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Written in Blood: A Review

when miners marchby George Brosi
Appalachian Mountain Books
August 2017


The heart of this book is two articles that were published first in the Summer 2011 issue of Appalachian Heritage when I was serving as its editor.

“Esau in the Coal Fields” by Michael Kline exposes a horrendous practice at the Whipple Company Store near Oak Hill, West Virginia. When a coal miner living in their company town would be killed in the mines, his family would be evicted from their home unless the widow agreed to work as a prostitute upstairs in the Company Store. “Victory on Blair Mountain” by Wess Harris argues that the militant miners who fought the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921 in West Virginia against the coal operators and the local, state, and federal governments did gain significant victories then and there. Before I published each of these articles I carefully edited them, with the consent of the authors, to be sure that the content was unassailable, and I checked with my supervisors at Berea College who publish Appalachian Heritage to make sure that publishing these articles would not result in any liabilities on their part.

Written in Blood begins with all of the articles in Truth Be Told edited and published by Wess Harris in 2015 plus one poem. These essays include the two articles mentioned above and three articles presenting collaborating evidence that the practices at the Whipple Company Store were widespread as well as were other ways of sexually exploiting the women of the coal fields. The new book also includes 13 of the 14 articles in Dead Ringers: Why Miners March edited and published by Harris in 2012. In addition, the new book includes interviews by Michael and Carrie Kline with two courageous defenders of coalfield workers, Tony Oppegard and Jack Spadero. It ends with three articles, not found elsewhere, by Nathan J. Fetty, Carrie Kline, and Wess Harris that bring coal field struggles up to date and provide both inspiration and concrete suggestions for constructive participation in rectifying past abuses and building a more just future. The result is that you need Written in Blood even if you have the two earlier books, but if you have Written in Blood, there is little need for either of the two previous books.

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Another Inconvenient Truth: Normal Channels Are Not Enough

by Steve Chase
Minds of the Movement
August 22nd, 2017

A few weeks back, I sat in a movie theater watching Al Gore’s new movie about his efforts to avert climate chaos through citizen education, lobbying, and high level negotiations. The film is funny, heartbreaking, insightful, scary, and, even hopeful at times. Yet, I’m not sure that Gore fully understands what is involved when he compares the global climate protection movement to historic US social movements for labor rights, women’s suffrage, ending legal Jim Crow segregation in the South, and promoting gay and lesbian rights.

These social movements were successful because they combined “normal institutional channels” of activism—which Gore advocates—with a strategy of nonviolent civil resistance and mass mobilization through strikes, boycotts, mass demonstrations, and other tactics—which Gore ignores here. He does not even mention his marching in the giant climate march in New York to impact the policies of the UN, let alone discuss more daring efforts like the native Water Protectors struggle to stop the Dakota Pipeline, or 350.org’s coordinated “Break Free from Fossil Fuels” civil disobedience mobilization in May 2016. Those creative actions involved hundreds of thousands of concerned people on six continents nonviolently disrupting the global fossil fuel industry.

Fortunately, there is a good resource available that applies a civil resistance framework to addressing climate change. It is the new book Against Doom: A Climate Insurgency Manual, written by documentary filmmaker, labor historian, and organizer Jeremy Brecher.  The author has walked his talk, organizing with the Labor Network for Sustainability and being arrested in the early White House sit-ins against the Keystone XL pipeline.  In 2015, he wrote an online book entitled Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival in which he tried to sketch out an effective, long-term strategy for the global climate protection movement. His new book updates and develops these ideas further and it is a worthy and timely read.

What is his big idea? For Brecher, “climate insurgency” means moving beyond “climate protection strategies that operate exclusively within the framework of conventional electoral politics and lobbying.” It means adapting Gandhi’s civil resistance strategies used to end British imperial rule to now address unaccountable government and corporate criminals pushing climate chaos. Brecher calls on all of us to transform ourselves from “climate worriers into climate warriors,” people who are ready, willing, and able to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience and escalating civil resistance tactics, “ranging from sit-ins to general strikes and from boycotts to dual sovereignty and parallel governments.”

This may sound extreme, but scientists’ predictions for climate change are incredibly dire, and the lives and livelihoods of present and future generations hang in the balance. As Brecher also notes, “The political systems of the most powerful countries are dominated by fossil fuel interests” and “are supported by institutions, corporations, and constituencies that fear the consequences of a transition to a fossil-free world.” Our choices in this situation are do nothing, only use our very constrained normal channels of institutional change, build strong nonviolent civil resistance movements, or engage in sporadic political violence in the hopes of achieving climate justice. The option that has had the most success under the circumstances of a “democracy deficit” is civil resistance (though normal channels can aid in this work).

Brecher’s book picks up on this important fact and even points to specific examples of the kind of civil resistance actions that can show us the way forward. In his opening chapter “This Is What Insurgency Looks Like,” he presents a global snapshot.

In the Philippines, ten thousand people marched and rallied demanding the cancellation of a six-hundred-megawatt coal power plant project. In New Zealand, protesters blockaded and shut down Christchurch, Dunedin, and Wellington branches of the ANZ bank, which had $13.5 billion invested in fossil fuels. In Indonesia, banner drops brought a coal terminal to a standstill, and three thousand people held a “climate carnival” at the presidential palace demanding a move from coal to renewable energy. In Germany, four thousand people shut down a large lignite coal mine for more than two days. In Vancouver, Canada, more than eight hundred people held a sit-in and a kayak swarm at the tanker terminal for the Kinder Morgan gas pipeline. In Turkey, community leaders led a mass action at a coal waste site calling for a halt to four fossil fuel plant projects planned for the area.

In the rest of the book, Brecher explains in clear ways just how civil resistance could be developed further and made a core strategy of an effective climate justice movement. In future posts, I hope to explore some of his most important strategic insights in greater detail. Right now, I just want to urge people to read this book!

