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Discovering Haymarket Books

This 2/28/17 post transferred from L2SP 5/26/17

Soon after I finished reading #FROM BLACKLIVESMATTER TO BLACK LIBERATION, its publisher tweeted an Arundhati Roy quote. It read, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”

All right, then, I told myself after sharing the tweet with my sister and husband. I need to be reading Arundhati Roy.

Unless I absolutely can’t get a product from not-Amazon, I’ll buy that product from not-Amazon. In this case, I figured I could probably buy Roy books directly from the publisher, Haymarket Books. I visited the site, both confirming my ordering suspicion and deciding I want to read everything they’ve ever published.

I prefer reading bound books. I’ll read ebooks in a pinch, but I’m anchored by the happy weight of hard books.

Four of the five books I ordered came with ebook copies. Given that the bound books were going to take more than a week to reach me, I peeked at the first: Angela Davis’s Freedom Is A Constant Struggle. Having peeked, I had to read the whole damn thing, even in ebook form. Davis spoke eloquently to something I’ve recently discovered: emphasizing the individual tends to displace the totality in people’s hearts and minds. Freedom, Davis explains with the eloquence of one who’s spoken these things for decades, is earned by collective struggle, not granted when charismatic individuals ask politely.

I decided to peek at another of the ebooks, Arundhati Roy and John Cusack’s Things That Can and Cannot Be Said. I breezed through the short book, an accounting of the authors’ meeting with Edward Snowden. Its parting words chilled me. Per Daniel Ellsberg, U.S. calculations of damage from nuclear attack have only included blast and radiation. They’ve excluded fire and smoke, because “we can’t calculate fire … It’s fire that kills most people–but they left that out of their calculations.”

This is an excellent example why every single USG-offered statistic must be explored in depth, and viewed with some skepticism. (Asking “cui bono?” benefits these analyses.)

With almost a week until my other Haymarket books reached me, I began reading Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark. I began reading it while sitting in a doctor’s waiting room last Friday; those around me might have mistaken my tears as originating with pain, rather than the beauty of connection … and hope affirmed even while looking genuine horror in the face. But, no: I was moved from almost its very first word, both the new preface and the older text.

Solnit sings praises of the activists whose works have changed understandings of what’s normal and right. She calls out for hope based both on the merits of hope, and the ample evidence of how–and where–activism has worked, though the public forgets the before and during, misremembering that we’ve always believed what we now acknowledge as true and right.

In 1900, the idea that women should have the vote was revolutionary; now, the idea that we should not have it would seem cracked. But no one went back to apologize to the suffragists who chained themselves to the gates of power, smashed all the windows on Bond Street, spent long months in jail, suffered forced feedings and demonization in the press.

Since I paused reading Hope in the Dark to finish a couple of other books, I’m not yet halfway through it. I don’t want to read it too quickly. It’s food for my soul, and as I’m always telling my sons, it’s important to savor good food.

It is, of course, also easier said than done.

Hope in the Dark

In 2015, my goal was to read one book per month. I barely reached it, but was glad to have beat my 2014 reading. Having grown up immersed in books, it depressed me to have lost my stamina for reading.

This part-year, by contrast, I’ve already read almost twenty books. I’ve crammed in minutes of reading wherever I could, trying to learn more about the many connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena. Understanding these connections has felt pivotal for being able to describe them, especially those least intuitive, and perhaps find ways to help effect much needed, positive change within and outside my home country.

I spent several months last year in a state of genuine shock at the world I saw uncovered by my book reading. I’d vaguely understood there were some injustices happening somewhere out there, but only began to comprehend their scope and scale last summer. Seeing how many millions of people have suffered and died needlessly, whether of hunger or treatable illness here or bombs and drones abroad–for decades, under command of U.S. Republicans and Democrats alike–sent me toppling into despair.

I don’t regret raging. I don’t regret grappling aloud with my despair. These are understandable, even appropriate responses to discovering what great and sweeping cruelties have been and are being worked by my country right now.

Even when the shock finally wore off, anger and great sadness lingered. I stumbled forward with little hope, desperate but clueless about how to start working effectively now for a better world for my children … indeed, everyone on this planet.

Genuine hope finally found me a few weeks ago. It came (wouldn’t you know it?) in the form of a book. Read more…

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