By Anonymous (not verified) on December 01, 2009


By Kate Clinton

In the cold early months of 2009, to save money on home heating, we burned all our old anti-Bush books. No more bitter cold for us. We were warm and toasty into spring. And it made way for some new books on the shelves.

Nancy Polikoff’s Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families Under the Law (Beacon Press) was a great read for me—one of the last unmarried, childless, petless lesbians this side of the Mississippi, who is constantly asked, “Sowhenyagettinmarried?” Polikoff writes a helpful critique of the same-sex marriage movement. After a nifty summary of legal history in marriage and social movements, she argues for greater forms of family diversity and presents concrete proposals to shift legal priorities to individuals, whether in or out of relationships.

Martin Duberman’s third volume of memoir, Waiting to Land: A (Mostly) Political Memoir, 1985-2008 (New Press), begins with AIDS as a NYC backdrop and the gay community under conservative onslaught and pens a page-turner of a narrative right up to the disheartening assimilationist tactics of the current LGBT movement. Duberman’s memoir is poignant and also deep-dish salacious and wickedly ironic.

I have not yet finished Nomi Prins’s It Takes a Pillage: Behind The Bailouts, Bonuses and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Street (Wiley), but I can already assure you that she, as a former Wall Streeter, delivers on all those promises in the subtitle in engaging and enraging detail. There’ll be no need for home heating this winter. If you need more fuel to bank your fires, go see Michael Moore’s brilliant documentary Capitalism: A Love Story. It’s the show of what Prins tells.

Kate Clinton is a columnist for The Progressive. Her latest book is “I Told You So.”

By Ruth Conniff

Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World (Penguin Press), by Liaquat Ahamed, is a series of interlocking biographies of four central bankers of the United States, England, France, and Germany during the 1920s and 1930s.

Ahamed explores, in rich detail, how a small, clubbish group of bankers and the very wealthy steered the world economy into disaster, Depression, and World War II. Filled with entertaining anecdotes about larger-than-life figures, especially John Maynard Keynes, the book is instructive but also highly readable.

Keynes appears throughout as a kind of Greek chorus, predicting economic disasters, twitting the elites’ attachment to the gold standard, and making a fortune as a currency speculator along the way. He is almost alone in his criticism of the central bankers’ inclination to combat inflation at all costs, impose ruinous reparations on Germany, and remain tethered to gold.

Ahamed shows how astonishingly powerful central bankers are, and how interdependent national economies have long been. The author is an investment manager and adviser to hedge funds. He knows his subject and brings what could be dull material vividly to life. But he stops short of drawing any radical parallels to today: “In the current crisis,” he writes in his epilogue, “the authorities seemed to have at least staved off a catastrophe” through bank bailouts. It’s a pallid conclusion to a colorful book that leaves you gasping at the sheer chutzpah of the handful of powerful men who plunged the world into chaos for a time.

In Come Home America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country (Rodale Books), William Greider covers some of the same highly relevant historical ground as Ahamed, including the development of the Fed, the gold standard, and class conflict over inflation policy. But while Ahamed seems taken with the aristocratic world he writes about, Greider cares more about barefoot farmers and working folks. In this book, he boils down decades of reporting and writing on economics for the lay person and promotes his unapologetically progressive vision. His ringing endorsement of democratic values is inspiring. And he urges people to revolt against not only “Wall Street’s greed and reckless overreaching,” but also “the Federal Reserve—sheltered from public scrutiny and protected from political accountability—that engineered America’s great shift in fortunes.”

Ruth Conniff is the political editor of The Progressive.

By Edwidge Danticat

Zeitoun (McSweeney’s), by Dave Eggers. I first read about Abdulrahman Zeitoun in a book of oral histories about Hurricane Katrina published by McSweeney’s. Zeitoun, a Syrian American contractor survives Katrina, even manages to save some lives, only to fall victim to the trappings of the Bush-era Department of Homeland Security. Dave Eggers works some of the same magic here that made his novel/biography What Is the What such a powerful read. Gripping, lyrical, and so real it makes you ache.

