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(H)afrocentric Comics in

By Christina Vortia
February 3rd, 2018

I really loved this.
"(H)afrocentric is the best of Boondocks, without crusty misogynoir. It's the best of Chappelle, without uncritical transphobia. It's the best of A Different World and Atlanta without commercial breaks every eight minutes selling you colorful sugar and fried meats" - Kiese Laymon
No better words could ever describe this comic that is funny as hell, sharp, and unapologetic af.
Naima is the activist. The woman wears a tank top sporting a picture of John Brown under "Ally" in big bold letters and totes a portable soap box, she is the biracial "woke" sistah who is tirelessly fighting for the cause on the campus of Ronald Reagan University. Her girlfriend, Renee, is a fashionista who uses her wardrobe to challenge gender biases. Miles is Naima's musically inclined brother, always ready to burst her lofty revolutionary ideals. El is the overworked Mexican American student, trying to both help his family and do well in school. As Naima attempts to plan a Block party, she runs into a cast of characters and scenarios that is satirical of millennial college culture. There's a website developer who's also addicted to social media...there are the crunchy granola white students who know how to install solar panels and appropriate black culture, and then there's the hip hop head obsessed with kemetic energy and Wu Tang. By volume 4, Naima is grappling with her desire to be a revolutionary but also still land internships and gainful employment. She's then visited by Miss Fairy who holds a startling resemblance to Fannie Lou tights. Miss Fairy hooks her up with a job pulled straight out of Baratunde Thurston's How to Be Black by interpreting the behavior of black people to white people... The challenge: Can Naima answer the questions without getting on her soap box and ruining the gig?
These characters were so fresh, unlike any I've seen in a comic before. Completely relatable, downright hilarious, and so damn smart. I'm not sure when the next volume is due out, but I'll be waiting on it. I totally could see this as a show, filling a void left gaping and wide when Aaron McGruder was ousted from Boondocks.


Recommendation: Read it! You'll thank me later.

Audience: Millennials and Up

*I borrowed the eBook version of this comic from my library Hoopla account.

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Diario de Oaxaca in Comics Grinder

“Diario de Oaxaca” by Peter Kuper

Comics Grinder
December 12th, 2017

Peter Kuper is one of the great cartoonists and any book by him is a treat. In this case, you have a highly creative individual out and about for two years in a most stimulating environment, Mexico, specifically in Oaxaca. What could be better than his sketchbook journal of his two years there? The paperback version of his “Diario de Oaxaca” recently came out from PM Press.

Pages from “Diario de Oaxaca” by Peter Kuper

Kuper follows his heart and stream of thought to deliver page after page of enchanting work. He has a special multi-colored pencil that he uses. The lead in the pencil is made up of various colors. That allows much greater spontaneity as he can instantly shift the pencil to get a different color and then another and so on. He seems to have most fun with creating work that has that look of being on the fly–but can also be a mix of a long day, or night, of contemplation.

The sense of excitement and discovery is palpable. In a similar quick manner, he jots down numerous observations in prose as well. The joie de vivre takes a decidedly sober tone as Kuper finds himself covering a fight between strikers and government troops that left more than 20 people dead, including American journalist Brad Will. The end result is that Kuper manages to capture both the light and the dark of Oaxaca in an extarordinary collection of dispatches.

“Diario de Oaxaca: A Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico” is a 208-page paperback with full color artwork throughout. For more details, visit PM Press right here.

Revolutionary Mothering in The Journal of the Motherhood Initiative

By Reena Shadaan
Journal of the Motherhood Initiative
Spring/Fall 2017

Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines is a powerful and deeply personal collection that illuminates the challenges and revolutionary practice that is mothering in the context of capitalism, white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, and imperialism. The editors—Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams—dedicate the collection “to all the revolutionary mothers and all the revolutions they’ve created, because mothering is love by any means necessary.” This theme is echoed throughout the collection. In poignant narratives, the contributors share their stories, as they reveal the diversity that is mothering—an important challenge to the overstated narrative of white, middle-class motherhood.

Gumbs, Martens, and Williams pay homage to the mothering praxis of feminists of colour decades prior, as Revolutionary Mothering is a reflection of and builds upon this foundational work. Likewise, Malkia A. Cyril and Esteli Juarez open the collection by recollecting the embodied resistance passed down to them. In fact, Loretta J. Ross, co-founder of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, writes the preface to the collection. Ross dis- cusses the revolutionary work of Black women, who founded the reproductive justice movement—the fundamentals of which are present throughout the anthology. As Gumbs writes, “Those of us who nurture the lives of those children who are not supposed to exist, who are not supposed to grow up, who are revolutionary in their very beings are doing some of the most subversive work in the world. If we don’t know it, the establishment does” (20).

