L.A. Kauffman

City Lights welcomes L.A. Kauffman to discuss her new book Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism from Verso Press.

Direct Action is a vibrant, groundbreaking history of American radicalism since the Sixties.

What happened http://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/DirectActionCover.jpegto the American left after the Sixties? This engrossing account traces the evolution of disruptive protest over the last 40 years to tell a larger story about the reshaping of American radicalism, showing how the direct-action blockades, occupations, and campaigns of recent activist movements have functioned as laboratories for political experimentation and renewal.

Propelled by more than 100 candid interviews conducted over a span of decades, this elegant and lively history showcases the voices of key players in an array of movements – environmentalist, anti-nuclear, anti-apartheid, feminist, LGBTQ, anti-globalization, racial-justice, anti-war, and more – across an era when American politics shifted to the right, and issue- and identity-based organizing eclipsed the traditional ideologies of the left. 

As Kauffman, a longtime movement insider, examines how groups from ACT UP to Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter have used direct action to catalyze change against long odds, she details the profound influence of feminism and queerness on radical political practice and how enduring divisions of race have shaped the landscape of activism. Written with nuance and humor, and revealing deep connections between movements usually viewed in isolation, Direct Action is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how protest movements erupt — and how they can succeed.

L.A. Kauffman has spent more than 30 years immersed in radical movements, as an organizer, strategist, journalist, and observer. Her writings on grassroots activism and social movement history have been published in The Nation, Mother Jones, n+1, The Baffler, and many other outlets. Kauffman was the mobilizing coordinator for the massive anti-war marches of 2003-2004; she has been called a “virtuoso organizer” by journalist Scott Sherman for her role in saving community gardens and public libraries in New York City from developers. Visit L.A. Kauffman’s twitter-feed.

Benjamin Hedin & Radio Silence Magazine

City Lights teamed up with Radio Silence and author Benjamin Hedin to celebrate the release of Hedin’s newest book, In Search of the Movement: The Struggle for Civil Rights Then and Now. At the event, Benjamin Hedin shares excerpts and comments on the difficult questions that he tackles in his book about the civil rights movement. 17047

Recently, the New York Times featured an article that described the reversion of Little Rock’s schools to all-black or all-white. The next day, the paper printed a story about a small town in Alabama where African Americans were being denied access to the polls. Massive demonstrations in cities across the country protest the killing of black men by police, while we celebrate a series of 50th-anniversary commemorations of the signature events of the Civil Rights movement. In such a time it is important to ask: In the last fifty years, has America progressed on matters of race, or are we stalled—or even moving backward?

With these questions in mind, Benjamin Hedin set out to look for the Civil Rights movement. “I wanted to find the movement in its contemporary guise,” he writes, “which also meant answering the critical question of what happened to it after the 1960s.” In In Search of the Movement: The Struggle for Civil Rights Then and Now, he profiles legendary figures like John Lewis, Robert Moses, and Julian Bond, and also visits with contemporary leaders such as William Barber II and the staff of the Dream Defenders. But just as powerful—and instructional—are the stories of those whose work goes unrecorded, the organizers and teachers who make all the rest possible.

In the pages of In Search of the Movement the movement is portrayed as never before, as a vibrant tradition of activism that remains in our midst. In Search of the Movement is a fascinating meditation on the patterns of history, as well as an indelible look at the meaning and limits of American freedom.

Benjamin Hedin has written for The New Yorker, Slate, The Nation, and The Chicago Tribune. He’s the editor of Studio A: The Bob Dylan Reader, and the producer and author of a forthcoming documentary film, The Blues House.

Radio Silence is a creative community of literature and rock & roll. They publish a signature print magazine and innovative digital edition, produce unique live events, and support arts education.

The Highway and the Wilderness: Dennis McNally and Jonah Raskin

An evening of discussion that centers around the ideas from two recently released books:

Dennis McNally celebrates the release of

On Highway 61: Music, Race, and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom

from Counterpoint Press

and

 

 

Jonah Raskin celebrates the release of

A Terrible Beauty

from Regent Press

discussion moderated by Peter Maravelis

On Highway 61 explores the historical context of the significant social dissent that was central to the cultural genesis of the sixties. The book is going to search for the deeper roots of American cultural and musical evolution for the past 150 years by studying what the Western European culture learned from African American culture in a historical progression that reaches from the minstrel era to Bob Dylan.

Shortly before he published Walden; or Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau called “The library a wilderness of books.” He also noted that while Americans were “clearing the forest in our westward progress, we are accumulating a forest of books in our rear, as wild and unexplored as any of nature’s primitive wildernesses.” In A Terrible Beauty: The Wilderness of American Literature, Jonah Raskin takes a long close look at the forest of books that poets, novelists and essayists mapped and explored before and after Thoreau. The first work of cultural criticism to look back at writing in the United States from the perspective of the contemporary environmental crisis, Raskin offers insights for students, teachers and lovers of literature as well as for backpackers and hikers who have trekked across untrammeled forests, deserts and mountains.

Dennis McNally received his Ph.D. in American History from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1977 for a biography of Jack Kerouac which was published by Random House in 1979 under the title Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America. He became the Grateful Dead’s authorized biographer in 1980 and the band’s publicist in 1984. In 2002, he published A Long Strange Trip/The Inside History of the Grateful Dead with Broadway Books, a division of Random House. It made the New York Times best seller list.

Jonah Raskin has taught American literature at Sonoma State University, the State University of New York at Stony Brook and as a Fulbright professor at the University of Antwerp and the University of Ghent in Belgium. The author of fifteen books, he earned his B.A. at Columbia College in New York, his M.A. at Columbia University and his Ph.D. at the University of Manchester, Manchester, England. He lives in northern California and has written for The San Francisco Chronicle, The L.A. Times, The Nation, The Redwood Coast Review and Catamaran.

Here On the Edge

On the occasion of LITQUAKE 2014. City Lights in conjunction with LITQUAKE presented a panel discussion with Steve McQuiddy, Vladimir Dupre, and Steve Dickison (of The Poetry Center at SFSU) celebrating the recently released book, Here on the Edge by Steve McQuiddy, published by Oregon State University PressWaldport.

