Red Madison contributors share the books, articles, podcasts, and shows that helped get us through 2020
- Alicia Kennedy’s newsletter, From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy, is a weekly gift to my inbox with beautifully written commentary on the myriad issues that exist within each node of food systems under capitalism.
- Logic Magazine is a magazine about technology that asks critical questions about how and for whom digital technology functions, and how it’s shaping our world and future. Astra Taylor’s piece in their Security issue, “The Insecurity Machine,” is an accessible and relatable analysis of digital technologies’ contribution to and acceleration of the inequities that exist under capitalism.
- “A Future with No Future: Depression, the Left, and the Politics of Mental Health,” Los Angeles Review of Books, Mikkel Krause Frantzen. I’m just going to leave this link here, as I think the title speaks for itself. This was an immensely helpful piece for me to read—so helpful that I bought the author’s book on the same topic, Going Nowhere, Slow.
- Something soothing and delightful for my brain has been BBC Wales’ 2005 series Tales From the Green Valley, where six historians live on a 17th-Century farm for a year, only able to use the implements that would have been available to them in 1620. It’s lovely and pastoral and a good reminder of the irrationality of producing at the rate or scale that we currently are.
- How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney. Originally published in 1972 and written by Guyanese revolutionary and socialist Walter Rodney, it has been on my reading list for a long time. It is a must read for any socialist during this anti-racist uprising. He analyzes how the colonization of Africa by Europe was not only about racism, but rather the pillaging and underdevelopment of Africa made it possible for Europe and the global north to develop economically.
- The Red Nation Podcast hosted by Nick Estes of The Red Nation. Covering Indigenous liberation politics with an internationalist perspective challenging American empire.
- Red Power Hour hosted by Melanie Yazzie of The Red Nation. This is a spin off of The Red Nation Podcast that focuses more on the movement with analysis and opportunities on the horizon for the Indigenous movement.
- A People’s Guide to Capitalism: An Introduction to Marxist Economics by Hadas Thier. This just came out in 2020 and is a must read for during this economic crisis. It is an easy to understand introduction to Marxist economics without reading the brick that is Capital by Karl Marx.
- Set the Night on Fire: LA in the Sixties by Mike Davis and John Wiener. A special, up-close look at the movements and moments that defined Los Angeles in the 1960s. It was the perfect thing to read this year when so much of the spirit of the 60’s felt close at hand.
- Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed by Men by Caroline Criado Pérez. This fascinating and totally enraging book goes into detail about how the infrastructure of people’s day to day lives was designed with men in mind, a reality that makes women more susceptible to exclusion, injury, and death at almost every turn. If you’ve managed to forget somehow that the impacts of sexism are pervasive and constant, reading this book will help you remember every day.
- The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. Fiction! Really smartly executed horror and probably the scariest, most tense book I’ve ever read in my life. If you like scary things and you want to read more contemporary fiction by and about Indigenous people, this was great. I finished it in one night and think about the creepy parts of it constantly.
- Revolutions podcast* by Mike Duncan. Revolutions around the world, in serious depth, with a dry sense of humor. This was my companion as I walked the dog during the pandemic. I learned so much, especially about the Haitian revolution.
- The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist. Eye-opening, painful. The apologist historians who jumped out to debate it are also interesting to read, to see how denial of our complicity in capitalism works.
*After Dan listed Revolutions, Clare and Brian both seconded his choice. Consider it highly recommended!
- An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo. In An American Sunrise, renowned poet Joy Harjo explores her connections to the land as a member of the Mvskoke people. This book stretches the boundaries of poetry with found pieces of historical testimony from public records to a vast landscape of memories via poem. There is the piece by Emily Dickinson and then the tie in to her own history because during Dickinson’s childhood the Mvskoke people were forced out of their homeland in Alabama and made to move to Oklahoma. Her poetry is an emotional journey that helps the reader better understand the horror of our settler colonist nation.
- West Wing Thing is a podcast in which comedian/writers Dave Anthony and Josh Olson do an episode by episode demolition of Aaron Sorkin by examining his famous tv show, The West Wing. Along the way there is plenty of scathing political commentary and they add to the fun by bringing on guests such as Briahna Joy Gray and Nathan Robinson. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry because Sorkin’s plodding political opus has become a template from which today’s generation of neoliberals take sustenance.
- “Hello, We are from Wisconsin, and we are your future” Boston Review, Eleni Schirmer. An artful meditation on the scope of politics, so crucial as the left faces a moment in which we are once again asked to narrow our demands to fit the confines of electoral campaigns.
- “Democrats, You really do not want to nominate Joe Biden” Current Affairs, Nathan Robinson. This article incisively dispels the illusions manufactured to hide Biden’s politics. While it was written before Biden won the nomination, I still consider a crucial article, particularly for anyone still holding the belief that Biden can be pushed leftward.