Steve Chase is a long-time activist, educator, and writer. He was an editor at South End Press for many years, the founding director of Antioch University’s master’s level activist training program in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability, and is currently ICNC’s Manager of Academic Initiatives.


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Eye of the Storm: scott crow on Revolutionary Infrastructure


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Hurricane Harvey has hit Texas and thousands of people are not displaced from their homes and are having trouble meeting their basic needs. As in past disasters, everyday human beings and autonomous formations are providing more on the ground aid and support than government agencies or major NGOs. In the meantime, journalists have attacked and police have arrested those who have been caught looting just to feed themselves as the city has also implemented a curfew. Many have also noted how Trump has given more compassion to the wealthy as he pushes forward his plans for tax cuts than to those who have died or lost their homes in Texas.

Looking back at past autonomous and anarchist responses to disasters, which includes efforts like Occupy Sandy in New York, we immediately come across the Common Ground Collective that sprung up in New Orleans in the Lower 9th Ward which was founded by Malik Rahim. At the center of the action was long time anarchist organizer Scott Crow and in this interview we discuss how the Common Ground Collective and Clinic grew to include 7 clinics throughout the neighborhood and over 200 community gardens.

Scott argues that anarchists and autonomous anti-capitalists need to concentrate their efforts on building up revolutionary infrastructure and dual power. Towards this end we spend a lot of time talking about what this could look like and how a project similar to Common Ground could possibly be built today.

After this podcast was recorded autonomous and anarchist groups began to respond to the Harvey disaster and currently are organizing supply lines, working on the ground, and are raising money. Check out the above tweets for how to plug in.

More Info: Black Flags and Windmills and Scott Crow on Twitter.

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(H)afrocentric Starred Review in Kirkus

Kirkus
Starred Review
September 2017

Originally published in four  separate volumes, this graphic novel introduces the outspoken college-student revolutionary Naima Pepper and her friends.

Naima is a mixed-race, half-black, half-white, student struggling to reconcile the inequalities that she sees on the campus of the fictional Ronald Reagan University and in the surrounding neighborhoods of Oakland, California. She decides to start an online anti-gentrification movement, Mydiaspora.com, envisioning it as a social networking space for black people to congregate when they tire of “white folks.” To raise funds, Naima and her friends decide to throw a concert. Naima and her best friend, Renee, go on a quest to organize support for the concert, including a humorous meeting in which they try to entice a white, dreadlock-wearing hipster couple to contribute solar panels. Following this, Naima is in need of a senior internship to graduate. When she can’t find an internship that suits a revolutionary, her fairy godmother (who looks like Fannie Lou Hamer) creates one as a “racial interpreter” that finds Naima answering stereotypical questions asked by white people about black people. The novel hosts a multicultural cast of college students who engage politically, blending satire and history for a recipe of topics millennials don’t shy from. Sporting a tank top with the word “Ally” written above a photo of John Brown, perched on top of the literal soap box she preaches from, Naima Pepper is a force to be reckoned with.

Readers will be smitten with Naima, and they will hope for more of her. (Graphic novel. 14-adult)


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(H)afrocentric in The San Francisco Chronicle

By Brandon Yu
San Francisco Chronicle
August 25th, 2017


Juliana “Jewels” Smith’s “(H)afrocentric” began in community college classrooms, when she attempted to use the comic book form to challenge and engage her students — a fitting origin story for a work itself focusing on a group of young university students organizing a movement as budding activists.

Composed of four volumes from an ongoing comic series, “(H)afrocentric” follows four students at the fictional Ronald Reagan University in Oakland, where gentrification has taken hold of the city surrounding the predominantly white campus. The reluctantly political crew is led by Naima Smith, a half black, half white student plotting her way into the ranks of her revolutionary idols like George Jackson and Angela Davis.

Smith has described her comics as a feminist version of “The Boondocks,” but if “(H)afrocentric” is a sister companion, it might be alongside Netflix’s TV show “Dear White People.” Both portray Millennial black students taking on racial injustice, from large-scale, systemic forms to quotidian ignorance, on a largely white campus.

But the strong suits of “Dear White People” — the more nuanced interrogation of black identity and the inner conflicts of how black activism ought to take form — lack the same dimension in “(H)afrocentric.”

The first three volumes focus on Naima’s attempt to fund her idea for mydiaspora.com, an “anti-gentrification social networking site, for black folks.” Like many other lines, it can be hard to tell if Smith is being self-indulgent in her social justice leanings, or slyly self-deprecating. The fourth volume, however, takes a fuller shape and sharper satire. Naima struggles to deal with her new job as a “racial translator” and fights with her Fannie Lou Hamer-looking fairy godmother over what it takes to become a revolutionary.

Alongside nicely detailed illustrations by Ronald Nelson, Smith sets up promise for a deeper picture of an ultimately new type of comic.

Even if the execution is not as satisfying, the very existence of something like “(H)afrocentric” — a comic with a black heroine at its center whose fight against injustice reflects pressing realities — is enough to be a welcome presence, and one a long time coming at that.

Brandon Yu is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: byu@sfchronicle.com

Buy (H)afrocentric | Buy (H)afrocentric e-Book now | Back to Juliana "Jewels" Smith's Author Page




"I Never Claimed I Was F***ing Sitting Bull"

Ward Churchill, fiery ex-professor and Native American rights activist, is ready for his comeback

By Wes Enzinna
Mother Jones
September 5th, 2017

Ward Churchill in 2006, before he was fired from the University of Colorado. Thomas Boyd/Zuma

One Saturday afternoon, Ward Churchill returned to the University of Colorado-Boulder, where 10 years earlier he’d been fired and stripped of tenure as chair of the college’s ethnic studies department. “I thought Bill O’Reilly would’ve stirred up a few protesters,” he said before taking the floor in a carpeted conference room half filled with about 50 professors, students, and activists.