Here on the Edge is the story of how a World War II conscientious objectors camp on the Oregon Coast plowed the ground for the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s. This evening explores a long-neglected element of World War II history: the role of pacifism and conscientious objection in what is often called “The Good War.” It focuses on one camp situated on the rain-soaked Oregon coast, Civilian Public Service (CPS) Camp #56. As home to the Fine Arts Group at Waldport, the camp became a center of activity for artists and writers from across the country who chose to take a condition of penance (compulsive labor for refusing to serve in the military) and put it to constructive ends. After the war, camp members went on to participate in the San Francisco “Poetry Renaissance” of the 1950s, which heavily influenced the Beat Generation of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg—who in turn inspired the likes of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, leading the way to the 1960s radical upheavals epitomized by San Francisco’s “Summer of Love.”

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Author and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz discussed her new book, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the Unites States, at City Lights Bookstore.

RDOToday, in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized indigenous communities and nations comprising nearly three million people. These individuals are the descendants of the once fifteen million people who inhabited this land and are the subject of the latest book by noted historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the indigenous peoples was genocidal and imperialist—designed to crush the original inhabitants. Spanning more than three hundred years, this classic bottom-up history significantly reframes how we view our past. Told from the viewpoint of the indigenous, it reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the U.S. empire.

Charles Walker

Charles Walker discussing his new book:

The Tupac Amaru Rebellion

from Harvard/ Belknap Press

51b0ekISoFL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The largest rebellion in the history of Spain’s American empire—a conflict greater in territory and costlier in lives than the contemporaneous American Revolution—began as a local revolt against colonial authorities in 1780. As an official collector of tribute for the imperial crown, José Gabriel Condorcanqui had seen firsthand what oppressive Spanish rule meant for Peru’s Indian population. Adopting the Inca royal name Tupac Amaru, he set events in motion that would transform him into Latin America’s most iconic revolutionary figure.

In his novel, Charles Walker immerses readers in the rebellion’s guerrilla campaigns, propaganda war, and brutal acts of retribution. He highlights the importance of Bastidas—the key strategist—and reassesses the role of the Catholic Church in the uprising’s demise. The Tupac Amaru Rebellion examines why a revolt that began as a multiclass alliance against European-born usurpers degenerated into a vicious caste war—and left a legacy that continues to influence South American politics today.

Chuck_Walker-200x300Charles F. Walker is Professor of History and Director of the Hemispheric Institute on the Americas at the University of California, Davis.He teaches courses on all aspects of Latin American history as well as natural disasters, truth commissions, social movements, and sports and empire (forthcoming).  His books include Shaky Colonialism: The 1746 Earthquake-Tsunami in Lima, Peru and its Long Aftermath (Duke University Press, 2008), Smoldering Ashes: Cuzco and the Transition from Colony to Republic, 1780-1840 (Duke University Press, 1999). He has also coedited several volumes in Peru, including a compilation of his essays, Diálogos con el Perú (FEP San Marcos, 2009), and introduced and translated with Carlos Aguirre and Willie Hiatt, Alberto Flores Galindo’s Buscando un Inca/In Search of an Inca (Cambridge University Press, 2010).  His forthcoming book is The Lima Reader (Duke University Press) with Carlos Aguirre and he is developing The Cuzco Reader with Willie Hiatt, as well as a new project on violence in contemporary Peru.

An Evening with Tony Serra

Tony_SerraTony Serra recently came by City Lights to read from his new memoir, Tony Serra: The Green, Yellow and Purple Years in the Life of a Radical Lawyer. What followed was an entertaining, educational, and emotional evening as one of San Francisco’s most luminary intellectuals talked about his life, his work, and his passion.

Tony Serra is a life long civil rights activist and attorney. He is the epitome of a counter-cultural hero. He has spent his life defending society’s marginalized citizens in the courtroom. His role in the Chol Soo Lee case was depicted in the film True Believer and he has gained national prominence for his closing argument techniques. Mr. Serra has consulted with hundreds of professional organizations on various legal issues in multiple forums in 14 different states. He is a life-long tax resister who has spent time in federal prison in protest of what he perceives to be an unjust political and legal system.Serra has served the community as a practicing criminal defense attorney for over 45 years. He has represented: Huey Newton and the Black Panthers, The White Panthers, The Hell’s Angels, Chol Soo Lee, Hooty Croy, Brownie Mary, Bear Lincoln, and many others. He is the recipient of numerous awards that include: ACLU Benjamin Dreyfus Civil Liberties Award, Gideon Equal Justice Award from the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, Lawyer of the Year from the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, as well as numerous others.

Tony Serra: The Green, Yellow and Purple Years in the Life of a Radical Lawyer is available from Grizzly Peak Press.

LIVE At City Lights! Peniel E. Joseph Discusses His New Book, Stokely: A Life

PenielJWe were proud to have professor and activist Peniel E. Joseph stop by at City Lights to talk about his new book, Stokely: A Life.

Peniel E. Joseph in conversation with professor and civil rights scholar Clayborne Carson, discussing Joseph’s new book, Stokely: A Life, on the life of Stokely Carmichael.

Stokely: A Life from Basic Civitas Books.

Stokely Carmichael, the charismatic and controversial black activist, stepped onto the pages of history when he called for Black Power during a speech one Mississippi night in 1966. A firebrand who straddled both the American civil rights and Black Power movements, Carmichael would stand for the rest of his life at the center of the storm he had unleashed that night. In Stokely, preeminent civil rights scholar Peniel E. Joseph presents a groundbreaking biography of Carmichael, using his life as a prism through which to view the transformative African American freedom struggles of the twentieth century.

During the heroic early years of the civil rights movement, Carmichael and other civil rights activists advocated nonviolent measures, leading sit-ins, demonstrations, and voter registration efforts in the South that culminated with the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Still, Carmichael chafed at the slow progress of the civil rights movement and responded with Black Power, a movement that urged blacks to turn the rhetoric of freedom into a reality through whatever means necessary. Marked by the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., a wave of urban race riots, and the rise of the anti-war movement, the late 1960s heralded a dramatic shift in the tone of civil rights. Carmichael became the revolutionary icon for this new racial and political landscape, helping to organize the original Black Panther Party in Alabama and joining the iconic Black Panther Party for Self Defense that would galvanize frustrated African Americans and ignite a backlash among white Americans and the mainstream media. Yet at the age of thirty, Carmichael made the abrupt decision to leave the United States, embracing a pan-African ideology and adopting the name of Kwame Ture, a move that baffled his supporters and made him something of an enigma until his death in 1998.

