing the museum Pilgrim said, “the biggest roadblocks were Whites and African Americans, who just wanted these stories to be dead and forgotten, people who wanted to see this history die. The truth is racism has not died … these objects are still being made.”

Pilgrim explained that having a collection of racially-charged items is a not an endorsement of their message. “We are not a shrine to racism. It’s a place where we try to provoke intelligent conversation. I know Americans like happy history, but there was another history.”

Dr. David Pilgrim: "I know Americans like happy history, but there was another history.” Photo: Courtesy

In the case of Native imagery, Pilgrim finds two main lines of stereotyping. “The drunk savage, the buck or the jezebel hyper-sexual young female, or the romanticized, idealized way – the strong brave, the beautiful woman, the warriors fighting against the government.

A Native comic book is part of the Jim Crow Museum's collection. Photo: Courtesy

“In sports,” he says “there’s probably the greatest abuse of the Indigenous people. You wouldn’t get away with it in that way with another group.”

Pilgrim credits Vernon Bellecourt, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, a leader in the American Indian Movement, with first turning his attention to sports. “He was one of the early people who sort of introduced me to the anti-mascot campaign.

“The so-called Washington Redskins. I don’t see how you can’t see that as at least a racial slur, if not a racist slur. You would be surprised at how many people think there is nothing wrong with that.

“To live in a society where every major societal institution taught you that you were inferior in every way imaginable, big and small. There’s no way that they don’t internalize that,” Pilgrim said. ““It stains you in some way.”


Dr. David Pilgrim, an applied sociologist, is author of Understanding Jim Crow: Using Racist Memorabilia to Teach Tolerance and Promote Social Justice and will release another book in 2017 that includes his essay, “Brothers,” his reading of which is on the Jim Crow Museum’s YouTube channel.

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Revolutionary Mothering in Novel Niche

by Almah LaVon
Novel Niche
October 8th, 2016

Who will take us in? This is what Glenda Moore was asking when she knocked on strangers’ doors for hours in late October 2012. Caught outside with her young sons in Staten Island, New York during Hurricane Sandy, she asked this when doors were opened, only to be closed in her face. (Later, some of the people who refused to help said they thought she was trying to burglarize their homes.) She asked this until she lost grip of her sons. Until the sea said,  I will take them.  
The bodies of Brandon, 2, and Connor, 4, were discovered nearby a few days later.


This is how marginalized mothers are unsheltered every day; this is why an arbor-anthology had to be built, and its name is Revolutionary Mothering: Love On The Front Lines (PM Press, 2016). The aim of this collection of communiqués, poems, essays, and visual art is to center mothers, who, like Moore, are locked out of “angel in the house” iconographies–i.e., primarily “radical mothers of color with a few marginalized (queer, trans, low income, single, and disabled) white mothers,” in the framing words of editors Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams. And how do the editors define mothering? Panoramically. Enter this anthology knowing that there is a new spelling of the name: “m/other.” Spell it like “investing in each other’s existence,” as Loretta Ross does in the brilliant preface. Spell it like “less as a gendered identity and more a possible action, a technology of transformation,” as Gumbs does in her poetic, incandescent essay, “m/other ourselves: a Black queer feminist genealogy for radical mothering.” Spell it like “a primary front in this struggle {against a colonial, racist, hetero-patriarchal capitalism}, not as a biological function, but as a social practice,” as Cynthia Dewi Oka does in one of the book’s most electrifying entries, “Mothering as Revolutionary Praxis.”

“Revolutionary mothering” may be more redundant than oxymoronic, according to the biome of this book. However, Malkia A. Cyril reminds us in her incisive “Motherhood, Media, and Building a 21st-Century Movement,” the weaponized think-of-the-children has been used to undergird “a conservative vision of family” and the carceral state. Cyril asserts:

…empire is sustained, and mothers become one of the tools of its continuous resurrection.

But just as mothers can become the ideological vehicles for hierarchy and dominance, they are uniquely positioned to lead both visionary and opposition strategies to it. With the right supports, mothers from underrepresented communities can help lead the way to new forms of governance, new approaches to the economy, and enlightenment of civil society grounded in fundamental human rights. In fact, they always have.

