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Kim Stanley Robinson's The Lucky Strike

By Paul Buhle
Swans Commentary

In a remarkable conjunction, the finest of left-leaning SciFi writers and liveliest of new radical presses has produced a small gem. The Lucky Strike, launching the Press' "Outspoken Authors" series, manages to get one of the most articulate of the outspoken, tapping a favorite genre (that is to say mine, since childhood) to explore what a writer can do without holding political office or throwing tons of money at some good cause.

Robinson, for those who don't immediately recognize his name, is the author of Red Mars and others in the "Mars" series, and some dozens of others probing the possible futures of humankinds and the planetary eco systems that they reach. Since the 1980s, he has been seen as a successor to genius-autodidact Philip K. Dick, on whom Robinson wrote a Ph.D. thesis before leaving academics behind for a literary career. Red Mars and the other Martian works hit the Science Fiction genre readers like a ton of Martian ore: they were scientifically, most of all geologically astute, keenly written with the expectation that one day humankind could "terraform," creating new artificial environments on distant planets. And they would need to do so, after creating so much eco-havoc on home Earth. The question that Robinson pressed was obvious yet crucial: would we screw up again or find some other way to live?

His answers were not obvious because Robinson is no obvious thinker. The history of "scientific" socialism pointed one way, and Robinson knew it well: the environment properly guided toward sustainable use. The other radical projection was to leave a mostly barren planet as it was found -- barren. That is to say, disrupting it as little as possible. Both of these found a common enemy: the corporate style of entering some new eco-system and ripping off as much resources as possible, with no regard to the consequences. It was a brilliant suggestion, altogether, and by the last volume of the series, a future humankind is out at the limits of our solar system, pondering the same questions. Robinson's other novels have a way of asking similarly crucial questions from different angles. They can be delightfully oddball as well as deadly serious, and they are fun to read even when difficult. No wonder he has won so many prizes in the field.

Here we find a great little novella, contrary to history, about the US air force pilot who refused to drop the A-Bomb on Japan, was court-martialed, and sentenced to death. Robinson spins out assorted suggestions about what might have happened if, for instance, Thomas Dewey had actually been elected in 1948 rather than Cold War zealot Harry Truman, if the Democrats (rather than Republicans) had discredited themselves so thoroughly in the 1970s to bring on defeat, and so on, pondering serious questions along the way for readers to ask themselves.

The rest of this little book is an interview, one of many that Robinson has done in the last thirty years but more thorough, and deeply sensitive, for which we must thank the interviewer, fellow SciFi writer Terry Bisson, as well as Robinson himself. It's great to know that Huckelberry Finn was his first favorite novel, because Robinson has been heading for the "territory" himself ever since; but more important to know that as a native Californian, removed but back again, he is deeply at home, enjoying the novels he wrote decades ago, including Gold Coast. He is a dedicated as well as immensely talented fellow, and as we leave this little volume, we expect to see his brilliance on display repeatedly. Perhaps, with this volume, we grasp the meaning of that brilliance a little better.

Buy this book now | Download PDF now 

Don't miss Andrej Grubacic and Gary Phillips at the L.A. Times Festival of Books!

News > Additional Stories

Don't miss Andrej Grubacic and Gary Phillips at the L.A. Times Festival of Books!

And be sure to stop by the PM booth for all the latest...

"Andrej Grubacic is an original thinker and dedicated activist, who brings deep understanding and outstanding personal qualities to everything he does."
Noam Chomsky

Gary Phillips writes tough and gritty parables about life and death on the mean streets – a place where sometimes just surviving is a noble enough cause.  His is a voice that should be heard and celebrated.  It rings true once again in The Jook, a story where all of Phillips’ talents are on display.”
-- Michael Connelly, author of the Harry Bosch books

Venezuela Speaks on Tour 2010

Venezuela Speaks!: Voices from the Grassroots is a collection of interviews with activists and participants from across Venezuela’s social movements. From community media to land reform; cooperatives to communal councils, from the labor movement to the Afro-Venezuelan network, Venezuela Speaks! sheds light on the complex realities within the Bolivarian Revolution. These interviews offer a compelling oral history of Venezuela's democratic revolution, from the bottom up.

The tour will be held by co-authors, Michael Fox, Carlos Martinez & photographer, Sílvia Leindecker. Venezuelan women’s activist, Yanahir Reyes will join the tour from January 20th- January 30th.  Co-author, JoJo Farrell, may attend sporadic dates in February. 

Check back for tour updates! 