A nuanced and authoritative portrait, Stokely captures the life of the man whose uncompromising vision defined political radicalism and provoked a national reckoning on race and democracy.

Peniel E. Joseph is professor of history at Tufts University and the author of Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour and Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Ford Foundation, and his work has appeared in Souls, New Formations, and The Black Scholar. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Clayborne Carson has devoted most his professional life to the study of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the movements King inspired. Under his direction, the King Papers Project has produced six volumes of a definitive, comprehensive edition of speeches, sermons, correspondence, publications, and unpublished writings. Dr. Carson has also edited numerous other books based on King’s papers. A member of Stanford’s department of history, Carson has also served as visiting professor or visiting fellow at  American University, the University of California, Berkeley, Duke University, Emory University, Harvard University, the Center for the Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, the L’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and at Morehouse College in Atlanta, where during 2009 he was Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Professor and Executive Director of that institution’s King Collection.

 

Author Dia Felix Discussing Her New Novel Nochita at City Lights

87286100978980MWe were proud to talk to Dia Felix about her debut novel, Nochita. She discussed how her childhood molded the narrative and also about her collaborations with the Sister Spit group. Nochita is the latest novel in the City Lights/Sister Spit series.

Daughter to a divorced new age guru, Nochita wanders through the cracks of California’s counter-culture, half feral child, half absurdist prophet. When tragedy strikes she is sent to live with her father, a working-class cowboy with a fragile grasp on sobriety and a dangerously mean fiancée. Stuck with adults chillingly unable to care for her, Nochita takes to the streets, a runaway with nothing to run from, driven forward by desperation, hope and an irrepressible wonder.

Nochita is a poetic novel dazzling in its detail, stylistically daring, by turns hallucinatory, darkly funny and brutally real. At its heart is the singular voice of Nochita, tender and fierce, alone and alive and utterly unforgettable.

Dia Felix is a writer and filmmaker who’s screened films at independent festivals (Frameline, Outfest, San Francisco Film Festival), and performed literary work a lot too (Segue Series, Radar, Dixon Place). Her novel Nochita was published through City Lights/Sister Spit in early 2014. She teaches and mentors teens in experimental film making at Reel Works, a teen film making continuum in Brooklyn. She is an award-winning digital media producer for museums (Exploratorium, Museum of Arts and Design.) She is the founder and editor of Personality Press.

Celebrating San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguia!

Stray Poems, Alejandro Murguia

City Lights Publishers is proud to publish Alejandro Murguia’s new book, Stray Poemsnumber six in our SF Poet Laureate Series! Here, Alejandro reads from this new collection of poetry, as well as from some older, rarer works.

About Stray Poems

The sixth volume of the San Francisco Poet Laureate Series, Stray Poems opens with Alejandro Murguía’s inaugural address, where he stipulates that as the city’s first Latino poet laureate he is accepting his post on behalf of his community. He goes on to provide a brilliant and impassioned poetic account of San Francisco’s Native and Latino literary history, stating, “So Latin America fused to the history of San Francisco, and vice versa—San Francisco fused to the memory of Latin America.”

What follows is a selection of Murguía’s recent work composed over the past twelve years.

These are poems of the 21st century, written in a combination of English and Spanish—the patois of contemporary America. Angry, rebellious, subversive, sentimental, hip, urban, local, global—these poems stray from academia, the status quo, patriotism—and even God—as all poetry must.

Praise for Alejandro Murguía & Stray Poems:

“In the city of poets, Murguía has become the activist voice of refugees and exiles—as so many of us are, even as natives—at the center of the Americas. Disguised by its sensuous intimacy, soothing and ennobling, his is a poetry that arms the resistance.”—Dagoberto Gilb, author of The Magic of Blood

“Poet, teacher, publisher, lover, literary guerrilla—Alejandro Murguía is a San Francisco treasure. And I’m not saying this because he knows where to find the best pozole. Although he does.”—Jack Boulware, Litquake co-founder

“The powerful stream of rich, diverse Spanish spoken in the United States by millions of Latinos from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, has rushed into the huge river of the English tongue in such a way that a language and a literature have been born from those troubled waters, exploring multiple alternatives and choosing many paths. These Stray Poems from Alejandro Murguía speak with all those voices, crossing linguistic borders and really going out of the way to deviate from the standard path and let the multiracial and multicultural, all-embracing Latino beat flow into the heart of English.”—Daisy Zamora, The Violent Foam

“Murguía with a tango unleashed, a city on fire, a rendezvous of homage, manifesto, revenge and transcendence—he is alone, without a face, yet recognizable in every body that swims through the under-streets of the City, of Paris, of Havana, of bombed-out-Here’s-and-There’s and the stripped down body of all of us. No stones are left unturned; hypnotic, alarming, ‘melodramático,’ rough-lovin’, unkempt, ‘dangerous,’ and ready to battle at the center of the scorched core. ‘I didn’t cheat,’ one poem admits. He is on trial—fire-spitter and disassembler of cultural falsifications, in ‘strange’ and romantic moods, the poems scatter truth and aim and blow and burn and rise unto the flagless sky—’. . . a country of oceans and mountains.’ Murguía gets there. Alone, because few embark on that voyage. An astonishing, brutal nakedness. Love, that is. No book like it. An unimaginable heart of and for the peoplea ground-breaking prize.”—Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of California

An Excerpt from New Queer Cinema: The Director’s Cut by B. Ruby Rich

New Queer Cinema: The Director’s Cut

published by Duke University press

B. Ruby Rich designated a brand new genre, the New Queer Cinema (NQC), in her groundbreaking article in the Village Voice in 1992. This movement in film and video was intensely political and aesthetically innovative, made possible by the debut of the camcorder, and driven initially by outrage over the unchecked spread of AIDS. The genre has grown to include an entire generation of queer artists, filmmakers, and activists.