With blazing authority in “Forget Hallmark: Why Mother’s Day Is a Queer Black Left Feminist Thing,” Gumbs dismisses “the assumption that mothering is conservative or that conserving and nurturing the lives of Black children has ever had any validated place in the official American political spectrum.” (If it was so conservative, why have so many forces been arrayed against it?) Gumbs argues convincingly that Black motherHOOD is fundamentally insurgent; Black mothers, past and present, harbor futurity.


Witness the diversity of dispatches from the front lines: in Victoria Law’s “Doing It All…and Then Again with Child,” an organizer-mama writes letters to incarcerated women (many of them also mothers) that incorporate her daughter’s drawings–and travels to Chiapas, Mexico to hear Zapatista mothers talk about seamlessly integrating children into revolutionary struggle. Irene Lara invokes “Tlazolteotl, the Nahua sacred energy of birthing and regeneration” in the ceremony-limned “From the Four Directions: The Dreaming, Birthing, Healing Mother on Fire.”

Mothers construct a theatre of testimony to resist genocide and extrajudicial killings in Arielle Julia Brown’s “Love Balm for My SpiritChild,” reminding me of the indefatigable Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo. In Lindsey Campbell’s “You Look Too Young to Be a Mom,” a chorus of young mas flip scripts that insist teen pregnancy is disaster unalloyed. tk karakashian tunchez megaphones “WE ARE WELFARE QUEENS AND WE AREN’T ASHAMED” in the manifesta, “Telling Our Truths to Live.” In “On My Childhood, El Centro del Raza, and Remembering,” Esteli Juarez re-members being raised by a father and other activists who occupied an abandoned school in Seattle, Washington for months, so that Chicanos, Mexicanos, and Latinos could have a public space to “gather, build community, access resources, [and] organize.”

The etymological root of “anthology” is “many flowers,” and Revolutionary Mothering is truly a fistful of spiky, necessary blooms. You need to be present for stories like these: Norma Angelica Marrun reflects on an undocumented childhood in the U.S. without her mother in “Why Don’t You Love Her?” In “Birthing My Goddess,” H. Bindy K. Kang is subjected to reproductive profiling and surveillance targeting South Asians in British Columbia. Terri Nilliasca reveals that the international adoption machine is built for white Westerners, and not balikbayan coming to the Philippines to adopt (“Night Terrors, Love, Brokenness, Race, Home & the Perils of the Adoption Industry: A Journey in Radical Family Creation”).

This book is riven with border lines–indeed, one of its conceits is lines, from “shorelines” to “between the lines”–and those lines matter. Border and bottom lines often mark what kind of mothering one has access to; Gumbs summons “immigrant nannies like my grandmother who mothered wealthy white kids in order to send money to Jamaica for my mother and her brothers who could not afford the privilege of her presence.” Cynthia Dewi Oka adds that “collectivizing caregiving in our communities is linked to dismantling a capitalist empire that abuses Third World women’s bodies as part of its infrastructure.” The children of marginalized mothers in the U.S., Loretta Ross makes clear, are primed to “become disposable cannon fodder for U.S. imperialism.”

There are some lines in the sand, uncrossable uncrossable. Gumbs calls out “neo-eugenicist” rhetoric and its relationship to “globalized ‘family planning’ agendas that have historically forced women in the Caribbean, Latin America, South Asia, and Africa to undergo sterilization in order to work for multinational corporations”; she also quotes officials who suggest that aborting Black fetuses in the U.S. will reduce crime and sterilizing women in “developing nations” will “prevent economically disruptive revolutions.” Oka punctures the population-bomb bogeyman embodied in “Black, indigenous, and Third World children…as perpetrators of environmental degradation.” In fact, mothering and radical homemaking are the imaginarium our moment needs, Oka insists–as she sketches a vision of the homes and habitats to come: “Perhaps the kind of home we need today is mobile, multiple, and underground.” The home as rhizome. A site of flux and disturbance, in the most generative sense. The home of the warning shot, to shoo away the State (see: Korryn Gaines). As an otherworldly realm of revolutionary eclipse and endarkenment: “Perhaps we need to become unavailable for state scrutiny so that we can experiment,” she muses, leaving us with a deepened “encumbrance upon each other while rejecting the extension of our dependence on state and capital.” Isn’t this kind of reliance and resiliency we will need, considering the demands of climate change? Is this what it means to mother in the Anthropocene?