The Thing Around Your Neck (Knopf), by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’ve been a huge fan of this young Nigerian novelist’s work since her debut novel, Purple Hibiscus. Half of a Yellow Sun, her second novel which is set in the time of the Biafran War, was a tour de force in her still blossoming career. The Thing Around Your Neck, her first collection of stories, displays the mastery and power of her previous work, while allowing us to take sometimes much-needed breathers. The opening story, “Cell One,” shows a turbulent young man’s brutal awakening to the pain he and others inflict. The final story, “The Headstrong Historian,” takes us through several generations as a young woman claims her rightful place and legacy.

How Lincoln Learned to Read: Twelve Great Americans and the Educations That Made Them (Bloomsbury USA), by Daniel Wolff. You hear it everywhere these days. Our nation’s educational system desperately needs fixing. Lest the health care debate and the uproar over President Obama’s school address scare you from wondering when education reform will come, you need to read this book. No child, or adult, is left behind here. From Benjamin Franklin to Sojourner Truth, the author shows us how some of America’s most influential people got their education. We learn much more than how Lincoln and others learned to read. We also learn how we can be better educated ourselves.

Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian American writer living in Miami. She won the American Book Award in 1999 for “The Farming of Bones.” Her “Brother, I’m Dying” won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. She received a MacArthur award this year.

By Elizabeth DiNovella

Hilarious. Tender. Brutal. These are the trademarks of one of America’s most dazzling writers, Sherman Alexie. His latest book, War Dances (Grove Press), a collection of poetry and short stories, renders emotional landscapes—anger, joy, anxiety, grief, fear—with skill.

In “War Dances,” the short story that lends its name as the book’s title, the narrator remembers visiting his sick father in the hospital. His dad, post-surgery, is cold in bed, and the narrator asks a busy nurse for a blanket.

“With blanket in hand, I walked back to my father,” the narrator notes. “It was a thin blanket, laundered and sterilized a hundred times. In fact it was too thin. It wasn’t really a blanket. It was more like a large beach towel. Hell, it wasn’t even good enough for that. It was more like the world’s largest coffee filter. Jesus, had health care finally come to this? Everybody was uninsured and unblanketed.”

War Dances contains good poetry, too. My favorite of the bunch is his “Ode to Mix Tapes.” The digital revolution has changed how people create these soundtracks of seduction. Alexie writes that it’s too easy to make mix tapes these days with CD burners, iPods, and iTunes.

But I miss the labor

Of making old-school mix tapes—the midair

Acrobatics of recording one song

At a time. It sometimes took days

To play, choose, pause,

Ponder, record, replay, erase,

And replace. But there was no magic wand.

It was blue-collar work. . . .

But O, the last track

Was the vessel that contained

The most devotion and pain

And made promises that you couldn’t take back.

Malalai Joya’s A Woman Among Warlords (Scribner) tells the amazing story of one of Afghanistan’s leading democracy activists.

The Progressive had the opportunity to meet and interview Joya for our radio show back in 2006. Her steadfast resolve in the face of death threats touched us deeply.

So it was a real pleasure to find out more about her life by reading her autobiography. As a girl she loved poetry and would “read late into the night by the light of our propane lamp” the works of Langston Hughes and Bertolt Brecht. Inspired by her father’s own activism, she tells of opening secret schools for girls in basements, calling it “the most important act of rebellion against the Taliban.” On her wedding day, for security reasons, her bodyguards had to search every flower arrangement for explosives.

Joya fearlessly denounced the warlords at the constitutional assembly in 2003, which she attended. Two years later she ran for office and won, becoming the youngest member elected to parliament. She was later suspended from office for her persistent criticisms of corruption and advocacy of human rights.

She predicted that the Afghan elections, held in August, would be a joke, and warns about Obama’s further escalation of the war. “It could well be that people in Afghanistan will soon say that Obama is even worse than Bush,” she writes. She urges the American people to pressure Obama to withdrawal all our troops.

“In the past thirty years, every kind of atrocity has been committed in Afghanistan in the name of socialism, religion, freedom, democracy and liberation,” she writes. “Now these acts are justified by a so-called war on terror.”