As a critic, curator, journalist, and scholar, Rich has been inextricably linked to the New Queer Cinema from its inception. This volume presents her new thoughts on the topic, as well as bringing together the best of her writing on the NQC. She follows this cinematic movement from its origins in the mid-1980s all the way to the present in essays and articles directed at a range of audiences, from readers of academic journals to popular glossies and weekly newspapers. She presents her insights into such NQC pioneers as Derek Jarman and Isaac Julien and investigates such celebrated films as Go Fish, Brokeback Mountain, Itty Bitty Titty Committee, and Milk. In addition to exploring less-known films and international cinemas (including Latin American and French films and videos), she documents the more recent incarnations of the NQC on screen, on the web, and in art galleries.


Labor Fest at City Lights Bookstore!

Writers, organizers, and activists Stewart Acuff and Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz met at City Lights Bookstore, July 8, 2012, to celebrate the 18th annual LaborFest! Local poet, activist, and organizer Alice Rogoff hosted the event.

LaborFest was established in 1994 to institutionalize the history and culture of working people in an annual labor cultural, film and arts festival. It begins every July 5th, which is the anniversary of the 1934 “Bloody Thursday” event. On that day, two workers Howard Sperry and Nick Bordoise were shot and killed in San Francisco. They were supporting the longshoremen and maritime workers strike. This incident brought about the San Francisco General Strike which shut down the entire city and led to hundreds of thousands of workers joining the trade union movement.

The Organizing committee of LaborFest is composed of unionists and unorganized workers, cultural workers and supporters of labor education and history. We encourage all unions not only to support us with endorsements and contributions but also to include activities about their own union members, their history and the work that they do.

LaborFest San Francisco supports the establishment of LaborFests around the country and internationally. There are now LaborFests in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan, every December. Laborfests have also taken place in Buenos Aires, Argentina and El Alto, Bolivia. In April of this year, the first LaborFest in Capetown, South Africa took place. In May, there were LaborFests in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey. The need to build local, national and international solidarity is critical, if labor is going to face the challenges it faces on all fronts. LaborFests help bring our struggles together in art, film and music.

Stewart AcuffStewart Acuff is the Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) and has been a labor organizer for more than 30 years. He writes and speaks extensively and has written articles for the Atlanta Constitution, Labor Research Review, In These Times, The Nation, Foreign Policy and Focus Magazine, Labor Studies Journal, New Labor Forum and several Georgia newspapers. He also has written essays in Which Way for Organized Labor? (edited by Bruce Nissen) and Organizing for Justice in Our Communities (edited by Immanuel Ness and Stuart Eimer). He is the co-author with Dr. Richard Levins of Getting America Back To Work.

Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz is an educator, feminist activist, writer, and life-long activist. She has produced many scholarly books and articles, and has published three memoirs, Red Dirt: Growing Up Okie (1997); Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960–1975 (2002); and Blood on the Border (2005), which is about what she saw during the Nicaraguan Contra war against the Sandinistas in the 1980s. Outlaw Woman won recognition from the Organization of American Historians as a 2003 finalist for the Liberty Legacy Foundation Award in the field of American civil rights struggles. Her writing has also appeared in Monthly Review, The Nation, and on the CounterPunch website.

Alice Rogoff is a local poet, activist, and organizer. She has served on the Labor-Fest organizing committee since its inception as one of its key organizers. She has been published in the literary magazines Pudding Magazine, Borderlands (Texas Poetry Review), BEAT, Poetrymagazine.com, and the North Coast Literary Review, and in the anthologies It’s All Good by Manic D Press and The View from Here by Street Sheet. Her poetry book MURAL won the 2004 Blue Light Press 2004 Book Award Contest. She is a member of the Authors Guild, Northern California Media Workers Guild (CWA), Academy of American Poets, IWW, Workmen’s Circle and Amnesty International. She co-edited two anthologies for Noe Valley Poets and This Far Together for the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, as well as being an editor of the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal since 1984.

Lisbeth Haas Discusses the Life and Work of Pablo Tac

Lisbeth Haas discussed the life and work of Pablo Tac, July 15, 2012, at City Lights Bookstore, in celebration of the release of her book, Pablo Tac, Indigenous Scholar: Writing on Luiseño Language & Colonial History, C. 1840 (University of California Press), illustrated by James Luna.

Noted California historian Lisbeth Haas presents the writing of Pablo Tac, a Luiseño Indian born at Mission San Luis Rey in l820, with his biography and an analysis of the unique perspectives he offered on Luiseño language and history during Spanish colonialism.

This volume on Luiseño language and culture makes available a remarkable body of writings, the only indigenous account of early nineteenth-century California. It offers a new approach to understanding California’s colonial history.The grammatical examples Tac uses to explain the Luiseño language are important linguistically and culturally because they reveal the social relationships, material practices, and ideas common among Luiseños. His dictionary leaves a record of the translations that he and his elders made of Luiseño words into Spanish and vice versa. When read together, the distinct part of the manuscript make clear how Luiseños’ maintained their access to power despite their political defeat by the Spaniards. Pablo Tac also expresses Luiseño equality with the Spanish despite the harsh conditions they faced during the mission era. The unique linguistic, cultural, and historical records presented in this book reveal indigenous life and thought under Spanish colonialism in California, and provide a means to compare colonial-era Luiseño and the language as it is written and being taught today. James Luna reflects on Pablo Tac’s contemporary significance, and Luna’s art increases the book’s visual beauty.

Lisbeth Haas (pictured to the left) is Professor of History and Chair of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Conquests and Historical Identities in California, 1769–1936 (UC Press).

James Luna is an internationally known American Indian contemporary artist of Payomkowishum descent. He is a member of the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians.

Jerry Mander Reading from The Capitalism Papers

On Wednesday, May 30, 2012, Jerry Mander stopped by City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco to discuss The Capitalism Papers: Six Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System (Counterpoint Press).

In the vein of his bestseller, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, nationally recognized social critic Jerry Mander researches, discusses, and exposes the momentous and unsolvable environmental and social problem of capitalism.