Thankfully, this book doesn’t neglect to hold what is unresolved and difficult about mothering and being mothered. There’s pressure on people of color to craft reactive hagiographies about our mothers; while the impulse is understandable–don’t talk about your mother’s failures since the State is all too prepared to enumerate and criminalize them–stories like Rachel Broadwater’s “Brave Hearts” are refreshing. In it, Broadwater meditates on her disappointment with her own traumatized, imperfect mother. Mai’a Williams eschews the soft-focus sentimentality surrounding “mamahood” when she writes, “It’s a visceral sense that vulnerable, quivering life is breaking you and you have to let it.  It’s not self-sacrifice. It may not even qualify as love. It isn’t sweet. It isn’t romantic.” This is beautifully and painfully illustrated in Vivian Chin’s essay, “Mothering,” which is mysterious, fraught with slippage, and haunted by damage not quite known. This is the anti-lullaby–this is rage-son, ankle bracelet, juvenile court, polliwogs not getting enough nutrients, you don’t help me with shit. Fabielle Georges’ “The Darkness” flickers with the radioactivity of colorism, lookism, and Black self-loathing. Claire Barrera talks about being short-fused due to chronic pain in “Step on a Crack: Parenting with Chronic Pain.”


If this anthology’s foremother is This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color–indeed, its initial title was This Bridge Called My Baby–then its sibling might be the zine movement. China Martens traces a brief history of “subculture media” that includes The Future Generation zine she started in 1990. Several zinesters are featured in Revolutionary Mothering, including Noemi Martinez of the zines, Making of a Chicana and Hermana, Resist.  Martens explores how zines oiled her leap to blogs and “online snippets” especially suited to the time-strapped mom. Some of the anthology’s contributions (like Mamas of Color Rising’s “Collective Poem on Mothering”) read like raw, urgent telegraphs from mothers out of time–“time traveling is a necessity,” Martens says–and these seemingly rush-crafted pieces add to the anthology’s sense of welcome and immediacy.


Revolutionary Mothering
is a dreambook. Place it on your bedstand and when you awaken, scribble your not-quite-daylight visions in the margins so your dreams will be in good company. With its protean take on mothering, expect to pick up a new book each time you open it. And while we’re dreaming, I would have loved more voices from mothers who embody the truth that “mother” is “older and more futuristic than the word ‘woman,’” as Gumbs wrote. Also invoked by Gumbs, I want more stories from the house mothers of ball culture themselves. Next time, then. I have gotten into the habit of collecting radical anthologies, and this one ranks among my favorites: I was rocked and healed and mothered by this open-armed anthology itself, and suspect it will go on to give birth to other anthologies, other worlds. Mothering got next.

If your potential was visible on your body, like a hologram of your future, you’d know what things to just give up on without trying . . . but then you’d never know that you change your hologram potential if you try.
—Rio, Katie Kaput’s nine-year-old son in “Three Thousand Words”

Those caregiving collectives? Those “phamilies, chosen and stronger than blood” tk karakashian tunchez speaks of? Yes, those. We have an amphibious city to build now, and Revolutionary Mothering offers so many blueprints, so much holographic potential. Let’s hold each other close, before the rising seas.

Almah LaVon is a poet errant and incogNegr@ who is often based in western Pennsylvania. More of her writing on books can be found in the forthcoming anthology, Solace: Writing, Refuge, and LGBTQ Women of Color.

Shivanee’s postscript: It’s a tasselated, tapestried honour to have Almah’s critical work on Novel Niche! Many thanks to her, and to the editors and contributors of this formidable anthology, purchasable here.

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