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Tofu Hound Imprint

logoTogether with Bob and Jenna Torres, authors of Vegan Freak, we present Tofu Hound! The imprint develops innovate books on veganism and animal rights that promote an inspiring, new vision of social justice that includes animals.

We are a publisher with a commitment to publishing quality books on veganism, vegetarian cooking, animal rights, and related issues. We're small, but we have a lot of heart, and we work hard to bring valuable, vital, entertaining, and useful titles to market.

1. Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World, 2nd Edition —Bob and Jenna Torres
2. Generation V: The Complete Guide to Going, Being, and Staying Vegan as a Teenager — Claire Askew
3. New American Vegan — Vincent J. Guihan
4. Alternative Vegan: International Vegan Fare Straight from the Produce Aisle — Dino Sarma Weierman
5. Cook, Eat, Thrive: Vegan Recipes from Everyday to the Exotic — Joy Tienzo






Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World, 2nd Edition
Authors: Bob and Jenna Torres
Publisher: PM Press/Tofu Hound Press
Published: Dec. 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60486-015-3
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 248
Dimensions: 8.5 by 5.5
Subjects: Vegetarianism, Activism

Going vegan is easy, and even easier if you have the tools at hand to make it work right. In the second edition of this informative and practical guide, two seasoned vegans help you learn to love your inner vegan freak. Loaded with tips, advice, and stories, this book is the key to helping you thrive as a happy, healthy, and sane vegan in a decidedly non-vegan world that doesn't always get what you're about.

In this sometimes funny, sometimes irreverent, and sometimes serious guide that's not afraid to tell it like it is, you will:

* find out how to go vegan in three weeks or less with our "cold tofu method"

*discover and understand the arguments for ethical, abolitionist veganism

* learn how to convince family, friends, and others that you haven't joined a vegetable cult by going vegan

*get some advice on dealing with people in your life without creating havoc or hurt feelings

* learn to survive restaurants, grocery stores, and meals with omnivores

*find advice on how to respond when people ask you if you "like, live on apples and twigs."

In a revised and rewritten second edition, Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World is your guide to embracing vegan freakdom. Come on, get your freak on!


"Going vegan is the single most important thing you can do to live nonviolence and the abolition of animal exploitation in your everyday life. In this down-to-earth and entertaining guide, Bob and Jenna Torres not only convince you that you have to go vegan today, they also give you what you need to live as a healthy and happy vegan for the rest of your life." -- Gary L. Francione, Distinguished Professor of Law, Rutgers University

"Vegan Freak is a witty, helpful, wall to wall look at going vegan. A must read for anyone who's felt like the only vegan-freak in the room." --Sarah Kramer, author of How It All Vegan

About the Authors:

A recovering academic, Bob Torres holds a PhD. in Development Sociology from Cornell University. Author of Making A Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights (AK Press, 2007), Bob's writings have also appeared in Critical Sociology, the Journal of Latinos and Education, International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, and Satya magazine. Co-host of Vegan Freak Radio, Bob has been quoted extensively in media pieces on veganism and animal rights. He maintains a web presence at

Jenna Torres has a BA in Spanish and a BS in Plant Science from Penn State University, and received her PhD. from Cornell University in Spanish linguistics. She currently works at a small liberal arts university in upstate New York.  She is the co-host of Vegan Freak Radio, a podcast about life as a vegan in a very non-vegan world.  She has also been on Animal Voices Radio (CUIT Toronto) and been quoted in Newsweek, Metro newspaper, Veg News, and the book Vegetarians and Vegans in the World Today.  In her spare time, she enjoys running, hiking, playing video games, and spending quality time with Bob and with her dogs and cat.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Bob and Jenna Torres's Page


Generation V: The Complete Guide to Going, Being, and Staying Vegan as a Teenager
Author: Claire Askew
Publisher: PM Press/Tofu Hound
ISBN: 978-1-60486-338-3
Published: May 2011
Format: PDF, ePUB, Mobi
Page Count: 160
Size: 8.5 by 5.5
Subjects: Food-Vegetarianism, Philosophy-Ethics

Going vegan is the single most important thing you can do if you want to get serious about animal rights. Yet, going vegan isn't always easy when you're young. You're living under your parents' roof, you probably don't buy your own groceries, and your friends, family, and teachers might look at you like you're nuts. So, how do you do it?

In this essential guide for the curious, aspiring, and current teenage vegan, Claire Askew draws on her years of experience as a teenage vegan and provides the tools for going vegan and staying vegan as a teen. Full of advice, stories, tips, and resources, Claire covers topics like: how to go vegan and stay sane; how to tell your parents so they don't freak out; how to deal with friends who don't get it; how to eat and stay healthy as a vegan; how to get out of dissection assignments in school; and tons more. Whether you're a teenager who is thinking about going vegan or already vegan, this is the ultimate resource, written by someone like you, for you.


“An essential guide that covers all bases…this first effort is a welcome surprise”

“A book that is genuine and heartfelt while also being funny, personal, and theoretically rigorous
--Bob Torres in the Vegetarian Journal

“This book is motivational, inspiring, resourceful and practical.”

About the Author:

Claire Askew was born in 1990 and went vegan a few days after her fifteenth birthday. After growing up in the Midwest, she is currently studying English and gender at a small liberal arts college in Portland, OR. She has been featured in VegNews magazine, the Vegetarian Journal, the Kansas City Star, and several podcasts, as well as the 2009 edition of Fiske Real College Essays That Work. She plans on spending the rest of her life writing, and this is her first book.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Claire Askew's Page

New American Vegan
Author: Vincent Guihan
Publisher: PM Press / Tofu Hound Press
Published: October 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60486-079-5
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 240
Dimensions: 10 by 7
Subjects: Vegan Cookbook

All across North America, people are looking to make better choices, but also eat healthier, more environmentally friendly and, most of all, great tasting food. New American Vegan breaks from a steady stream of cookbooks inspired by fusion and California cuisines that put catchy titles and esoteric ingredients first in their efforts to cater to a cosmopolitan taste. Instead, Vincent goes back to his Midwestern roots to play a humble but important role in the reinvention of American cuisine while bringing the table back to the center of American life.

Weaving together small town values, personal stories and 120 great recipes, New American Vegan delivers authentically American food that simply has to be tasted to be believed. Recipes range from very basic to the modestly complicated, but always with an eye on creating something that is both beautiful and delicious while keeping it simple. Clear instructions provide step by steps, but also help new cooks find their feet in the kitchen, with a whole chapter devoted just to terms, tools and techniques. With an eye towards improvisation, the book provides a detailed basic recipe that’s good as-is, but also provides additional notes that explain how to take each recipe further, to increase flavor, to add drama to the presentation or just how to add a little extra flourish for new cooks and seasoned kitchen veterans.


“Guihan has a knack for infusing bold and fiery seasonings into fresh produce and vegan pantry staples--creating inventive, novel recipes that will inspire and excite the vegan home cook.” --Dreena Burton, author of Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan

“Vincent shows people that being a gourmand can happen in 30 minutes, and at all skill levels. This book will have you running to your kitchen to try things out.” --Dino Sarma, author of Alternative Vegan: International Vegan Fare Straight from the Produce Aisle

About the Author:

Vincent has been a vegan for more than a decade, and was a lacto-ovo vegetarian for a decade prior to becoming vegan. He grew up in a in a very small Midwestern town (Warterman, IL), where his back yard was the neighbor’s cornfield.  His parents cooked only sporadically, even though the nearest fast-food restaurants were a 20-minute car ride away and this cookbook is his revenge. Raised on TV dinners, burgers, pizza and spaghetti, he spent much of his young adulthood nestled between the delicatessens, greasy spoons and taquerias of Chicago’s southwest side, which helped to build his palate. Today, he lives in Ottawa, Canada, a city renowned (at least in Canada!) for its cosmopolitan snugness in spite of its size where he gorges himself on the cornucopia of foods from all over the globe, many of which he can’t even pronounce.  He has been blogging about vegan cooking and gourmet topics since 2006. And although not a formally trained chef, he’s a formally trained and highly skilled eater.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Vincent J. Guihan's Page  


Alternative Vegan: International Vegan Fare Straight from the Produce Aisle
Author: Dino Sarma Weierman
Publisher: PM Press/Tofu Hound Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-508-0
Published: Dec 2011
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 160 Pages
Size: 10 by 7
Subjects: Cookbook, Vegan

“I want you to look at the recipes presented here and be as excited as a kid with a new toy. I want your heart to race, your mouth to water, and your pots and pans to sing to you as they bring together the elements of a good dining experience....” –From the Introduction

Tofu, seitan, tempeh, tofu, seitan, tempeh.... it seems like so many vegans rely on these products as meat substitutes. Isn’t it time to break out of the mold? Taking a fresh, bold, and alternative approach to vegan cooking without the substitutes, this cookbook showcases more than 100 fully vegan recipes, many of which have South Asian influences. With a jazz-style approach to cooking, it also discusses how to improvise cooking with simple ingredients and how to stock a kitchen to prepare simple and delicious vegan meals quickly. The recipes for mouth-watering dishes include one-pot meals--such as South-Indian Uppama and Chipotle Garlic Risotto along with Pakoras, Flautas, Bajji, Kashmiri Biriyani, Hummus Canapes, and No-Cheese Pizza. With new, improved recipes this updated edition also shows how to cook simply to let the flavor of fresh ingredients shine through.

Explore your inner chef and get cooking with Dino!


“This is vegan new school, which is really vegan old school, which draws on traditions that pre-date any of us. Cooking can be empowering, no doubt about it.”
--Lauren Corman, host of Animal Voices on CIUT in Toronto.

About the Author:

Dino Sarma Weierman was born in New Delhi, India, and immigrated to the USA with his family in 1986. From childhood, cooking has been a passion for him. He draws his influences from his mother and the many hours of food shows on television that he watched. Dino also writes and podcasts about food at

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Dino Sarma Weierman's Page


Cook, Eat, Thrive: Vegan Recipes from Everyday to Exotic
Author: Joy Tienzo
Publisher: PM Press / Tofu Hound Press
Published March 2012
ISBN: 978-1-60486-509-7
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 256
Dimensions: 10 by 7
Subjects: Vegan Cookbook

Whether we find ourselves living large or small, everyday or exotic, there are countless opportunities to come to the table. --From the introduction

In Cook, Eat, Thrive, Joy Tienzo encourages you to savor the cooking process while crafting distinctive meals from fresh, flavorful ingredients. Enjoy comfortable favorites. Broaden your culinary horizons with internationally-inspired dishes. Share with friends and family, and create cuisine that allows people, animals, and the environment to fully thrive.

Cook, Eat, Thrive features dishes from both the everyday and the exotic, including:
• Buttermilk Biscuits with Southern Style Gravy
• Earl Grey Carrot Muffins
• Orange Cream Green Smoothie
• Palm Heart Ceviche
• Barbecue Ranch Salad
• Riz et Pois Rouges
• Raspberry Chévre Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette
• Samosa Soup
• Tarte aux Poireaux et Pommes de Terre
• Mofongo with Cilantro Lime Gremolata
• Ras el Hanout Roasted Beets
• Italian Cornmeal Cake with Roasted Apricots and Coriander Crème Anglaise
• Lavender Rice Pudding Brulee with Blueberries
• Peanut Butter Shortbread with Concord Grape Sorbet

Inside, you’ll also find:
• An extensive equipment and ingredients listing
• Basics like seitan, non-dairy milks, grains, frozen desserts, and salad dressing
• Menus for occasions, from Caribbean-inspired garden parties to vegan weddings
• Practical symbols to let you know if recipes are raw, low fat, soy-free, wheat-free, approachable for non-vegans, and quick fix


Cook, Eat, Thrive gives vegans the option of choosing exotic and extraordinary recipes for special dinner preparations, or simpler, yet imaginative creations for day to day meal planning.  Whether you're looking for everyday vegan fare, or exquisite vegan dining, Tienzo serves it up with culinary flair!” --Dreena Burton, author of Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan

“Every time I look at glossy food photography, I think of Joy's cookbook, and how she's already managed a stellar vegan version of it. Veganism discovers its abundance in here.” --Dino Sarma Weierman, author of Alternative Vegan: International Vegan Fare Straight from the Produce Aisle

About the Author:

Joy Tienzo loves food, and writing about food. Whether working as a pastry cook, hosting community brunches, or crafting wedding cakes, her purpose in life is to feed as many people as well as possible. When not in the kitchen, Joy can be found on a plane, a yoga mat, or volunteering for refugee and human rights causes. She lives in Denver with her husband and daughter, and can be found online at

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Joy Tienzo's Page

A Sharp Elbow to Power's Jutting Jaw

By Mark Hand
Press Action

Mickey Z.’s Self-Defense for Radicals is more than a metaphor for resisting the oppression of governments and corporations. It’s literally a manual for helping you defend yourself when attacked by a mugger, political adversary, bully or anyone intending to commit physical violence against you.

Whether you should use the advice offered by Mickey depends on the situation, of course. If you’re walking down a city street and you’re confronted by a mugger armed with a gun, you may want to think twice about attempting to fend off the attacker by biting him or head-butting him — two self-defense techniques described by Mickey in the book.

However, let’s say you’re walking down the same city street and you’re grabbed from behind, but there’s no hint the attacker is armed. If you’re able to free your arms, why not follow Mickey’s advice and “deliver a sharp elbow to power’s jutting jaw.” Or try to use your elbows as a weapon by aiming them at your attacker’s eyes or groin. Just to be safe, Mickey suggests that if your first elbow lands cleanly, follow it up with several more strikes against your attacker.

Mickey is a martial artist, kickboxer and personal trainer. His decades of training in the martial arts — and his focus on combining a calm mind with a keen understanding of the body and the physics of action — have served as the foundation for his views on violence and how it should be avoided in most cases. However, as Mickey writes:

“Learning how to fight and/or defend yourself is not the same as promoting belligerent, anti-social behavior. We live in an exceedingly violent society. … While talk of non-violence is understandable and the struggle for peace has never been more essential, let’s face it: the odds are, that sooner or later you’re going to end up in a confrontation that may escalate into physical violence. So, why not be prepared?”

Mickey’s years of experience as a martial artist and personal trainer qualify him to write about self-defense. But he also says you shouldn’t worry about qualifications when wondering how to fight back. “You don’t need credentials to kick an oppressor’s ass,” he says.

Self-Defense for Radicals, published by PM Press, contains fewer than 40 pages. But as Derrick Jensen says in a blurb on the back cover: “This small book packs a powerful punch.” And Richard Cole’s cartoons, scattered throughout the book, provide a potent complement to Mickey’s self-defense instructions.