The second section, “From the Shorelines to the Front Lines” looks at mothering as bridgework – between divided communities, between activist theory and activist practice, and between oppressions and radical futures. Alongside other poignant essays and poems, this section includes Cynthia Dewi Oka’s “Mothering as Revolutionary Praxis,” which declares the “Manifesto for Revolutionary Homemaking” – a call for justice, decolonization, healing, and collective responsibility. In addition, Victoria Law reflects on the transformation of her political work through motherhood, and Tara Villalba and Lola Mondragón reflect on the radical labour of mothering, which creates “seeds of ... radical work” (77)—the children who will continue the cycle of resistance.

“The Bottom Line” is the third section of Revolutionary Mothering. Here, the contributors discuss the violence of mothering in neoliberalism including the diminishing narrative of scarcity (Autumn Brown), the difficult choices that are made (Norma Angelica Marrun, Rachel Broadwater), and the pain that this system can inflict (Vivian Chin, Layne Russell). But underlying these narratives are themes of strength, relationship, and hope (Christy Na- Mee Eriksen, Noemi Martinez). As China Martens writes in the introduction to “The Bottom Line,” “Children are Hope. Hope is the current, changing, moment, living, rising, being born, and resisting” (84).

The fourth section, “Out (of) Lines,” is introduced by Gumbs, who re- minds us that motherhood is systematically denied to Black mothers, immigrant mothers, and LGBTQ mothers. However, the practice of mothering is a different matter: “Mothering is a queer practice of transforming the world through our desire for each other and another way to be” (116). In addition to other powerful pieces, “Out (of ) Lines” re ects on LGBTQ mothering. This includes Katie Kaput’s reflections as a trans mama, and Ariel Gore’s resistance to the American nuclear family. As Gore writes, “I find it amusing that to be a threat to the nuclear family, all one has to do is live happily (or in honest depression) outside of it” (143).

“Out (of) Line” is followed by “Two Pink Lines,” which includes several pieces that explore transformation via mothering. For instance, Lisa Facto- ra-Borchers reflects on childbirth facilitating a new feminist praxis. Likewise, H. Bindy K. Kang writes as a “radical mama” (177), transformed by the birth of a daughter in a complex dynamic of patriarchy in aspects of Kang’s culture, alongside cultural racism and patriarchy embedded in the state. The collection ends with further pieces that explore themes of transformation, as well as resilient, hopeful futures rooted in love (“Between the Lines”). Ultimately, Revolutionary Mothering is a powerful collection of stories that affirm mothering as the bridge to radical futures.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Mai’a Williams Author Page | Back to Alexis Pauline Gumbs's Author Page | Back to China Marten's Author Page

Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats in The Newtown Review of Books

By Michael Jongen
The Newtown Review of Books
March 8th, 2018

Iain McIntyre and Andrew Nette have created a loving homage to pulp fiction with its lurid covers and taglines.

This book, lavishly illustrated with pulp covers, is itself a beautiful thing. Its own lurid green cover features a number of pulp images such as the defiant stare of Mama, the chaos of The Spungers, the romantic mood of Hippie Doctor and a cyborg-like Charles Manson staring out from The Hippy Cult Murders.

There are around 400 full-colour covers reproduced in the book, many of which have not been reprinted before. These are a joy. Accompanying them are over 70 essays and in-depth interviews and previously unpublished articles. The layout invites instant perusal and encourages readers to dip into whatever takes their fancy.

Come for the covers — some of which may be familiar or indeed inspire a Proustian moment — but do stay for the essays. These are well researched, informative and fascinating. In his Foreword Peter Doyle looks at the successions of youth subcultures and how the post-World-War-II tabloids flourished in an atmosphere of ‘panic refrains’. (A business model which still seems to work if the tabloids’ current fixation with ‘African crime gangs’ is any indication.)

In the late 1940s, early 1950s it was juvenile delinquents, of course. Then came beatniks. And bikers. Gays and lesbians. Hard-dope fiends. Later on, hippies and counter cultural types, mods, rockers, surfers, skinheads, youthful revolutionaries. Trippers, pot heads and ravers. Rock musicians and groupies. Nearly always the subculture was characterised as a kind of cultish freemason-like quasi-conspiracy or secret society.

