OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM: Books and Films You May Have Missed

BOOKS

Accountability and White Anti-Racist Organizing
Edited by Bonnie Berman Cushing et al.
Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, 2010

White anti-racism organizers talk from personal experience about the complexities of their work in a variety of settings—postKatrina New Orleans, public schools, a faith community, a tenants’ rights campaign, a social services agency, and more. As the editors note, what they all have in common is asking white people, “What are you willing to give up? How uncomfortable are you willing to be? What are you willing to risk?”

 

An American in Persia: A Pilgrimage to Iran
By Richard A. Kauffman
Cascadia, 2010

A Mennonite theologian reports on his interactions with Iranians and their views of the United States.

 

Beautiful Rust
By Ken Meisel
Bottom Dog Press, 2010

In this collection of vivid prose poems, a Detroit native writes about his experiences, from childhood to adulthood, in a city where “the churches and the factories, both, have been abandoned by the God they promised us.”

 

Disaster on the Horizon
By Bob Cavnar
Chelsea Green, 2010

An oil executive who is now a critic of his industry gives his views on how BP’s oil disaster happened in the Gulf and why the government’s response was so inadequate.

 

Glorious
By Bernice L. McFadden
Akashic, 2010

This intense historical novel focuses on a black woman who rises to become a successful writer during the Harlem Renaissance.

 

Greening Modernism
By Carl Stein
W.W. Norton, 2010

An expert explores what it will take to make existing buildings energy efficient. As one example, he compares the sustainability of retrofitting a school building with skylights vs. converting to electricity from solar panels or wind turbines.

 

Land Sharks
By S.L. Stoner
Yamhill, 2010

The second in an historical mystery series centered around Portland, Oregon, this sequel to Timber Beasts describes the practice of shanghaiing—in which working men were kidnapped and forced to work on ocean-going ships.

 

Let Freedom Sing
By Vivian B. Kline
Outskirts Press, 2010

In this innovative historical novel, a group of high school students conducts research on the experience of African-Americans in the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. The students hope to develop a musical centered on the first Fisk University Jubilee Singers. In the process, they learn about some key historical figures of that time, including Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Mary Todd Lincoln, P.T. Barnum, and many more.

 

No Space for Further Burials
By Feryal Ali Gauhar
Akashic, 2010

In this dark novel, a U.S. army medic is captured in Afghanistan and held in an asylum for the insane. The author, a journalist from Pakistan who has been imprisoned twice by her own government, tries to capture the insanity and human cost of war.

 

Postville U.S.A.
Edited by Mark Grey, Michele Devlin, and Aaron Goldsmith
Gemma, 2010

A small town in rural Iowa was home to the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant until a raid by federal immigration authorities resulted in the arrest of one-fifth of the town’s residents. Two professors and a former city council member lay out lessons they think other towns should learn from Postville’s experience with diversity.

 

Seaside Dreams
By Janet Costa Bates and Lambert Davis
Lee & Low, 2010

This charming children’s book focuses on the mutually supportive relationship between a young girl and her grandmother, an immigrant to the U.S. from Cape Verde.

 

The Verso Book of Dissent
Edited by Andrew Hsiao and Andrea Lim
Verso, 2010

This reference book contains three hundred and twenty-five pages of short quotations drawn from people from all over the world who have challenged the established order, from ancient Egypt to the present day.

 

War Is a Lie
By David Swanson
www.WarIsALie.org, 2010

Are U.S. wars fought against evil forces, launched in self-defense, unavoidable, and necessary for our security? The former press secretary for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign reviews a pattern of official lies about U.S. wars over the past hundred years that continues to this day.

 

Wingshooters
By Nina Revoyr
Akashic, 2010

While a novel, this reads like a very personal and revealing memoir of the childhood years the Japanese-American author spent living with her grandparents in a small town in rural Wisconsin in the early 1970s. The story’s drama builds after an AfricanAmerican couple—one a teacher, one a nurse—moves to the all-white town.

 

FILMS

Harvest of Loneliness
www.harvestofloneliness.com, 2010

Policymakers in Washington, D.C. continue to consider a so-called “guest worker” program that would bring cheap labor from Mexico and other countries into the U.S., with no right for the workers to become citizens once their temporary work contract is completed. An hour-long documentary, in both English and Spanish versions, reviews the history of the bracero program that fulfilled a similar function from 1942 to 1964. Interviews with former braceros and their families, along with stunning photos gleaned from archival research, reveal the human impact of the temporary worker policy. The film brings the issue up to date, describing how so-called “free trade” agreements have destroyed agriculture in Mexico and forced millions of people to come to the U.S. to find work.

 

La Mission
www.lamissionthemovie.com, 2009

In this feature film full of sympathetic and appealing characters, a tough Latino single father in San Francisco reacts with rage when he discovers that his teenage son is gay. His understanding of his son and of domestic violence evolves through interactions with neighbors, friends, and family.

 

Made in Dagenham
www.paramountpicturesintl.com/intl/uk/
madeindagenham, 2010

Women who made auto upholstery at a Ford plant in England made history in the late 1960s when they went on strike for pay rates equal to men at similar skill levels. Their struggle, which contributed to passage of their country’s Equal Pay Act, had to overcome threats by Ford to close the plant, as well as indifference on the part of much of the male-dominated union hierarchy. This feature film in the Norma Rae tradition may not always be precise in every historical detail, but it manages to be both entertaining and educational as it shows working people overcoming great odds by taking action together.

 

Me, Too (Yo, También)
www.yotambienlapelicula.com, 2009

From Spain comes this highly unusual, well-made feature film that focuses on two characters—a thirty-four-year-old man who is the first person with Down Syndrome to graduate from a Spanish university, and an attractive but unhappy woman who is his officemate at his first job. The film carefully dodges predictable clichés as their relationship develops and we learn more about their respective pasts.

 

Out in the Silence
www.outinthesilence.com, 2010

Two men living in the Washington, D.C. area placed an announcement of their wedding in the newspaper of the small town of Oil City, Pennsylvania, where one of them was raised. The controversy this caused prompted them to do an hour-long documentary about the situation of gay and lesbian teens and adults in that town. The filmmakers are encouraging organizations in small towns and rural areas across the U.S. to use the film to spark discussion.

 

Peepli Live
www.peeplilivethefilm.com, 2010

In this clever satirical film from India, two poor peasants about to lose their land are encouraged to take advantage of a new government program that provides lump-sum payments to the families of small farmers who commit suicide.

 

Temple Grandin
www.templegrandin.com, 2010

The true story of an autistic girl who grew up to be a successful agricultural engineer is told in this effective two-hour feature film that tries to show what the world looks and feels like from her point of view.

 

The Horse Boy
www.horseboymovie.com, 2009

This engaging ninety-four-minute documentary was made by the very likeable parents of an autistic American boy who take him to be seen by a shaman in Mongolia. The film combines an open, honest story with gorgeous scenery and a basic introduction to autism.

 

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