Following in the tradition of his other “list” books — The Seven Deadly Spins and 50 American Revolutions You’re Not Supposed to Know — Mickey’s Self-Defense for Radicals serves as an easy-to-use alphabetical manual for protecting yourself. The book’s target audience is women. In the “S” chapter, Mickey offers some statistics on the level of violence against women in the United States, much of which is committed not by a stranger, but by a husband or a boyfriend. For example, 232,960 women in the United States were raped or sexually assaulted in 2006. That’s more than 600 women every day. Also, 14% of all American women acknowledge having been violently abused by a husband or boyfriend.

Mickey also quotes Martha McCaughey, author of Real Knockouts, who explains that women who take self-defense instruction are offered a critique of the ways in which gender is constructed in a culture of male privilege that rests on the abuse of women. McCaughey continues:

“What is usually taken for granted as a fact of nature — that a woman simply cannot physically challenge a man — is revealed as a social script which privileges men at the expense of women. … Self-defense offers the possibility of a critical consciousness of gender’s influence on what we see as male and female bodies.”

While the book is tailored as a self-defense guide for women, most of the tips and lessons also can help men fend off an attacker. Eye gouges and groin punches can be just as effective when used by a man.

You may wonder why the book is titled Self-Defense for RADICALS. It’s because Mickey’s goal is to instill confidence in the minds of those people — feminists, environmentalists, activists for animal rights, human rights, civil rights and all rebels and dissidents — who are “putting their asses on the line” for fundamental change in our society. In defining “radical,” Mickey gets an assist from Angela Davis, who he quotes early in the book: “Radical simply means grasping things at the root.”

Along with his instructional guidance, Mickey’s message is motivational. In a world where oppressors have been operating scot-free for so long, Mickey offers an uncomplicated rallying cry: “It’s time to not be nice.”

Buy this pamphlet now | Download eBook now | Back to Mickey Z's Page

Interview with Martin Bull


1. How do you keep up-to-date with the new Banksy artwork going up around London?
Because of the internet (in particular) and digital cameras/camera phones it's now so much easier. New street work by Banksy (or possibly by him) gets photographed and spread around the world very quickly now. I keep in touch with several internet sources, especially the Banksy group on flickr, which I now hep to run. I also sometimes get told of new work by my friends, and have also been fortunate enough to be the first to 'discover' and spread the news about a few new ones myself, such as the 'Maid' and the 'Old St Cherub' (both in Hoxton, London).
2. You said you have had weird experiences discovering the artwork. Please explain?
It's not that weird I guess, but it seems strange how I decide to go down a particular street that I have not been down for ages (or never been down), or to visit a certain area for no obvious reason, and then I find something I've not seen before (and sometimes a piece that very few people have ever seen before). Or something might take me away from my original plan (e.g. a bus diversion, traffic problem, or talking to a random stranger) and it's at that point I find something. Maybe it's just the law of averages (I do wander a lot, and maybe I block out all the times I haven't found things!), but it does seem to me as if I find more than can be expected this way, and somehow I find things I never expected.
3. What can people expect to experience on the tour? And what about London, apart from Banksy art?
I don't actually run the tours anymore (I did 4 in 2006, but after then there were hardly enough to see, and I had moved away from London), but people can still use the book (and the free 'status updates' on my website) to do their own DIY tour if they want. It might have to be a shorter tour now though, or they might need to lower their expectations compared to how many used to exist. But doing your own tour means you can do whatever you want. It's perfect freedom, and more challenging in some ways.
London is apparently an ‘exciting’ city but I found that unless you could use its opportunities you might as well live elsewhere. I prefer the countryside really, although I do love the graffiti and the hustle and bustle and multi-culturalism of many parts of the city. It’s full of graffiti, especially in East London, and there are some great places on the outskirts, in places you might not expect to be fruitful, such as Feltham, Hanworth and Twickenham in West London. My favourite alternative graff area is Hackney Wick; an oasis of calm in an otherwise bustling Hackney / East London, and loads of good graff. The Olympic village will probably seriously change this area soon though.
4. With artwork disappearing and new pieces turning up, is it fair to say no tour is ever the same?
Two of the tours I only did once each, but the Hoxton/Shoreditch tour I did twice, and yes, they were different. Sometimes things literally change overnight, even though you might have walked some of the route the day before. When I return to London I still often wander around that area in particular, because it changes all the time; that's the nature of graffiti and it's not a real problem, although it does sometimes seem strange to see something really good or very old that suddenly disappears, especially if it's been gone over by something weak, or by the graffiti cleaning squads.
5. What feedback have you had about the tours?
I had good feedback about the tours, and people who came left pretty happy I think (probably helped by the tours being free, and me giving away a free hand printed B&W photo of mine, plus some rare stickers or postcards kindly donated by Pictures On Walls!). A few armchair critics came out of the woodwork though to criticise what i did, with comments such as 'a tour is a weird idea' (expletive removed!), or that a tour spoils the 'serendipity' of finding graffiti (I had to look 'serendipity' up in the dictionary). It's strange that everyone these days seems to have an opinion about everything in life (usually negative; and usually from people who never get off their sofas to try to do anything themselves). I think people who have opinions should be shot. That's just my opinion though J
6. Is it strictly a walking tour, or do you catch the tube?
The tours in the book are deliberately walking tours, and you don’t need to use any other transport. They could also be done by people with baby buggies or using a wheelchair, as any steps can be avoided. With more and more of the locations now gone there is more distance between the remaining locations, but you could still do the tours if you wanted, or you could just make your own DIY tour. The tours and the book were made as a bit of an accidental DIY effort, so I encourage people to take from them whatever they want. Have a nice few hours wandering around, chill out, talk to strangers, buy a copy of the Big Issue, and have a good time.

Buy Banksy Location and Tours Volume 1 now | Download Banksy Location and Tours Volume 1 eBook now | Back to Martin Bull's Page | Back to Banksy's Page

Check Out Banksy's Location and Tours Volume 2

Check Out This Is Not a Photo Opportunity: The Street Art of Banksy

Civil Conversations

By Harry Thorne
The Indypendent
November 17, 2008

Derrick Jensen’s 2006 epic Endgame was a rambling but provocative dissection of the environmental and political ills of civilization. Surveying the damage wrought by civilization, from dammed rivers to genocide, Jensen presented his solution: in order to save the planet, committed activists should work to bring down civilization in its entirety by “any means necessary.”

Many readers who consider themselves politically radical may find Jensen’s conclusion both dangerous and preposterous, yet Jensen has an avid army of fans who pack auditoriums to hear him speak and a popular but closely guarded internet forum.

However, even these fans may find themselves slightly disappointed by Jensen’s latest book, How Shall I Live My Life?: On Liberating the Earth from Civilization, which consists of previously published interviews conducted by Jensen between 1999 and 2001. The time lag between the interviews and the book’s publication can make the collection seem out of date. In an interview with the anti-car activist Jan Lundberg, much time is devoted to the topic of peak oil, yet we learn nothing new about our current energy crisis and oil prices that have oscillated wildly in the last few months.

But despite the lag, there are ideas of lasting value in How Shall I Live My Life, even for those who reject Jensen’s all-or-nothing approach to civilization. The book presents an appealing diversity of voices, each articulating a different vision of environmental activism. The interviewees include Thomas Berry, an environmental activist and Catholic monk; Jesse Wolf Hardin, the founder of the radical group Earth First!; Vine Deloria, the late American-Indian activist and writer; and Carolyn Raffensperger, a lawyer who campaigns against corporate abuse of public safety.

