Saturday, December 03, 2005

These are some of my favorite books.

Testament of Youth

Vera Brittain

This is an autobiographical account of a woman coming of age during WWI. I believe it is the only memoir of WWI written by a woman. Also was a Masterpiece Theater series. Available at

The Grimke Sisters from South Carolina

Pioneers for Woman’s Rights and Abolition

Gerda Lerner

Really great account of 2 courageous sisters. Gives you an interesting picture of the pacifist Quakers too. “Reasonable” men can tolerate a lot of horror and violence if they are not personally affected by it. Available at

Black Women in White America

Gerda Lerner

Documentary history of black women in their own words from slavery times through 1971. Available at

America’s Working Women

A Documentary History 1600-present

Edited by Rosalyn Baxandall, Linda Gordon, Susan Reverby

My favorite part of this book is written by Meridel Le Sueur. It’s called “I Was Marching” and was first published in Proletarian Literature in the US in 1935.

It’s an account of a militant Teamsters Strike in Minneapolis in 1934 and how she-a middle class woman unused to being a part of a larger thing-joined the strike. Available at

Tell Me a Riddle

Tillie Olsen

First published in 1962 although written during the depression, this is a working class feminist classic. “I Stand Here Ironing,” is a heart wrenching memoir of the choices a young mother was forced to make when raising her children during the depression. She is ironing and thinking about how these choices affected her eldest daughter. Here’s the last line, “Only help her to know-help make it so there is cause for her to know-that she is more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron.” Available at


Tillie Olsen

A novel about a poor white family during the depression set in Wyoming in a mining town. It was originally written in the 1920’s but lost for 40 years. Available at


Tillie Olsen

Nonfiction book on why women and the working class don’t write as much as they should. The silences she refers to are not natural welcome silences but, the silences imposed on people “century after century their beings consumed in the hard, everyday essential work of maintaining human life.” Available at

These are some of the books I remember from the class on American Ethnic Groups

The Rise of David Levinsky

Abraham Cahan

Russian Jewish immigrant in NYC. Successful, but not happy.

Available at

The Dollmaker

Harriet Arnow.

They made a TV movie of this with Jane Fonda.

A woman moves to the city from the hills to follow her husband to a factory job.

Big mistake, but the woman is heroic in the way she faces all the trials laid before her. The title comes from the carving she does for a hobby. Available at

The Fortunate Pilgrim

Mario Puzo

Italian immigrants in the US during the depression. Available at

Non Fiction books about Education of the Working Class in America

The Night is Dark and I am Far From Home

Jonathon Kozol

Great book that was blacklisted from Teacher Education classes for years.” School is the ether of our lives by now: the first emaciation along the surgical road that qualifies the young to be effective citizens, alert to need but tempered as to passion, cognizant of horror but well inoculated against vigorous response.”

And “Basic training does not begin in boot camp. It begins in kindergarten. It continues with a vengeance for the subsequent 12 years. Available at

Hidden Injuries of Class

Richard Sennet and Jonathon Cobb

I read this book in college and liked it a lot because it deals with some of the issues working class people have fitting into the middle class world. Two of the things I remember most are that working class fathers use their lives as a warning, not an example. Unlike the lawyers and doctors, they do not want their children to follow in their footsteps. The other thing is that being singled out is uncomfortable for a working class person. Middle class people see themselves as individuals whereas working class people to not like to be seen as better than their peers. So those of us who move into the middle class are “lone, lorn creatures.”

Available at

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Paola Friere

Philosophy of education and the poor. How the educational system is set up to oppress the poor and to maintain their silence and powerlessness. This is an extremely important book and helps us to understand the world we live in-like why do poor people, working people vote for Bush who is not “robbing us with a six-gun” but “with a fountain pen.”

“But almost always, during the initial stage of struggle, the oppressed instead of striving for liberation tend themselves to become oppressors or ‘sub-oppressors.” …Their ideal is to be men; but for them, to be men is to be oppressors.” This book is something everyone in the country should read and one that we should have a national dialogue about. It is about becoming humanized as opposed to remaining alienated and how important that is to building a new world.

Available at

The Other Side of Western Civilization

I was lucky enough to have gone to college at a time when I could study my history-women and the working class. These are some books about that.