West Coast: January 13-18, 2010

Thursday, January 14th – Bay Area Book Launch, at 7:30pm
Dolores Street Community Services
938 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Sponsored by PM Press, Global Exchange, and the Center for Political Education

Friday, January 15th - Niebyl Proctor Library, Oakland, 7pm
6501 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA
(510) 595-7417

Saturday, January 16th –Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival,
Venezuela Speaks Workshop, 3:45pm-5:15pm
IAM Local 1781, 1511 Rollins Road, Burlingame, CA

Sunday, January 17th – Sonoma County Peace & Justice Center, 1:00 - 3:00 PM       
Sonoma County Peace & Justice Center
467 Sebastopol Ave, Santa Rosa

Green Arcade Bookstore (San Francisco), 5pm
1680 Market Street @Gough
(415) 431-6800

Monday, January 18th – Ho’down Quartet Gig
Amnesia, San Francisco, 10pm
853 Valencia St. (Between19th & 20th)

East Coast: January 20-February 9th, 2010

(Yanahir Reyes will be with us from January 19th- January 30th)

Wednesday, January 20th  – Busboys & Poets, Shirlington, VA, 6:00-7:30 PM
4251 South Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA, (703) 379-9757

Thursday, January 21st  - Washington DC, George Washington University
Latin American & Hemispheric Studies Program 12:30pm- 2pm,
Room 505, The Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E. Street NW,

Busboys and Poets,5th & K. 6:00-7:30 PM
1025 5th Street NW, DC, (202) 789-2227

Friday, January 22nd – Philadelphia, 7pm, Wooden Shoe Books
704 South St.  215-413-0999

Saturday, January 23rd

Sunday, January 24th – Bluestockings Bookstore, 7pm
172 Allen St., New York, 212.777.6028

Monday, January 25th – Brecht Forum, NYC, 7:30 pm
451 West Street (between Bank & Bethune Streets), New York
(212) 242-4201,

Tuesday, January 26th – New Haven Connecticut, Yale University, 7-9pm
Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street, Room 208

Wednesday, January 27th – Charter Oak Cultural Center, Hartford, 7pm
21 Charter Oak Avenue, Hartford, CT 06106

Thursday, January 28th – Boston, encuentro5, 6:30-8:30pm
5th floor of the UNITE-HERE building at 33 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02111

Friday, January 29th – Lucy Parsons Center, Boston,7pm
549 Columbus Avenue, Boston, MA 02118

Saturday, January 30th – 

Sunday, January 31st - Montpelier, VT, Black Sheep Books, 6:00pm - 8:00pm
5 State Street, Montpelier, (802) 225-8906

Monday, February 1st - Burlington College, Community Room, 6:30-9:00pm
95 North Avenue, Burlington Vermont

Tuesday, February 2nd

Wednesday, February 3rd – New York City, Venezuelanalysis Fundraiser
Location & Time, TBA

Thursday, February 4th – New Jersey, Rutgers University, 8pm
Meeting Room E, Douglass Campus Center
Rutgers University

Friday, February 5th – TBA

Saturday, February 6th - TBA

Sunday, February 7th - TBA

Monday, February 8th – Baltimore, MD
John’s Hopkins University (afternoon)
Location & Time, TBA

Red Emma’s Books (evening, Time TBA)
800 St. Paul St., Baltimore, MD 21202

Talking of Anarchy and Publishing with Ramsey Kanaan of PM Press

By Joan Brunwasse
December 29, 2009

"We're old enough to know what we're doing and young enough to know what's at stake." Welcome to OpEdNews, Ramsey. Please tell our readers a little about PM press.

Thanks for inviting/quizzing me! The really short answer is that PM Press is a publisher (in various formats - including print/paper, audio, video, and electronic) of fine materials! Hopefully thought-provoking, educational, and entertaining materials, too. We're very new, pretty young, and still have a burning desire to change the world. Preferably in our lifetimes!

PM Press is, indeed, "pretty young" but those behind it have a long history in the publishing business. Can you go back a bit and tell us how you got involved in publishing in the first place?

I first got involved in the (often sordid) world of book selling, publishing, and propaganda, back in the late '70s early '80s, in Scotland. In 1979, at age 13, I discovered punk rock, and politics (i.e., anarchism). Through the punk subculture, which strongly encouraged the DIY [do-it-yourself] ethic, and practice, started distributing punk rock fanzines, often those that interviewed the punk rock bands for which I sang.

I was fortunate, early on, to meet more experienced booksellers/publishers/propagandists, at a Crass concert [legendary British anarchist punk band]. Those kind, gentle and brilliant souls worked at a radical bookstore, called Housmans, in London (still there, today, in Kings Cross). They were kind enough to mentor this very annoying kid with his million and one questions in the ways of such literature and ideas, and the production, and dissemination of it. So, quickly, I started publishing too, under the name AK Press, AK being my mother's initials, and it all trundled on from there.