Mander argues that capitalism is no longer a viable system: “What may have worked in 1900 is calamitous in 2010.” Capitalism, utterly dependent on never-ending economic growth, is an impossible absurdity on a finite planet with limited resources. Climate change, together with global food, water, and resource shortages, are only the start.

Mander draws attention to capitalism’s obsessive need to dominate and undermine democracy, as well as to diminish social and economic equity. Designed to operate free of “morality,” the system promotes “permanent war” as a key economic strategy. Worst of all, the problems of capitalism are intrinsic to the form. Many organizations are already anticipating the breakdown of the system and are working to define new hierarchies of democratic values that respect the carrying capacities of the planet.

Jerry Mander is the founder and director of the International Forum on Globalization (IFG), a groundbreaking international think tank and activist community, focused on exposing the negative impacts of economic globalization. Mander founded the U.S.’s first non-profit ad agency in 1971, Public Media Center, which ran campaigns for the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and various anti-war groups. Mander is also a renowned critic of mass media and the author of such classics as: Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television; In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations; and, more recently, co-edited Alternatives to Globalization, Paradigm Wars: Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance to Globalization and The Super Ferry Chronicles.

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters

On Wednesday, April 11, 2012, Michael Long discussed his new book I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters (City Lights) at City Lights Bookstore.

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters

Published on the centennial of his birth, and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, here is Bayard Rustin’s life story told in his own words.

Bayard Rustin has been called the “lost prophet” of the civil rights movement. A master strategist and tireless activist, he is best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the U.S. He brought Gandhi’s protest techniques to the American civil rights movement and played a deeply influential role in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., helping to mold him into an international symbol of nonviolence.

Despite these achievements, Rustin often remained in the background. He was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and fired from important leadership positions, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era.

Here we have Rustin in his own words in a collection of over 150 of his letters; his correspondents include the major progressives of his day — for example, Eleanor Holmes Norton, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Ella Baker, and of course, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bayard Rustin’s eloquent, impassioned voice, his ability to chart the path “from protest to politics,” is both timely and deeply informative. As the Occupy movement ushers America into a pivotal election year, and as politicians and citizens re-assess their goals and strategies, these letters provide direct access to the strategic thinking and tactical planning that led to the successes of one of America’s most transformative and historic social movements.

[A note from editor Michael Long: I thank Nancy D. Kates and Bennett Singer, co-producers/directors of Brother Outsider, for my use of material in their excellent documentary about Rustin. I am especially grateful to Question Why Films, co-owned by Kates and Singer, for my use of an interview that Kates conducted with Dr. Robert Ascher. — ML]

With a foreword by Julian Bond.

Praise for I Must Resist:

“Rustin was a life-long agitator for justice. He changed America – and the world – for the better. This collection of his letters makes his life and his passions come vividly alive, and helps restore him to history, a century after his birth. I Must Resist makes for inspiring reading.” — John D’Emilio, author of Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

“Bayard Rustin’s courageously candid letters, most of which have never before been available to researchers, provide fascinating glimpses into the private life of one of history’s most reticent public figures.” — Clayborne Carson, Founding Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University

“These letters – poetic, incisive, passionate, and above all political in the broadest meaning of the word – span almost four decades not only of Bayard Rustin’s life but of the emotional and spiritual life of America. There is hardly a social justice movement during this time in which Rustin was not involved from pacifism to ending poverty to battles for sexual freedom. Michael Long’s brilliant editing has created a compelling historical narrative and reading these letters is to be witness to the ever-evolving conscience that guides our country’s endangered, but surviving, commitment to freedom.” — Michael Bronksi, author of A Queer History of the United States

“Bayard Rustin was a committed but very complicated person. This marvelously annotated collection of letters explain the spirit, and evolution of the thoughts and actions of an often overlooked key figure in the 20th century civil and human rights movement.” — Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine Segal Professor of American Social Thought, University of Pennsylvania, and former Chair United States Commission on Civil Rights

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters provides fascinating insights into Bayard Rustin’s activist life. It includes hundreds of letters in Rustin’s own words that reveal his tireless and brave efforts to promote American civil rights, as well as his personal tragedies. All aspects of Rustin’s experiences are captured in these letters, including his struggles with opponents dedicated to silencing him as an international symbol of nonviolent protests against racial injustice. This remarkable and deeply moving publication is a must-read.” — William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University.

An Interview with Michael Long, Editor of I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters

On Wednesday, April 11, 2012, Michael Long spoke with City Lights Director of Marketing, Stacey Lewis, about his new book I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters (City Lights) at City Lights Bookstore.

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters

Published on the centennial of his birth, and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, here is Bayard Rustin’s life story told in his own words.

Bayard Rustin has been called the “lost prophet” of the civil rights movement. A master strategist and tireless activist, he is best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the U.S. He brought Gandhi’s protest techniques to the American civil rights movement and played a deeply influential role in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., helping to mold him into an international symbol of nonviolence.

Despite these achievements, Rustin often remained in the background. He was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and fired from important leadership positions, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era.

Here we have Rustin in his own words in a collection of over 150 of his letters; his correspondents include the major progressives of his day — for example, Eleanor Holmes Norton, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Ella Baker, and of course, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bayard Rustin’s eloquent, impassioned voice, his ability to chart the path “from protest to politics,” is both timely and deeply informative. As the Occupy movement ushers America into a pivotal election year, and as politicians and citizens re-assess their goals and strategies, these letters provide direct access to the strategic thinking and tactical planning that led to the successes of one of America’s most transformative and historic social movements.

[A note from editor Michael Long: I thank Nancy D. Kates and Bennett Singer, co-producers/directors of Brother Outsider, for my use of material in their excellent documentary about Rustin. I am especially grateful to Question Why Films, co-owned by Kates and Singer, for my use of an interview that Kates conducted with Dr. Robert Ascher. — ML]

With a foreword by Julian Bond.

