Tag Archives: Haymarket Books

Review: Cinderella Liberator

Cinderella Liberator by Rebecca Solnit

Title: Cinderella Liberator
Author: Rebecca Solnit
Published: 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1-608465965
Publisher: Haymarket Books
Publisher Blurb:  Rebecca Solnit reimagines a classic fairytale with a fresh, feminist Cinderella and new plot twists that will inspire young readers to change the world.

Fairytales made no sense to me.  Even as I tried to fit myself into what society believed girls should want, which included some fairytale version of finding a husband and having children, it didn’t make sense.  And I didn’t understand why.

I mean, why should Cinderella want to go to the ball so much, and why would she want to marry a prince?  Did that really mean happily ever after?  What if she – what if I – wanted something different?

The appeal of being rescued is certainly be understandable, especially when growing up in a dysfunctional, unpredictable environment.  When your whole life feels hopeless, rescue seems like the best chance.  When one wants to be rescued from misery, there is no understanding about agency.  So, in some ways, Cinderella’s traditional gambit of marrying the prince and leaving behind her wicked steps makes a tremendous amount of sense.  If only there was another way ….

Rebecca Solnit’s Cinderella Liberator begins with the familiar story.   But when the lizards become stagecoach women for Cinderella’s carriage, one sits up and takes notice.   And when Cinderella asks if the lizards want to be human, the reader understands this isn’t the same Cinderella of childhood.

At its base as a political structure, feminism is about the right to make choices based upon personal agency.  Women get to choose what they want to do, or should be allowed to, anyway.  Solnit takes that one step further.  Not only does Cinderella get to choose, but so do the animals who help her get to the ball.  The entire cast gets a makeover.

This more equitable story in which Cinderella opens a cake store and become friends with the prince who wants to work on a farm is one everyone should read.  Especially those with small children entering the world of make-believe and fairy tales.

Solnit’s version is more hopeful and happier, giving children (and adults) space to learn about equality and choice.  It certainly gave me happiness and hope.

Review: Berkeley: The Student Revolt

Berkeley: The Student Revolt by Hal Draper

Title: Berkeley:  The Student Revolt
Author: Hal Draper
Published: 2020 (Haymarket Books edition)
ISBN-13:  978-1-642591255
Publisher: Haymarket Books
Publisher Blurb: “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels … upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop!”

Brimming with lessons still relevant for today’s activists, Berkeley: The Student Revolt is a classic of on-the-ground historical reportage.

Ron Anastasi and Mike Rossman carrying “Free Speech” banner from Sproul Hall to demonstration outside Regents’ meeting November 20, 1964.

There’s something about this period of history which fascinates me deeply.  I can’t go to Berkeley or San Francisco without being aware of the history I walk through.  Reading Hal Draper’s Berkeley:  The Student Revolt written in 1965, is on the ground “I was there” reporting.

Draper brings together all the minute by minute details to explain how the Free Speech Movement exploded on campus one day in September, 1964.  Although, as most historians will tell you and Draper certainly does, things don’t happen overnight because there are mitigating factors.  The history leading to the Free Speech Movement is rich and dense, filled with many factors.

Draper writes of the peaceful student protests demanding to be able to express their opinions, political or otherwise, on campus.  To be able to raise money and recruit volunteers for off campus events.  Many had spent the previous summer in the Deep South working for civil rights.

To have their own rights stunted in the face of an unpopular war (Vietnam) and the treatment of African-Americans caused deep anger and resentment.  In the face of a dictatorial Chancellor who had been hired based on his research about labor movements which should have made him sympathetic but didn’t, student unrest grew.

Draper was there, amongst the students as a library employee, his knowledge of the inner workings makes this an excellent resource in the body of work still evolving about dissent, protests in the face of bureaucrats who use might makes right to get their rules obeyed.

Over the fifty years since, this very scenario has played out more times than I like to remember.  In 2019 during a deadly global pandemic, government leaders are using the same playbook to shut down the rights of us all to be healthy and safe.