The O’Reilly Factor aired 41 segments on Churchill. The Weekly Standard tagged him “the worst professor in America.”

Standing before the crowd, the 69-year-old Churchill cut the image of the bomb-throwing radical—“a traitor,” as O’Reilly put it—that he’d been cultivating his entire life: 6-foot-5 in cowboy boots, with a long gray-black ponytail cinched with a black band and his waist lassoed with a beaded belt. He grit his teeth while talking, like he was chewing tobacco, and spat out his words with disgust. “American jockstrap sniffers,” he called his critics, in particular the academics who’d picked apart his scholarship and helped get him fired. He compared them to SS officers, to apparatchiks helping the trains of a supposedly corrupt University of Colorado system run on time. “That’s what Eichmann did,” he said. The crowd gasped with delight.

Churchill’s penchant for this comparison, ad-Nazium, runs deep. Each of his 18 books is a brick in a monumental project dedicated to proving that Native Americans were subjected to a genocide comparable to the Holocaust. The day after September 11, he published an essay describing the stockbrokers and technocrats who died in the Twin Towers as “little Eichmanns.” Right-wing media was incensed: The O’Reilly Factor aired 41 segments on him. The Weekly Standard tagged him “the worst professor in America.”

His scholarly work was investigated by a University of Colorado special committee—overseen by CU President Hank Brown, a former Republican senator who co-founded the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), a conservative campus watchdog, with Lynne Cheney in 1995. Churchill was accused of plagiarism and falsifying his research, and he was fired in July 2007.

Most of the claims leveled against Churchill were later deemed “almost entirely false or misleading.” But it was too late.

After reviewing 17,000 pages of evidence, the American Association of University Professors would later find most of the claims leveled against Churchill “almost entirely false or misleading.” When Churchill sued CU, a jury reached the same conclusion. But it was too late. Churchill’s career and reputation were eviscerated.

In the decade since Churchill’s dismissal, his case has not only become just one in a long line of right-wing attacks on academic freedom, it has also served as a precursor to today’s “free speech” battles. While ACTA once published a list of instructors opposed to President George W. Bush’s anti-terrorism policies, groups such as the Bradley Foundation and the Koch Foundation spend hundreds of thousands of dollars funding centers on college campuses dedicated to promoting so-called free-market ideas—a professor at a Koch-backed center once described the students as foot-soldiers—as well as backing groups that target “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” as antithetical to free expression.

Republican legislators, meanwhile, attempt to silence other types of speech on campus, such as when, in 2015, GOP lawmakers in North Carolina shut down the Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at the UNC-Chapel Hill’s law school for allegedly being too left-leaning. Or earlier this year, when Republican state legislators threatened to withhold funds from the University of Wisconsin-Madison until it agreed to fire the instructor of a course on “The Problems of Whiteness.” Churchill’s firing, and ACTA and right-wing media’s cheering of it, belies, in some ways, campus conservatives’ concern for protecting academic freedom, and Churchill is a reminder that today’s right-wing-led free speech fights are mostly about politics and power, not the First Amendment.

“Academic freedom in America is dead,” Churchill told the crowd.

Now, in Boulder, he had returned to say I told you so. “Academic freedom in America is dead,” Churchill told the crowd. “I had my identity before I was a professor, I had it while I was a professor, and I have it now.”

After his decadelong absence from public life, he had just published a volume of his collected work, Wielding Words Like Weapons. There’s also a forthcoming volume and “a half-dozen books in varying states of completion.” His return was an attempt at a comeback, and a vindication. He’d been invited to give the keynote address at a conference organized by the lead author of the American Association of University Professors report that concluded that Churchill had been the victim of a politically motivated witch hunt that violated “the most basic principles of academic freedom.”

After his hourlong speech, Churchill shook hands and signed some books before walking to the parking lot carrying a check for his $550 speaking fee—before he was fired, he charged $5,000. He climbed into a red Dodge Durango, lit a filterless Pall Mall, and drove toward downtown Boulder, past the building where he got his start as a writer for Soldier of Fortune magazine, past the corner where he’d been arrested for protesting Columbus Day in 1991. A spring storm had painted the streets with a fresh coat of snow. “I don’t even recognize this fuckin’ place,” he said as he passed a new Barnes & Noble and condo towers. “It’d be nice to blow it up.”

The truck’s seatbelt warning dinged. Churchill “doesn’t do seatbelts.”

The truck’s seatbelt warning dinged. Churchill “doesn’t do seatbelts.” He doesn’t do airplanes either. He’d driven from Atlanta, where he now lives—it took a whole week—just to get here. Driving, he said, clears his head.

When he arrived at a brown ranch house on Wicklow Street, he slowed to a crawl. He’d lived in the house for 30 years, until he sold it in 2012 after his appeal to be reinstated at CU-Boulder was rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court. He recalled shooting jackrabbits in the pasture across the street. It was now the yard of a McMansion. “That house would look really good,” Churchill said, “if it was on fire.”

On the night of May 31, 2000, Churchill’s 25-year-old wife, Leah Renae Kelly, died about a hundred yards from here. She and Churchill had been sitting on their porch when they got into an argument. Churchill went inside. When he returned, Kelly, who had been drinking heavily, was gone. Soon Churchill saw flashing blue lights down the road and went running toward them. He found Kelly splayed across the road’s center line. She’d been run over. Churchill picked up her body, like a “broken bird,” and she died soon afterward.

