Libertie Valance

Libertie grew up in the mountains of Southern Appalachia but became interested in co-operatives while traveling in Argentina and living outside of Baltimore, MD. The first book she remembers reading was Fahrenheit 451, and they continue to be an avid reader of speculative fiction despite the ongoing convergence of dystopia and reality. Libertie is the sole survivor of Firestorm's first six years in Downtown Asheville, and in addition to telling exaggerated(?) stories about how bad things used to be, they provide bookkeeping and tech support to the co-op.

Libertie's Picks

Possibly my favorite book of the year! 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).

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!

An immersive and coherent (and admittedly didactic) exploration of anarchic utopia, juxtaposed with the dystopia of our present reality. Where Orwell, writing in Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, expounds upon the dangers of authority and resilience of totalitarianism, Piercy offers a vision of tenuous possibility through feminism, ecology, and a deep reckoning with power. I enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone who asks the question, "what is the alternative to fascism?".

It is entirely possible that Cory Doctorow will never write a book that I don't like, so I was giddy when copies of Radicalized arrived last month. This tech-savvy, politically-engaged collection features four short stories that are accessible introductions to Doctorow's speculative fiction, tackling migration, white supremacy, terrorism, survivalism, and the intersection of technology and freedom.

Ariel Gore blends memoir and fiction with flecks of magical realism in this highly affecting portrait of queer, single motherhood in the midst of the "culture war." I particularly love the way the protagonist reads to her child, exploring feminist theory and fairy tales with a bruising focus on patriarchal violence. Reminiscent of Maggie Nelson's brilliant The Argonauts (but less philosophically lofty) and Kai Cheng Thom's poetic Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars (but less fantastical), this is a raw and beautiful work.

The central trope in this fantastic book by one of my fave alt-SFF authors is a sort of modified "be careful what you wish for" in which words must be used carefully because false statements can be fatal. The highly-stylized voice of the narrator pulls off a sort of hedged-omniscience in which much cannot be said with certainty lest the narrator risk making an untrue statement. This is not a book that will be pigeonholed as "feminist fantasy", but the author presents a world in which queerness is neither vilified nor normalized to the point of invisibility, and the strongest characters are not cisgender men.

This might be my favorite new cookbook. On a whim, I made a batch of Jenne Claiborne's vegan crabcakes—featuring heart of palm and chickpea for texture plus a dash of umeboshi for flavor—and they pretty much blew my mind. Better still, they were seriously quick to make. Having committed myself to working through the whole book, I can now say that this is typical of Sweet Potato Soul – the dishes are full-on flavor but simple to prepare, and they won't keep you in the kitchen all day.

Will Orwell's "boot stamping on a human face, forever" be paid $15/hour, or can the labor be automated? I enjoyed this new title from Verso Books on the future of climate crisis and automation, part of a great series of small books published in collaboration with Jacobin Magazine. Highly recommended for sci-fi geeks, who will appreciate Peter Frase's use of specualtive fiction as source material for their political projections.

It's no surprise that I'm loving Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Witch given how crazy I was about their afrocentric scifi novella, Binti. Steeped it Nigerian folklore, this new-in-paperback coming-of-age story is a young adult fantasy that I'd recommend for all ages, filled with West African juju, secret societies, and mythological creatures. I can't wait for the Fall-slated sequel!

Ok, I'm a little late to the party on reading Sarah Schulman's Conflict Is Not Abuse, but I can't recommend it highly enough. 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, scapegoating, and "unfriending." This is a book that, having been read, may exert a lasting impact on how you approach conflicted relationships and envision "good community."

I adore this celebration of working class motherhood by Juniper Fitzgerald and Elise R. Peterson. Through unique collage and simple words, this gem from The Feminist Press shows children that love comes in all shapes and sizes. Feminist readers will appreciate the explicitly pro-sex worker and implicitly trans-inclusive message.

My favorite book of 2017! In equal parts fantasy and memoir, Kai Cheng Thom has created a story that is breathtakingly beautiful to read, full of characters who are simultaneously mythical and marginal. Sex workers, chosen family, girl gangs, and magic populate this novel where reality and metaphor collide. (Content warnings: self-harm, police brutality, suicide, and transmisogynist violence.)