With A Woman Among Warlords, Joya takes her place alongside such leading democracy activists as Aung San Suu Kyi, Shirin Ebadi, and Rigoberta Menchu. It was Joya who should have won the Nobel Peace Prize this year.

Elizabeth DiNovella is culture editor of The Progressive.

By Will Durst

To say Dan Brown’s follow up to The Da Vinci Code, was highly anticipated is like saying that whole oxygen thing was a medium-sized hit with respiratory system aficionados. And after seven years in the making (maybe less—hopefully, the guy blew some of his gazillions goofing off), The Lost Symbol (Doubleday) does not disappoint. Told in real time, this eighty-mile-a-minute sequel once again features Robert Langdon in one of Brown’s trademark implausible actioners with inventive set pieces and cardboard characters. But move it does. Some claptrap involving the Masons and DC and a tattooed man and a family of scientists and . . . Oh hell, just go out and get it. You know you want to.

In Gone Tomorrow (Delacorte), British author Lee Child switches gears by dropping his protagonist into the urban jungle. His thirteenth adventure finds Jack Reacher in New York City typically running into bad luck and trouble on a subway when he spots what he believes to be a female suicide bomber. But the real story involves a labyrinth of lies hiding high-placed friends who become enemies and vice versa. Reacher, an ex-Army MP who wanders the country without ties or change of clothes, eventually seeks out and confronts an Afghan terror team right out of the last stanza of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Young British Soldier.” Bold and bracing. Much fun.

My idea of a perfect vacation is to dangle my feet in a Hawaiian resort pool and read a mystery a day. And if I fall behind my quota, I reach for a Robert Parker mystery because the thing can be finished in about four hours, and I’m back on schedule. Oh, stuff happens. Dialogue is crisp. Action explosive. The single-named PI, Spenser, will beat up at least one musclebound thug. He and his therapist girlfriend, Susan, share psychobabble concerning the villain. Hawk appears and the two trade witty quips. Same here with The Professional (Putnam). Think Of Mice and Men with a cameo by Richard Gere.

Political comic Will Durst’s book “The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing” is available from Ulysses Press.

By Andrea Lewis

Author Rebecca Solnit never ceases to amaze with her highly original, thoroughly researched, and beautifully written books. From River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West to Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Solnit manages to take readers to places they’d probably never thought of visiting.

In A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster (Viking), Solnit writes about the surprising pleasures that comes with experiencing disaster. Thanks to Hollywood, disaster films have become deeply ingrained in our popular culture. But as Solnit discovered, “In the wake of an earthquake, a bombing, or a major storm, most people are altruistic, urgently engaged in caring for themselves and those around them. The image of the selfish, panicky, or regressively savage human being in times of disaster has little truth to it.”

It may seem like the only white folks who are currently discussing racism are conservative bullhorns like Patrick Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh. But author and anti-racism activist Tim Wise offers a refreshing progressive antidote to the mix. In his newest book, Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama (City Lights), Wise describes “a newer slicker Racism 2.0, in which whites hold the larger black community in low regard . . . and yet carve out acceptable space for individuals such as Obama who strike them as different, as exceptions who are not like the rest.”

Wise’s analysis is centered on, but not limited to, black/white race relations in the United States. Ultimately, however, his message is to whites, whom he challenges to speak out against racism wherever and whenever it occurs. “To not do so,” Wise writes, “is to collaborate with it, to give our assent, to undermine our personal and national pretensions to democracy.”

Andrea Lewis was a member of the Stanford University Knight Journalism Fellowship Class of 2008. She is the host and producer of “Sunday Sedition” on KPFA Radio in Berkeley, California.

