Features » July 28, 2014
What To Read on Your Summer Vacation
Our list of beach reads for the social justice set.
These reading recommendations may not give you a tropical contact high, but we promise they will sharpen your awareness of injustice and even provide you with some new tools to fight it.
Let’s start with a stiff dose of reality: the United States is notoriously stingy when it comes to vacation. The Center for Economic and Policy Research reports that the United States is alone among 21 wealthy nations in requiring that employers provide not a lick of paid vacation. It should come as no surprise, then, that 23 percent of all U.S. workers—and 51 percent of low-wage workers—are granted no paid leave at all.
For the lucky 77 percent of Americans who do get some form of leave, the amount ain’t much—8.1 days on average after a year of work—and we’re even luckier if we’re allowed to take it. In our precarious, mostly non-unionized workplaces, where we’re constantly reminded of our replace-ability, we’re often too afraid of being fired (or losing a raise or a promotion) to take the leave we’re entitled to. Thirty-nine percent of Americans have not taken a vacation in two years.
If you do have the time and hard-earned money to take a vacation, there’s still the question of enjoying it—not always an easy task for In These Times readers, who have been known to spend their visit to SeaWorld interviewing the orcas about their working conditions. Sometimes it’s easiest to just hide under a blanket with a book—especially if your “vacation” is an hour in your bed between shifts. To help you make sure you use that time wisely, we’re offering our take on which books to read this summer (and which to avoid), alongside suggestions from some of our favorite authors. These reading recommendations may not give you a tropical contact high, but we promise they will sharpen your awareness of injustice and even provide you with some new tools to fight it.
ITT’s PICKS FOR SUMMER…
By David Harvey (Oxford University Press)
Ok, this one came out in April. But if you still haven’t gotten a chance to read Marxist geographer Harvey’s critique of the foundations of contemporary capitalism, now’s the time.
By Roxane Gay (Grove Press)
Already adored around the internet for her experimental short fiction and essays, Gay breaks into the novel game with this story of sexual violence and resistance. Look out, too, for her essay collection Bad Feminist, out in August from Harper Perennial.
By Aviva Chomsky (Beacon Press)
Immigration wasn’t always illegal, and in this fiercely argued book, immigrant rights activist Chomsky explains how that changed and why it matters.
By Stuart Kirsch (University of California Press)
Through a detailed depiction of a fight over a mine in Papua New Guinea, Kirsch, an anthropologist at the University of Michigan, analyzes the methods corporations use to silence critics and advance their agendas.
By Miriam Frank (Temple University Press)
The author of The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter brings us an inclusive history of the convergence of labor and LGBT interests.
By Dave Zirin (Haymarket)
The author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States compiles some of the innumerable tales of forced evictions, whitewashing and militarization in the lead-up to the world’s most-hyped sporting event.
By Alicia Gaspar de Alba (University of Texas Press)
Activist and scholar Gaspar de Alba confronts the negative depictions of women of color who challenged the patriarchy, including 17th-century nun, poet and child prodigy Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
By Dorothy Sue Cobble, Linda Gordon, and Astrid Henry (Norton)
In an attempt to rewrite a century of U.S. women’s history, Cobble, Gordon and Henry challenge the framing of the feminist movement as a set of competing “waves.”
…AND TO CARRY YOU INTO FALL
By Naomi Klein (September, Simon & Schuster)
Solving climate change requires many sacrifices, but Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, argues that the challenge offers our best hope for a more economically just future.
By Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Slavoj Žižek (September, Verso)
What happens when an imprisoned Russian punk rocker (Pussy Riot’s Tolokonnikova) and a Slovenian philosopher become penpals? Turns out they talk a lot about revolution, democracy and Laurie Anderson.
By Zephyr Teachout (September, Harvard University Press)
Teachout, a law professor who’s challenging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo from the left, has written 384 pages on the history of corruption in politics. If every candidate did that before running for office, the world would be a much better place.
By Daisy Hernández (September, Beacon Press)
The co-editor of Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism makes the political personal with her memoir about growing up in an immigrant Cuban community in New York City and discovering her queer identity.
By Edward E. Baptist (September, Basic Books)
The Cornell history professor takes a unique look at the history of slavery, arguing that the united states’ future economic prosperity and global influence cannot be understood apart from the violent institution that made it possible.
By Erwin Chemerinsky (September, Viking)
Constitutional law professor Chemerinsky argues that the court is—and always has been—too political to function fairly.
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (September, Beacon Press)
In an effort to fill the gaps in traditional U.S. history lessons, Dunbarortiz offers a bottom-up history of imperialism and colonial resistance.
By Stanley Aronowitz (October, Verso)
The man Cornel West calls “the most important scholar” on the American working class argues that the collapse of the labor movement of old opens up possibilities for a new revival.
By Staughton Lynd (October, Haymarket)
Lynd revives the historiographical tradition of Howard Zinn and E.P. Thompson to recount the decline of the American labor movement through the eyes of the rank-and-file worker.
By Thomas Geoghegan (November, The New Press)
Geoghegan, a labor attorney and activist, makes the case for a total renewal of the American labor movement.
Contributors: Jessica Stites, Carlos Ballesteros, Ethan Corey