Praise for I Must Resist:

“Rustin was a life-long agitator for justice. He changed America – and the world – for the better. This collection of his letters makes his life and his passions come vividly alive, and helps restore him to history, a century after his birth. I Must Resist makes for inspiring reading.” — John D’Emilio, author of Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

“Bayard Rustin’s courageously candid letters, most of which have never before been available to researchers, provide fascinating glimpses into the private life of one of history’s most reticent public figures.” — Clayborne Carson, Founding Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University

“These letters – poetic, incisive, passionate, and above all political in the broadest meaning of the word – span almost four decades not only of Bayard Rustin’s life but of the emotional and spiritual life of America. There is hardly a social justice movement during this time in which Rustin was not involved from pacifism to ending poverty to battles for sexual freedom. Michael Long’s brilliant editing has created a compelling historical narrative and reading these letters is to be witness to the ever-evolving conscience that guides our country’s endangered, but surviving, commitment to freedom.” — Michael Bronksi, author of A Queer History of the United States

“Bayard Rustin was a committed but very complicated person. This marvelously annotated collection of letters explain the spirit, and evolution of the thoughts and actions of an often overlooked key figure in the 20th century civil and human rights movement.” — Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine Segal Professor of American Social Thought, University of Pennsylvania, and former Chair United States Commission on Civil Rights

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters provides fascinating insights into Bayard Rustin’s activist life. It includes hundreds of letters in Rustin’s own words that reveal his tireless and brave efforts to promote American civil rights, as well as his personal tragedies. All aspects of Rustin’s experiences are captured in these letters, including his struggles with opponents dedicated to silencing him as an international symbol of nonviolent protests against racial injustice. This remarkable and deeply moving publication is a must-read.” — William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University.

Guillermo Gómez-Peña celebrates the release of Conversations Across Borders

On Thursday, January 12, 2012, Guillermo Gómez-Peña stopped by City Lights Bookstore for an evening of performative pedagogy in celebration of his most recent publication Conversations Across Borders (Seagull Press). A long time City Lights author, Gómez-Peña was joined by City Lights Executive Director Elaine Katzenberger, as well as Canadian theorist and editor of Gomez-Peña’s recent book, Laura Levin.

For the last fifteen years, performance artist and writer Guillermo Gómez-Peña has led a series of ongoing conversations with cultural luminaries from both North and South America. These dialogues with theorists, curators, activists, and fellow artists—such as Lisa Wolford Wylam, Tim Miller, Felipe Ehrenberg, Orlando Britoo Jinorio, Silvana Straw, and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, among others—explore the terrain between art and theory. In Conversations Across Borders, Gómez-Peña has gathered the most challenging and captivating of these conversations, revealing their significant contribution to key debates within the international art world.

Both bold and humorous, these conversations address issues of timely concern to artists, including border culture, new technologies, urban hipsterism, and globalization gone wrong. Conversations Across Borders explores dialogue as a performative act, as a radical space for initiating and testing the boundaries of critical culture. Together, these texts propose a distinct set of critical practices that are invigorated by the endangered art of conversation.

“Gómez-Peña’s commitment to force North America to adjust to the South, to acknowledge the hemisphere’s cultural imbalance, places him among the most significant of late-20th-century performance artists.”

—Village Voice Literary Supplement

Conversations Across Borders was published by my padrino Richard Schechner and edited by Canadian theorist Laura Levin. It contains an anthology of very bold (and performative) conversations I’ve had in the last 10 years with rebel curators, pioneering artists, cultural anthropologists, art historians, activist writers—in essence a wide variety of intelligent, engaged and fierce contemporary art practitioners and theorists. It also contains gorgeously provocative never before published photos. My Canadian sister Laura Levin and the amazing team of Seagull books made sure that the book functions both as an accessible (and activist) treatise on theory as well as a beautiful art/ifact.

—Guillermo Gómez-Peña

Guillermo Gomez-Peña is a performance artist, writer, activist, radical pedagogue and director of the performance troupe La Pocha Nostra. Born in Mexico City, he moved to the US in 1978. His performance work and 10 books have contributed to the debates on cultural diversity, border culture and US-Mexico relations. His art work has been presented at over eight hundred venues across the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Russia, South Africa and Australia. A MacArthur Fellow, Bessie and American Book Award winner, he is a regular contributor for newspapers and magazines in the US, Mexico, and Europe and a contributing editor to The Drama Review (NYU-MIT). Gómez-Peña is a Senior Fellow of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics and a Patron for the London-based Live Art Development Agency.

 

Laura Levin is Associate Professor of Theatre at York University in Toronto. She is the editor of Theatre and Performance in Toronto (Playwrights Canada Press) as well as a number of collections on performance, art and public space (in Theatre Research in Canada, Canadian Theatre Review, and Performance Research). She is Vice President of the Canadian Association for Theatre Research and editor-in-chief of Canadian Theatre Review. A director, dramaturg and performance deviser, she recently has collaborated on several transnational performance projects that investigate the intersections of performance, geography, and digital technologies,

Elaine Katzenberger is the Executive Director of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, an editor, and past friend and collaborator with Pocha Nostra.

William E. Jones reads from Halstead Plays Himself

On Thursday, December 8, 2011 at City Lights Bookstore, William E. Jones read from Halsted Plays Himself (Semiotexte Books).

 

Fred Halsted‘s L.A. Plays Itself (1972) was gay porn’s first masterpiece: a sexually explicit, autobiographical, experimental film whose New York screening left even Salvador Dalí repeatedly muttering “new information for me.” Halsted, a self-taught filmmaker, shot the film over a period of three years in a now-vanished Los Angeles, a city at once rural and sleazy.

Although his cultural notoriety at one point equaled that of Kenneth Anger or Jack Smith, Halsted’s star waned in the 1980s with the emergence of a more commercial gay-porn industry. After the death from AIDS of his long-time partner, lover, spouse (and tormentor) Joey Yale in 1986, Halsted committed suicide in 1989.

In Halsted Plays Himself, acclaimed artist and filmmaker William E. Jones documents his quest to capture the elusive public and private personas of Halsted–to zero in on an identity riddled with contradictions. Jones assembles a narrative of a long-gone gay lifestyle and an extinct Hollywood underground, when independent films were still possible, and the boundary between experimental and pornographic was not yet established. The book also depicts what sexual liberation looked like at a volatile point in time–and what it looked like when it collapsed.
 