Confusing, contradictory, obfuscatory dictums fly through the media.  Responses to any common sense calls for reasonable actions on the part of leaders are met with ridicule and often threatened violence.

What amazed me as I read was how very young these students were, how mature and deeply committed they were to their cause.  They understood it was about something larger than themselves.  Mario Savio’s thoughtful speeches give an insight I hadn’t much thought about because I have reaped the benefit of their protests.

At the same time, I was saddened to understand that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Change is always met with resistance, those in power backed by those with greater power and money will always clamp down.  Their actions invariably lead to some sort of police action.

Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement opened the door for peaceful protests and thoughtful discussions about the First Amendment and its role on college campuses.  A discussion which continues now, and is especially important as an ill-informed citizenry continues to misunderstand the power of the First Amendment and try to use it in support of their *-ist rhetoric.

But I have hope because things have changed, the citizenry is allowed to express themselves.  Students are allowed free and open discussion of unsavory topics.  And the discussion about what First Amendment rights mean continues unabated.  Without the student protests and strike at Berkeley, none of this would be possible.

 

Review: Things That Can and Cannot be Said

Things that Can and Cannot Be Said

Title: Things That Can and Cannot be Said
Author: Arundhati Roy and John Cusack
Published: 2016
ISBN-13:  978-1-60846-717-4
Publisher: Haymarket Books
Publisher Blurb:
In this rich dialogue on surveillance, empire, and power, Roy and Cusack describe meeting NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden in Moscow.

In late 2014, Arundhati Roy, John Cusack, and Daniel Ellsberg travelled to Moscow to meet with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The result was a series of essays and dialogues in which Roy and Cusack reflect on their conversations with Snowden.

In these provocative and penetrating discussions, Roy and Cusack discuss the nature of the state, empire, and surveillance in an era of perpetual war, the meaning of flags and patriotism, the role of foundations and NGOs in limiting dissent, and the ways in which capital but not people can freely cross borders.

I’m not sure about the point of this slender book.  It’s 100 pages of large font transcriptions of conversations between Cusack and Roy, recollections of an “UnSummit” facilitated by Cusack featuring Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg in Moscow.

What I’d hoped for was a deeper discussion of the effects of Ellsberg’s and Snowden’s espionage.  What led them to the conclusion there was no other way than to be whistleblowers?  I wanted to know more.  I was hoping for something more unfiltered .

Do I know the world’s governments aren’t what they want us to think they are?  Of course I do.  Do I think corporate governance of charities and NGOs is a bad thing?  I don’t know enough to make an informed opinion.  But if what Arundhati Roy thinks is what we’re all supposed to think, we are indeed doomed.

It is the utter hopelessness of Cusack and Roy of any government, any people doing good in the world which got to me.  This paranoid, pseudo-intellectual view of the world, especially from a white man of privilege, is what brings out the despair.  If this is what they think is important, and it gets published, what chance do the rest of us just trying to get through our day have?

It is utterly maddening that an opportunity for two of the most famous whistleblowers to meet was so censored.  For readers to not be privy to any of the conversation beyond niceties is hardly better than fanning the flames of a global game of Chicken Little.

The security concerns addressed in Things That Can and Cannot be Said are serious, but there’s no real substance in discussing them.  I chose not to be scared simply because two activists who have the resources to walk freely through the streets or sit in cafes and talk tell me I should be.

 

New to the Stacks: Bay Area Book Fest

Game Changes – Lesbians You Should Know About by Robin Lowey
What’s College About? by Betty Thomas Patterson
Black Queer Hoe by Britteney Black Rose Karpi

Game Changers – Lesbians You Should Know About by Robin Lowey

What’s College About? by Betty Thomas Patterson

Black Queer Hoe by Britteney Black Rose Karpi

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

The BreakBeat Poets edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and Nate Marshall

Shakespeare’s Library by Stuart Kells

Tomb of the Unknown Racist by Blanche McCrary Boyd

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Shakespeare’s Library by Stuart Kells
Tomb of the Unknown Racist by Blanche McCrary Boyd