I went immediately to the last section of the book, devoted to the late 1960s and early 1970s, which looks at the rise of the teen novel. In Something in the Shadows we are introduced to Marijane Meaker who, I realised, was the woman who as ME Kerr wrote Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack, one of the seminal YA novels (alongside SE Hinton’s The Outsiders) from this period. This is a fascinating look at the introduction of ‘realism’ to children’s books and the beginning of the YA genre. My librarian colleagues who studied under the wonderful Stella Lees will recognise how schooled we were in this emerging literature and will find this a fascinating read. Frank Bonham, Kin Platt and Go Ask Alice are also featured and the backstories of these writers are intriguing.

Meaker relates how she and children’s writer Louise Fitzhugh would lunch and exchange tips about their genres. In 1972, under the name Ann Aldrich, Meaker wrote two gay novels, including the gloriously titled Take a Lesbian to Lunch. I learned more about Meaker in the chapter on Ann Bannon, who published in the lesbian pulp genre.

Bannon speaks of a tentative approach to Meaker, who encouraged her writing:

It was kind of a fan letter. I did not realise she was getting them by the bushel from young women all around the world, but she responded … She said, if you have a manuscript and you can visit me, then I’d like to see it and maybe you can get to meet my editor. This was of course music to the ears of an aspiring young writer, since one of my perplexities had been how to get into print.

It is the writers’ stories that fascinate me. Bannon’s books began being reprinted each decade. On her enduring popularity Bannon muses:

Like my readers, I really thought what I was writing was ephemeral literature, although I wrote it as best I could. I understood the rules, and the rules were that these were throwaway books … Critics ignored us and we flew beneath the radar, which is probably one of the reasons we were allowed to exist. So I had no real belief that they would have a life beyond their initial 6-12 month period of publication.

In the 1990s Bannon was working in a university and owned up to being the author of these pulp titles when her students began submitting Masters and doctoral dissertations on her alter-ego. She suggests that the novels have acquired a very different readership than those ‘who were originally seeking anything about the lesbian experience’.

Another trope is the writers who disappear. Teddy Boy by Ernest Ryman, published in 1958, is tame, however it makes the link between poverty and youth crime. We are informed that history has no record of Ernest Ryman, but the personal histories of these writers of pulp literature are truly fascinating.

There is so much to love in this beautifully curated collection of covers, essays and extracts. There are sections devoted to the novels inspired by the badlands of Sydney’s Kings Cross. Hippie culture is explored, and its evil twin, the hippie cult murder pulps based on the Manson Family. Surf culture is explored by Patrick Morgan and his series featuring William (Bill) Cartwright aimed to cover ‘Surfing. women and whenever possible poking a crooked finger in the hairy eyeball of the establishment’. Librarians will be very familiar with the backstory of our anti-hero; he is the prototype of many a popular series written for the middle grades.

This book is a powerful history of the literature that was written for and about the marginalised. It is our history and I am grateful it has been published in such an inspiring format.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Iain McIntyre's Author Page | Back to Andrew Nette's Author Page

Using Racist Images to Combat Racism and Encourage Resistance

By Paul Von Blum, JD
March 2017, Vol. 10 Issue 1, p382

For many years, in my UCLA classes and in presentations throughout the United States and the world on African American art, I have started with several examples of egregiously racist images from popular culture. From the thousands available, I often select such repulsive examples as “Darkie Toothpaste,” “Nigger Head Golf Tees,” and minstrel-like items from the Coon Chicken Inn, a fried chicken restaurant chain in the Pacific Northwest from the 1920s through the late 1940s. These grotesque racist caricatures are the visual foundation for my long-standing argument that African American art, in substantial part, constitutes an effective body of resistance to the dominant narrative of American history that conceals or understates the political and human implications of slavery and its progeny.

For my student and other audiences, I regularly recommend the Jim Crow Museum of Racism Memorabilia at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. This remarkable museum is the largest publicly accessible collection of racist artifacts. It consists primarily of memorabilia from the segregation era from the South, although many of the objects were distributed and widely available throughout the entire country. The chief objective of the museum is to highlight these objects to foster dialogues and understanding of historical and contemporary racism in America. It is an invaluable resource for scholars, journalists, and activists.

Understanding Jim Crow represents the Museum in book form. This is especially useful for readers who are unlikely to make a trip to Michigan to see the collection in person, however valuable such an experience would be. The volume contains several outstanding components, making it a splendid contribution to African American Studies and many cognate fields. Like the Museum itself, the book should attract multiple audiences, from academic specialists to lawpersons.