“Leah Renae Kelly was not simply an ‘inebriated pedestrian killed by [a] car,’ as the local newspaper so casually remarked on the date she died,” Churchill writes in his 2013 essay, “Kizhiibaabinesik,” collected in Wielding Words Like Weapons. (Kizhiibaabinesik means “great bird circling the earth” in Ojibwa.) “There were reasons why that young, beautiful, incredibly promising, and catastrophically drunk Ojibwe woman was running barefooted down the middle of the road that night.”

Those reasons, Churchill argues, are the same ones that have animated all his work. From his controversial cri de coeur against nonviolent protest, Pacifism as Pathology, to Fantasies of the Master Race, a book on representations of Natives in film and literature, he’s always examined how the violence of America’s past has disfigured the identity of modern Native Americans by prompting them to internalize narratives of inferiority and inculcated in them tremendous self-hatred.

He’s looked at how this has disfigured the white oppressors, in turn, by demanding self-denial of their crimes in order to maintain a positive self-identity, what Churchill calls the “Master narrative.” Kelly’s minor role in the Master narrative—years of self-abuse and neglect, the crushing poverty and despair of reservation life, and the alcoholism she relied on to salve those psychological wounds—was a personal tragedy, but the power of the essay is to also insist that it was a collective one. “Her life,” Churchill writes, “illustrate[s] and reveal[s] the grinding horror that destroyed her…Give the crime its name. Call it, as I have, colonialism.”

“Fucking white people,” Churchill muttered as his old house faded in the rearview mirror. “They’re the problem.”

“Fucking white people,” Churchill muttered as the house on Wicklow Street faded in the rearview mirror and he headed toward the highway. “They’re the problem.”

Yet by Churchill’s own admission, he, too, is part of the problem. During the inquiry into his scholarship, numerous newspaper investigations concluded that he’s at most only a sliver Native American. A 2005 investigation for the Rocky Mountain News by an Irish American reporter, Kevin Flynn, “turned up no evidence of a single Indian ancestor” among 142 of Churchill’s ancestors. Two of his great-grandparents identified themselves as Native American on census records—a fact that seems to support his claim to be 1/16 Cherokee—and the genealogical records Flynn consulted list the race and ethnicity of Churchill’s family members as “unknown,” not Caucasian. But none of that satisfied the critics who derided Churchill as a “pretendian.” “His words got him in trouble,” author Sherman Alexie told Mother Jones in 2009, “but he had lost plenty of Indian credibility before he lost white people’s credibility.”

“Even if that fucking Irish reporter is 100 percent right,” Churchill said, “how is the exact measure of how Native I am relevant to me being railroaded and stripped of tenure? I never claimed I was fucking Sitting Bull.”

He described growing up in a working-class part of Evanston, Illinois, how he never knew his biological father, and how at the age of 10 his mother and grandmother told him he was the descendant of Cherokees (an account corroborated by Churchill’s brother). His maternal family had identified that way for years. In the 1890s, one ancestor argued before the Supreme Court that he was Native American and demanded to be given a land allotment by the federal government. He was denied.

“This is precisely how structural racism works,” Churchill said as he drove. “The state and its institutions exert their ability to define another’s identity at will and give or withdraw benefits and protections accordingly.” He refers to the “blood quantum”—the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ common requirement that tribe members demonstrate one-quarter native ancestry—as an “extension of the project of genocide.”

As more Natives intermarry with non-Natives, Churchill fears that eventually no one will satisfy the blood quantum. “Tribes are kicking fucking guys who look like Geronimo off the rolls because they can’t prove they are 25 percent Native,” he said. “Why the fuck does the federal government get to decide how much blood is required to make someone native? Follow this to its logical conclusion and soon there will be no ‘Natives’ left.”

When asked him whether he’d ever write about his ancestry, Churchill bristled: “I don’t like being vulnerable.”

When I asked him whether he’d ever write about his own ancestry and the controversy surrounding it, he bristled. “I don’t like being vulnerable,” he said. But what might Churchill write about his own life if he applied to it the same unsparing analysis that he applied to Leah Renae Kelly’s? What might he say about the lacunas and inconsistencies of his biography—his childhood, his Vietnam service, his years in the American Indian Movement, the formation of his consciousness as a self-identifying Native?

Answering these questions with his acid pen might illuminate how, perhaps, embodied in his own life story, in his own identity, is yet another version of the violent clash between colonizer and colonized.

Back on the highway, Churchill stomped on the pedal and gunned it to 80 mph. He lit his last Pall Mall. “I’m only human,” he said, as the city he no longer recognized gave way to farmland and snowy peaks. He went even faster—85, 90.

It was as though he were trying to outrun Boulder, but without a clear destination in mind. The seatbelt warning screamed. “It hurts,” he said. “I’ve been hurt. No one said the fucking process of decolonization was going to be painless.”

Buy Wielding Words like Weapons | Buy Wielding Words like Weapons. e-Book now | Back to Ward Churchill's Author Page




Exploring Elizabeth Hand's Many Voices

By Matthew Keeley
Tor.com
August 23rd, 2017

Some authors have a very distinct brand; their individual works, whether major or minor, are all of a type. If they publish enough, readers tend to make an adjective of their name—so “Ballardian” evokes crashed cars, empty swimming pools, and accelerating entropy, all clinically described, while “Vancean” writers evince a fondness for abstruse vocabulary, ponderous elegance, and gloriously improbable societies. An “Asimovian” story might sacrifice prose and characterization to the rational working out of a Big Idea, while a “Phildickian” tale proceeds by way of shattered realities and paranoid revelations.

Other writers, though, seem almost to begin anew with each new book; so restless are their subjects, styles, and preoccupations that readers never feel entirely settled or comfortable with them. Elizabeth Hand is one such author. She is far too mutable a writer for “Handian” to ever become science fiction shorthand.

