Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Popular Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement

Avoiding the easy definitions and caricatures that tend to celebrate or condemn the hip hop generation, Hip Hop Matters focuses on the fierce and far-reaching battles being waged in politics, pop culture, and academe to assert greater control over the movement. At stake, Watkins argues, is the impact hip hop will have in the lives of the young people who live and breathe the culture. The story unfolds through revealing profiles, looking at such players as Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, widely recognized as America's first hip-hop mayor; Chuck D, the self-described rebel without a pause who championed the Internet as a way to keep socially relevant rap music alive; and young activists who represent hip hop's insurgent voice. Watkins also presents incisive analysis of the corporate takeover of hip hop; the culture's march into America's colleges and universities; and the rampant misogyny that undermines the movement's progressive claims. Ultimately, we see how the struggle for hip hop reverberates with a larger world: global media consolidation and conglomeration; racial and demographic flux; generational cleavages; the reinvention of the pop music industry; and the ongoing struggle to enrich the lives of ordinary youth.


Shut Up Shut Down

Poems by Mark Nowak. In the grand, narrative tradition of Gwendolyn Brooks and Edward Sanders, this riveting collection of poetic plays and photo-documentary poems exposes the human cost of corporate greed and gives voice to the growing crisis faced in communities across America.


Friday, February 09, 2007

A Hundred Little Hitlers: The Death of a Black Man, the Trial of a White Racist, and the Rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America

On November 12, 1988, a group of Portland, Oregon, skinheads known as East Side White Pride met for an evening of beer and racist banter. Later that night, they encountered three Ethiopians; a street fight broke out and Kenneth Mieske brutally beat Mulugeta Seraw with a bat. In the early-morning hours, Seraw died. Drawing on more than ten years of original research, award-winning journalist Elinor Langer takes the Seraw case as the occasion for a thorough investigation of the Nazi-inspired racist movement in the United States. She vividly reconstructs the world of the skinheads, both in Portland and nationally: their origins in the punk scene, their basement shrines to Nazi power, their moments of glory on Oprah and Geraldo. She delves into the long-standing radical groups with which the skinheads became allied, tracking the progress of such powerful figures as white Aryan resistance leader Tom Metzger through the stations of the far right, from the Birch Society to Christian Identity to David Duke's Klan. In gripping detail, she follows ambitious civil-rights lawyer Morris Dees's efforts to prove Metzger responsible for the Portland killing-an ultimately futile campaign to curb the growth of neo-Nazism. Compelling, disturbing, and important, A Hundred Little Hitlers is both an epic account of racism and justice, and a close examination of social forces that loom ever more dangerously today.

Slaves to Fashion: Poverty and Abuse in the New Sweatshops

A provocative and accessible history and study of the sweatshop and a major contribution to the debate over its rebirth.

Sweatshop USA: The American Sweatshop in Historical and Global Perspective

For over a century, the sweatshop has evoked outrage and moral repugnance. Once cast as a type of dangerous and immoral garment factory brought to American shores by European immigrants, today the sweatshop is reviled as emblematic of the abuses of an unregulated global economy. This collection unites some of the best recent work in the interdisciplinary field of "sweatshop studies." It examines changing understandings of the roots and problems of the sweatshop, and explores how the history of the American sweatshop is inexorably intertwined with global migration of capital, labor, ideas and goods. The American sweatshop may be located abroad but remains bound to the United States through ties of fashion, politics, labor and economics. The global character of the American sweatshop has presented a barrier to unionization and regulation. Anti-sweatshop campaigns have often focused on local organizing and national regulation while the sweatshop remains global. Thus, the epitaph for the sweatshop has frequently been written and re-written by unionists, reformers, activists and politicians. So, too, have they mourned its return.

Ending Life: Ethics and the Way We Die

Margaret Pabst Battin has established a reputation as one of the top philosophers working in bioethics today. This work is a sequel to Battin's 1994 volume The Least Worst Death. The last ten years have seen fast-moving developments in end-of-life issues, from the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in Oregon and the Netherlands to furor over proposed restrictions of scheduled drugs used for causing death, and the development of "NuTech" methods of assistance in dying. Battin's new collection covers a remarkably wide range of end-of-life topics, including suicide prevention, AIDS, suicide bombing, serpent-handling and other religious practices that pose a risk of death, genetic prognostication, suicide in old age, global justice and the "duty to die," and suicide, physician-assisted suicide, and euthanasia, in both American and international contexts. As with the earlier volume, these new essays are theoretically adroit but draw richly from historical sources, fictional techniques, and ample factual material.

Civilized Life in the Universe: Scientists on Intelligent Extraterrestrials

This book is a selective and fascinating history of scientific speculation about intelligent extraterrestrial life. From Plutarch to Stephen Hawking, some of the most prominent western scientists have had quite detailed perceptions and misperceptions about alien civilizations: Johannes Kepler, fresh from transforming astronomy with his work on the shape of planetary orbits, was quite sure alien engineers on the moon were excavating circular pits to provide shelter; Christiaan Huygens, the most prominent physical scientist between Galileo and Newton, dismissed Kepler's speculations, but used the laws of probability to prove that "planetarians" on other worlds are much like humans, and had developed a sense of the visual arts; Carl Sagan sees clearly that Huygens is a biological chauvinist, but doesn't see as clearly that he, Sagan, may be a cultural/technological chauvinist when he assumes aliens have highly developed technology like ours, but better. Basalla traces the influence of one speculation on the next, showing an unbroken but twisting chain of ideas passed from one scientist to the next, and from science to popular culture. He even traces the influence of popular culture on science--Sagan always admitted how much E. R. Burroughs' Martian novels influenced his speculations about Mars. Throughout, Basalla weaves his theme that scientific belief in and search for extraterrestrial civilizations is a complex impulse, part secularized-religious, and part anthropomorphic. He questions the common modern scientific reasoning that life converges on intelligence, and intelligence converges on one science valid everywhere. He ends the book by agreeing with Stephen Hawking (usually a safe bet) that intelligence is overrated for survival in the universe, and that we are most likely alone.

Blues: The Basics

Blues: The Basics gives a brief introduction to a century of the blues; it is ideal for students and interested listeners who want to learn more about this treasured American artform. The book is organized chronologically, focusing on the major eras in blues's growth and development. It opens with a chapter defining the blues form and detailing the major genres within it. Next, the author gives the beginning blues fan points on how to listen to and truly enjoy the music. The heart of the book traces blues's growth from its folk origins through early recordings of city blues singers like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith and country blues stars like Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson. Finally, the author gives an overview of the blues scene today. The book concludes with lists of key recordings, books, and videos.
Blues: The Basics serves as an excellent introduction to the players, the music, and the styles that make blues an enduring and well-loved musical style.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Forgotten Fifth: African Americans in the Age of Revolution

As the United States gained independence, a full fifth of the country's population was African American. The experiences of these men and women have been largely ignored in the accounts of the colonies' glorious quest for freedom. In this compact volume, Gary B. Nash reorients our understanding of early America, and reveals the perilous choices of the founding fathers that shaped the nation's future.