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Local Book Notes: Bob Gates Vs. The Chicago Crowd

1. A New Staple Singers Biography Doesn't Quite Take You There.

"Tribune critic Greg Kot follows the march toward freedom for a family of protest-music royalty - but gets lost along the way," Aimie Levitt writes for the Reader.

2. George Pataki's Daughter Now A Chicagoan, Author.

"Allison Pataki, daughter of the long-time New York governor, now is a Chicago resident and author," Shia Kapos reports for Crain's.

"Her historical novel, The Traitor's Wife, is set in her home state and centers on the story of Benedict Arnold and his wife, a socialite who married the Revolutionary War hero and then persuaded him to team up with her former British lover to take control of West Point. Of course the ruse was discovered, but who knew Arnold had a wife?"

3. Strike For America.

"The 2012 Chicago Teachers Union strike was the most important domestic labor struggle in decades, and the strongest challenge to the bipartisan, free market education reform agenda that fosters education inequality using teachers as a scapegoat," Verso Books says. "In an age of austerity, when public education and the public sector generally are under attack, Chicago teachers fought back - and won.

"Far from being spontaneous, the strike was years in the making. Standing up against a hostile Democratic mayor, billionaire-backed reformers out to destroy unions, and even their own intransigent union leadership, Chicago teachers had been building a grassroots movement that engaged and educated the entire union membership, and was unafraid to take militant action.

"Written by Micah Uetricht, a progressive journalist and former labor organizer who was on the scene for the entire strike, Strike for America is a blow-by-blow account of how CORE, a rank-and-file caucus of the CTU, lead this movement, elected Karen Lewis as the union's president, and launched a successful strike against neoliberal reform.

"Working closely with parents and community members, CORE developed an agenda that went beyond the usual compensation negotiations in order to establish a broad coalition opposed to the market-driven education policies backed by the previous union leadership.

"More than local heroes, Chicago teachers have created a model for true school reform, shaped by the the community rather than the private sector. The movement is an inspiration for workers looking to create democratic unions that fight for the issues that matter to their members, and for anyone committed to resisting austerity measures.

"Strike for America tells the story of how this movement came together in Chicago, and how its success will inform the defining struggles for workers today."

4. Bob Gates Vs. The Chicago Clique.

"But there's one facet of the coverage both before and after the publication that hasn't changed at all," Carol Felsenthal reports for Chicago.

"Gates is correctly portrayed as furious with certain White House staffers who weighed in on national security issues - and did so because President Obama invited them to attend and even talk at national security meetings, even though their expertise was in running and winning campaigns. In that category, he places Valerie Jarrett, Rahm Emanuel, Bill Daley and David Axelrod."

5. After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.

"An independent account - in words and pictures - of America's longest war from the beginning of the end to the end of the beginning," Ted Rall writes.

I traveled deep into Afghanistan - without embedding myself with U.S. soldiers, without insulating myself with flak jackets or armored SUVs - where no one else would (except, of course, Afghans).

I made two trips, the first in the wake of 9/11, the next 10 years later, to see what 10 years of U.S. occupation had wrought.

On the first trip, I was shouting his dispatches into a satellite phone provided by a Los Angeles radio station, attempting to explain that the booming in the background - and sometimes the foreground - were the sounds of an all-out war that no one at home would entirely own up to.

Ten years later, the alternative newspapers and radio station that had funded my first trip could no longer afford to send me into harm's way - so I turned to Kickstarter to fund a groundbreaking effort to publish online a real-time blog of graphic journalism (essentially, a nonfiction comic) documenting what's really happening on the ground, filed daily by satellite.

The result of my reporting is After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan - an account of one graphic journalist's effort to bring the realities of life in twenty-first century Afghanistan to the world the best ways I know how: a mix of travelogue, photography, and comics.

Due out March 25, 2014. Pre-order at Amazon.

6. I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy.

"Big Bill Broonzy was born in the Arkansas Delta and headed north in the Great Migration after World War I," the University of Chicago Press notes.

"He was the leading Chicago bluesman of the 1930s - fusing traditional rural blues with the electrified urban sound. He brought the blues to Europe and was a major figure in the folk revival of the '50s before his untimely death in 1958. The first biography of Broonzy, Bob Riesman's I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy, is our free e-book for February."

7. A Talk With Independent Book Publishers.

"The Chicago area has a thriving scene of small companies publishing books," the Society of Midland Authors says.

"Representatives of four local presses will talk about their craft and their business on Tuesday, February 11, at the Cliff Dwellers Club: Victor David Giron of Curbside Splendor, Emily Victorson of Allium Press, Sharon Woodhouse of Everything Goes Media and Lake Claremont Press and Ian Morris of Fifth Star Press."

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on February 4, 2014


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - An Odd Call From Bermuda.
SPORTS - All Is Not Forgiven, Bears.

BOOKS - Turning Points Of The Civil War.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Baxter's IV Bag Shortages.


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