The list of awards on Hand’s CV testifies to her range: it includes the Shirley Jackson Award, given for “psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic;” the Nebula, awarded for science fiction; and the World Fantasy Award, presented, of course, for fantasy. She’s published a YA novel about magic, the theater, and incest; a ghost story about folk singers in an Old Dark House; three mysteries about Cass Neary, aging punk photographer and occasional detective; a fantasy trilogy; dozens of short stories; a handful of tie-ins; and several standalone titles. Not only can Hand write with equal authority on the punks and the Pre-Raphaelites, she convinces her skeptical readers that these two wildly divergent movements share some affinities.

Despite the radical differences in form, setting, genre, and intended audience, a devoted Hand reader will gradually begin to uncover unifying themes. Fire., the new Hand collection from PM Press, provides an opportunity to develop a better understanding of her career.

As Hand discloses in “How I Became a Writer,” much of her work is implicitly biographical. The eccentrically grand old houses that we see in Illyria or Wyldling Hall, with their knickknacks and ephemera and their tinctures of dread, mystery, and coziness, derive from her grandfather’s rambling Hudson Valley estate. Some of Cass Neary’s early life—skipping class to enjoy culture and neglecting studies to experience bohemia—parallel the author’s own life. In the essay’s most disturbing passage, Hand also describes a direct experience of true evil; her characters struggle with the desolation occasioned by similar ruptures. Although most of her first Cass Neary novel, Generation Loss, takes place on an island off Maine, one of its most memorable scenes takes place in New York, where Cass, ensconced in a downtown apartment, watches an era end on the morning of September 11, 2001. Both of the short stories in Fire. feature lives devastated in a second; in Hand’s fiction, no world and no individual life is proof against wanton and unwarranted destruction. Few things are more permanent than fragility.

Fire. concludes with two biographical essays on two of science fiction’s tragic heroes. Hand is a past winner of the Tiptree Award, named in honor of Alice Sheldon’s pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr. Sheldon, Hand argues, might have been happy had she been born several decades later in a world more considerate of childhood trauma and more accepting of unconventional gender identities. Instead, Sheldon led a life that mixed adventure—childhood expeditions in Africa, postwar intelligence work—with trauma in almost equal measure. In Hand’s telling, the sad end of the story, a murder-suicide, seems almost inevitable: that Alice Sheldon ended her own life doesn’t shock so much as the fact that she endured it so long and so well. Hand’s subsequent essay, on Tom Disch, once again reminds us of just how funny, provocative, and challenging a writer the SF community lost nearly ten years ago. In both of these essays, Hand evinces an honesty and bluntness akin to her subjects’. Neither author “passed suddenly” or “died unexpectedly”; neither author, I suspect, would want such anodyne obituaries.

The shortest piece in Fire. may well be my favorite. “Kronia” is a slipstream, forking-paths story about all the times a woman and her lover did (not) meet, the children they (did not) have, the mutual friends they did not (or did) share, of places they might have traveled and lives they might have led. It’s dreamlike and hard-edged; like Hand’s fiction in general, “Kronia” is tender without being saccharine and attuned to the past without becoming nostalgic. The narrator of the story lives dozens of possible lives in six pages, and perhaps this multiplicity is what’s truly most characteristic of Elizabeth Hand’s writing. No two fans would ever agree on a Liz Hand reading order, and every reader will have a different favorite of her books. They will, however, agree that Elizabeth Hand is worthy of attention, admiration, and devoted reading.

Matt Keeley reads too much and watches too many movies; he is helped in the former by his day job in the publishing industry. You can find him on Twitter at @mattkeeley.

Buy Fire. | Buy Fire. e-Book now | Back to Elizabeth Hand's Author Page




PM Parenting Books on Punk Mama: It's Your Heart, Don't Let It Die


Punk Mamas

It’s Your Heart, Don’t Let It Die

Today I was looking out the window with my son, watching the orb lights come on across the street thinking about how lucky we are to live where we do. We just moved out of the country and into a town where there are infinitely more activities and everything is within walking distance. It really builds a sense of community. When I was 25, I wouldn’t have dreamed of moving to such a tourist trap because I was busy romanticizing the dirty streets of the adjacent town, hoping we’d be able to start a collective house and spend our time with like-minded, enjoyable people. All efforts fell on deaf ears or failed right out of the gate because in reality, the town we romanticized so much had nothing to do but drink and eat, otherwise not exactly a place to grow community. So we retreated to the country, to grow vegetables and have loud parties.

The idea of being a parent occurred to me off and on, but when I found out I was pregnant, I hadn’t been trying to conceive. The bundle of cells rolling around inside of me suddenly made the drunken nights and careless attitudes seem trivial and pointless. Now it was important to have a safe place to live with engaging activities, playgrounds, sidewalks, and opportunities to grow. That last bit really got to me because I realized after spending many years neglecting my own need for progression, it never occurred to me to keep fighting that fight. Now I wanted more for my child and more for myself as a person, for both of us, as individuals; it was a weird lightbulb moment.

As parents, our role is to act as an advocate for our child as well as ourselves because while we are a parent, we are still our own person (even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes). Self-care is hard to prioritize and maybe I’m “privileged” for mentioning it, but damn, the past few weeks I have taken time to read books written by other “punk” or “alternative” parents and I have to say, what a breath of fresh air!

FullSizeRender

Who needs another book of parenting advice that just makes you feel like an impossibly shitty parent? Not me. I want a book that’s going to remind me that I’m fucking alive, that honors my role as a mother but reminds me that I am a fierce, creative, breathing creature that has existed prior to life birthing from my womb. I want to read the stories of other people who don’t get invited to be part of parenting groups because they don’t fit the soccer mom build. I want to know that there are people out there who are still activists and artists, musicians and zinesters, holding true to our roots, belting lyrics with their arms wrapped around their friends and their children. Those people exist right? I know I am one of them, sometimes I just have to reach out and grab that part of myself.