One of the most engaging interviews is with Kathleen Dean Moore, a philosopher based at Oregon State University. Moore passionately argues against mechanical and abstract thinking in favor of a deeper connection with place. “What I am recommending,” she says, “is a way of life that is rich with noticing. Caring. Remembering. Embracing. Rejoicing in … the smell of a child’s hair, or the color of storm light.” This and other interviews serve as useful introductions to the work of less-known environmental thinkers.

This book may also appeal to readers who are put off by the hubris of the anti-civilization movement, of which Jensen is a leading figure. Jensen’s Endgame may be a radical manifesto, but its vision of small groups of committed foot-soldiers working to bring about a natural utopia is also strangely old-fashioned. Endgame’s emphasis on revolution and vanguards seems out of touch with the democratic spirit of recent anti-capitalist and environmental activism. The diversity of How Shall I Live My Life, on the other hand, seems more in tune with this activism. Despite a subtitle of Liberating Earth from Civilization, most of the interviewees do not seem interested in a tactically impossible struggle against a supposedly monolithic civilization. Instead, they promote diverse paths toward a deep connection to place and nature — a connection that could lay the basis for significant social transformation.

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Derrick Jensen's Author Page

P2P Foundation Review of For All the People

Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America 
By Kevin Carson
P2P Foundation

Curl’s history of cooperative and communal movements in America is set against the backdrop of one overpowering trend:  the transition from an almost completely self-employed work force at the time of Independence, to a present-day labor market in which self-employed workers are almost as much of an anomaly as free blacks ca. 1850.  Two hundred years ago, wage labor was viewed as a form of bondage, something submitted to only when absolutely unavoidable.  The majority of wage laborers were apprentices and journeymen, who viewed their status as a temporary stage on the way to the normal status of self-employment.

In the course of his history, Curl stands on its head a great deal of the pious “received account” most of us learned in the public schools’ American history classes.

Most of us are probably at least vaguely familiar with Bradford’s account of Plymouth Plantation, for example.  But from Curl’s version, unless you’re really good at reading between the lines, you’d never get any idea of the role that either class struggle, or the designs of a corporation called the Merchant Adventurers, played in the story.  The Mayflower Compact, as it has been passed down to us from Bradford via the Received Account, was the inspiring first example of American self-government through a written charter.  What’s left out of this edifying account, as Curl points out, is that most of the emigrants to Plymouth were indentured servants; signing onto  a Compact en route to America, which declared the signatories free and equal, amounted to a servile insurrection.  The free workers sided with the indentured servants, and the masters—presented with a fait accompli—signed the Compact in the face of necessity ( p. 21).

We also get, from the second-hand version of Bradford’s account adopted by American political culture,  a patronizing narrative in which those idealistic Puritans at first attempted to “have all things in common” (just like the primitive church in the Book of Acts!), but then abandoned their primitive communism in the face of reality (and starvation) by farming their own family plots individually.  What you might not guess from Bradford’s account is that this edifying tale of misguided idealism was actually the story of a peasants’ revolt against the manorial authority of the Merchant Adventurers.  What actually happened was that, in the original articles of incorporation, the colonists were permitted to work two days a week on their own family plots, and the other four days would work on the Corporation’s land as its employees.  The Merchant Adventurers soon changed these terms, fearing that the colonists would devote most of their effort to their own plots and do as little as they could get away with on company land.  Instead, the colonists were to work six days a week for the Merchant Adventurers, and be provisioned by the company.  To the colonists, most of them peasants from the open fields of Nottinghamshire, this amounted to reducing them to serfdom.  Their decision to work the land for themselves was the kind of land reform that would have gotten them slaughtered by CIA-backed death squads, if they’d done it today.  In other words the story, rather than being a simple morality play that foreshadowed the 20th century revolt against Soviet collectivism, was more a reflection of the peasantry’s relations with the landed classes in the old country.  The Plymouth colonists were, for all intents and purposes, tearing down an Enclosure—more like the Diggers on St. George’s Hill than kulaks (pp. 20-21).

There’s a great deal of interesting information in Curl’s book, like his account of the vibrant American working class movement from the turn of the 20th century to WWI and its liquidation under A. Mitchell Palmer, or attempts at self-organized alternatives to capitalism (like the Unemployed Exchange Organization) during the Great Depression.  The countereconomic networks of consumer cooperatives, alternative newspapers, rural communes, free schools, and the like that arose in the 1960s and 1970s are also fascinating.

But my main focus is on Curl’s book at it relates to matters of interest to the P2P and Open Manufacturing communities.  The most important generalization I derived from the book is the importance of capital outlay requirements in determining the viability of self-employment and cooperative employment.

The first major wave of worker cooperatives was under the auspices of the National Trades’ Union in the 1830s (p.4).  Like the Owenite trade union cooperatives in Britain, they were mostly undertaken in craft employments for which the basic tools of the trade were relatively inexpensive.

From the beginning, worker cooperatives were a frequent resort of striking workers.  In 1768 twenty striking journeyman tailors in New York, the first striking wage-workers in American history,  set up their own cooperative shop.  Journeyman carpenters striking for a ten-hour day in Philadelphia, in 1761, formed a cooperative (with the ten-hour day they sought) and undercut their master’s price by 25%; they disbanded the cooperative when they went back to work.  The same was done by shoemakers in Baltimore, 1794, and Philadelphia, 1806 (p. 33).

This was a common pattern in early American labor history, and the organization of cooperatives moved from being purely a strike tactic to providing an alternative to wage labor (p. 34). It was feasible because most forms of production were done by groups of artisan laborers using hand tools.  By the 1840s, the rise of factory production with expensive machinery had largely put an end to this possibility.  As the prerequisites of production became increasingly unafforable, the majority of the population was relegated to wage labor with machinery owned by someone else (pp. 35, 47).

The corporate transformation of the economy was a revolution imposed from above.   A high-volume, centralized railroad network was key to the creation of a national corporate manufacturing economy—and in this the state played an indispensable role.  This included the land grants, which included not only rights of way, but also enormous swaths of land (amounting to “a full half of all the Western lands,” all told) on either side whose appreciating value was intended to serve as a source of capital.  But it didn’t even stop there.  The railroads also used their political muscle to secure the direct appropriation of capital from the taxpayers.  And on top of that, once in operation they used their rate-setting power to promote the concentration of industry, simultaneously gouging small farmers and urban consumers, while giving volume rebates to large manufacturers (p. 78).

An alliance of industrial plutocrats and southern landed oligarchs seized political power in the Compromise of 1877 (otherwise known as the Great Betrayal).  In return for ending military reconstruction in the South, and handing power in the region back to the prewar planter class, the corporate oligarchy secured southern backing for its power grab at the national level.  The southern states switched enough electoral votes to the Hayes ticket to overturn a decisive Democratic majority (pp. 86-87).

The top-down imposition of the factory system, the seizure of national power by Gilded Age plutocrats, and the resistance to it by workers and farmers, amounted for all intents and purposes to a civil war.

The corporatization of the American society provoked an all-out resistance by artisan laborers, factory workers, and small farmers—together called the “Great Upheaval” by Curl.  The first and largest wave of the Great Upheaval was associated with the Grange and the Knights of Labor.  The Greenback-Labor Party elected fifteen congressmen in 1878, and supported legislation at the state level regulating the freight rates charged by the state-created and state-subsidized railroads.

