New and worth noting...
Refinery Town by Steve Early (Beacon).
At a time when many progressives are recognizing a need to emphasize local
organizing on issues of economic, racial, and environmental justice, a veteran
organizer describes a growing movement in the working class community of
Richmond, California, site of a major Chevron refinery. A broad coalition of
labor, community organizations, environmentalists, and gay rights advocates has
grappled with many of the challenges being faced in most local organizing,
including how to work through differences in order to find common ground; how
to ensure a leadership role for younger activists, people of color, workers,
and women; and how to connect electoral work with year-round organizing on
local issues like living wages, affordable housing, community policing,
immigrant rights, and access to health care.
Eagle Huntress. This stunning documentary is a must-see not only for
adults but for any kids old enough to read subtitles. It shows a 13-year-old
girl in a remote, barren Mongolian community where for centuries teenage boys
have been taught by their fathers to train eagles to do their hunting for foxes
or other game. With her parents' full support, this girl decides to break
tradition and become an eagle hunter herself.
The Salesman. In
an intense film from Asghar Farhadi (who also made A Separation and About
Elly), a husband and wife are partners in a theater troupe that is currently
performing Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, with the two of them in the
lead roles. A traumatic event in their personal lives triggers a crisis in
their relationship and calls into question Iran's cultural traditions regarding
gender roles and vengeance.
Loving. Little more than 50 years ago, it was illegal in many
southern states for a white person and an African American person to marry. Two
people in rural Virginia fell in love, only to be rousted out of bed and
arrested by the local sheriff. Their case eventually went to the U.S. Supreme
Court. This exceptionally well-acted feature film tells their story with a
minimum of Hollywood cliches.
Moonlight. A poignant and intimate feature film follows an
African American boy through his teenage years and manhood as he comes to grips
with being gay in a drug-infested part of Miami.
Union Time. In telling the story of a
16-year struggle to form a union by workers at the Smithfield pork processing
plant in North Carolina, this powerful 86-minute documentary provides an
excellent overview of what it takes for workers to organize in America today.
Certain Women. Filmmaker Kelly Reichardt has made another subtle
and absorbing feature film, this one about three women in a small town in
Last Cab to Darwin. A 70-year-old cab driver in Australia learns that he
has only three months to live, just as it is becoming legal to get medication
from a doctor that would allow him to choose the timing of his death. But what
does dying on his own terms mean?
Stray Dog. A documentary by the director of Winter's Bone
profiles the everyday life ofa Vietnam
veteran and his new Mexican wife as he tries to cope with the psychological
wounds of war and the growing poverty of neighbors and family members at the
bottom of the economy.
Dukhtar. A mother in the
mountains of Pakistan is faced with the imminent gift of her ten-year-old
daughter to an aging tribal leader. She decides that they should flee to the
city, despite the potentially violent consequences if they are caught.
After the Spill. An hour-long documentary
interviews commercial fishing operators and others permanently hurt by the BP
oil spill in the Gulf and looks at how the oil and gas industry's practices are
rapidly eroding Louisiana's coastline.
Year of Needy Girls by Patricia A.
Smith (Akashic). This well crafted
novel stands out for a number of reasons – the nuanced descriptions of the
characters' complex feelings, the realistic portrayal of how quickly a person's
life and a community can fall into crisis, and the focus on two lesbians and
the challenges they face.
by Beckie Elgin (Inkwater
Press). With engaging text and
photos, this tells the true story of a wolf that traveled from the northeast
corner of Oregon to make a new home near the California border and how it
eventually found a mate and started a new family. Well-told stories about the
wolf's experiences make the book ideal for everyone from kids to adults.
Cabbage That Came Back by Stephen
Pearl and Rafael Pearl (Hard Ball Press). A cute bilingual children's book tells a story that celebrates
sharing and generosity.
to Save a Life by John Edgar Wideman
(Simon & Schuster). Ten
years before 14-year-old Emmett Till was killed by white terrorists in
Mississippi in 1955, his father was hanged by the U.S. Army. Wideman revisits
that case, and in the process brings up memories of his own as an African
American boy growing up in Pittsburgh.
Girl by Hope Jahren (Knopf). This honest and entertaining book has many
elements that work together to make a unique whole: a memoir of what a girl had
to overcome to become a successful scientist, the story of her unusual bond with
her eccentric scientific partner, and accessible short insights into the lives
Underground Railroad by Colson
Whitehead (Doubleday). A novel vividly
recreates the violence of slavery and the repression faced by the few who tried
in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell
Hochschild (The New Press). Over a
five-year period, a liberal sociologist spent time in Louisiana's bayou region,
listening to white working class people whose communities have been devastated
by corporate environmental atrocities, who suffer the effects of poverty as
inequality of wealth grows, and who support Republican politicians. She reports
that the main message they hear from liberals is mockery and contempt, and that
they do not see government improving their lives. Interesting companion reading
is an article by
public opinion researcher Guy Molyneux who presents evidence that white working
class voters for Trump are not a monolithic group.
Justice by Howard Ryan (Monthly
Review Press). As the Trump
administration prepares to speed up school “reforms” that big corporations and
Wall Street are pushing, this book explains their agenda and showcases examples
of teachers organizing for alternative ways to improve education.
Carwash Adventure by Victor Narro
and Yana Murashko (Hard Ball Press). In this bilingual children's book, a young white boy gets to know a
Latino man who works at a carwash, as well as the man's son. When the boy
learns that the carwash workers are striking for fair pay, he decides to take
Tricking of Freya by Christina
Sunley (Picador). A mystery novel
takes us to a small Canadian village that is home to immigrants from Iceland,
and then to the home country where they came from, as a young woman tries to
sort out her past.
Douglass in Brooklyn edited by
Theodore Hamm (Akashic).
A collection of eight speeches by the abolitionist leader of the 1800s still
provides interesting reading more than a century later.
Then We Became by Devorah Major (City Lights). Poignant poems by a leading California writer
explore her experience as a woman, an African American, and a granddaughter of
Fire Truck Who Got Lost by Colin
Eldred-Cohen (Art of Autism). In this
brightly illustrated children's book, a young fire truck goes with the grown-up
trucks to the scene of a fire, but then gets separated and can't find his way
Firewheels, and Brown-Eyed Susans by
David Lee (Wings Press). A poet humorously
remembers the women he knew in the rural Texas community where he grew up in
Assets by Quentin Bates (Soho). A plot-driven mystery stars a female police
officer in small-town Iceland whose investigation of a murder leads her to
uncover high-level corporate and government corruption.
Big Day in a Small Town by Brandy Clark (Warner Bros). Good storytelling in the mainstream country music
Lonesome Prison Blues by Jerry Garcia. A raw, intimate acoustic set with only his
guitar and bass accompaniment in a 1982 concert at Oregon State Penitentiary.