Ah, a kid with a dream! How lovely! So, music actually brought you to publishing. Before we move forward to the publishing world, let's stop a moment at the punk rock. You were in a band/s for how long? Are you still active as a musician?

I wouldn't say that music brought me to publishing, or vice versa, really. I discovered punk rock and politics of the anarchist bent, at the same time. And they were inseparable to me, rather than consequential. I was partly drawn to punk, because of the politics of the lyrics (and practice), rather than to anarchism, because of the sung/shouted words! A veritable chicken/egg situation, if a vegan can use such an analogy, for sure.

I played in various bands from 1980 onwards. The only band that actually recorded (various records) and toured was one called Political Asylum. I guess we were around for a decade, from 1982 to 1992. The band, and our concerts/tours were certainly an early distribution method for the literature. Four or five years ago, I joined a folk band, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, called Folk This! We're not the world's most productive musical ensemble, but we do manage to play a couple of benefits a year, and appear on the occasional picket line to add our voice.

You're political on every level - through your music, your work, and your eating! Let's talk about anarchy and anarchist writing for a moment. I'm a nice, suburban girl, raising my own kids in the suburbs. I don't really know from anarchists. When I looked through your catalog, I just saw a lot of intriguing titles that I wanted to peruse. Can you explain a little about what you as an anarchist believe? It's a concept that carries a lot of emotional freight for us Americans. Should we be afraid of it?

Never fear. There are many nice anarchist suburban girls, raising their kids in the suburbs too. For me, anarchism is at its core, the very simple, common-sense notion that folks are best able to organize their own lives,in concert with others, without the impediments of the state, hierarchy and authority, which just tend to get in the way. It's a form of social, economic and political organization which stresses 'horizontal' forms or organization, as opposed to the typical 'top-down' hierarchical methods. Folks left to their own devices typically tend to do this anyways. Indeed, insofar as society still functions, it's largely because of this application of what the anarchists call 'mutual aid', rather than because we are coerced into doing so by fear, law-enforcement, rules and regulations, etc.

Anarchism is also a practice, as well as a theory. The self-emancipation of the working class. Of course, those in authority, since it's inception, like any radical idea/practice, have spent the last couple of hundred years attacking/ridiculing/distorting anarchism...but that's only to be expected, right?

Naturally. This reminds me of a book I read recently. In A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit writes about how communities experiencing disaster naturally and organically build their own self-help structure. She studied five different catastrophes through history, including 9/11 and Katrina. And what you say is what she reported. People on the ground reached out to one another and built whole helping networks which were promptly dismantled, disrupted and delegitimized by the government agencies when they eventually showed up. Is that sort of what you're talking about? 

That is definitely an excellent example. But the very fabric of society is also based on co-operation, not competition, not just in times of crisis. How would those suburban kids ever get raised if it wasn't for parents' groups, and babysitting swaps, and joint kids activities. And how come you can mail a letter anywhere in the world, and it'll arrive,more or less! Because of the Universal Postal Union, a non-hierarchical, co-operative, non-coercive federation of postal systems in the world, who all agree to deliver each other's mail, etc. etc.

So, what you're saying is that "anarchy" might be a scary sounding term but it's actually something that we're quite familiar with and actually appreciate in action. You're from the UK. You had a chance to put your political activism into practice over there. What did you take on and what were you all able to accomplish?

[You're] not only familiar with, but - typically unwittingly - [you] actually practice it all the time! I'm very leery of the 'activist'/'normal person' dichotomy. I have never seen myself as an activist as such. The publishing and distribution, which I've always viewed as part my contribution to building a better world, is just something which I have somewhat of a knack for, even if that 'talent' is largely just perseverance! And I'm all for encouraging folks to do what they feel comfortable with, rather than criticizing and/or castigating them for what they are not doing (whatever that may be).

Outside of the propaganda world, I was active in various anarchist and strike/labor solidarity groups in Scotland, culminating in the anti-poll tax campaign. Briefly, that was a 6-year campaign against a particularly vicious law/tax, which resulted in the biggest mass movement of non-cooperation/breaking the law ever in British history. 50% of adults in the UK never paid the tax/broke the law....i.e., 17 million folks! 'Twas an honor, a thrill, and very exhausting to be a part of that!

I see what you're saying about the unsuitability of the activist/normal person dichotomy. Having said that, are you still involved, beyond your publishing and music, with what would be perceived as more political action?

Over the years, I've lent my body to picket lines, knocked on doors, marched down streets, volunteer as a guest host and producer at KPFA radio, that sort of thing.

That all counts. Speaking about forms of community involvement, what's your take on our new president?

He's not my president! Despite 'no taxation without representation,' us foreigners still can't vote! What surprises me about Obama is not how reactionary/business as usual/bail out the banks/increase foreign wars, etc. that he is, but how/why anyone thought he was in any way progressive. I mean, it's not like he claimed he was ever progressive, let alone radical. He promised hope and change. Pretty much what George Bush Jr. promised, and every other politician.

So, same old, same old. Let's go back to PM. Give our readers a sense of what kinds of books you offer. Maybe some of them are thinking, "Anarchist publishers - it's probably all bomb-making instructions and manifestos."

Firstly, it's probably fair - and accurate! - to say that while myself and several of the folks that work at PM and we publish are anarchists (and proud of it), the majority of folks are not. Which is absolutely fine. The labels - and definitions - don't concern me so much as the practice, the work and the results! To that end, we publish a wide variety of books (and CDs and DVDs). Fiction and non-fiction, history and politics, art and culture, music and film. The common thread that unites them all is that a) they're really good b) they're thought-provoking, stimulating, entertaining, and educational and c) they look really good!

I can vouch for that. Anything you'd like to add before we wrap up, Ramsey?

Thanks for the opportunity. And I would, of course, encourage folks to check out PM Press at, and humbly suggest that the Friends Of PM is a rather excellent way to discover a boatload of fantastic new literature. Rock on!

Rock on, indeed! Thanks for talking with me, Ramsey. It's been a pleasure.

To find out more about FRIENDS OF PM

Disaster Capitalism in the Feminist Review

By Brittany Shoot
Feminist Review

Recorded from a lecture in May 2008, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism is an engaging, well-crafted talk by economist-writer-activist Naomi Klein about the problems of increasingly pervasive neoliberal privatization of land and resources on a global scale. Based on the same premise as her most recent book, Klein’s lecture is aimed at people who have not necessarily read The Shock Doctrine—in part, she said, because the book was “hideously overpriced in hardback.” The lecture marked the release of the book in paperback, as well as its availability in Spanish.

In the book and for the purposes of this talk, Klein’s analysis is centered on the idea that widespread privatization of public spaces and services often takes place in the aftermath of large shocks: military coups, economic crises, natural disasters. This pattern has played out repeatedly in Latin America, and most recently, it has been seen in Iraq, New Orleans, and in the wake of the 2004 tsunami that ravaged Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia, among others. Though Burma was already run by a crony capitalist regime before the 2008’s Cyclone Nargis destroyed significant infrastructure and killed tens of thousands of civilians, the disaster accelerated the country’s last major wealth grab. Forty-three private reconstruction contracts were already in place before any relief had been done.

Anecdotally, Klein cites a recent National Science Foundation study that shows that conservatives are generally happier people, better able to rationalize social and economic inequality. Calling the mindset an “elaborate form of self-deception” and a “political sedative after the fact,” she explains that in reality, neoliberal policies treat entire nations and peoples as testing grounds and laboratory subjects. In the wake of large-scale disasters and upheaval, people are often rightfully focused on self-preservation. By the time new constitutions have been put into place, water supplies have been privatized, and public school systems have been turned into privately-funded charter schools, it is often too late to debate—let alone reverse—such massive systemic changes.

What is crucial to remember is that none of these events are inevitable. Indeed, they are being resisted, often most effectively by indigenous groups. While certainly not simple problems with easy solutions, Klein believes there are two ways to respond. We can develop policies and technologies that change our way of life; or, as is increasingly and frighteningly common, we can devise policies and technologies that can be used to protect and shield ourselves from those we have enraged and displaced.

If you don’t live in an urban area likely to be visited by a luminary like Klein, this skillfully produced lecture is an excellent way to supplement the experience of an in-person lecture. A portion of DVD proceeds go to War On Want.

Buy DVD now | Back to Naomi Klein's Page

Humanity, Glorious and Vile

By Carlo Wolff
The Boston Globe
January 3, 2010

The origins of life, humans bent on logic, political strife, the little disturbances that make us itch, and family dysfunction preoccupy the best recent graphic novels. Despite great differences in style and attitude, all delight in presenting fresh ways of seeing the world.


Peter Kuper, his wife, and his daughter arrived in Oaxaca, one of the poorest states of Mexico, for a year’s stay in July 2006, just when a teachers’ strike got nasty. His diary of that sojourn, and a subsequent brief return, joins drawings, watercolor, even photography at times, to insights about how we process information. An earthquake in February 2008 passed in 10 seconds, barely disturbing Kuper but making sensationalist, scary headlines. “I’ve come to believe that most news is all sizzle without the quake,’’ he writes. In earlier works like “Stones’’ and “Stop Forgetting to Remember,’’ Kuper’s approach was more cartoonish and ironic, more distanced. Here, a self-styled refugee from the Bush administration, he’s involved and personal; may he craft more such documentaries, further his talent for collage, and nurture his affection for entomology. The book, its text in English and Spanish, is beautiful, a real production: The textured, embossed cover evokes Mexican tiles, giving this “Diario de Oaxaca’’ elegant gravity and permanence.

Buy book now | Download the eBook now | Back to Peter Kuper's Page

Frank, diverse look at raising kids with disabilities

Times Union
Sunday, December 27, 2009

Kathy Bricetti writes of calling the police to her own home as a last resort when her 12-year-old son -- who's almost 6 feet tall and has Asperger's -- has three tantrums in one weekend, each more violent than the last. She's relieved that the officer is "calm and kind to Ben," and simply talks to him about the consequences of his behavior.

Hers is just one voice in the new anthology "My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids with Disabilities," whose contributors are parents who are themselves a little bit apart from the mainstream, whether single, gay, older, disabled or perhaps financially struggling.

One of the anthology's three editors, Jennifer Silverman, (a mom of two kids, one of whom has autism) will be at Book House in Guilderland today for a reading and book signing.

According to Silverman -- who spoke recently by telephone from her home in Queens -- many of the existing books that offer accounts of parents' experiences are aimed at an audience mainly of white, upper middle-class readers from intact nuclear families, without a lot of ethnic diversity, and it can sometimes be difficult for readers who don't fall into those categories to relate. The co-editors of "My Baby Rides the Short Bus" have tried hard to include a much more diverse array of voices than is usually found in print.

Several essayists write with startling honesty about the day they first discovered that their baby would be living with some form of disability. For instance, Andrea McDowell, the mother of a child with dwarfism, writes of her 30-week ultrasound, "My dream of a perfect baby died that day, and nothing would ever bring it back." Sharis Ingram writes, about parenting two kids with special needs, "I didn't sign up for any of this when I got pregnant. I thought I was just having a baby."

Many also describe feeling shock and anger about the brusque, clinical manner of the experts charged with doing the initial diagnosis and evaluation of a child. As Maria June writes, "It was almost as if she was treating Blake like a pathology in and of himself, not as an individual with a complex and unique set of very human needs, the first of which was compassion."

As Silverman explains on the telephone, "The evaluator just turns around and walks out of that house or that clinic and it's over for them, but for us it's just starting."

The quality of the writing is generally good throughout, although a few writers take the easy route and rely on curse words to express their outrage, which may alienate some readers.

One of the book's best essays is "Interpreting the Signs," by Andrea Winninghoff, a hearing mother of a deaf child. She has always been his sign language interpreter, making for a very close relationship: "I am Jonah's mother but sometimes more importantly, I am the language conduit between him and the hearing world."

Winninghoff deftly portrays the dilemma she faces when trying to decide whether to enroll 10-year-old Jonah in the residential program for the deaf, several hours from home, that he desperately wants to attend. Deaf acquaintances are shocked at her resistance to the idea ("I was all but called selfish for keeping him from his culture") while hearing parents are shocked that she would even entertain the idea ("they could never do that to their family").

Loving her son eventually means letting him learn to communicate freely without her as middle-man and facing her fears of becoming unnecessary to him.

Essayist Nina Packebush points out in "And We Survive" that readers love stories in which kids with severe learning disabilities work hard and grow up to become millionaires "despite being unable to spell or read." Readers don't respond as well, she says, to stories "where the underdog remains the underdog and the cute little toddler becomes loud, socially awkward, slightly odd child or teen who will never give friends and family the bragging rights that they feel they deserve."

A common theme is parents learning to focus on what actually makes the child happy. Maria June adopts a baby with special needs and says that at first she grieved for "possibilities of college and marriage as I have scripted them, fearful that because Mitchell has this or that cognitive or neurological challenge, he would miss out on something I deem necessary for a 'good life.'?"

There is a great deal of joy too. One parent after another speaks of loving the child just the way he or she is. McDowell, whose child will probably be 4 feet tall as an adult, writes that she secretly loves her small size and that "I would never trade her for a 'normal' baby or even her made somehow normal."

Buy this book now | Download ebook now | Back to Jennifer Silverman's page | Back to Sarah Talbot page | Back to Yantra Bertelli's page


Four Things You Can Do for Juvenile Justice Reform

Reclaiming Futures

There are rumblings throughout the country about racism right now. People are wondering what the implications of racism are, if it still exists, how much it affects and to what extent. These are the kinds of discussions we should be having as a nation. They are long overdue and the results of such discussions would be a welcome change to the silence and the ability of this country to ignore what is plain and evident. Yet it seems they're slow to begin and could go on for decades before we see any real change.