At the outset, the author, David Pilgrim, chronicles the personal story that was the genesis of the museum he founded. He grew up in the Deep South as that region began to transform from its overt segregation to its more benign but still institutionally racist environment. Chapter One is intriguingly titled “The Garbage Man: Why I Collect Racist Objects.” Professor Pilgrim details his life story that catalyzed his desire, indeed his obsession, to collect the racist objects that later developed into the museum he founded.

As an undergraduate student at Jarvis Christian College, a small historically black institution, he learned from his professors what it meant to live as African Americans in a rigidly segregated society. It involved surviving as second-class citizens in every detail of daily life, where racial inferiority was understood and regularly enforced. Pilgrim began to see the close connections between racial oppression and the ways that Blacks were portrayed in popular culture as buffoons, apes, savages, and sexually voracious idiots and monsters.

This recognition impelled him to collect artifacts that reflected and reinforced this racist system. As a graduate student at Ohio State University, he acquired many items, mostly inexpensive, and he developed a deeper appreciation of his African American identity and obligation to work on behalf of his people. He credits his graduate school encounter with Paul Robeson’s Here I Stand as a major source of his consciousness.

In 1991, he visited an elderly Black woman who had a large collection of Jim Crow related objects. Seeing her massive collection, Pilgrim was appalled at the pervasive distortion of African Americans he discovered there. He describes it as a chamber of horrors, but he continued to visit her until her death. Those experiences reinforced his desire to continue purchasing and collecting racist objects, including musical records with racist lyrics, children’s games with dirty and naked Black children, items with Sambo imagery, and anything else he could personally afford. This was the genesis of the museum at Ferris State University after he became a member of the Sociology Department faculty there.

Much of the text of Understanding Jim Crow consists of an analytical treatment of the stereotypes deployed against African Americans over the years. He addresses the common stereotypes including mammies, Toms, picaninnies, tragic mulattos, jezebels, coons, brutes, bucks, and others that a racist society has created and perpetuated throughout its history and popular culture.

His treatment covers most of the popular culture forms, including films and television. Pilgrim’s treatment of television’s use of racist caricatures for well over half a century, in fact, is a damning indictment of the medium that hundreds of millions of people watch on a daily basis.

His account is a powerful complement to Donald Bogle’s Toms, Mulattoes, Mammies, & Bucks, the iconic history of Blacks in American film. The present volume is richly illustrated with examples drawn from the Museum’s collection. These images are mostly shocking and disgusting; they add a dramatic visual presence to the specific textual analysis that the author elaborates in his book. They vary in content and include examples that are merely stupid caricatures of Black men, women, and children to thoroughly grotesque images of lynchings and depictions of African Americans as animals.

The common element is that these depictions normalize millions of human of African descent as entirely inferior beings. The central point is that these images, disseminated repetitively, lead the majority population to reinforce and rationalize their destructive attitudes and their conduct toward their fellow human beings. Popular culture is not a trivial adjunct to the course of history; rather, it plays a central role in producing and perpetuating the patterns of oppression that have scarred and despoiled our history for four centuries. That realization is the most significant theme emerging from this important book.

Understanding Jim Crow also has two other features that contribute to its overall excellence. The first is an insightful Foreward by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates. Gates’s essay discusses the meaning and impact of a museum devoted to presenting the stereotypes of Black people as shiftless, guileless, terrified, conniving, and other horrific clichés that have dehumanized them over the centuries. He acknowledges his initial misgivings about visiting the museum and his understandable reaction that some of the objects understandably “turn the stomach.”

But Professor Gates makes an especially important point about why the Jim Crow Museum is such an invaluable resource. He acknowledges that some or even all of these memorabilia might unwittingly contribute to the brainwashing of actual and potential racists and might normalize violence through repetition in that setting, despite the warnings from the wall text and museum guides. Gates argues persuasively, however, that these racist objects can actually promote a healing power and engender a new commitment for anti-racist action.

He makes the case effectively: “Instead, by confronting our fears, we learn to master them, and from that learning comes the wisdom to see a nemesis like Jim Crow for what it really was––a systematic attempt to undermine a people, by framing and justifying, their second-class status. . . .”

We need not hide from these racist signs and objects. Instead, we need to expose them to the light of day in order to have a fuller if more disconcerting sense of the past. Then––and only then––can America move towards genuine equality and racial justice.

The final segment of the volume is the most engaging. It reproduces a colorful mural by African American artist and Ferris State University professor Jon McDonald. Entitled “Cloud of Whiteness,” the 2012 artwork in the Museum features a moving tribute to some of the people who sacrificed their lives during the Civil Rights Movement era. This striking mural complements perfectly the disgraceful imagery in the Museum itself. Like the objects in the collection, it also encourages viewers to probe deeply and reinforce collective memory about recent U.S. history.