William E. Jones is an artist and filmmaker who teaches film history at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He has made two feature length experimental films, Massillon (1991) and Finished (1997), several short videos, including The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography (1998), the feature length documentary Is It Really So Strange? (2004), and many video installations. His films and videos were the subject of retrospectives at Tate Modern, London, in 2005, and at Anthology Film Archives, New York, in 2010. He has worked in the adult video industry under the name Hudson Wilcox.

Nelson George Reading from The Plot Against Hip Hop

On Thursday, December 1, 2011, Nelson George stopped by City Lights Bookstore to read and discuss his new novel, The Plot Against Hip Hop (Akashic Books).

The Plot Against Hip Hop is a noir novel set in the world of hip hop culture. The stabbing murder of esteemed music critic Dwayne Robinson in a Soho office building is dismissed by the NYPD as a gang initiation. But his old friend, bodyguard/security expert D Hunter, suspects there’s much more to his death. An old cassette tape, the theft of a manuscript Robinson was working on, and some veiled threats suggest there are larger forces at work.

D Hunter’s investigation into his mentor’s murder leads into a parallel history of hip hop, a place where renegade government agents, behind-the-scenes power brokers, and paranoid journalists know a truth that only a few hard core fans suspect. This rewrite of hip hop history mixes real-life figures including Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Russell Simmons with characters pulled from the culture’s hidden world, as the Illuminati, FBI agents, and West Coast gangstas roam the hard streets D Hunter walks down.

D Hunter is a tough black clad product of crime-ridden Brownsville, Brooklyn, a man whose family has been devastated by violence and who has dedicated himself to protecting people in an age of insecurity. Hunter has his own secrets, his own vulnerabilities, which he fights to overcome as he becomes a reluctant private eye. After reading The Plot Against Hip Hop, you’ll never hear the music the same way.

 

Nelson George is one of the first writers to document hip hop culture and is the author of several award-winning books on the subject, including Hip Hop America and The Death of Rhythm & Blues; he also coauthored (with Simmons) Russell Simmons’s autobiography Life and Def. He directed Queen Latifah in the HBO film Life Support, and is an executive producer of VH1’s long-running Hip Hop Honors broadcast.

What has been said about Nelson George’s work:

“One of our coolest cultural critics has written a mystery page-turner about the underbelly of hip hop, and it’s woven with signature whip-smart insights into music. Nelson George’s smooth security-guard-turned-detective, a.k.a. D, scours a demimonde as glamorous as Chandler’s Los Angeles. This plot has more twists and turns than a pole dancer, and D definitely needs an encore–he’s destined to become a classic.”
–Mary Karr, author of The Liars’ Club

“There are few people who can put the past seventy years of urban reality into the perspective of the most recent hip minute like Nelson George. The Plot Against Hip Hop is no exception. Nelson George braids actual facts and fictional characters flawlessly into a time-tunneled walk along various developments in this now-megabusiness called hip hop. For those that say they love hip hop as well as the total legacy it evolved from, it bodes well for them to keep this very close to their head, heart, and attention.”
–Chuck D, Public Enemy

“Nelson George is one of my greatest influences as a writer… He inspired me in many ways, and he continues to inspire with The Plot Against Hip Hop.”
–Talib Kweli

“The most accomplished black music critic of his generation.”
–Washington Post Book World

“Perhaps one of the seven greatest books ever written. It has the realness of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the warmth of The Color Purple, and the page count of Tuesdays with Morrie. It’s a must read.”
–Chris Rock, on City Kid

“Reads like a hip-hop answer to Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.”
–New York Times, on One Woman Short

Daniel Pinchbeck reads from Notes from the Edge Times

Visionary author Daniel Pinchbeck helps us understand that we don’t need to wait for the dawning of the next age to radically change our perspectives. No stranger to City Lights Books, he stopped by on November 8, 2010 to read from Notes from the Edge Times, a collection of recent columns, articles, and essays that amount to an extraordinary mosaic view of the hopes, nightmares, and signs of breakthrough that mark our present era.

Pinchbeck examines the current economic collapse (an event he had foreseen by many months), radical political and ecological alternatives, the uses of psychedelics for spiritual insight, the revival of the sexual revolution, unexplained phenomena such as crop circles and the Norway spiral, the imminent (and often-misunderstood) question of 2012, and what it means to be an artist in a time of radical change. Pinchbeck’s virtuosity as a social critic, on full display in these pieces, is his ability to illuminate real and serious questions within unconventional topics that most literary intellects are unwilling to touch, from secret weapons systems to extrasensory abilities to the intelligence of plant life.

In Notes from the Edge Times, Pinchbeck does more than critique present- day questions and conflicts; he provides fresh ideas for living more consciously now, and for constructing our own more enlightened futures, even as the world around us faces profound environmental, social, and spiritual challenges.

Thaddeus Russell reads from A Renegade History of the United States

Noted historian Thaddeus Russell dropped by City Lights Bookstore to read from his new book, A Renegade History of the United States. The book tells a new and surprising story about the origins of American freedom. Rather than crediting the standard textbook icons, Russell demonstrates that it was those on the fringes of society whose subversive lifestyles helped legitimize the taboo and made America the land of the free.

In vivid portraits of renegades and their “respectable” adversaries, Russell shows that the nation’s history has been driven by clashes between those interested in preserving social order and those more interested in pursuing their own desires—insiders versus outsiders, good citizens versus bad. The more these accidental revolutionaries existed, resisted, and persevered, the more receptive society became to change.

Russell brilliantly and vibrantly argues that it was history’s iconoclasts who established many of our most cherished liberties. Russell finds these pioneers of personal freedom in the places that usually go unexamined—saloons and speakeasies, brothels and gambling halls, and even behind the Iron Curtain. He introduces a fascinating array of antiheroes: drunken workers who created the weekend; prostitutes who set the precedent for women’s liberation, including “Diamond Jessie” Hayman, a madam who owned her own land, used her own guns, provided her employees with clothes on the cutting-edge of fashion, and gave food and shelter to the thousands left homeless by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake; there are also the criminals who pioneered racial integration, unassimilated immigrants who gave us birth control, and brazen homosexuals who broke open America’s sexual culture.