Now there are some in this country that can afford to wait as the discussion begins; on the other hand, those that are most affected by and involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems do not have the luxury of waiting. We must take action today, at every opportunity in the future, and be prepared to create opportunities on the days when there are none!

We're lucky in that we have the facts that are indisputable to serve as the starting point for this work. Our country has an addiction to incarceration and based on the staggering statistics of that addiction, it's one we can no longer afford. Secondly, the criminal and juvenile justice systems are inundated with the appalling history of racism in the US. The focus of our discussion should be, "What are we going to do about it?"
If we assume we can no longer wait for the leaders in our field and in our communities to spearhead the work, then the answers we seek lie within us. Are you waiting for change to come or are you willing to roll up your sleeves and push for the change? If you were waiting for the right time, I believe we are there.

What can you do? Four things:
1. Educate

  • Yourself
  • Your family
  • Your friends
  • Your community
If we're to confront leadership and power it is incumbent on us to understand the ways in which racism permeates the criminal justice system. Try visiting a few of the following websites and taking a look at those staggering statistics:

Look at a few of these books:

  • "No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System" by David Cole
  • "Race to Incarcerate" by Marc Mauer
  • "The Real Cost of Prisons Comix" by Lois Ahrens
Not up to reading an entire book? Then try a few of these smaller publications:
2. Organize:
Once you have some facts to work with and have a good understanding of the issue of race and the criminal justice system, you need to find other folks like yourself who care about this issue.
Where are those folks?
They're in all the same places that you are. You may not know who they are because we're so used to not talking about these issues. Begin by sharing your own story of involvement with the criminal justice system, and before long you will find others who are like-minded.

3. Get Involved

  • Community decision-making tables
  • Community events
  • Juvenile justice meetings
  • Criminal justice meetings
  • School board meetings
  • County board meetings
Find out what these folks are doing. Attend a meeting or two and familiarize yourself with their agenda and policies. Look for the opportunities that exist in these leadership environments to raise the issue of racism and the intersection of race and criminal and juvenile justice system.
For example, you may attend the school board meetings to find that the schools in your area are suspending and expelling children of color at an alarming rate. You can bring attention to this issue by supplying information and possible solutions. By organizing others, you'll find that your issue becomes more powerful, and as a group you can demand change.
4. Get Connected:

Join the Campaign for Youth Justice's newest campaign, Join the Movement, on our website, or join us on Facebook and Twitter.  You will not only become connected to others that care about our children, but you'll also find tools and guides to help you as you begin to educate and organize others.

We can no longer look to the leaders to make the change our children and communities need: we must realize that we are the leaders, and the work will begin with us!

Buy book now | Download eBook now | Back to Author Page

Read Local

As the broader publishing world flounders, alternative presses are turning to their communities for support.
By Anna Clark
The American Prospect
December 3, 2009

"When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes." So said Desiderius Erasmus, a Dutch priest born less than 20 years after the printing press was invented. This holiday season, publishers might like to see his ilk in bookshops. Traditionally, the book industry depends upon the December gift-giving season to buoy its entire year. Many publishers shape their catalog around the six-week window of intensified shopping that carries particular urgency in the depths of a recession.

But this "make or break" bookselling strategy is one holiday tradition that a handful of innovative publishers are eager to end.

In search of sustainability, some publishers and booksellers are adapting ideas from the food movement. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) -- in which consumers buy a share of a farm's produce yield for the season -- translates to community-supported publishing (CSP), in which readers subscribe to an independent press that in return delivers books to their doorstep every month. "Buy Local" becomes "Buy Indie." And the do-it-yourself momentum behind home gardening parallels the energy behind literary chapbooks, a traditional form that's finding new popularity and legitimacy in the 21st century. More than a marketing strategy, the sustainability shift is carving out a place for diverse ideas -- even in an economic climate where mainstream publishers abhor risk.

South End Press is among those that are crafting alternative models of publishing. The nonprofit, collectively run press has an author list that includes Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, bell hooks, Howard Zinn, Arundhati Roy, and Vandana Shiva. Founded in 1977 in Boston, South End opened a second office in Brooklyn this year to better situate itself financially and as a movement-builder.

The inspiration behind the CSP program is clear. South End's Web site invites potential subscribers to enjoy "a steady crop of books" that feature "all the new varieties and choice heirloom selections free each month." CSP subscriptions start at $20 per month. Members receive a book each month and a 10 percent discount on all further purchases; when no new title is available, members get an item from South End's backlist that is deemed to be timely. During this year's health-care debate, CSP members received Sickness and Wealth: The Corporate Assault on Global Health, a 2004 anthology of essays.

Asha Tall of the South End collective said that the publisher explicitly borrowed from the food movement's CSA model when it developed its community-supported publishing program in 2006. "We were looking for ways to engage more directly with readers," Tall says. At the same time, Tall adds, the CSP program was intended to "relieve the effects of the consolidation of book distribution."

With about a hundred CSP members, South End can count on a certain number of sales up front, allowing it to effectively underwrite its projects. The program brings in money throughout the year from supportive readers, rather than depending on the whims of holiday shoppers. Alex Straaik, an editor at South End and a collective member, says that "with a holiday gift subscription drive and by spreading the word to our new allies in Brooklyn," the publisher intends to significantly grow the program.

South End is looking for people like Soula Pefkaros, a 28-year-old activist in Virginia who is the creator of a documentary photo exhibit about "small ecologically conscious farming and the people building an alternative food paradigm," as she describes it. Pefkaros is willing to apply those beliefs to her reading habits as well -- she spent a year as a member of South End's CSP program and plans to rejoin soon. "I intend to have a CSP again in the future because, first, it makes me feel good and I enjoy their books; and second, I want to keep supporting an organization that plays such a vital role in meaningful social change," Pefkaros says. "I really believe in South End Press and what they're trying to do."

And South End is not alone. PM Press, based in Oakland, California, produces books, pamphlets, videos, and audio materials. Not more than two years old, it shares much of its ideals with South End. "We're a publisher of fine material, with a decidedly leftist, progressive bent," says PM co-founder Ramsey Kanaan, who brings more than 30 years of publishing experience to this new venture. PM calls its CSP initiative Friends of PM, which offers four membership opportunities for people who want to "help impact, amplify, and revitalize the discourse and actions of radical writers, filmmakers, and artists." For $25 a month, Friends of PM get either every published book and pamphlet or every CD and DVD, along with a 50 percent discount on anything else from PM. For $40 a month, members receive all PM releases plus the discount. Friends who contribute $100 a month receive all PM merchandise, free downloads, and the discount. About 60 people are currently members of the young program, though Kanaan admits that "6,000 would be nice."

Kanaan is quick to point out that Friends of PM is a variation on a theme. People used to subscribe to books when titles were serialized and came out in installments. Likewise, listener--sponsored radio has been on the air since 1949. By returning to traditional storytelling models of direct connection, PM Press is both radical and old-fashioned.

"Whether it's sustainable is still an open question," Kanaan said. "Whether any media is sustainable is an open question, which is why media is in crisis. Surviving in this climate is a measure of success."

Lisa Jervis is among those who believe that PM is on the right path. "No one knows what's happening with print publishing in the long term," says Jervis, who published her book, Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating, with PM Press this year. "No one knows what the successful model is, so why not try something? If a measure of success is to get to work on projects that are great and important, then this is a good start."

Both South End and PM host catalogs that cohere around a commitment to radical social change. But for a general publisher -- independent or otherwise -- it remains an open question whether this strategy is workable. If the CSP model depends upon the reader's commitment to the sustainability of the publisher, what happens when the publisher doesn't have nearly so distinct an identity as South End and PM? "I think it's a harder sell for the mainstream press," Tall says. "The idea they push is that they offer a product you want. If it's only a product, that's all you will buy from them."

Kanaan adds that the community-supported model is difficult for traditional publishers due to the inflexibility of corporate culture and to what he calls "the credibility gap." For readers like Soula Pefkaros, this credibility is the key factor. "I trust South End Press. That is, for me, an invaluable piece of my CSP," Pefkaros says. "I felt it was one way I could hold myself accountable to educating myself about things that I feel are important."

To reach readers who don't necessarily want to make such a commitment to a single publisher, the literary world is also seeking sustainability through the Buy Indie movement. Much like the foodie Buy Local campaign, which urges consumers to support local farmers, Buy Indie spotlights the benefits of local booksellers over chain or online stores. The movement emphasizes how community support leads to thriving local economies.

"Spend $100 at a local [bookstore], and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43," touts the Web site of IndieBound, an association founded by independent booksellers in 2008. Though it has expanded its focus to include other community-oriented and independent businesses, IndieBound retains a bookish emphasis. Its Web site features reading-group guides, book wish lists, and profiles of local bookshops. Visitors are invited to explore Indie Bestsellers -- drawn from weekly reports by independent booksellers across America -- and the Indie Next List of recommended titles.

" is booming with users," says Paige Poe, the IndieBound outreach liaison for the American Booksellers Association. She added that the IndieBound application for iPhones is especially popular, along with the affiliate program, which rewards bloggers and reviewers who link to books on indie bookstores' Web sites.

In that same vein, a collaborative blog titled quite directly "Buy Books for the Holidays" advocates for shopping at independent stores. "What's at stake is the wealth and diversity of book culture," wrote author Joshua Henkin in a blog post about the Buy Indie campaign during the last holiday season. "I would especially encourage you to buy books from independent bookstores, which are in the most serious trouble and which promote books that go beyond the usual bestsellers and where the employees really know about books."

"Independent booksellers are the unsung heroes in what are very difficult times," Henkin adds.

Indeed, the Buy Indie movement seems to be gaining traction. In last year's holiday shopping season, independent stores outperformed their chain counterparts, according to a 2009 survey from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Stores located in cities with robust Shop Local and Buy Indie campaigns performed best of all. "The success of the local food movement, and the success of independent businesses during the last holiday season, makes us fairly confident that the interest in local will spread to and sustain local, independent retailers," Poe says.

Just as the food movement is looking back several decades to a time when we ate more sustainably, the publishing world is finding a renewed interest in chapbooks, small volumes of fiction or poetry, often handcrafted and artfully designed, which are available in limited distribution. The chapbook has a storied history -- it was the chosen medium for literary classics like T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" and the first edition of Allen Ginsburg's "Howl." Now a new generation of writers is embracing the uncommon hands-on creativity that it offers. Last April the City University of New York hosted an inaugural three-day festival called A Celebration of the Chapbook. Meanwhile, there are dozens of prizes that acknowledge the high-quality work being published in chapbooks, awarded by organizations as varied as the Black Lawrence Press, the Alabama State Poetry Society, and the Center for Book Arts.

"With the culture of the low budget and the homegrown becoming ever more appealing in our difficult economic times, and established outlets for literature seemingly diminishing, chapbook publishing, with its do-it-yourself spirit, is on the rise," writes Kimiko Hahn in the September/October issue of Poets & Writers magazine.

More than a movement of "independence" from corporate publishers and booksellers, this is a movement of interdependence. You might say that these choices -- whether they take the enthusiast to homemade chapbooks, indie booksellers, or community--supported publishers -- are nourishing a diverse literary ecosystem in which readers recognize their stake in a vibrant culture. After all, we are at a moment of unprecedented corporate-media consolidation; particularly in a recession, there is little room for writers with unconventional or "controversial" ideas in the mainstream press. And yet alternative ideas remain a potent force. As Kanaan points out, "There's a reason there were book burnings. There's a reason books continue to be banned around the U.S. and the world, and why Internet access is restricted in China. Ideas are powerful."

More about becoming a Friend of PM

In Self Defense

Quirky Culture
The Q Note

The goal is non-violence.  But if you have to fight, author Mickey Z. thinks you might as well be prepared. Discover his tactics in Self-Defense for Radicals

A little over two weeks ago, when Obama matter-of-factly announced he was sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, many hearts fell - not just because an eight-year war doesn’t show any signs of stopping, but because the President’s decision somehow seemed contradictory to his message of positive change. It’s fitting, then, that Astoria’s own beloved government cynic, author and activist Mickey Z., has a new, stimulating read, Self Defense for Radicals: A-Z Guide for Subversive Struggle, set to debut tomorrow from PM Press.

With the keen eye of a historian, Mickey’s sharp, humorous words expose oft-perceived truths as false. Since 2004, long before it was de rigueur for a writer to pen a blog, he launched the Cool, analyzing current events and attracting a loyal group of readers dubbed “The Expendables.”  Over the decade he’s also managed to publish 10 insightful tomes, from The Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda and No Innocent Bystanders: Riding Shotgun in the Land of Denial.

“I’ve always been an outsider who is capable of looking like an insider. I just never trusted the mainstream flow of things,” he says.

In SDR, his newest work – an amusing, alphabetized, 40-page pamphlet - which is sprinkled with cartoons and words of advice from unlikely heroes such as Patrick Swayze’s Dalton in Roadhouse, Mickey continues to inspire change by combining his lifelong passions for writing and martial arts.  He encourages readers to defend their visions - even if it means resorting to a good, old-fashioned head butt.

“As I learned more and more about our destructive culture, and watched how most humans are seemingly unwilling to put up a fight to create change, SDR became more urgent,” he explains. “We just watched tens of millions of people craving ‘hope’ get hoodwinked into trusting yet another corporate politician.  SDR is my little gesture toward suggesting that the concept of creating change by using the system is a fantasy.”

He may expose you to new ways of thinking, but Mickey Z. is not your everyday fire-breathing radical full of conspiracy theories.  At the end of the day, he’s just a “blue collar guy from Queens.”   Growing up two miles away from his current digs with wife Michele, Mickey describes Astoria as an old-time New York neighborhood that is “walkable, friendly, and diverse. When I get off the train from Manhattan I let out a sigh of relief. I can see the sky, the streets are less crowded, and everywhere I look, I see a familiar face.”

Buy this pamphlet now | Download eBook now | Back to Author Page



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