The War on labor and the Left

Patricia Cayo Sexton

The details of the enormous amount of legal and illegal violence used against working people as they have fought to organize and maintain a decent life-through the Reagan/Thatcher 1980’s. Written by the wife of one of my college professors, Brendan Sexton. The Working Class Experience was the name of the class I took with him. There were about 10 students and we had to write a paper on our family. I wrote one about my father’s family. My grandfather was Filipino and my grandmother was Irish, but before WWII my grandfather was deported to the Philippines rather than go to a camp. (It wasn’t just the Japanese who were interned.) They were caught there during the Japanese occupation including my father who was one of their 9 children, 7 born here, 2 in the Philippines one born blind, the other died in infancy. It was a great class. Available at

A Peoples History of the United States

1492 to the Present

Howard Zinn

American history from the point of view of the people, not the hero’s.

Refreshing and should be required reading for middle school/high school students.

Available at

Rebel Voices an IWW Anthology

Joyce Kornbluth

This book tells the history of the Industrial Workers of the World organized in Eugene Debs words, “not to conciliate but to fight the capitalist class.” This book brings the labor movement to life. It is filled with cartoons, songs and stories written by workers-conscious workers. The song, “Solidarity Forever” was written by a Wobbly. Here are some of the lesser sung words, “All the world that’s owned by idel drones, is ours and ours alone. We have laid the wide foundations; buil it skyward stone by stone. It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own. While the union makes us strong.” On the masthead of the Solidarity newspaper the letters are formed from tools. Mr. Block, the unconscious worker provides political humor. The union the IWW wanted was one big union. Their demands included: A 4 hour day, Jobs for everyone. Security of income. Abolition of the wage system. Production for use and not for profit. A new social order based on the scientific administration of industry. Abundance for workers, nothing for parasites. On page 346 there is an illustration from the Industrial Pioneer, 1925. It is a plant whose roots are Profits. The plant is War and the fruits are skull. On each skull a word is written: want, disability, pain, death, ruin, debt, honor an glory, taxes, disease, despair, sorrow, insanity. On one side of the plant is a soldier/worker, on the other is a capitalist who is saying, “My good fellow, you will be well paid for your patriotic action in tending this glorious plant. You shall have all the fruit above the ground-I’ll take only the roots.” Pretty relevant today. The IWW was eventually squashed, but they left a legacy for us to study and use. The Allentown Public Library has this book. Mine was given to me by the ex-wob and catholic worker, Tim O’ Brien who I met when I was managing and instant print shop in NJ where he used to come in to copy his medical bills and talk. Available at

Atomic Soldiers

American Victims of Nuclear Experiments

Howard L. Rosenberg

This August in my Blog, From the Foot of Mount Olympus, I wrote about dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “It is more than a war crime; it’s a crime against all life on the planet. We are living with the deadly legacy of those bombs. Our loved ones are dying from it; our planet is dying from it and still people wave the flag. Uncle Sam kicks them in the butt while like a reverse mechanical bank they open their mouths to dispense their hard earned cash so he can use the money to kill them, their loved ones and every good thing on this earth. What kind of a god would bless that kind of behavior? This book tells about how the government used American soldiers as guinea pigs. Another example of how we are just fodder-cannon or otherwise.

Available at

Working Class War

American Combat Soldiers in Vietnam

Christian G. Appy

80% of enlisted men in Vietnam came from poor and working class families. Just a little reminder that a lot of these guys did not want to be there folks.

Available at

Expendable Americans

Paul Brodeur

Tens of thousands of Americans die every year of preventable industrial diseases. Legal murder and no consequences to the industries that profit from it.

Available at

Factories in the Fields

Carey McWilliams

It’s hard to believe that this was published in 1935. Explains why “illegal” workers are needed to maintain the profits of agribusiness. Guess why? All the legal immigrants unionized. Not much has changed since then. Your tax dollars are hard at work maintaining horrible working and living conditions and shooting people coming across the border so we can eat factory food. Available at

The Fabulous ‘50’s

Books that reinforce my theory that our good old days haven’t come yet

Tender Comrades

A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist

Patrick Mc Gilligan and Paul Buhle

Interviews with people who were blacklisted during the 50’s. Not just the Hollywood 10. The reason why American movies are so lacking in beauty, skill and content. Available at

Thirty Years of Treason

Excerpts from Hearings before the House Committee on Un-American Activities 1938-1968

Edited by Eric Bentley

In their own words, the testimony of Pete Seeger, Zero Mostel, Joe Papp, Arthur Miller, Jose Ferrer etc. before HUAC. Very limited gang of thugs intimidates creative, intelligent people. How was that allowed to happen? Available at

Naming Names

Victor Navasky

“The blacklist savaged private lives, but the informer’s particular contribution was to pollute the public well, to poison social life in general, to destroy every possibility of a community; for the informer operates on the principle of betrayal and a community survives on the principle of trust.” Available at

The Cold War and the University

Toward an intellectual history of the postwar years.

Contributors: Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Immanuel Wallerstein

Destructiveness of Mc McCarthyism on higher education and despite the many letters to the editor in the Morning Call about leftist professors dominating academia, how its legacy continues to intimidate. Available at

The Cultural Cold War

The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters

Frances Stoner Saunders

Battle for hearts and minds after WWII. The staunchest anti-fascists were communists so after the war in many countries they democratically won political offices in many countries in Europe. Well we can’t have that now, can we? So the CIA created magazines and other cultural institutions and paid many writers and intellectuals who wrote for them. About 10 years ago or so there was an exhibit at the Zoellner called, “Shouts from the Wall” Posters and photographs brought home by veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. In the accompanying book there was a quote from John Sayles, the writer and director, “They fought when they didn’t have to fight, fought when it brought no public glory in their hometowns, fought to put a lie to the cynicism that keeps people in darkness. They won’t go away…And in a world run by cynics, in a time when caring about someone you’ve never met is seen as weakness or treachery, how much strength have we taken from the thought of them…” That is what was destroyed in the cultural cold war-humanity. Available at

And the Saga continues in the 60’s and ‘70’s

Agents of Repression the FBI’s Secret War against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement

Ward Churchill

In this and the Cointelpro Papers Ward Churchill documents the covert war against political activists during the ‘60’s and ‘70’s with great detail and controlled anger. The murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, the circumstances behind Leonard Peltiers imprisonment, the murder of the American Indian poet John Trudell’s family are among the many details in this book. Why? Here’s a quote from Dennis Banks reflecting on the second Wounded Knee, “We were prepared for beatings and arrests, time spent in jails and prisons to some degree or another. I guess…you’d have to say we expected death. But somehow, we still didn’t really understand the rules of the game; we weren’t prepared for the magnitude of what happened. Part of that was maybe because we still didn’t really comprehend what the stakes were.” It seems that in the Black Hills, leases for uranium mining were granted to Union Carbide, Chevron, Anaconda, and Kerr-McGee (remember Karen Silkwood) White/Westinghouse among others. This book also makes you realize what Mt. Rushmore is all about. Can you imagine-carving the heads of the conquerors into the sacred Black Hills of the conquered. Civilized?

If you ever get a chance to see the movie, “The Murder of Fred Hampton,” watch it. They were showing it on streaming video on the FSTV site, but I don’t know I they ever got permission to air it. When I was a student in the ‘70’s the group I was in showed this movie at different colleges. It gives you a totally different picture of the Black Panthers. You will conclude from both the book and the movie that “the movement” did not fall apart on its own but was destroyed covertly and overtly. Available at

Link to great article on Columbus originally published in indigenous Thought around the time of the Columbus Quincentenary.

Intelligent Entertaining Fiction

My Year of Meats

Ruth Ozeki

A divorced unemployed documentary film maker gets an offer to make commercials for American beef for the Japanese market. Funny, enlightening political and everything works out in the end. Available at

He, She, It

Marge Piercy

A science fiction book that may very well predict our future if we don’t do something about it soon. The Glop-where the poor live; Feelies: Porn that stimulates the nerve endings in your brain, highly addictive; Secskin: what you wear to protect your body whenever you go outdoors-watch out for organ pirates. The writer is a feminist and the author of the novel Vida-a fictionalized account of a member of the Weather Underground among many other books. Working class background. Available at

Hard Time

Sara Paretsky

VI Warshowsky goes to prison to investigate the murder of a female prisoner.

Terrifying. I cried my eyes out. Available at

Howard Fasts Historical Novels

Working class writer still living but writing in a more popular style now.

These are early books. He is also the author of the book, Spartacus which the Kirk Douglas movie was based on. Dalton Trumbo, the blacklisted writer first worked again on this movie at Kirk Douglas’ insistence.

The Proud and the Free

The American Revolution though the eyes of the men who didn’t have horses or uniforms including the revolt of the Pennsylvania Line, the squashing of the revolt, the executions of the leaders. Available at

Freedom Road

The story of the beginning of a new society after the civil war told through the eyes of a freed slave who goes through a painful educational process and a major transformation until the betrayal of reconstruction when the Federal troops are pulled out of the south and the Klan is allowed to rise. They made a TV movie of this in the ‘80’s with Mohammad Ali and Kris Kristofferson, but the book is better. Available at

The American

The story of John Peter Altgelt the governor of Illinois who pardoned the Haymarket martyrs who were hung during the fight for the 8 hour day. Available at

Art and Culture

Decade of Protest

Political Posters from the US, Vietnam, Cuba 1965-1975

Smart Art Press

There are some really hard hitting posters here. From the US: A photograph of dead Vietnamese people in the middle of a dirt road with the words, Q. And babies? A. And babies. A drawing of a Vietnamese with the statue of liberty being rammed down his throat and the word EAT. 2 Photographs. One with a lighter and a whie child’s hand. Would you burn a child. Then a photograph of a woman holding a child burned by napalm, Vietnamese of course., and the words, When necessary. And many more.For those who are too young to remember Vietnam it will give you a different more serious picture of the ant-war movement. No hippies. It reminds me of the Brecht Poem “To Posterity” or “To Those Born Later, “…hatred even of meanness contorts the features. Anger, even against injustice makes the voice hoarse. Oh we who wanted to prepare the ground for friendliness could not ourselves be friendly. But you, when the time comes at last and man is helper to man think of us with forbearance.” Available at

The Forgotten Ones

Milton Rogovin

Photographs of families in Buffalo by the optometrist who turned photographer after he was blacklisted by HUAC. Kind of a less alienated, more tender Diane Arbus. People like this are never photographed and never seen in this way. It’s kind of what Tillie Olsen says in “Silences” about writing. We never see ourselves in print, in art, in photographs. This is a beautiful book because Rogovin returns to his subjects year after year so you can see them age and grow. I just happened to be in Washington DC, picked up a newspaper and saw an article about this and that’s how I found it. Available at


Young Lords Party

The Young Lords Party and Michael Abramson

Originally published by MacGraw-Hill ISBN 07-000158-8

I confess that I “borrowed” this book years ago and “forgot” to return it. It’s got a tom of photographs including some of Felipe Luciano, Pablo Guzman and Juan Gonzalez-all respectable journalists now-as young Young Lords. Here are some quotes, “We believe that a man’s and a woman’s most precious possession is life. We should therefore live our lives so that we are no consumed by the anguish of long years of purposeless existence, or the shame of a trivial and cowardly past, so that we may say when we die: We give our energies to the most noble cause in the world-the struggle for the liberation of the human race.” “The reason why you study history is ‘cause your gonna make history. The reason you study the past is ‘cause you’re concerned about making a new life, not making the same mistakes that our people did before us.” Available at

Images of American Radicalism

Paul Buhle and Edmund B. Sullivan

Introduction: Howard Fast

Priceless images-like a valentine with a woman in a slinky white gown winking and the text is: “I’m a socialist. Will you be one? Free drinks, free money, free love.” There is so much in this book. Pictures of people you may have heard of but never seen like Louise Bryant and John Reed from Warren Beatty’s movie, “Red’s” A picture of Meridel Le Seuer who wrote the strike story in America’s Working Women that I mention above. Pictures of buttons-Mayday 1925, a Karl Marx Pin (an enamled red flag.) for .25. The Pyramid of Capitalism like a wedding cake. The bottom layer is the workers:We work for all, we feed all-Second layer the rich-We eat for you. Third layer the cops and army-We shoot at you. Fourth layer the church- we fool you Top layer Kings, Queens- we rule you. Too much to mention. Also shows the multinational character of American radicalism. Available at

Alternative Media


Monthy Review



Bring them Home Now

FAIR-Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

Free Speech TV Dishnet channel 9415

Democracy Now

Independent Media Center


Organized by area. There is a Philly Indymedia and anyone can post articles, pictures etc. I posted an article on Nader here that The Morning Call chose not to publish as a letter to the editor that was picked up by another Pro-Nader site who also linked to my Blog.

More Novels

Anything by Roger L. Simon (Moses Wine, ex-Berkely radical turned private detective. The Big Fix was made into a movie with Richard Dreyfus and Susan Anspach.) Walter Mosely-Easy Rawlins ex-factory worker turned private detective in post war LA-Devil in a Blue Dress was made into a movie with Denzel Washington; Anything by Joan Didion especially Democracy and Miami.

Great Source for out of print and sometimes inexpensive used books.


Diana Balot Frank