Seventeen figures of Black and White victims of racial violence are pictured in the clouds, hovering over the landscape. Their faces, situated in the heavens, look down upon the earth. They remind audiences that they gave their lives in the eternal struggle for freedom. Many of these figures are well known and have dramatically entered the annals of recent historical memory. Iconic leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers, all of whom were assassinated in the prime of their lives, are prominently displayed in this magnificent mural.

So too are other significant martyrs from that era, who are generally well recognized among civil rights activists and historians: James Reeb, the white Unitarian Universalist minister who died after being savagely beaten by racist white men in Selma, Alabama in 1965; Viola Liuzzo, a wife and mother from Detroit who was shot to death by Klansmen while transporting civil rights marchers between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama in 1965––she was the only white woman martyred during that era; and Michael Schwerner, James Earl Cheney, and Andrew Goodman, who were tortured and murdered by Klansmen following their bogus arrest in Mississippi in 1964.

Still others pictured in McDonald’s mural also paid the ultimate price, but their specific names have never had the name recognition of the other martyrs in the artwork. On September 15, 1963, Ku Klux Klan members bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, just a few weeks after the historic March on Washington. Although this horrific event galvanized national attention on racist violence in America, few people now remember the names of the four young girls who died in that bombing: Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Robertson. The mural memorializes them and reinforces the reality that racism is no abstraction, but rather a malignant force that can kill real human beings.

Finally, this powerful artwork highlights four other African Americans who lost their lives and who are not on the public radar: Johnnie Mae Chappell, a wife and mother who was murdered in 1964 in Jacksonville, Florida when several young white men, during a period of racial tension, decided to “get a nigger”; and Delano Herman Middlelton, Samuel Ephesians Hammond, and Henry Ezekiel Smith, African American teenagers killed by police during a civil rights protest in 1988 in Orangeburg, South Carolina. They too join the others and achieve a level of immortality through this brilliant example of public mural art.

“Cloud of Whiteness” makes perfect sense in the setting of the Jim Crow Museum because it encourages visitors to understand that racist popular culture is inextricably linked to racist violence. Above all, it encourages a deeper understanding that resistance is the hallmark of African American history. The book itself effectively underscores that message. The recognition of the power and significance of resistance, at the dawn of the Donald Trump administration in 2017, has never been more important for all people of goodwill.


Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Dr. David Pilgrim's Author Page

Watermelons, Nooses and Straight Razors in Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
March 5th, 2018

Sociologist and museum curator Pilgrim provocatively confronts racist stereotypes using objects from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, which he founded in 2012, at Ferris State University, in Michigan. The array of objects he presents that caricature black people as simians, watermelon-lovers, mammies, and worse—figurines and postcards, paperweights and ceramic plates, toys, T-shirts, sheet music, buttons, children’s books, a ticket to a hanging—brazenly exemplify racist notions. In their mundane variety, Pilgrim writes, they serve as “shorthand ways of saying that black people are others, specifically, Lesser Others.” Pilgrim presents the objects as a sort of genealogy of stereotypes that he argues still persist today. For example, he notes the subtle differences between a “coon” and a “brute” (the former reserves his violence for other black people, a characteristic popularized in “coon songs” from the 1880s, which used black-on-black crime as a form of entertainment, while the latter characterizes black people as innately savage) and connects the stereotypes behind them—that Black men are violent—to contemporary culture: “Black men, like Michael Brown or the looters televised after his death at the hand of police officers... are still portrayed as brutes or beasts,” he writes. The book draws on film, music, literature, social science, and ample history to survey how white supremacy operates, from 19th century minstrel shows to the Obama monkey memes of the past decade. The graphics featured throughout will likely cause more than a little discomfort, but that’s clearly the point as Pilgrim boldly challenges readers to confront racist taboos. Color photos.

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Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats in The Spectator

By Max Décharné
The Spectator
February 17th, 2018

Mary Whitehouse’s publishers also produced Gang Girls, The Degenerates and Bikers at War

The most lurid pulp fiction titles of the 1970s were dreamt up by New English Library — who also gave us Mary Whitehouse’s autobiography

The contributors’ appreciation of the novels under discussion is obvious, and there is much that is valuable here, but some have a tendency towards plain statements which do not hold water, making this book overall a resource of variable reliability. ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Haley & His Comets is said to have been ‘originally an obscure B-side’ until used in the film Blackboard Jungle (1955), yet it was reviewed and advertised multiple times as the clear A-side in Billboard magazine on its initial release in 1954.