The railroad barons and bankers, fighting a ruthless counter-revolution, refused credit or shipping to Grange enterprises (p. 79).  They viewed the Knights of Labor and its network of cooperatives as a serious threat to the whole capitalist system (p. 93).

The Knights won their biggest victory in the Union Pacific Railroad strike of 1885, forcing Jay Gould to recognize the union and arbitrate all labor disputes.  The ensuing influx of new members swelled Knights of Labor ranks to nearly a million in 1886 (p. 102).

The two most dramatic confrontations of the Great Upheaval, the railroad strike of 1877 and the eight-hour day movement, were defeated by decisive state action.  The railroad strike, which turned into a nationwide general strike, was broken (“to prevent national insurrection”) by Hayes’ troops (p. 87).  The eight-hour day movement, which rose to a crescendo in nationwide general strike of 1886, culminated in the post-Haymarket repression.  That reaction, comparable to the Red Scare under Woodrow Wilson, saw the near-total liquidation of the labor movement and full-scale war against the Knights of Labor cooperatives.  Railroads refused to carry cooperatives’ products, manufacturers refused to sell them machinery, wholesalers refused them raw materials, and banks refused credit.  The local community support on which the Knights depended was undermined by a press campaign against labor radicalism and “anarchism,” much like the Red-baiting hysteria under A. Mitchell Palmer thirty years later (pp. 106-107).

Most attempts at worker-organized manufacturing, during the Great Upheaval, failed on account of the capital outlays required. For example, when manufacturers refused to sell farm machinery to the Grangers at wholesale prices, the Nebraska Grange undertook its own design and manufacturing of machinery.  (How’s that for a parallel to modern P2P ideas?)  Its first attempt, a wheat head reaper, sold at half the price of comparable models and drove down prices on farm machinery in Nebraska.  The National Grange planned a complete line of farm machinery, but most Grange manufacturing enterprises failed to raise the large sums of capital needed (p. 77).

The Knights of Labor cooperatives were on shaky ground in the best of times.  Many of them were founded during strikes, started with “little capital and obsolescent machinery,” and lacked the capital to invest in modern machinery.  Subjected to economic warfare by organized capital, the network of cooperatives disintegrated (p. 107).

The economy  today is experiencing a revolution as profound as the corporate transformation of the late 19th century.  The main difference today is that, for material reasons, the monopolies on which corporate rule depends are becoming unenforceable.  Another revolution, based on P2P and micromanufacturing, is sweeping society on the same scale as did the corporate revolution of 150 years ago.  But the large corporations today are in the same position that the Grange and Knights of Labor were in the Great Upheaval back then, fighting a desperate, futile rearguard action, and doomed to be swept under by the tidal wave of history.

The worker cooperatives organized in the era of artisan labor paralleled, in many ways, the forms of work organization that are arising today.  Networked organization, crowdsourced credit and the implosion of capital outlays required for physical production, taken together, are recreating the same conditions that made artisan cooperatives feasible in the days before the factory system.  In the artisan manufactories that prevailed into the early 19th century, most of the physical capital required for production was owned by the work force; artisan laborers could walk out and essentially take the firm with them in all but name.  Likewise, today, the collapse of capital outlay requirements for production in the cultural and information fields (software, desktop publishing, music, etc.) has created a situation in which human capital is the source of most book value for many firms;  consequently, workers are able to walk out with their human capital and form “breakaway firms,” leaving their former employers as little more than hollow shells.  And the rise of cheap garage manufacturing machinery (a Fab Lab with homebrew CNC tools costing maybe two months’ wages for a semi-skilled worker) is, in its essence, a return to the days when low physical capital costs made worker cooperatives a viable alternative to wage labor.

The first Great Upheaval was defeated by the need for capital.  The second one will destroy the old system by making capital superfluous.

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Peter Kuper Reviewed by the Daily Crosshatch

By Brian Heater
The Daily Crosshatch

A sketchbook is a secret thing, a collection of unfinished and often times abandoned ideas never intended for public consumption—at least not in their current state. It’s a private space for honing one’s craft and workshopping, separating good ideas from those best left unexplored

Over the years, these parameters have loosened, particularly in the comics community, where the sketchbooks of artists like Robert Crumb and Chris Ware have been collected and bound and put on store shelves next to their most meticulously crafted works. While subject to a good deal of cherry picking and editorial oversight, these collected sketchbooks still hold a similar appeal as their predecessors, offering a still relatively candid glimpse into their creators’ thought process.

The whole space is complicated a bit further with the introduction of the “sketchbook diary,” a book, which, while lacking some of the polish of a more deliberately produced title, often feels as though it were conceived of as being a marketable title from its inception.

It’s hard to say precisely what Peter Kuper’s motives were in the creation of Diario de Oaxaca, but given the amount of work clearly invested in nearly ever page, it seems rather likely that, fairly early on in the process, it became clear that, given the right publisher, the work would eventually be released for public consumption.

But while Kuper’s art often has a relatively finished feel to it (compared, at least, to more traditional sketchbooks), a sense of experimentation and adventure pulses through the journal’s pages, as the artist immerses himself and his work in the culture and art that surround him during his family’s Mexican exodus. Diario de Oaxaca is a constantly unfurling collage.

As an artist, Kuper is a stranger in a strange land, attempting to adapt his art to his surroundings, all the while sprinkling in photos of the city’s world famous protest wall art and other local phenomenon. Like a true notable outsider, sometimes he blends in seamlessly, and other times we’re witness to an aesthetic culture clash. Where Kuper truly succeeds, however, are in those moments when Oaxaca’s natural and manmade beautify serve as the building blocks for a piece that remains staunchly Kuperesque.

Even when Kuper’s experiments prove less successful, however, the book is a downright stunning—and thoroughly engaging—read. Proper sketchbook or no, Diario de Oaxaca is one of the strongest travelogues this medium has produced in recent memory.

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More on Paper Politics

PM Press is proud to announce the arrival of Paper Politics: Socially Engaged Printmaking Today. As Josh MacPhee states at the opening of the book: "Paper Politics started out as an exhibition of political prints, and has now taken the form of this book, but it has always also been a project of building communities." Here are some sneak previews from each of the book's sections.






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Interview with Tomoyuki Hoshino

Tantalizing excerpts from the novel's extras, we know you will enjoy! Here translator Adrienne Carey Hurley interviews the award-winning Japanese author Tomoyuki Hoshino. This is his first book to be published in English.

Since his literary debut in 1997, Tomoyuki Hoshino has published twelve books on subjects ranging from ‘terrorism’ to queer/trans community formations; from the exploitation of migrant workers to journalistic ethics; and from the Japanese emperor system to neoliberalism. He is also well known in Japan for his nonfiction essays on politics, society, the arts, and sports, particularly soccer.

Hurley: Before PM embraced this novel, it took us a while to find a publisher for the English translation. Along the way, we found a few professionals in the U.S. publishing world who loved the first chapter, but were bothered by the ending. We even were asked to change the ending or publish only the first chapter. I was shocked to learn that some noted contemporary Japanese writers have agreed to have the endings of their works changed for the U.S. (and by extension English-language) marketplace. While I shared my frustrations and thoughts on all this with you and we both refused such changes, I never asked you what it felt like for you to be faced with that kind of response and request.

Hoshino: It felt like Iraq or Iran.

"The Middle East is really selling now!"

"Well, let's see.... You're right. It sure is. But Iraq is a little hard to understand. I think it will sell better if you change Iraq. Can you change Iraq?"

"You're joking, right?"

