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June 2006

New and worth noting

*Fast Boat to China by Andrew Ross (Pantheon). At a time when most Americans know little about the world’s most populous country, the author spent a year in China documenting how workers everywhere are losing in the age of globalization.
*The Line Between Us by Bill Bigelow (Rethinking Schools).  A high school teacher who is a leading education reform activist presents field-tested ideas and materials for stimulating critical thinking about Mexican immigration and border issues.
*All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity by Robert W. Fuller (Berrett-Koehler). Many people today are aware of racism and sexism, but few think about “rankism” – the often subtle denial of dignity and empowerment based on people’s rank or socioeconomic status. This book identifies the phenomenon and envisions how workplaces, health care, education, and other institutions could be organized to recognize everyone’s dignity.
*L.A. Story by Ruth Milkman (Russell Sage). Long a stronghold of anti-union corporate interests, Los Angeles has lost its industrial base and seen a major influx of undocumented immigrants believed by many to be unorganizable – yet it has seen a surge in unionization that may hold lessons for the rest of the country.
*When the War Came Home by Stacy Bannerman (Continuum). After a 43-year-old reservist was called up and sent to Iraq, his anti-war wife became a leader of Military Families Speak Out. Her story grapples with the issue of what it means to “support our troops” with a depth few people experience.
*Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes edited by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. Nine essays by prominent Native Americans about the conquest of the West, drawing on tribal memories and accounts from that time.
*Call Me Henri by Lorraine Lopez (Curbstone). Why are kids in the inner city really up against? This novel for young people answers that question while telling an engaging story.
*Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday). A clever satiric novel about an African American “nomenclature consultant” hired to help a town decide on a new name.
*All Together Now by Jared Bernstein (Berrett-Koehler). Progressives know what they are against. This is a short, readable attempt to identify a program progressives can be for. The issue, Bernstein says, is whether America will have an economic program based on “You’re On Your Own” (YOYO) or “We’re In This Together” (WITT).
*Future Hype by Bob Seidensticker (Berrett-Koehler). A former Microsoft manager argues that many of the commonly accepted beliefs about how technology is changing our world at an unprecedented pace are myths.
*Official Versions by Mark Pawlak (Hanging Loose Press). Prose poems that sharpen the absurdities of current political and commercial life in America.
*Talking Right by Geoffrey Nunberg (Public Affairs). An analysis of how the right has understand the use of framing and language better than progressives have.
*Being Chinese, Becoming Chinese American by Shehong Chen (University of Illinois). Describes how Chinese immigrants in the early 1900s developed their new communities and new identity in America.
*50 Simple Things You Can Do to Fight the Right (EarthWorks Press). 192 pages packed with ideas and resources to suit activists with a wide variety of strategic preferences. There’s now only one page about the importance of unions; hopefully, future editions will provide some detail on why and how progressives should support worker organizing.
* For All These Rights by Jennifer Klein (Princeton). As the system of private health and retirement benefits is collapsing, this history describes how it was created in the first place after World War II.
* Dirt Cheap by Lyn Miller-Machmann (Curbstone). Echoes of Ibsen’s enemy of the people as a Connecticut professor discovers that chemical pollution is the cause of leukemia for himself and others in his community.
*Seeger’s own Seeger sessions.
While Bruce Springsteen conducts his We Shall Overcome tour with his joyous renditions of songs associated with Pete Seeger, Smithsonian Folkways (www.folkways.si.edu) is stepping up promotion of the original Seeger recordings – some live, some studio -- that inspired the project. It’s striking to be reminded of how Seeger avoided the celebrity-audience model and instead involved everyone at his concerts in singing along – perhaps a tradition other musicians could revive at a time when the growing popularity of karaoke is just one example of the increasing appeal of participatory culture.
*Reprieve by Ani DiFranco (Righteous Babe). Another strong collection from one of the best at merging the personal and the political.
*Classic Labor Songs (Smithsonian Folkways). 28 songs by artists such as Woody Guthrie, Paul Robeson, the Almanac Singers, Florence Reece, Hazel Dickens, and Larry Penn.
*Firecracker by The Wailin’ Jennys (Red House). Second album from three talented women.
*Postcards by Peter Ostroushko (Red House). Lively instrumental music featuring mandolin and fiddle.
*Historias Que Contar by Los Tigres del Norte (Fonovisa). More tales in the corrido tradition.

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