It is similarly unwise to mock Ed Wood Jr for his ‘imperfect grasp of slang e.g. using “jazz” as a silly euphemism for “fuck”’, when this had been a legitimate usage for several decades, and was employed as such by Jim Thompson in his 1952 hard-boiled pulp masterpiece The Killer Inside Me. Elsewhere, Soho is referred to as a ‘suburb’ of London, and a short article about Ernest Ryman’s 1958 novel Teddy Boy concludes by stating outright that ‘history has left us no clues about the identity of Ernest Ryman’. Actually, he went to school in Edmonton, read English at Wadham College, Oxford, served in the Royal Navy in minesweepers alongside Ross McWhirter, and had a distinguished postwar academic career as a lecturer in Winchester and Brighton.

There are many fine cover illustrations from books not dealt with in the main text, but it is unclear whether the writers themselves have read them all, since they include a scan of The Immortal by Walter Ross in a picture section headed ‘Pulp Fiction Music Novels,’ despite the fact that it is actually the most famous fictionalised account of the film career of James Dean.

However, it was a real pleasure to read Andrew Nette’s sympathetic piece about Jane Gallion, self-described ‘fuckbook writer’, author of the novels Stoned and Biker, and editor for the Los Angeles pulp publishers Essex House and Brandon House. There, she co-authored numerous sex manuals such as Coito Ergo Sum, and occasionally attempted to sneak some humour into the company’s output despite the wishes of her boss — an incident she recalled in a lengthy autobiographical letter reproduced here. ‘Jane,’ he said grimly, ‘no satire. Ya can’t laugh and keep a hard-on.’

In the midst of it all even the authors sometimes made money, not least Mary Whitehouse, who, according to Laurence James of New English Library, would order by the thousand from the publisher at trade price, and ‘did very well out of it’.


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Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats in Criminal Elements

By David Cranmer

February 8th, 2018


Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980, edited by Iain McIntyre and Andrew Nette, is the first comprehensive account of how the rise of postwar youth culture was depicted in mass-market pulp fiction—a must-read for anyone interested in pulp fiction, lost literary history, retro and subcultural style, and the history of postwar youth culture.

I enjoy delving into a book that I previously would have thought I’d have no interest in sampling and then spending hours reading and rereading the passages. Understand, I love pulp, but teenage angst, women behind bars, and titles like The Hippy Cult Murders and Skinhead Farewell are not normally my preference. Actually, I had zero interest until Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980 landed in my lap.

I’ve known Andrew Nette for years now (he’s a superb fiction writer himself), and I’ve appreciated the various pulp covers he posts on Twitter almost daily—how he can dig and unearth such lost treasures is quite admirable. And along with Iain McIntyre (who also collaborated on the forthcoming Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction), they have crammed a lot into 336 pages, ranging from the lost and forgotten authors to legends like Harlan Ellison, S. E. Hinton, and Salvatore A. Lombino, aka Evan Hunter. Hunter would find everlasting fame with his 87th Precinct series that became the modern blueprint for the police procedural, and he later penned the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963). But first came The Blackboard Jungle.

A moral panic over teenage violence had created a market for juvenile delinquency stories. Hunter was one of the genre’s earliest and most successful practitioners. The novel and film adaptation of The Blackboard Jungle appeared midway between The Wild One (1953) and Rebel Without a Cause (1955), films that enshrined the irresistible iconography of the delinquent in the popular imagination—Marlon Brando and James Dean, switchblades and bomber jackets.

Like almost everything else written or filmed within the JD genre, Hunter’s work operated on the blurry border between moral condemnation of crime and lurid exploitation. The format in which Hunter’s fiction was published—and sometimes republished under other names—largely determined its reception. It could be a serious ‘sociological’ look at a perceived social problem—or a contributor to the menace itself. The wily Hunter cashed in from both sides.

The highlight of this scintillating collection (of which there are many peaks) is the interview with Marijane Meaker, aka Vin Packer. Years ago, I was putting together a collection of pulp stories for BEAT to a PULP: Round Two and looked to bridge the gap between modern crime and mystery tales with the past. I believe it was Ed Gorman that directed me to Ms. Meaker, and she was kind enough to contribute a tale called “Far from Home.” What a pleasure she was to work with, a class act of professionalism and kindness. In Girl Gangs, she talks about one of the many genres she is famed for:

I also wrote some ‘confessions’. I was very good at them, because all you had to do was think of an interesting title that would pull the reader in, and then make sure that the story did not live up to the title. For example, the first story I sold was called ‘I Lost My Baby at a Pot Party’. It was a story in which a woman had the Teflon pot people come to her house for a demonstration, and while this was going on her little child ran out the door.

