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

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.

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.

My favorite book of 2019! 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 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.

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!