I have compiled a list of books that have been written by and for parents who lead alternative lifestyles, punkers, artists, musicians, activists, and everything in between. I hope there are more out there, I truly do, and if there aren’t, I hope you’ll work with me to expand the resources available. This list is in no particular order and my descriptions only serve to give you an idea of what is behind the cover, not rate/review the work or give you a play by play of each page. Seriously, DIVE IN:

Future Generation





The Future Generation by China Martens

I bought this radical parenting anthology several years ago at Atomic Books and instantly fell in love. China talks about being a single mother in the 90’s and how welfare reform affected the lives of single mothers, herself included. She talks about parenting, politics, and survival in a world that sometimes seems like it would sooner see parents drown than extend a hand. This book’s theme is always going to be relevant; we need China’s ideas on community now more than ever. Oh, and she’s reissuing the book, so be on the lookout!

 

mamaphonic






Mamaphonic edited by Bee Lavender and Maia Rossini

A compilation of experiences from parents who know the importance of maintaining that artistic, creative identity and a great book for anyone who is tired of being told that to become a parent is to lose your creative self. The light is never out, it just might take the flipping of a few switches to figure out what works for you.

 



mymotherwearscombatboots





My Mother Wears Combat Boots by Jessica Mills

This was the first “punk parenting” book I had ever read and it was one of those moments that punches your heart into oblivion. PUNK PARENTING: you do not have to give up your love of music and anti-establishment views upon becoming a parent. In fact, how highly hypocritical and sad would it be if you did? This book doesn’t just talk about punk and anarchy though, Jessica drops a lot of legitimate facts regarding pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and other postpartum issues.








 

breeder





Breeder edited by Ariel Gore and Bee Lavender

A collection of stories of unapologetically “real” parents touching on the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of parenting. I need to take a moment to shout this out: this book was one of the first “punk/alternative parenting” books I had ever read and ultimately what made me know that I’d eventually be a parent. It also made me realize how shitty it is when friends and peers act like shitheads about parents, which is something I had done for so long. We get it, you’re soo cool and free because you don’t have children “ruining your life.” Go on, remind us of our life failures while we “build a new foundation from the bricks you threw [our] way.” We are humans facing struggles and carrying the next generation of the world on our shoulders. You will not take that power from us.

 

revolutionary_mothering







Revolutionary Mothering edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams

This book is fierce and raw but full of hope! Revolutionary Mothering does an AMAZING job of giving a voice to marginalized groups: people of color and individuals in poverty. Both are such underrepresented groups of people and need to be heard and given power.

 


hip mama






The Hip Mama Survival Guide by Ariel Gore

If you’re looking for “real talk” this is it. This was a book I had read prior to that bundle of cells taking up residence in my uterus. While this book is from 1998, it serves as a judgment-free parenting resource, which is incredibly refreshing. Ariel touches on a lot of different topics, so the segments are brief but well worth the read!

 




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The Essential Hip Mama: Writing from the Cutting Edge of Parenting by Ariel Gore

This is another collection of works from various parents who provide the honesty and vulnerability that we all feel as parents. I hate to sound redundant, but it is something we all need to read because the solidarity you feel from it will break your chains of self-doubt, I promise.

 



mother trip






The Mother Trip: Hip Mama’s Guide to Staying Sane in the Chaos of Motherhood by Ariel Gore

I’ve included so many of Ariel’s books because they are such a joy to read and we all need that healthy dose of reality and feminism. A must read for those of us who broke the “mother mold” years ago.






 

whatever mom





Whatever, Mom: Hip Mama’s Guide to Raising a Teenager by Ariel Gore

This reads less like a guide and more like an empathetic, humorous approach to parenting a teenager. We all talk about new babies, but when the novelty of diapers and night time feeding wears off, what do we have to represent the parents of young adults? Growing children are a hard pill to swallow. AUTONOMY?! What do you mean you don’t need me anymore? I’m glad to see someone is talking about these things.





 

dont leave your friends behind



Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind edited by Victoria Law and China Martens

This book talks about the important fact that parenting does not automatically equate to abandoning your beliefs and interests. It also serves as a resource for those who are not parents, but have friends/acquaintances who are. Additionally, it even includes those who are not parents, but are full-time caregivers for parents or other non-children. Think about it, how can we expect children to care about our community if the community spaces make parents and their children feel unwelcome and burdensome? We need to hear the voices of the parents in our communities. Amariah Love wrote my favorite quote in this book, “Children need to have an established sense of community so that they carry those values throughout their lives.”

 

my baby rides the short bus





My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids With Disabilities edited by Yantra Bertelli, Jennifer Silverman, & Sarah Talbot

This book addresses the isolation, invisibility, frustration, and fears of parents who find themselves in a realm of parenting that is widely misrepresented and unsupported by their peers, families, and the media. One of my favorite lines from the book was from Maria June, who says, “Motherhood meets us where we lack imagination.”

 

rad dad 1-10





Rad Dad Zine Compilation Issues 1-10 edited by Tomas Moniz

So I know this is a Punk Mamas blog, but I couldn’t leave Tomas Moniz out of this list because he acknowledges that we are ALL on this parenting journey in one form or another. This particular book is a compilation of the first 10 issues of Rad Dad zine.

 






rad dad

 

Rad Dad: Dispatches From the Frontiers of Fatherhood edited by Tomas Moniz & Jeremy Adam Smith

Again with Rad Dad, another collection of stories. It is refreshing to see written proof that there are a multitude of fathers out there who are questioning the mainstream role of “dad” and parenting with intention, emotion, radical mindsets, and above all, a sense of humor.