The confession magazines like True Romances and True Confessions just love that sort of thing, because they weren’t printing anything they had to defend yet were pulling in readers with those titles.

A terrific foreword by Peter Doyle sets everything in motion, followed by insightful contributors, to name a few, that include Mike Stax, James Cockington, Molly Grattan, and Criminal Element’s very own hard-hitter, Brian Greene. What can I say? This is a must for fans of pulp fiction and youth culture. And the next time I’m doing my monthly browsing for something to read, I’m more than likely to look for covers featuring girl gangs, biker boys, or real cool cats. Dig it.

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Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats on Dangerous Minds

By Ariel Schudson
Dangerous Minds
February 2nd, 2018

Recently I have become rather mopey and down-in-the-mouth, to be quite honest. No, it’s not politics and it’s not due to some dumb horrible break-up either. It’s simply due to the realization that I will never have the chance to live my best life and rock out to bands like Wild Asparagus or The Ding Dings. I will never be able to see shit go down at The Sound Spot or The Stomp House.

These things have been keeping me up at night. It’s just not fair. Why can’t I go back in time to the East Village and have a drink with Beebo Brinker? And why the fuck isn’t North Beach in San Francisco as steamy, sexy and crime-laden as it used to be? I wanna get myself a grumpy-ass detective man who hates hippies and reluctantly gets dragged into investigating a drugged-out cult killing. I never got my shot to take up with some doped-up horn player who lives in a jazz club and parties until dawn, dammit.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

Ever since I read the shatteringly great Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980, I am a mess! If I was once nostalgic for a past I wasn’t even alive for, I am now pining for characters and circumstances that never happened at all! Editors and authors Iain McIntyre and Andrew Nette have created something unbelievable with this volume. Something that seems almost unthinkable: it is a reference book for pulp work written in a pulp-style. What I mean by this is that it is addictive, a quick read, and it leaves you wanting more.

All pulp is of the “betcha can’t eat just one” variety and so is this book. You can’t just read the chapter on 1960s British Youthsploitation Novels and you can’t just read the bits on early juvenile delinquent pulps. It’s simply not possible with this book. The way that Girl Gangs infiltrates your senses could easily be equated to the experiences of the characters in the counterculture pulps it documents: the volume starts slow like a neatly rolled joint, then kicks off mad like a killer acid trip and doesn’t let go until the contributors page and acknowledgements, at which point you find yourself the last person to leave the party, saying: “That’s it? No more? Should I just start it again from page one? I probably missed something. Okay. Here goes!” Drop that tab. Just smoke that bowl. There’s many layers to this book. It goes down just as smooth the second time around.

There are many writers who attend the Girl Gangs shindig, and every one of them should be well praised for their hard work. On a personal note, the inclusion of the YA fiction work at the close was so brilliant as there is an entire world of literature that I treasure that (apparently) only the writers of this book and perhaps a few others have recognized as pulpy, dangerous, subversive and REAL. And no, I’m not talking about Go Ask Alice (although that is one of the books discussed).

What makes McIntyre and Nette’s book such an achievement is the fact that not only does it include actual passages from extremely difficult and impossible to find pulp novels, many works are not US-based. Due to the fact that many of the contributing writers are UK or Australian-based, this book has one of the most uniquely international looks at pulp I have ever come across, period. It is glorious.

I have seen plenty of coffee table books on pulp cover art, academic publications, and merchandising galore (who hasn’t seen the card holders/compacts/cigarette cases for Don Elliot’s Hot Rod Sinners or Edward De Roo’s Go, Man, Go!) but I have never met a book that is as pleasingly exhaustive as Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, And Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980. I have never been so aware of Australian crime, women pulp writers, queerness in pulp and the influence of social/political events on the genre. I was well aware of how subversive the genre was, but the interviews with authors floored me and the amount of deep research in this book on a rather obscure literary genre blew my mind.

I don’t care who you are you this book will thrill you. It’s a bookcase necessity. If you have any interest in rock ‘n roll, lesbians, cult murder, car racing, leather jackets, skinhead violence, surfing spies, girl gangs or adolescents trying pot for the first time, THIS IS YOUR BAG, BABY. You will not get most of this material anywhere else. Trust me, I’ve looked. I have a list now of the things I want to read/find but I know I will be screwed when it comes to getting them. Most of them are either out of my price range collectibles or simply nowhere to be found except in the hands of exceptional weirdo wonderfuls like Iain McIntyre, Andrew Nette and their fearless crew. As an archivist, I trust them with these treasures implicitly. And await their next title with bated breath!

