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Back You are here: Home Reviews Books Recommended Reading: June 2011

Recommended Reading: June 2011

BookgenericBe inspired, motivated, challenged and intrigued by this month's selection of books.












11 June 2011

Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Obama
Duchess Harris
Palgrave Macmillan

BlackFeministTaking an interdisciplinary approach, this book analyzes Black women’s involvement in American political life, focusing on what they did to gain political power between 1961 and the present, and why, in many cases, they did not succeed.

Duchess Harris demonstrates that Black women have tried to gain centrality through their participation in Presidential Commissions, Black feminist organizations, theatrical productions, film adaptations of literature, beauty pageants, electoral politics, and Presidential appointments.

She contends that “success” in this area means that the feminist-identified Black women in the Congressional Black Caucus who voted against Clarence Thomas’s appointment would have spoken on behalf of Anita Hill; Senator Carol Moseley Braun would have won re-election; and Shirley Sherrod wouldn’t have been forced to resign from her USDA position.

Harris contends that if this is truly a post-racial America, there should be no apprehension to discuss issues concerning racism at a national level.

Speech Matters: Getting Free Speech Right
Katharine Gelber

SpeechMattersAustralia is the land of the 'Fair Go'. But does this extend to giving everyone the right to speak freely about politics?

While most Australains take this vital freedom for granted, in Speech Matters political analyst Katharine Gelber shows why many of Australia's laws and policies are actually damaging our democratic ideals.

A council officer shuts down a Sydney art exhibition that challenges the basis for the Iraq war; big day out organisers are attacked for asking attendees not to wear the Australian flag after the Cronulla riots.

Gelber investigates a wide range of political expression to discover what value Australians place on free speech: from the national flag, hate speech and anti-terrorism laws to protest, campaigns against corporate actions and provocative art. Gelber considers the rules that regulate our speech and actions alongside the views of everyday Australians on these issues.

What Gelber finds is a political culture that is failing free speech. In Australia, powerful companies can silence dissent, and even peaceful protest can be difficult to  carry out.

Filled with controversial examples to fuel the debate, Speech Matters challenges Australians to rethink freedom of speech. It’s time to give everyone a voice in running the country.

The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic
Darby Penney and Peter Stastny
Bellevue Literary Press. Distributed in Australia by Scribo

LivesLeftBehindMore than 400 abandoned suitcases filled with patients' belongings were found when Willard Psychiatric Center closed in 1995 after 125 years of operation.

In this fully illustrated social history, they are skillfully examined and compared to the written record to create a moving – and devastating – group portrait of 20th-century American psychiatric care.

Darby Penney is a leader in the human rights movement for people with psychiatric disabilities. Peter Stastny is a psychiatrist and documentary filmmaker. Lisa Rinzler is a prize-winning cinematographer.

My Queer War
James Lord
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Distributed in Australia by Palgrave Macmillan

MyQueerWarIn My Queer War, James Lord tells the story of a young man’s exposure to the terrors, dislocations, and horrors of armed conflict.

In 1942, a timid, inexperienced 21-year-old Lord reports to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to enlist in the US. Army. His career in the armed forces takes him to Nevada, California, Boston, England, and, eventually, France and Germany, where he witnesses firsthand the ravages of total war on Europe’s land and on its people.

Along the way he comes to terms with his own sexuality, experiences the thrill of first love and the chill of disillusionment with his fellow man, and in a moment of great rashness makes the acquaintance of the world’s most renowned artist, who will show him the way to a new life.

My Queer War is a rich and moving record of one man’s maturation in the crucible of the greatest war the world has known.

If his war is queer, it is because each man’s experience is strange in its own way. His is a story of universal significance and appeal, told by a wry and eloquent observer of the world and of himself.

Anti-War Activism: New Media and Protest in the Information Age
Kevin Gillan, Jenny Pickerill and Frank Webster
Palgrave Macmillan

AntiWarActivismThis thoroughly interdisciplinary book is the first major study of the anti-war movement after the recent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Brimming with empirical material that comes from two years of fieldwork and capturing the passions of its subjects, Anti-War Activism addresses post-9/11 circumstances, the character of Information War that promotes 'symbolic struggles', the changed information environment of war.

The book looks at what use activists make of new technologies to organize as well as to campaign, assessing use of mobile phones, email and the web. It considers the production of the movement's alternative communication networks along with its connections with both major and emerging independent media.

The book reflects on how anti-war groups seek to use such media to represent themselves and their cause, and how their political identities are maintained and challenged.

It documents the anti-war movement's coalitions and alliances – the tensions and strengths that come from feminists marching with patriarchs, the secular joining with the religiously committed – while paying close attention to the distinctive involvement of Muslim participation.

It explores the national and international scale of such alliances and global days of protest and reflects on how anti-war groups adopt new technologies and utilize its possibilities such as interactivity and collective content creation, and how members cope with information overload by intensive filtering.




Not Dark Yet
David Walker
Giramondo Publishing

NotDarkYetDavid Walker is a distinguished Australian cultural historian whose eyesight deteriorated suddenly at the end of 2004 as a result of macular degeneration. His blindness caused him to reconsider his own relation to the past, and the history of his family, which, like most families, left very few records.

The result was the writing of this memoir, which traces the Walkers and the Bournes, from their settlement in the mid-north of South Australia, just south of the Goyder Line, in the late 19th century.

The Walkers owned stores selling drapery and shoes, with a strong line in Japanese goods. They grew prize-winning vegetables and belonged to the Masons. His grandfather struck his grandmother on the head with a hammer.

Three uncles served in the Second World War, in Tobruk, in the bombing of Dresden, and in Ambon, where one of his uncles was killed in a massacre by the Japanese. A Chinese market gardener called Luke Day has a prominent position in the family tree, though it was only the author’s research that brought his existence to light.

Walker has studied extensively Australia’s complex and changing relationship to Asia. He has also written on cultural identity, including the role played by often quite batty eugenic ideas and theories of racial strength. His mother, proud of her achievement in callisthenics, forbade her son to wear glasses, seeing short-sightedness as a sign of physical weakness.

Walker has a keen sense of humour, and he savours these ironies. As a historian, he is also aware of how the past is embodied in everyday experience, as much as in extreme events - he makes the little achievements and foibles of his forebears bear witness to the social forces which have defined the country.

This is a new way of writing Australian history – personal, funny, scholarly, driven in its own quiet way to bring the darkness of the past to light.

Books selected and reviewed by Katrina Fox, Editor-in Chief.

For details of where to send review copies, click on the Contact menu.






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