"No, I'm serious. Change it."

It felt like that. I'm very glad my work wasn't changed.

"I changed Iraq, but it's still not selling that well."

"Maybe you didn't change it right. Yes, that's it. It would have been better if you'd changed Iran. Try changing Iran."

"But if we go that far, it's not really going to be the Middle East anymore."

"It's okay. As long as it sells. Alright then? Let's change Iran."

Hurley: My students and I like to discuss what doesn't appear in this novel, like the U.S. (Perhaps our inquiries are structured by the arrogance of U.S. imperialism and its claims to universal relevance.) Aside from the aquarium scene from The Lady from Shanghai, almost no mention is made of anything related to what my students call "the Western world," and they like to speculate, "where did it go?" After all, much of the modern and contemporary Japanese literature they encounter invokes "the West" more overtly. In writing a novel that addresses questions of borders, sovereignty, migration, and security involving nations, what did the absence of the U.S. mean for you? Does the U.S. empire have to disappear (or be abolished) before the Japanese emperor system can?

Hoshino: Yukio Mishima and Yasunari Kawabata wrote a number of "Japanese" works. Foreign (especially Western) readers experienced these works as "very Japanese" and proclaimed you could find "Japanese beauty" in them. This was to be expected. Mishima and Kawabata depicted images of Japan that Western eyes wanted to see.

But Japanese readers who were aware of such assessments followed suit, saying these works were written with a sense of "Japanese beauty that even a Westerner could admire" and that "Japan had the kind of culture written about in these novels."

This was how value judgments about "Japaneseness" were shaped.

Foreign readers who only find value in the first chapter of this novel must still have those Western eyes.

Paradoxically, foreign readers today seem to respond to Japanese literature with a lot of "American-ness" as universal and, at the same time, as "Japanese." Perhaps "Japanese" novels subtly and gently exoticize American problems.

When I read that sort of novel, I feel like I'm reading fantasy fiction and wonder, "Where is this tale from?"

I didn't intend to eliminate American references from LHK. It's not explicit, but I think of it as covered by America's shadow. The effort to put out the nationalist fire in the first chapter is also an effort to get out from under the shadow of America. After all, Japan's reality after the end of World War II and ever since the American Occupation has been that of "America above the Emperor."

Hurley: I love the setting of the second and third chapters. The remote mountain lodge calls up images not only of idyllic mountain resorts, but also of the Aum movement's headquarters, the Chichibu Rebellion of 1884, the Umemura Rebellion in Hida, the Asama Sanso Incident, and especially (at least to me) United Red Army (Rengô sekigun) figures such as Hiroko Nagata. But the setting's significance isn't limited to Japanese histories and contexts. Iroha's use of the phrase "reservation," themes of self-governance and autonomy, and the title of the final chapter, drawing on Luis Buñuel's 1951 film Subida al cielo, invoke multiple landscapes and histories. Where did your own journey into the mountains of Lonely Hearts Killer begin and what do the mountains mean to you?

Hoshino: My first clue for the secluded mountain setting for Iroha and the others came from Buñuel's film Subida al Cielo ("Ascent to Heaven" in Japanese). The mountain reaching up to heaven is a threshold place that carries an image of death mixed with utopia. In the first chapter, Mikoto et. al. develop the vision of everyone dying for a utopian society. Ascension or "Ascent to Heaven" is the name for precisely this vision. However, the people holed up on the mountain are Iroha and others who commit to living and try to distance themselves, running away from Mikoto et. al.'s vision. I wanted to put the brakes on the escalation, and this ironical situation effectively neutralized the vision of death and utopia

That was the impetus for the mountain, which also relates to an image in the third chapter. You ascend from the mountain and migrate to a different place; but even though you cross the border, you aren't entering the world of the dead, but moving to another kind of life. I set up the mountain as that kind of three-dimensional threshold. Iroha and the others are definitely holed up on the mountain, but the mountain isn't a dead-end. Depending on your changing perspective, it links to a different latitude or culture. Before they were surrounded, they had the possibility of coexistence, not "unification." Underlying that possibility is an image of a reservation with autonomy. I think the groups of rebels who historically entrenched themselves in the mountains had similar visions.

One other factor was Japanese mountain worship. In Japanese animism, each mountain is a different god. With the arrival of the emperor system, they were forcibly unified. However, in this novel the people who look like okami (“Majesties”) "come down" from the mountaintop. In other words, they stop being okami. They abdicate "unification."

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Owen Hill on the Professor of Pop

Owen Hill's the Incredible Double
The Professor of Pop
October 16, 2009

Owen Hill's first novel, The Chandler Apartments, was a page-turner, read literally in one frenzied Saturday morning. Declaration of (minor) interest: Owen is a friend of a friend (& once kindly gave me discount @ Moe's but don't tell anyone that.)

Here's the opening para from his new novel The Incredible Double, words that will draw you in like a punter to a strip club -- ok then problem drinker to a dive bar -- if you read them aloud:


"My '87 Tercel is in great shape, only a hundred thousand miles and almost new everything, but it does have trouble with the Bay Area hills. Coming out of the tunnel on 24, leaving Berkeley, heading toward the suburbs, I was losing speed and the SUVs were losing patience. I shifted it down into second and wagged my middle finger. My best friend Marvin says that driving slow in a small car is a revolutionary act. Maybe's he right. A woman in a Hummer, no lie, who probably weighed in at 97 pounds, half of it hair, gave me a look that could kill and, waved her phone at me. When you think of spoiled little brats in military vehicles careening through the 'burbs, you know how rotten the twentieth-century will be."


Most important 2 words: no lie. That gives you the genre for cert & tells you that while our narrator has some ironic distance on Marvin, they are perhaps (or were) ideological cousins. Owen isn't afraid of cheap shots if they're funny & tell you something ("half of it hair") because he knows he's been freed by genre. The prose never drifts into agitprop but it's constantly hinted at it, as if this were an Op-Ed piece in Socialist Worker, written by a poet with an acute sense of humour. The first para immediately sets up the dystopian world we are about to enter but you don't feel trapped in it exactly. You just know that the mise-en-scene for wherever our story & our narrator are headed is going to be "rotten".

And this rotten-ness dear voyeur from cyberspace is happening right here right now in river city as Berkeley gets increasingly comfy with being a rich town (a security guard asked Susan to move her bag from where it might be stolen last night @ about 6pm... on a main throughfare in mf Rockridge) where even the south side (site of the Historic POP Homeland) has monster homes and monster cars and of course therefore monster peeps.

Like The Chandler Apartments, The Incredible Double captures a time & a place perfectly: here, now. But that would be boring because it would be too obvious, so Hill never forgets that you make it interesting (& significant) if you pepper the story with nostalgia for times passed.

He does, after all, drive an '87 Tercel.

Raymond Williams
once described literature as a record of lived experience which is of course not always the case since neither lived nor experience are really the correct terms for a lot of contemporary fiction. But in the case of the savvy crime-thriller, if you can set the noir against the nostalgia then you have one powerful vehicle (if you're a poet) for evoking the time & the place that is the fag-end of Berkeley as we now know it.

And anyway, whether or not you care about that (& you should), Owen Hill has written another page-turner.