By John Nichols

Theresa Amato’s Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny (New Press) may not be the final word on what’s wrong with American electoral politics. But it comes as close as anything written in recent years. What makes this brilliantly researched and even more brilliantly argued reform manifesto so powerful is the back story of Amato’s own struggles with the most corrupt aspects of the political process. As the campaign manager for Ralph Nader’s 2000 and 2004 presidential bids, Amato had to fight for ballot access, a place in the debates, minimal media coverage, and a fair count of the votes. It wasn’t easy, and there is an edge to her recollection of events. But this book is about a lot more than Nader’s campaigns; it is a sweeping examination of the barriers to real democracy that remain in America. And it is an exceptionally engaging “read,” largely because Amato is so willing to be blunt—as the chapter titled “The Debate Commission Sucks” well illustrates. It also helps that she is right in her assessment of the problem, and in her warning that progressives ought not be lulled into complacency by the fact that the 2008 election was not stolen.

Speaking of Nader, he reclaimed the utopian-novel tradition of the late nineteenth century with his first fiction book, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” (Seven Stories). The title sums things up. Nader has a sense of humor and irony—these are different, yet equally precious, commodities—and he puts them to amusing and instructive use in this imagination of the moment when Warren Buffett and a group of his billionaire compatriots decide to save capitalism from itself.

Capitalism is a character in the finest book on American foreign policy to be published in 2009, Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State (University of Wisconsin Press), a remarkable examination of U.S. imperialism edited by historians Alfred W. McCoy and Francisco A. Scarano. The book is dedicated to William Appleman Williams on the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the groundbreaking text The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, which reconnected with and renewed the American anti-imperialist tradition. What makes Colonial Crucible so essential at this point is the broad vision that underpins its calculation of the cost of empire. The assessments of the perils of imperialism come from economic, education, public health, and, of course, economic perspectives. Yet, they reach the same conclusion, which is well stated in an introductory essay by the editors and their exceptional young colleague, Courtney Johnson: “For empires, the past is just another overseas territory ripe for reconstruction, even reinvention. Yet within this general inclination toward appropriation, there is something distinctive about the way the American empire felt a strong need to assuage its angst as an arriviste power by framing and legitimizing policy by means of the past—even if that past was revised to the point of fabrication or fiction.” Colonial Crucible rejects the fabrication and fiction in favor of clear-eyed truth telling, which makes it an essential text as America expands it imperialist error in that graveyard of empires: Afghanistan.

John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin, and Washington correspondent for The Nation. His latest book is “The Death and Life of American Journalism.”

By Amitabh Pal

One of the fringe benefits of working at The Progressive is the peek that you get at the numerous new books coming into the office for review. Even if many of them deal with obscure topics, some do address important subjects.

Take University of Michigan professor Juan Cole’s Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan). Through his Informed Comment blog, Cole has become one of the best-known experts on Islam, and here Cole doesn’t disappoint. Whether dealing with America’s “Islam Anxiety,” the Middle East’s oil problem, or Afghanistan/Pakistan, he offers provocative analysis and a level of detail that goes quite beyond the mainstream media’s news reports (though a semi-defense of Wahhabism does stand out as an oddity). He constructs an interesting analogy between Muslim fundamentalists and the militia movement in the United States, travels to Lebanon to survey the destruction wrought by the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, and offers a pithy history of Pakistan. Cole is helped by the fact that much of his early research focused on South Asia. Even if some of the book is outpaced by recent events, read it to enhance your understanding of a crucial issue.

There aren’t too many subjects as important as globalization. Former Washington Post Southern Africa and South America bureau chief Jon Jeter takes his readers on a harrowing global journey in Flat Broke in the Free Market: How Globalization Fleeced Working People (W. W. Norton) to uncover its ravages.

“In roughly a generation, the economic fundamentalism articulated by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and U.S. Treasury has set the world on a path to deindustrialization that has created a transnational underclass,” Jeter writes. “This book takes the measure of that biblical cataclysm.”

Indeed, it does. Careening from Zambia and South Africa to Argentina and Brazil, Jeter interviews everyone from cabdrivers to activists. And then he brings it all back home with a section on how the African American underclass is being ill-served by politicians such as Bobby Rush and, yes, Barack Obama. Jeter’s on-the-ground reporting and his insertion of a racial perspective offer a unique take on a theme that has been otherwise written about to death.

