When I read Prison By Any Other Name, I knew that it was one of the most important books of 2020. In fact, if you read only one work of nonfiction this year, please consider this brilliant exploration of "alternatives" to policing and incarceration! It's a meticulously researched exploration of popular reforms that centers the stories of real people to craft a highly readable but utterly devastating critique. Importantly, it also offers transformative, community-based solutions.
Kadalie draws from the historic record, recent archaeological discoveries, and his own movement experience to explore the idea of “intimate direct democracy” through two relatively-unknown experiments in human freedom. While the history itself is fascinating, the book shines as a result of the author’s wry commentary and political insights. Kadalie detours into reflections on the social ecology of swamps, provides a new vocabulary, and critically examines the role of charismatic leaders. A great read alongside Dixie be Damned: 300 Years of Insurrection in the American South!
There are few titles as divisive in Leftist circles as Conflict Is Not Abuse. It's a text that people love to hate, and I'll admit that it contains a handful of provocations that I find intensely objectionable. Nevertheless, the author's thesis that "at many levels of human interaction there is the opportunity to conflate discomfort with threat, to mistake internal anxiety for external danger, and in turn to escalate rather than resolve" has radical implications for our polarized, traumatized world and its reliance on policing and scapegoating. This is a book that has exerted a lasting impact on how I approach conflicted relationships and envision "good community."
A speculative horror that reads like The Walking Dead meets SCUM Manifesto, this book is not for everyone. It probably isn't for you. Easily the most transphobic thing I've ever read and packed with over-the-top violence, Felker-Martin has crafted something truly degenerate yet undeniably brilliant.
A combination of scholarly research, cultural criticism, and political commentary, this book reads like An Indigenous Peoples' History in reverse. Chapters are devoted to the successive waves of migrants and arrivants who complicate the narrative of a liberal multiculturalism that emerged in response to the Civil Rights Movement. Dunbar-Ortiz offers sharp criticism of those on the Left who have promoted a "friendly" nationalism that wallpapers over the genocidal settler colonialism at the core of Americanism. The extensive treatment of "self-indigenization," including settler claims to indigeneity and the appropriation of anti-colonial discourse in Appalachia, was particularly interesting!
This book grabbed me with it's subtitular promise to connect digital technology and radical histories including the Paris Commune, a short lived but influential experiment with anarchism in 1871. The author skillfully critiques the enclosure of the digital commons by corporations and billionaire "thought leaders," drawing on a rich history of philosophy, social struggle, and experimentation to address familiar issues often wrongly framed as having no historic precedent. An ambitious book with insights for technologists, activists, and the rest of us, living our lives in silicone cages!
Roanhorse has developed a pre-Columbian setting with a unique mythos and political order that starts out reading like historical fiction and gradually introduces fantastical elements including mythical beasts, enchanted humans, and multiple magic systems. Queerness and nonbinary gender are casually woven into the storytelling, and I was particularly delighted by the depiction of a sapphic seafaring clan, the Teek, who injected a streak of misandrous humor. Strongly recommended for fans of The Broken Earth Trilogy and The Raven Tower!
With journalistic thoroughness, Laursen explores competing understanding of the State, their relationship to concepts such as government and nation, variations on the State model, the interdependence between capital and State, the consequences of statism, and the basis for opposition to it. This accessible book offers new ideas and digressions at each turn. Abolitionists may find Laursen's treatment of surveillance and policing particularly useful. Recommended in conjunction with Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms by Victoria Law and Maya Schenwar.
Cox is a masterful storyteller whose writing is humorous and unsentimental. Framed as the riveting story of a revolutionary—from the founding of the Panther's San Francisco chapter, to gun running and guerrilla attacks, to exile and the establishment of the Panther's International Section in Algiers—Cox offers an inspiring call to action coupled with a searing indictment of unchecked power. As a member of the Black Panther Party's Central Committee, Cox offers a uniquely credible examination of the Party's many mistakes, including its disastrous turn towards Leninism.
This novel succeeds as both a gripping scifi narrative—packing some fantastic plot twists that don't rely on overly convoluted time travel mechanics—and a thoughtful exploration of profound questions; most notably, "what causes social change?". A dark but hopeful tone combined with thoroughly original world building keeps the book from being reducible to a mashup of The Handmaid's Tale and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (though it would certainly appeal to fans of either).
A gripping work of science fiction that establishes Rivers Solomon as one of my new favorite authors! While the depiction of individual and collective trauma in this novel makes for an emotionally fraught read, I fell in love with the protagonist and their chosen family. Descriptions of this book that boil down to "the Antebellum South but in space" fail to capture the unique world building, strong queer representation and neurodiversity, or nuanced political themes explored.
This book is the childhood fantasy food of novels: all my fave ingredients mixed up with a reckless disregard for good taste. Horror, sass, outer space, lesbianism, mystery, the undead... Tamsyn delivers them all.