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Stealing Third

An Interview with E. Ethelbert Miller
By Shonda Buchanan
The Writer's Chronicle
December, 2009

E. Ethelbert Miller is a well-known chronicler of black literary life in Washington, DC and across the country. He is a consummate documenter, as well as a writer of poetry and nonfiction. Eight years ago, Miller published a ground-breaking memoir, Fathering Words: The Making of an African American Writer, that captured the voice of a college-bound youth and his working-class father. As a literary activist, Miller is the board chairperson of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). He is a board member of The Writer’s Center and editor of Poet Lore magazine. Since 1974, he has been the director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University. Miller is the former chair of the Humanities Council of Washington, DC and a former core faculty member of the Bennington Writing Seminars at Bennington College. He is the advisory editor of the African American Review, founder of the Ascension Poetry Reading Series, and winner of the 1994 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for his poetry anthology In Search of Color Everywhere. Miller has edited several anthologies, and is author of five collections of verse. His new memoir, The 5th Inning, a 165 page book, was published in March 2009 by Busboys & Poets.

E. Ethelbert Miller has found himself in the role of storyteller for his father, brother, and several friends simply by outliving them. In essence, writing The 5th Inning is tantamount to stealing third base, and entering certain moments and people into the record books for good.

Shonda Buchanan: Why use baseball as a motif?

E. Ethelbert Miller: When I look back on my life, I find that baseball was very important to me. It was the one thing that I was very passionate about from an early age. You had to actually stop me from playing and stop me from spending all my money on baseball cards. I grew up when many of the people whom I liked in terms of heroes—Sandy Koufax, Mickey Mantle, and Clete Boyer—were baseball players. I lived not far from Yankee Stadium. Oftentimes, one gravitates toward a sport, and that sport is something you live with your entire life. For me it’s baseball. When I was writing this second memoir, I said, okay, what is it that I really know? I think I know baseball best.

Buchanan: Why the fifth inning?

Miller: The fifth inning is an official complete game. It goes into the record books, and I’ve always looked at that as a metaphor for our lives. I look at so many of my friends, and people whom I don’t know, dying before they reach the age of sixty. Cancer, suicide, heart attack. So that became something I began to look at as I wrote The 5th Inning. Many games end because of rain or darkness. When I look at things I struggle against—depression, marriage, raising children—I see this sort of overcast. No matter how much people might see your life as being a beacon of light or you as being happy, you’re on your own on the mound. You’re in the batter’s box. You know the score.

Buchanan: How does this correlate with your work as a writer?

Miller: I think, right now, there is a certain sense of completion. What I’ve been doing for the last two years is boxing up my personal papers and giving them to the Givens Collection at the University of Minnesota and to George Washington University. I’m very conscious of what I’ve done and the importance of making material available to future scholars. I can go back and say, okay, these are all the things that went into Hoodoo Magazine, or these are what I used when I was editing In Search of Color Everywhere or Fathering Words. Here are documents, a tremendous amount of correspondence with people that I think are important for literary scholars. Going back and making sense out of what I saw as a very important period, especially in terms of Washington, DC history, and in terms of black literary history. National and international. When I look at what was taking place on the campus of Howard University that I was witness to—I look at the era, the early ’70s, as a golden era. Here I am, a young person in the early 1970s, and I’m meeting people like C.L.R. James, Haki Madhubuti, and Walter Rodney.

Buchanan: You talked about being a purveyor of art, and being a father, and ushering in the work of others. What about your own work as a writer?

Miller: I’m writing more. For a good part of my life, I was organizing. Some people don’t know that I wrote a memoir, and they aren’t familiar with my nonfiction work. At this particular point in my life, I feel it is time to really bring my work together, and make it available to the public. I’m writing better than ever before. And this goes back to baseball. You’re not going to hit the ball every time you get up. But there are times in your literary career when you know you can get on base with what you’ve written.

Buchanan: What is the book about for you?

Miller: This is a book that I felt I needed to write because of all the things I’ve experienced over the last few decades. Things that coincide with raising children and being in a second marriage. I needed to be honest. Many times people will say, “Oh, Ethelbert, you don’t seem happy, why don’t you change your life?” What I did when writing this book was to realize, okay, these were the pitches that I threw or the pitches that I faced. Baseball is very exact. The records are there. That’s how the influence of steroids taints these records, but when you look at baseball, you look at that box score. That tells you what happened. And the other thing about baseball is, you have to see the game. Similarly, you have to see my life on a daily basis because there are a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score. That’s something that I feel is there in this book—that level or degree of honesty. That’s why very early on I tell the reader, you won’t know if I’m throwing balls or strikes because it’s going to change. Some things will shock people. Sometimes I go off on a tangent, and that’s how this book is put together.

Buchanan: Did you realize anything differently in this second memoir than in the first? Fathering WordsThe 5th Inning feels more confining and even a bit sad. seems more like you trying to connect with your father, but there’s still a bit more optimism. You were at the beginning of your life even though it’s retrospective, while

Miller: I was very conscious of writing the first memoir. I knew I was telling someone about my beginnings. I knew exactly what I wanted to talk about. So there’s a chronology there you can follow, even though I’m going back and forth. It does cover South Bronx, to college, to becoming a writer.

Buchanan: Was Fathering Words about black men and depression, or fatherhood?

Miller: More family. I didn’t start out writing a book about depression. I wrote this book because I wanted to give praise and testimony to my father’s and brother’s lives. I felt that when they died, they had a lot remaining to offer life. For them to disappear without leaving anything behind—I felt that this is where I come in as a storyteller. What I can do is create the story. I can elevate their lives. I can take my father, who was a working class man in a post office, and elevate his life and make it much more heroic. The highest compliment to my having that skill is the success in keeping the memories of my father and brother alive. This is the power of the word. This is the power of creating myths. Whenever I go into a classroom and see young students reading about my brother and father, I know that I’ve achieved what I set out to do. Many people write books that come out but are never read. Every year, the audience for Fathering Words increases.

Buchanan: You write in The 5th Inning, “I need the strength to continue and the feeling that I’m writing what needs to find its air.” It feels as if sometimes in the narrative you are suffocating in your life. What are you trying to set free with this memoir?

Miller: As a person who is always dealing with documenting, I think what I’ve done, for good or bad, is document my life. I would not want someone to look at my books of poetry and come to a certain conclusion. I think if you read my poetry and my memoirs, you begin to find certain links. This is, I feel, pushing aside the silences that exist inside our relationships and the silences that many times exist within a home. In Fathering Words, I wrote about the dual sounds of music in a household. I grew up with that, but when I look at my own home, there is a certain level of silence. Everyone comes in and goes to their separate rooms. Sometimes, if it’s not a holiday, we take our meals in ones and twos, but not the four of us. Also, this is a book in which, by the time I’m finished, the family I’m writing about has changed. My son is off to college—he doesn’t come back that often. My daughter—it’s just a question of time before she transitions out. So it’s a different house than the one that I was reflecting back on. A memoir is always looking back.

Buchanan: How does your family view the memoir?

Miller: I sent each one a copy, and no one said anything. I sent the first copy to my sister. The second to my biographer, Julia Galbus, in Indiana. Those were the first people who got copies. My sister was very saddened by it. She felt it was very painful and said, “I want to know more.” I didn’t send her the entire thing. I incorporated what Julia Galbus said into the memoir because it was a whole thing about darkness. That was very helpful for me to realize that I don’t have to write against this. If it proceeds in this direction, then it’s just going to be a dark book.

Buchanan: It’s a nonlinear structure, much like the first book.