Among Russell’s most controversial points is his argument that the enemies of the renegade freedoms we now hold dear are the very heroes of our history books— he not only takes on traditional idols like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy, but he also shows that some of the most famous and revered abolitionists, progressive activists, and leaders of the feminist, civil rights, and gay rights movements worked to suppress the vibrant energies of working-class women, immigrants, African Americans, and the drag queens who founded Gay Liberation.

This is not history that can be found in textbooks— it is a highly original and provocative portrayal of the American past as it has never been written before.

Daniel Ellsberg reads from Howard Zinn’s The Bomb

Daniel Ellsberg, the man responsible for leaking the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971, stopped by City Lights Bookstore to read from historian Howard Zinn’s The Bomb (published by City Lights).

Imagine how nuclear weapons would be viewed today if Germany had used them in World War II. Because they would not have changed the outcome of the war, Ellsberg claims they would be branded “criminal, murderous” tools of Nazi desperation.

This excerpt is taken from a discussion on Howard Zinn’s The Bomb, featuring Daniel Ellsberg, recorded at City Lights Bookstore, on September 29, 2010.

As an active WWII bombardier returning from the end of the war in Europe and preparing for combat in Japan, Howard Zinn read the headline Atomic Bomb Dropped on Japan and was glad—the war would be over. “Like other Americans,” writes Zinn, “I had no idea what was going on at the higher levels, and had no idea what that ‘atomic bomb’ had done to men, women, children in Hiroshima, any more than I ever really understood what the bombs I dropped on European cities were doing to human flesh and blood.”

During the war, Zinn had taken part in the aerial bombing of Royan, France, and in 1966, he went to Hiroshima, where he was invited to a “house of rest” where survivors of the bombing gathered. In this short and powerful book, the backstory of the making and use of the bomb, Zinn offers his deep personal reflections and political analysis of these events, and the profound influence they had in transforming him from an order-taking combat soldier to one of our greatest anti-authoritarian, anti-war historians. – City Lights

Daniel Ellsberg is a former United States military analyst who, while employed by the RAND Corporation, precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of US government decision-making about the Vietnam War, to The New York Times and other newspapers.

Howard Zinn (1922 –2010) was raised in a working-class family in Brooklyn, and flew bombing missions for the United States in World War II, an experience he now points to in shaping his opposition to war. Under the GI Bill he went to college and received his Ph.D. from Columbia University. In 1956, he became a professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, a school for black women, where he soon became involved in the civil rights movement, which he participated in as an adviser to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and chronicled, in his book SNCC: The New Abolitionists. Zinn collaborated with historian Staughton Lynd and mentored a young student named Alice Walker. When he was fired in 1963 for insubordination related to his protest work, he moved to Boston University, where he became a leading critic of the Vietnam War.

In his liftetime, Zinn received the Thomas Merton Award, the Eugene V. Debs Award, the Upton Sinclair Award, and the Lannan Literary Award. He is perhaps best known for A People’s History of the United States. City Lights previously published his essay collection A Power Governments Cannot Suppress.

Deep Politics in the Age of Bush and Obama

Peter Dale Scott reads from American War Machine

Russ Baker & Peter Dale Scott dropped by City Lights Bookstore last December in celebration of the release of American War Machine: Deep Politics, the Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (by Peter Dale Scott) published by Rowman & Littlefield.

Why, even with the transfer of power from a conservative Republican to a liberal-moderate Democrat, does substantive change remain so elusive? And how is it possible that so soon after the catastrophic George W. Bush administration, Bush family fortunes already seem to be reviving—with Jeb Bush touted as a 2012 presidential aspirant?  Russ Baker and Peter Dale Scott, two of America’s most thoughtful investigators of American history and politics, discuss of some of the biggest unanswered questions of our time.

 

Russ Baker is an award-winning investigative journalist, author of Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years, and editor-in-chief of the news site, www.whowhatwhy.com.

 

Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is a poet, writer, and researcher. He is the author of: Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central AmericaThe Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire and the Future of America, and many others.

Rebecca Solnit discusses Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas

Rebecca Solnit’s Infinite City

Rebecca Solnit was joined by Aaron Shurin at City Lights Bookstore on December 2nd, 2010 to discuss her book, Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas (University of California Press).

What makes a place? Infinite City, Rebecca Solnit’s brilliant reinvention of the traditional atlas, searches out the answer by examining the many layers of meaning in one place, the San Francisco Bay Area. Aided by artists, writers, cartographers, and twenty-two gorgeous color maps, each of which illuminates the city and its surroundings as experienced by different inhabitants, Solnit takes us on a tour that will forever change the way we think about place. She explores the area thematically—connecting, for example, Eadweard Muybridge’s foundation of motion-picture technology with Alfred Hitchcock’s filming of Vertigo. Across an urban grid of just seven by seven miles, she finds seemingly unlimited landmarks and treasures—butterfly habitats, queer sites, murders, World War II shipyards, blues clubs, Zen Buddhist centers. She roams the political terrain, both progressive and conservative, and details the cultural geographies of the Mission District, the culture wars of the Fillmore, the South of Market world being devoured by redevelopment, and much, much more. Breathtakingly original, this atlas of the imagination invites us to search out the layers of San Francisco that carry meaning for us—or to discover our own infinite city, be it Cleveland, Toulouse, or Shanghai.

Rebecca Solnit is an activist, historian, art critic, and writer who lives in San Francisco. She is the author of numerous books including: A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in DisasterWanderlust: A History of Walking,Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for PoliticsA Field Guide to Getting LostAs Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender and Art; and River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (for which she received a Guggenheim and the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism). A contributing editor to Harper’s, she frequently writes for the political site Tomdispatch.com and occasionally for the London Review of Books and the (U.K.) Guardian. Solnit received a Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction in 2003.

Aaron Shurin is the author of eleven books, including the poetry collections Involuntary Lyrics (Omnidawn, 2005) and The Paradise of Forms (Talisman House, 1999), a Publishers Weekly Best Book; the prose collection Unbound: A Book of AIDS (Sun & Moon, 1997); and most recently, King of Shadows, a collection of personal essays, published by City Lights Books in 2008. His work has appeared in over thirty national and international anthologies, and been translated into seven languages. Shurin’s honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, the San Francisco Arts Commission, and the Gerbode Foundation. He is a Professor in the MFA in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco.