Out of the Mainstream: Books and Films You May Have Missed

BOOKS

All the Real Indians Died Off
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker
Beacon, 2016

Two scholars refute 21 myths about Native Americans commonly taught in U.S. schools, media, and pop culture.

 

Behold the Dreamers
By Imbolo Mbue
Random House, 2016

The lives of two couples intersect in this timely novel – a Lehman Brothers executive and his wife on the eve of the 2008 Wall Street crash, and two hard-working immigrants from Cameroon who end up working for them. Told from the Africans’ point of view, the story has many poignant moments reflecting cultural and class differences.

 

City of Grit and Gold
By Maud Macrory Powell
Allium, 2017

This short novel can work for everyone from middle-school students to adults as it recounts from the point of view of a 12-year-old girl how her family becomes divided by the Haymarket strike for the 8-hour day by mostly immigrant workers in 1886 in Chicago.

 

From #Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation
By Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
Haymarket, 2016

Throughout U.S. history, black activists and their allies have found that confronting issues of race requires also confronting issues of class, gender, and economic justice.

 

Hitler’s American Model
By James Q. Whitman
Princeton University Press, 2017

In the 1930s, the German Nazis drew on American laws and practices on race as they laid the groundwork for the Holocaust.

 

Look
By Solmaz Sharif
Graywolf, 2016

A poet of Iranian descent writes powerfully about the impacts of war, both in the Middle East and here in the U.S. Some poems are built around phrases in the U.S. military’s Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. Others are in the form of censored letters from military prison, with key words missing.

 

Small Great Things
By Jodi Picoult
Ballentine, 2016

A very readable and suspenseful novel (despite an implausible ending) doubles as a thought-provoking introduction for white readers to issues of racism, white privilege, and implicit bias.

 

The Fortunes
By Peter Ho Davies
Houghton Mifflin, 2016

Chinese-American experiences are explored in this novel through four lives in four time periods – a worker in the California gold rush and building of the railroads; a Hollywood actress in the 1920s; Vincent Chin, killed by Detroit auto workers who thought he was Japanese; and a Chinese-American man who goes with his wife to adopt a baby in China.

 

The Revolution Will Not Be Funded
By Unite
Duke University Press, 2017

Back in print with a new foreword, this classic collection of essays describes how foundation and government funding discourages some nonprofits from fighting for fundamental change.

 

The Vanishing Middle Class
By Peter Temin
MIT Press, 2017

Some of the economic, political, and historical roots of the increasing divide between America’s top 1% in wealth and those at the bottom and in the shrinking middle are explored.

 

Unmentionables
By Laurie Loewenstein
Akashic, 2014

The main character in this romantic tale is a woman who is a traveling speaker for women’s rights before and during World War I and the fight for women’s suffrage.

 

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?
By Kathleen Collins
Harper Collins, 2017

Sixteen short stories by the African American director of the 1982 film, Losing Ground, evoke relationships and experiences during the civil rights era of the 1960s and 1970s and beyond.

 

Where the Line is Drawn
By Raja Shehadeh
The New Press, 2017

A leading Palestinian writer tells how occupation of his country has affected him personally over the past 40 years and describes the ups and downs of his long friendship with a Jew living in Israel.

 

FILMS

4.1 Miles
Oscargo.com, 2016

This short film provides a powerful snapshot of the struggle of Syrian refugees to escape to safety, and of the efforts by Greek Coast Guard crews to help them despite severely limited resources

 

Acts and Intermissions
Abigailchild.com, 2016

An hour-long collage of words and images centered on anarchist Emma Goldman draws on archival footage, reenactment, and current events.

 

Fatima
Kinolorber.com, 2016

A Muslim immigrant to France and her two daughters each follow different paths as they try to build a life in their new home.

 

Graduation
Ifcfilms.com, 2017

A Romanian doctor has long dreamed that his daughter will go to a university abroad and escape their country’s bleakness and corruption. But in trying to realize that dream, will he become part of the system he wants her to escape?

 

In The Radiant City
ICMPartners.com, 2016

How long must people suffer for past mistakes, and how does a family find a pathway to forgiveness? These are some questions at the heart of this thoroughly engaging and flawlessly made drama. Twenty years before the action begins, a 17-year-old boy killed a child by setting fire to a house. He was sent to prison based on the testimony of his younger brother. Now, the older man is up for parole.

 

Ixcanul
Kinolorber.com, 2016

In this Guatemalan feature film that gains authenticity from a mostly non-professional cast, a 17-year-old girl in a remote village faces one cultural and economic obstacle after another as she tries to follow her dreams.

 

Sing
Singshortfilm.com, 2016

Faced with an imperious teacher, members of a children’s choir invent a creative way to stand up for each other in this charming 25-minute short feature from Hungary.

 

The Other Son
Cohenmedia.net, 2012

Two boys have been raised for their first 18 years on opposite sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide. Then, their families learn that their sons were born in the same hospital and mistakenly switched.

 

The Watermelon Woman
Firstrunfeatures.com, 2016

Remastered for its 20th anniversary, this pioneering film follows a young black lesbian filmmaker trying to make a documentary about an elusive African American actress from the 1930s.

 

Timecode
Shortstv.com, 2016
Luna and Diego are parking lot security guards, but this delightfully unique, Oscar-nominated, 15-minute feature from Spain shows us that there is much more to these two than their drab uniforms might suggest.

 

Watani: My Homeland
Oscargo.com, 2016

This short documentary follows a mother and her four young children as they flee the war zone in Aleppo, Syria, and make their way to Germany.