To someone like me, few things can be more important than travel. Enter Rick Steves, the famous travel guide, who in his new book attempts to remake Travel as a Political Act (Nation Books). Steves flits everywhere from Europe to Central America to North Africa. He even undertakes a special trip to Iran to better understand a country that the United States has been at loggerheads with for decades. In an attempt to reach a broad audience, Steves sometimes couches his political views in diplomatic language, but the sincerity of his convictions does come through. “Travel has taught me the fun in having my cultural furniture rearranged and my ethnocentric self-assuredness walloped,” Steves writes. And all the while, he enjoys himself. Who can argue with that?

Amitabh Pal is the managing editor of The Progressive. His book on nonviolent activism in Muslim societies is forthcoming from Praeger.

By Adolph Reed Jr.

I recommend three books this year. Beryl Satter’s Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America (Metropolitan) is a wonderfully written account of the resolute racial discrimination by the real estate industry in postwar Chicago and the predatory lenders who took advantage of mortgage companies’ refusal to lend to blacks. She traces this sordid history through the exploitative practice of “contract-selling” in the 1950s and 1960s—in which black home buyers were boxed into paying wildly inflated prices and charged exorbitant interest rates on terms that made foreclosure possible after no more than one or two missed payments. Her account, which is partly a poignant and sober tribute to her father’s life as a crusader against these and related outrages, shows how development interests turned even well-intentioned reform efforts into grist for the urban renewal juggernaut that further intensified ghettoization. She extends this rich examination to the comparably unscrupulous exploitation of black homebuyers in the 1970s through realtors’ and developers’ abuse of federal housing programs intended to facilitate homeownership for low-income people. This story is all too reminiscent of the contemporary subprime mortgage scandal, as Satter is aware.

Jonathan Spiro’s Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant (University of Vermont Press) examines the life and influence of the most influential racialist in the United States in the first third of the twentieth century. Madison Grant was also one of the most prominent eugenicist activists, and one of the founders and central pioneers of the American conservation movement. Grant’s most popular book, The Passing of the Great Race, along with his ceaseless agitation, played a crucial role in shaping the Immigration Act of 1924, which established stringent racial quotas on immigration to the United States. He was similarly influential in the other two movements as well, and Spiro skillfully examines their links, as well as the common ideological and biographical soil from which they sprang.

In Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror (Pantheon), Mahmood Mamdani performs an immensely valuable function in cutting through the multiple layers of myth and ideology, much of it racialist and imperialist in origin, that shroud perception of political conflict and war in western Sudan. He provides an important corrective to the knee-jerk tendencies, distortion, and misinformation that underlie attempts to generate popular mobilization for this episode of “human rights” interventionism.

Adolph Reed Jr., a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, is the author of “The Perils of Obamamania.”

By Luis J. Rodríguez

By way of disclosure, all three authors of my recommended books I know. But don’t take this as favoritism. Trust me, these writers are the real deal.

Mother California: A Story of Redemption Behind Bars (Atlas) is by Kenneth E. Hartman, who is serving a life sentence in a maximum-security prison yard in California. As a teenager, he killed a homeless man. This was almost thirty years ago. He then joined a racist prison gang and participated in the yard politics of the country’s most overcrowded and violent prison system. But over the years, Hartman turned away from the madness to become the brainchild behind the only Honor Yard in the state corrections system for high-level inmates. He’s helped prisoners of all races turn their lives around. An amazing story.

Jesse Katz was a Los Angeles Times reporter who moved to the suburban community of Monterey Park. His book, The Opposite Field: A Memoir (Crown), is a startling poetic chronicle of the personal relationships, race issues, and father-and-son concerns he dealt with as the gringo baseball league commissioner in a mostly Asian and Mexican enclave. As mundane as this subject matter may seem, don’t be fooled. This is great writing.

More Miles Than Money: Journeys Through American Music (Serpent’s Tail) is Garth Cartwright’s wild ride through the barrios, ghettos, and reservations of the United States—from the Deep South, to East L.A., to the Navajo rez, and beyond. As only an outsider with much inside know ledge can do, Cartwright brings to life the bands, singers, instrumentalists, and composers who have helped shape popular music, and in particular those who failed to benefit from it. An amazing passage through the creative heart of what makes the world sing.

