What kind of gifts do you give friends and family in this year of living strangely in Fitzwalkerstan? Top of the list for most of my friends would be to get the required number of signatures to recall Gov. Walker. But I'm thinking a bit smaller in this instance. There's the whole buy local initiative, of course. But what about gifts that capture this moment in time, that celebrate it, link it to our past and future? There are a lot of potential possibilites out there, some obvious and others less so. Here are my suggestions:
Union Town by Tom Morello / The Night Watchman: This CD features 8 union songs; the last one on the disc was recorded live in Madison last February. The disc itself carries an image of the crowds in the Capitol Rotunda and the inside of the jacket shows one of the rallies here. In addition to the music, I like this CD (versus Morello's World Wide Rebel Songs, for instance) because it's inexpensive and has just enough music to get you fired up. Under $10.
We Are Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Uprising in the Words of Activists, Writers and Everyday Wisconsinites Who Made it Happen: Edited by Erica Sagrans. $18 paperback or you can download a PDF. The strenght of this book is that it contains the first writings, essays and blog posts coming out of public resistance to Governor Walker last winter. Farmers, politicians, students and citizens make their voices heard. First-person history in a convenient package.
Working Words: Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams: This anthology of poetry and essays — edited and with an introduction by M.L. Liebler — is an amazing and inspiring collection and includes titles both familiar and unknown. The voices range from Ed Sanders of The Fugs to Jack White of the White Stripes; from Walt Whitman to John Sayles to Michael Moore; Amiri Baraka to Dan Berrigan to Li-Young Lee. Coffee House Press, Minneapolis. This is strong stuff and not intended for Tea-Partiers.
Where We Worked: A Celebration of America's Workers and the Nation They Built: By Jack Larkin. This is the story of the 99%, our grandparents and theirs — all the citizens who built the mills and factories and dams and farms. While the book tells our history and our stories, it is the photos (from the Library of Congress) that speak most powerfully across time and generations. Most Americans today would be hard-pressed not to be able to find images that show the jobs members of their family have done. There's a whole section on coal mining, for example, with a number of pictures of breaker boys — the job my paternal grandfather had as a 10-year-old in Pennsylvania. Lyons Press, $40.00.
Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues: By Bill Moyers. I picked up this hardcover book by Moyers at A Room of One's Own after the first day of the Democracy Convention in Madison last summer. Came home, sat down and began to devour it. Moyers, as usual, finds those people who speak most clearly and eloquently about the issues of the day: from poetry to poverty, gay marriage to plutocracy. This book will give you Progressive talking points and an endless list of books you want to read by the people Moyers interviews.
Cut From Plain Cloth: The 2011 Wisconsin Workers Protests: By Dennis Weidemann. This hardcover book about the Wisconsin uprising has 150 photos and personal stories that exemplify the diversity and intimacy of this movement. I recognized old friends and new in its pages. Different enough from We Are Wisconsin that you could own both without too much overlap.
And, of course, you could make a donation to United Wisconsin (to Recall Scott Walker) in the name of a friend or family member as their gift this year!
NOTE: All of these books and the CD are also available through the South Central Library System in Wisconsin.