Miller: It’s nonlinear, even though it reads in such a way you get a sense of what I’m processing. You get a sense of some of the things happening while I’m at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA). I included my friend Kay Ruane, who is a painter. She’s the person who survived an airplane crash. What I did was no different than what a visual artist would do in terms of finding objects and assembling them. That’s how this memoir was written. I think it makes it very rich for someone who can come back and read it in such a way that he or she sees the jokes I’m playing. For instance, there are places where I’m lifting lines from Bob Dylan. If they know Dylan, they know the line. I consciously added a lot of baseball, which I wouldn’t have had time to do if I had not gone to VCCA. I’m talking about specific players. That’s where I wanted to go deeper into the metaphor.

Buchanan: Your favorite players representing certain aspects of your life?

Miller: Exactly, or they become players that play against my life. I look at Pumpsie Green, the first black player for the Red Sox. No one remembers Pumpsie Green or Tony Conigliaro, whose life was tragically interrupted by getting hit in the face. By bringing those names to the forefront, a person who is really into baseball and giving it a serious critical read will realize, “Oh, Ethelbert is talking about Carl Yastrzemski or Bill Monbouquette. Why is he referring to those names?” If someone comes along and wants to look at my life or poems now, they would have to look at my blog. Some of my best writing is caught up in there. And what holds it together is my admiration for the baseball player Ichiro Suzuki. He’s there throughout my entire blog. It’s not different than being influenced by Ezra Pound or Whitman. So we see these connections. In a close reading, someone will ask what does this person represent here?

Buchanan: You don’t answer all the questions you raise for the reader. Why?

Miller: I think, for both memoirs, if you took a marker and circle the questions marks, there are quite a few. I’m conscious of that because I don’t know the answers, and sometimes it’s a riff on life. I want the reader not to just think about my life, but to think about their own lives. “Well, why did you do that?” Well, what would you do? If I’ve done my job, you as the reader reflect and make these connections. The fifth inning now for my sister has become a part of her vocabulary when someone dies. Oh, the fifth inning. What happens is it begins to resonate outside of baseball, and I think if I can do that as a writer then I’ve done a good job.

Buchanan: Do you feel that when you reflect back on your life and work, you have become your father?

Miller: I think so. But I think I’ve done some things that he would be proud of. I’ve been able to get my children to where they are today. But I’ve never worked as hard as my father. I’ve never pushed my body physically.

Buchanan: But writing is a physical act.

Miller: Writing is physical. You’ve got to really sit there and keep your body going, and if you’re not disciplined, it doesn’t happen. Writing isn’t easy. Re-writing isn’t easy. You’ve got to make your free throws, you’ve got to practice. You look at a line, and you’ve got to look at that line over and over again. If you’re going to give up, then you’re not the writer.

Buchanan: Give me an example.

Miller: This summer, I went to VCCA and I realized that many of my friends were living the writer’s life. I saw this when I was working up at Bennington. The residency would be ending, and my fellow colleagues were going off to Italy to write. It’s no wonder they have a book every two years. I could go off to France to write, to Italy to write. Have some bread and wine. But you look at yourself—you’re in your fifties, and you realize you’re not living the writer’s life. You’re not taking advantage of some of these things. I look at my long-term relationship with Howard, and when I look at how some schools have never embraced writers, I see how that’s continued with me. If I look at how Sterling Brown was treated, or especially Julian Mayfield—these people are given no institutional support. Or as I remember Stephen Henderson used to say, “Léon Damas is walking across the campus of Howard University. No one knows he’s one of the founders of Negritude.” And if they did, they wouldn’t care. That tells you something about the campus. A part of me says, “I’m going to write myself out of Howard.” And another part of me says, “I’m going to stay there until I get my due.” See, that’s my father: “The longest day hasn’t ended.”

Buchanan: Is what happened, and is happening to you, indicative of the role of the artist in academia?

Miller: No. I’m a literary activist. I don’t take that nonsense. I’ve looked at writers. I’ll begin with Sterling Brown. People used to say, “Oh, he’s the poet laureate of Washington, DC.” He wasn’t. We went down and made him the poet laureate. I remember when he had his proclamation, and he was getting in his car, he was a happy guy. We had it on Capitol Hill. We had to bribe him to get him out of his house, but he was happy. It was official.

Buchanan: Unlike Langston Hughes being the unofficial poet laureate of Harlem.

Miller: Right. What I feel is important to do—I have all these people’s papers—is to make sure these papers get into the hands of scholars. This is what I get angry about. The people running historically black colleges don’t protect the stuff. They don’t have the funds or the staff. Or they want to sell someone’s paintings. They don’t appreciate what they have.

Buchanan: How long have you been at Howard?

Miller: I’ve been at Howard as a full employee since 1974.

Buchanan: Have you taught at Howard?

Miller: I’ve never been a professor there. I’ve never taught at Howard. I’ve run the African American Resource Center. I’ve taught at University of Nevada Las Vegas, American University, George Mason, Emory, Henry College, and Bennington.

Buchanan: Why never at Howard?

Miller: Because I didn’t go on to get all those degrees, and the reason for that is I knew what I wanted to do. There was a point when I came back from UNLV where I was treated very well, and came back to Howard. They were trying to phase out my position because there was this push to get me to go back to school. That’s for their own interest. I told the dean, “This may sound arrogant, but you guys study literature; I make it.” To me, I try to advance the field of literature. I’m not looking at some footnotes. I look at the things I’ve done that I don’t even take credit for. When I went to UNLV, I had to put together a resume for the first time. I’ve never packaged myself as a media person even though I do radio shows and NPR. For example, the Humanities Council now runs almost all of my shows that I recorded when I worked for them at UDC Station.

Buchanan: You said in the book, “I once wrote an essay in a magazine in which I mentioned that my deepest fear was to be a survivor. I don’t want to be the person discovered after being underground and trapped for fourteen hours. I don’t want to be the person lost in the mountains and freezing for days. I’m just a guy in a second marriage.” Aren’t you surviving?

Miller: That’s a good read of that.

Buchanan: What are you surviving?

Miller: Everything. Relationships, Howard. I look at the climate change. I look at New Orleans, and I’ve been telling people that the concept of home has become almost obsolete. That we almost have to give that up. That many of us are going to be on the move, or you can’t assume that everything here is going to stay.

Buchanan: Scott Russell Sanders might have something to say about that, too.

Miller: As writers, for example, the expression “I’m going to call home” makes no sense because you call your mother and she’s on a mobile phone. We’re always recreating new spaces or claiming space to call our home, but it’s not permanent.

Buchanan: So what is your home? Where is it?

Miller: Here. Maybe this will be a place where a visiting writer will stay one day. That would be the ideal thing.

Buchanan: You wrote in The 5th Inning that you’ve spoken and written so much about love that you now need to begin to love yourself and your aloneness. When will that happen?

Miller: It’s always a process. Each day I struggle with that.

Buchanan: What would you tell budding writers now, after a lifetime of writing? And what would you tell budding memoirists?

Miller: It’s important to keep tradition alive. Try and document as much as possible. This will help to reclaim memory in the future. I’m afraid we have become a people who no longer value the book. I see reading books as being fundamental to the soul’s well-being. To read alone or read aloud is as important as meditation or prayer. It is also why we write. I would remind all budding writers to “always be closing.” ABC. That was the mantra my friend Liam Rector echoed throughout my tenure, teaching in the Bennington Writing Seminars. Finally, it’s important for all young writers to understand that they have the capability to shape history and not simply be shaped by it. I would remind writers to see themselves as witnesses, and to always speak the truth to the people, as well as truth to power. A love of language should be as strong as the love for life.

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