 







rad families







Rad Families: A Celebration edited by Tomas Moniz

Family means something different to everyone because the ways in which we begin as parents or start families are all so different. This book is as the title suggests: a celebration of the diversity of families.

 

A few topics I found to be lacking, maybe not totally missing, but not largely represented: maternity activism, schooling, immigration, adoption, and child-loss. By sharing our stories and frustrations, we open doors to support, advocacy, and friendship. If you are ever feeling invisible, I encourage you to make your voice heard and scream until you shatter that barrier that makes you feel separate. We cannot become advocates for one another if we do not listen and offer our support to all punk parents and everything they face: the good, the bad, and the argyle.




Spray Paint the Walls: A #VansBookClub Review

By Wenceslas Bruciaga

#VansBookClub

February 14th, 2017

“Estamos hartos de que nos maltrates, ¡Tratar de detenernos no servirá de nada!” Rise Above

Black Flag es una declaración de principios, distanciados de la típica banda que habla de la hermandad de sus integrantes como si narraran el cuento más pinche diabético de Disney, y Spray Paint The Walls es La Biografía a leer de la banda más relevante del Hardcore,

Según cuenta Stevie Chick (periodista de revistas que han marcado tendencia en el periodismo musical como Mojo o The Guardian) en Spray Paint the Walls, Henry Garfield (verdadero nombre de Rollins) fue un niño maltratado por su padre que por como lo describe Chick, se puede deducir que poseía los mismo rasgos intolerantes y gañanes del Trump que tuitea acaso compitiendo con el tuitsar más simplón y bufonesco; además, Henry fue abusado sexualmente de niño, múltiples veces, quizás por eso desarrolló una rabiosa conducta hiperactiva que le hizo acreedor a una inscripción a la Academia Bullis (el nombre es absolutamente real) sólo para varones y dónde los castigos corporales eran tan comunes, como las sumas y restas en el pizarrón: “Pero debo admitir que aquello fue muy bueno para mi, realmente me benefició que alguien me dijera No significa no y tu te vas a quedar aquí sentado hasta que lo entiendas. Lo cierto es que Bullis desarrolló en mi una autodisciplina muy rigurosa… lo único malo es que no había chicas y eso fue muy duro… me molestaba ser tan socialmente inepto por culpa de haber estado separado de las chicas todos esos años. Además que… sólo soy un freak” dice Rollins en el libro de Chick. La disciplina aprendida en Bullis fue un factor determinante para Black Flag perfeccionara sus riffs y su caos veloz fuera perfecto.

Rollins no era el único. El fundador de Black Flag, Greg Ginn, hijo de un profesor de literatura del Harbor College y habitante de Hermosa Beach, California, también era un freak, pero en un sentido retraído y concentrado de los aparatos que pasaba el tiempo en solitario, reconstruyendo viejos radiotransmisores de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, a ese negocio de reparación y venta por correo a radioaficionados lo bautizó como Solid State Turner, SST:

Cuando era niño, pensaba que el rock era estúpido. Cuando Janis Joplin murió, ni sabía quién era. Yo estaba en la electrónica y escribiendo poesía” recuerda Ginn. Hasta que leyó un artículo de algo llamado punk en el Village Voice y su vida cambiaría para siempre. Después conocería al desmadroso y borracho Kieth Morris y el hermano de Ginn, Raymond Pettibon perturbado ilustrador que inventó las cuatro franjas de Black Flag emulando las banderas de los piratas y daría vida al concepto visual del grupo que terminaría inventando el hardcore bajo una simple premisa: tocar como si Black Sabbath tuvieran cuernos de chivo en lugar de guitarras; los trazos de Pettibon desafiaban los peinados gringos con sus violentas caricaturas, que destruían las postales del idílico sueño americano con sus escenas de policías mamando el cañón de una pistola o el padre de familia volándose los sesos frente a sus hijos. Pettibon fue el pintor oficial de la imagen de la primera generación del rock subterráneo norteamericano, desde el hardcore de Black Flaghasta la inmortal portada del Goo de Sonic Youth.

Ginn conocería después de descubrir al punk al desmadroso Keith Morris que a finales de los 70 sólo perdía el tiempo emborrachándose y metiéndose ácidos y surfeando porque en Hermosa Beach todo era tan estereotípicamente californiano, que hablar de punk era tan críptico e ininteligible como una fórmula física de los agujeros negros alrededor de Saturno:

Entonces, de repente, estamos listos para tocar, y el chico saca la puerta del garaje, como si fuera una cortina de madera, y comenzamos a dar guitarrazos. Y lo primero que pasa es que sucede es una pelea que estalla, como a unos cuantos centímetros de distancia. De repente, la gente empieza a preguntrase, ¿Qué es esta mierda? ¿Quiénes son estos chicos? Fue entonces cuando las botellas, las latas y las tazas vacías comenzaron a volar a través del aire, y el vaso se estrellí delante de mí, y se puso realmente salvaje. Había empezado la fiesta” recuerda Keith Morris.

La violencia fue el prejuicio que persiguió a Black Flag a lo largo de sus ochos años de trayectoria. Chick recuerda que la policía los odiaba con la misma saña que un Minutmen practica deporte cazando migrantes. De hecho, se cuenta que incluso el departamento de policía de Los Ángeles inventaron un código numérico que cuando se transmitía por la frecuencia policial significaba Black Flag está a punto de dar un concierto, las patrullas encendían la torreta y los fanáticos de Black Flag estaban dispuestos a partirse la madre con tal de defender su derecho a romper el aburrimiento y la marginalidad del California Dreaming a punta de moshpit. Fue este acoso lo que inspiró probablemente el himno de Black Flag, Rise Above “Estamos hartos de que nos maltrates, ¡Tratar de detenernos no servirá de nada!”.

Después se unirían personajes como Chuck Dukowski (quién co-escribió Spary Paint), Robo Valverde, un colombiano ilegal, Dez Cadena, Bill Stevenson (quien luego fuera batería de los Descendents), Kira Roesseler con la que se rumora Henry tuvo un fugaz romance.

Spray paint the walls no sólo es LA biografía (indispensable) de la banda que inventó el hardcore y que fue perseguido por la policía (tal y como ciertas autoridades pretenden perseguir hoy día a los inmigrantes en Estados Unidos, incluyendo mexicanos) por su inconformidad y rabia que tradujeron en riffs y gritos y madrazos que entusiasmaron a los surfistas aburridos de las promesas californianas, traidoras, de los comerciales perfectos y las películas con finales felices y las palmeras y la fama televisada ; Chick aprovecha la fábula de Black Flag para desenterrar los fuertes contrastes de California y ejercer una severa crítica social a sus espejismos hollywoodenses que conviven con la miseria y sobrexplotación de los inmigrantes mediante una historia de precisión tan exacta como libro de texto. La parte en como revisa la fundación de California permite una reflexión para entender su contexto multicultural, sus gruesas venas mexicanas que circulan desde 1865 y su constante deseo de separarse de los Estados Unidos y fundarse como un país propio.

También contrapone el circuito de música independiente contra la industria comercial que por aquellos días dominaba casi todo el espectro de la Frecuencia Modulada, sentando las bases de lo indie: “El rock de masas consistía en vivir a lo grande; el indie, en vivir de forma realista y estar orgulloso de eso. Los grupos indie no necesitaban presupuestos promocionales de millones de dólares ni múltiples cambios de vestuarios. Lo único que necesitaban era creer en ellos mismos y que unos cuantos más creyeran en ellos” reflexiona Michaek Azerrad en el libro de Chick, el libro incluye adictivas entrevistas con todos ellos más citas de legendarios fanzines que fueron la hemeroteca oficial. Auténticos vetados en la era Trump y un jugoso y valiosísimo acervo fotográfico

Un libro que mas allá de ser la delicia de los melómanos, los punketos, los seguidores de Black Flag, a los que nos cambió la vida Black Flag, editado por PM Press editorial especializada en títulos contestarlos e iconoclastas que cuestionan el sistema gringo desde sus tripas.  Son páginas para reflexionar sobre la resistencia a la autoridad que pretende imponer un orden según sus prejuicios y pisoteando las libertades

Si, otra vez, Black Flag. Porque es la mejor banda de hardcore, lo que el punk siempre debió ser; porque ahora que el fascismo intransigente y enajenado con el patriotismo despótico y xenófobo y acosador de lo desigual se ha apoderado del país más poderoso del mundo que por mucho tiempo fue el atlas de las promesas doradas, las fantasías de glamur y el sueño más anhelado, es vital para sobrevivir al tsunami fascista que se viene, la beligerancia ideológica que fue la insignia de Black Flag, por encima de sus muros de ruido y su agresividad vocal y los reconcomios de sus errantes miembros, que fueron integrantes de una banda, pero nunca compadres. Lo importante era transmitir el mensaje: “si no te gusta el sistema, invéntate uno”.

Un libro que inspira a crear nuestro sistema.

Y porque Henry Rollins sigue estando bien pinche bueno y su sabrosura aumenta conforme su cabello se pinta de canas.

Nota del Ed. : Wenceslao nos pidió que  “por favor, por favor, por favor” pusiéramos esta foto de su tatuaje de Black Flag.


Buy the book | Buy the e-Book | Back to Stevie Chick's Author Page


A Blaze in the Desert: A Review

By Rebecca Townesend
Socialist Review
July/August 2017

A Blaze in a Desert is a slim volume of selected poems by Victor Serge. Serge was a revolutionary and writer who witnessed many of the great political highs and terrible lows in the first half of the 20th century.

He was inspired by the revolution and arrived in Russia in January 1919, shortly afterwards joining the Bolshevik Party. He consistently opposed Stalin and was exiled.

I approached this volume not knowing much about his life and works and I am sure that those with a more detailed knowledge would experience these poems differently.

However I would encourage anyone to spend some time with this collection. There are notes and essays that accompany the poems, which include a broad chronology and some interesting details about Serge’s relationship to poetry.

The poems reflect a life filled with challenging political and personal circumstances. They are beautiful and often suffused with strong feelings of great sadness, aching and longing and he moves from anger, sorrow and grief to love, occasionally displaying flashes of wry humour.

The collection is in three parts. Resistance includes poems generally written by Serge “during the period of deportation that he spent in Orenburg (1933-36)”. His original dedication to the poems in Messages is included. He wrote from Mexico City in 1946 that he dedicated them to “my surviving friends and comrades from the black years and to our dead, too numerous to name”. The final part, Mains/Hands is just one poem and it is his final one.

Throughout the poems there are lots of references to his comrades and friends and their often tragic stories, which are referred to in the notes. One such figure is Jacques Mesnil, who died “fleeing the Nazis during the fall of France”. Serge writes of him, “His emaciated face bore the marks of a great, dogged/ courage.”

He specifically takes on the Moscow Trials in his poem “Confessions”. In it he rages at “this confession of an insane degeneration/ this fall into darkness”.

What is most special about his poetry for me is his commitment to continue to struggle, and write. He writes in “People of the Ural” in 1935, “Let’s get to work so that one day a passerby might see/ in the lines taking form at this moment/ patches of a clearing sky I cannot see in them”.

Ultimately, whatever deep sorrow at loss, both personal and political, that is contained within these poems, I am hanging onto lines from “Constellation of Dead Brothers”. This poem was written in 1935 and the book’s title is drawn from it: “The ardent voyage continues/ the course is set on good hope”.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Victor Serge's Author Page | Back to James Brook's Translator Page



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