Red Madison contributors share the books, articles, podcasts, and shows that helped for us through 2021
There comes a time in every young edgelord’s life where they have to stop listening to Chapo Trap House and actually listen to something with a little bit of substance. If you’re still getting most of your political theory from memes I highly recommend you check out Rev Left, a great podcast that covers a wide variety of topics necessary for a revolutionary education. Episodes range from “Mental health, Eco-Despair, & Revolutionary Optimism” to “Understanding the Mechanics of Libaral Co-Option and Rhetoric”. If you don’t read theory you can at least listen to it with Rev Left.
Remake The World by Astra Taylor: Remake The World is a compilation of recent essays that span from deeply thoughtful treatments of common political matters such as debt, education, and technology alongside more unusually philosophical, yet eminently tangible, topics such as the act of listening in a democracy. You can read one of my favorite chapters, “The Right to Listen” over at The New Yorker.
Holding Change by adrienne maree brown: WOW! What a book! This little, but deeply valuable, book is a collaboration with a group of Black feminists who explore the practice of attending to the health of social movements and the groups of people who constitute them.
Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again by Katherine Angel: Pithy and incisive, provocative and considerate, this was one of the most intellectually exciting books that I’ve read in a while. The Boston Review offers an excellent review of this book in contrast to some Angel’s contemporaries writing on topics of sex, consent, and justice. Angel’s refusal to compromise a boldly ambiguous conception of desire is a refreshing approach and clears the way for a much clearer political analysis than many other thinkers.
On The Media (WNYC Podcast): 2021 was a tumultuous year for On The Media during which longtime co-host Bob Garfield was summarily fired. Nonetheless the year continues on a trend of spectacular media criticism and commentary led by Brooke Gladstone. The newsletter is a must-read and is a reliable salve in anxious times. Some standout episodes this year covered the history of May Day, the women who changed war reporting in Vietnam, the epistemology of library card catalogs, and the mechanics of the rust belt’s transition to a “healthcare economy.”
Lux Magazine, which was founded this year, is a dream come true. A socialist feminist periodical with endless style and absolutely zero shame, reading it is like oxygen for the socialist fire in your heart.
Caste Does Not Explain Race by Charisse Burden-Stelly: Ok, so this was published in December 2020, but I’m going to include it anyway. Isabelle’s Wilderson’s book Caste has been the subject of much uncritical acclaim as of late, this review makes use of the work of Oliver Cromwell Cox and Cedric Robinson to fill the dearth of criticism in exceptional fashion. An uncommonly lucid article in its own right, it falls into the category of a review worth reading even if you have no interest in the book it reviews.
Meanings of June Fourth, J. X. Zhang in New Left Review #128: I really love the book reviews in The New Left Review and this is an outstanding example of the genre, particularly since it is unlikely that I will ever be able to read the book that is the subject of this review. Beyond providing an expansive account of the 1989 student movement, I love how the reviewer – and of course, the original author – explore the ambiguities of the in vivo politics of a protest movement.
Indian Nations of Wisconsin, Histories of Endurance and Renewal, Patty Loew, Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2013. Patty Loew put together a comprehensive history of the Indian Nations of Wisconsin. It covers Native Americans’ arrival in what would become Wisconsin up until the 21st century. This is a living history, with the focus on the life of these nations today. Loew has drawn upon a wealth of sources, including those usually ignored by academics, oral histories and the stories of the people themselves. We learn about the many broken treaties and the constant drive to push the nations off their land to accommodate white settlers and interests such as mining and banking. Loew is a nuanced historian and doesn’t shy away from the complexities of native nations’ relationships with European settlers and between the nations themselves.If you want to understand Wisconsin, this book is a must.
Squid Games, Netflix. The Korean series went viral this year and for good reason. Hwang Dong-hyuk is the writer and director, and his creation has struck a chord with viewers around the world. Debt peonage is the motivating force for desperate people to compete in a savage game to entertain a secret audience of blood thirsty one percenters. Dong-huyk creates suspense and characters the viewer can root for as we wonder how far our global society is from the Colosseum.
Reservation Dogs is a show about teenagers growing up in rural Oklahoma. Notable for having the first all Indigenous writers and directors, as well as mostly Indigenous cast. I have enjoyed the dialogue between the teenagers as well as a Indigenous written view of growing up Indigenous in the modern day. Highly recommend a watch!
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas is a fictional story about a boy coming of age as an immigrant in America. The main character is struggling with traditional culture of his family with being a trans boy, becoming a man. A great story about the growth of traditions, coming of age and finding a place.
Latin American Extractivism, edited by Steve Ellner is a series of articles about sustainability of using fossil fuels to fund socialism. How do we create a socialist future while ruining the environment and taking native peoples land? Lots to unpack in this book, but the essay format breaks it up into easy to read sections and gives the reader lots of different viewpoints on the issues of pink tide governments and how we ‘get to socialism’.