Luis J. Rodríguez is a poet, novelist, short story writer, essayist, and memoirist. His latest poetry collection is “My Nature Is Hunger: New & Selected Poems.”

By Matthew Rothschild

The big issue of the year is health care. And the biggest book on that subject this year is T. R. Reid’s The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care (Penguin Press).

He tours Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan, where “equal access for all is the basic rule of health care.” He describes the different models in each country, showing their varying degrees of state and private sector involvement, but recognizing that all have excellent health outcomes. Not so with the many developing countries that have a pay-as-you-go system, which obviously favors only those who can afford health care.

And not so with our own, which has a mixed system.

“When it comes to the essential task of providing health care for people, the mighty USA is a fourth-rate power,” he writes. This stems from a “fundamental moral decision our country has made,” which he spells out clearly: “We have never decided to provide medical care for everybody who needs it.”

For fun, I read A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears (Nation Books), by Antonino D’Ambrosio. I learned a lot here, not only about the ever-fascinating Cash but also about folk music and its interplay with the movement for Native American rights.

The “Bitter Tears” of the title refers to Cash’s 1964 album devoted to the Native struggle. At the heart of that album is “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.” The song is about the Native American who was one of the Marines in that famous photo placing the American flag on the hill at Iwo Jima. Hayes, who was haunted by all the Marines who fell in that battle, died of alcoholism in 1954. Cash didn’t write the song. It was written by Peter La Farge, a sometime rodeo rider and folksinger who championed the Native cause. Of Hayes, the song says:

He was just a Pima Indian

No water no crops no chance

At home nobody cared what Ira’d done

And when did the Indians dance?

Cash covered the song near the height of his popularity. But hardly any radio station would play it. So he took out a full-page ad in Billboard magazine and let the industry have it. “Classify me, categorize me—STIFLE me, but it won’t work,” he said, and he called those who wouldn’t air the song “gutless.”

D’Ambrosio skillfully weaves together Cash’s story and La Farge’s, and along the way Marlon Brando, the Carter Family, Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Tom Paxton, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Pete Seeger, John Trudell, and many others all make their appearances.

This is cultural history at its finest.

If you’ve liked Wendell Berry’s essays in The Progressive this year, you should pick up a copy of his latest book of poems, Leavings (Counterpoint). There is much here to mull. I’ll leave you with only one stanza:

If we have become a people in-capable

of thought, then the brute-thought

of mere power and mere greed

will think for us.

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive.

By Dave Zirin

Over the past six months, I’ve been obsessed with two things: the career of boxer Sugar Ray Robinson and the growing movement for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Liberation. That might be the strangest sentence ever to appear in print, but that’s what happens when you write about sports and politics for The Progressive magazine.

My two favorite books reflect these often parallel worlds.

Sugar Ray Robinson was arguably the finest pound-for-pound boxer of the twentieth century and yet there has been next to nothing worthy of a man who changed the way we understood sports and style. Until now.

Please read Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson (Knopf), by Wil Haygood. The book is not really a boxing book any more than Haygood’s previous biographies about Adam Clayton Powell or Sammy Davis, Jr. were books about politics or show business. Like the books about Powell and Davis, Jr., it is a book about someone who confronted racism with a sense of flair. It also opens a window onto a world in the North East after the Great Depression and before the Civil Rights movement, when the roots were put down for one of the great social upheavals of the twentieth century.

But Sugar Ray isn't the only thing packing a punch on my shelf.

I write this having just participated in the National Equality March for LGBT Equality, along with 200,000 of my closest friends. The book being passed around the march was a sprawling yet trenchant political knockout called Sexuality and Socialism (Haymarket), by Sherry Wolf.

Wolf, a member of the NEM organizing committee and a speaker at the march, takes the entire history of LGBT theory and politics and looks at the way they have been impacted by the social movements that surrounded them, or didn’t surround them. Surprisingly funny, very readable and a fitting tome for a new movement in these troubled times.

Dave Zirin is the author of several books on the politics of sports, including “A People’s History of Sports in the United States.”

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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