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Unfree Labour?: Struggles of Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada: A Review


By Sarah Marsden
BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly

Canada has a long history of reliance on the labour of both permanent immigrants and migrant workers. In recent decades, the number of migrant workers entering Canada has increased significantly relative to permanent immigrants.

A core component of Canada’s policy on migrant labour is to restrict the labour mobility of migrant workers: in many cases, they are only permitted to work for the employer who has obtained permission to hire them, and only in the specific job for which they were hired. Many migrant workers thus cannot circulate freely in the labour market as can permanent residents and Canadian citizens, which leads to a heightened power differential between migrant workers and their employers. These workers’ vulnerability to abuse and exploitation at worksites is well documented, as is their social and economic marginalization.

Drawing on the Marxist concept of unfree labour, the chapters in Unfree Labour? offer analytical and practical responses to the subordination of immigrant and migrant workers in Canada in the context of domestic and globalized neoliberal policy. As a whole, the work acknowledges the structural causes of these workers’ subordination and emphasizes local sites of organization and resistance and their potential for effecting material change in workers’ conditions.

The volume’s contributors are scholars and/or front line activists. The collection emphasizes migrant workers rather than immigrant workers, but many analytical components are applicable to immigrant workers as well; some chapters, such as Polanco’s on fast-food work, touch directly on the interests of immigrant workers.

Most of the chapters in Unfree Labour? consider specific labour segments in which migrant labour is prevalent. Mark Thomas demonstrates the role of the state in reproducing modern forms of unfree labour through the example of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker program. Adriana Paz Ramirez and Jennifer Jihye Chun provide a historical perspective on migrant farmworker organizing and emphasize the need to call out migrant farmworker programs as a form of racial apartheid and to consider multifaceted organizing approaches. Chris Ramsaroop critiques Canada’s failure to provide Employment Insurance benefits to migrant farmworkers and takes issue with organized labour’s advocacy in this area, arguing that transnationalism provides an alternative frame for the distribution of bene ts. In the context of domestic workers, Jah-Hon Koo and Jill Hanley draw on empirical work to document workers’ resistance strategies and to implicate the state’s requirement of private sphere worksites as a barrier to e ective labour organizing. Geraldina Polanco considers the use of migrant labour in fast-food services, drawing on eldwork to highlight the devaluing impact of foreign work programs on vulnerable domestic workers and emphasizing the need to organize domestic and migrant workers alongside each other. The remaining chapters deal with grassroots and policy responses to migrant worker struggles.

Calugay, Malhaire, and Shragge emphasize the importance of understanding structural factors in workers’ countries of origin as well as developing trusting relationships and organizing across ethno-cultural lines. They elaborate on the material and political challenges of organizing workers and the importance of organizing across cultural communities, building relationships, and utilizing both legal and extralegal strategies.

In terms of more policy-based responses, Abigail Bakan offers a critique of federal employment equity law based on its inefiectiveness in dealing with embedded forms of systemic discrimination such as those inherent in the live-in caregiver program. Sedef Arat-Koç situates Canada’s foreign work programs within the context of neoliberal policy and labour market restructuring, framing the migrant work program not only as a source of cheap labour but also as a subsidy for Canada’s welfare state. She argues that, in order to respond meaningfully to migrant workers’ struggles, it is necessary to overcome romanticized nationalist narratives and make oppositional politics more explicit. Two chapters (Paz Ramirez and Chun, and Polanco) draw on eldwork and organizing experience with migrant worker groups in British Columbia, specifically with regard to the agriculture and fast-food industries.

As a whole, this collection addresses the impact of national policy and organizing methods that bear directly on the situation of migrant workers in British Columbia, whose labour market engagement and barriers to equality are closely analogous to those evident in Ontario and Quebec (the focus of several chapters). This collection is significant in its contribution to labour migration studies. It includes multiple empirical chapters in which critiques of law and policy draw directly on interviews with migrant workers. It also contributes theoretically, elucidating critical relationships between Canada’s labour migration policies and transnational relations, considering the potential of grassroots organizing, and problematizing the relationship between migrant workers’ struggles and the “traditional” (white, union-based) labour movement, particularly in terms of its failure to adequately contest racism. Its greatest strength, however, lies in the grounding of its analysis in the insights of organizers and activist-scholars directly involved with the material struggles of migrant workers. This work will be of interest to advocates, scholars, and activists involved with migrant workers. It will also appeal to those interested in critical perspectives on labour in the new economy and to anyone who wishes to consider strategies to resist the subordination of migrant workers in Canada.

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