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Category: Non-Fiction Page 1 of 6

Books I Read in January


It’s funny — now that I’ve given myself permission not to review every single book I read in-depth, I have a whole lot more I want to say about what I’m reading, and why. So here are some capsule reviews about what I read in January 2019.

The Hacking of the American Mind by Robert Lustig

I think I was first turned on to this book by YouTuber Hannah Louise Poston, who in 2018 examined her relationship to beauty products and consumerism by doing a “no-buy” year. In one video, she talked about how she was learning about neuroscience, dopamine vs serotonin, and the difference between pleasure and happiness as a result of this book.

I was intrigued, because I know my own habits need to change. I spend way too much time online, and this book seemed like a handy way to help me understand my habits/addictions (Twitter, Reddit, staying up too late reading the same).

And….oof. Lustig may be a talented endocrinologist, and he may have done the world a service by being a whistleblower about the sugar industry, but The Hacking of the American Mind feels like a classic example of a book’s thesis being undone by poor presentation.

Lustig has A Lot to Talk About, and he does so with the fervour of a zealot. His understanding of brain chemistry is obvious, but his understanding of social issues is not. His thesis is that the American business, politics, and legal apparatus  has been systematically encouraging the American populace to seek short-term pleasure (aka: dopamine, sugar, and consumerism) over long-term happiness (aka: serotonin, healthy foods, and personal development).

The argument itself is sound. But his solutions for undoing the damage this confluence of political and economic interests has caused is not. His solutions? Cook healthy food! Meditate and develop mindfulness! Volunteer in your community!

These are all valuable things, but these are individualistic solutions to society-wide problems. Does he advocate for tax reform and reducing income inequality? No. Does he say that the labour movement needs widescale restoration to regain lost rights? Not really. For all his emphasis on how politics and money corrupt society, he seems surprisingly ignorant about the whole concept of social determinants of health.

Oh, and also Lustig engages in a lot of fat-shaming and neurotypical bias. No thanks.

Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment by Gregory Berns

In some ways, this book was the polar opposite to The Hacking of the American Mind. Both talk about neuroscience, pleasure, and how the brain responds to stimuli, but they do so in very different ways. When I opened Satisfaction, the straightforwardness of the prose in the opening first few pages made me feel like I had just put a cool, soothing cloth to my forehead.

Because of this immediate reaction of “Ah, finally, this author is so decorous!”, it took me a while to feel underwhelmed. In Hacking, Lustig Has A Point, and attempts to prove  it in a frenzied, impassioned, and clumsy way. Satisfaction, however, despite its fine prose, just kinda… sits there. Despite Berns’ discussion of dopamine and brain structures, his book’s thesis — that satisfaction/happiness lies in constantly exposing the brain to new experiences — is boring.

What’s more, the narrative throughline is clunky. There are interesting chapters, like the ones about sensory experiences during a fine meal and travelling to Iceland. However, they are intermingled with so-so ones about topics like BDSM. The final chapter, in particular, contains a lot of woo-sounding advice about long-term relationships, as well as some cringe-inducing passages discussing the author’s own sexual relationship with his wife.

Brother by David Chariandy

Hands down the best book of the month. Growing up, Michael and his brother Francis knew that despite how hard their mother worked to support them and give them a chance to succeed in life, they had few options. Constrained by intersecting issues of race and class, suspicion falls upon them and their peers in the wake of a shooting in their housing complex. Michael finds ways to cope, but Francis’ trajectory is much more tragic. Brother is an exploration of growing up as a marginalized youth of colour in the early 90s, and the prose is spare and haunting.

However, what really made me connect with it is that it’s set very close to where I live. When the opening pages talk about a bridge on Lawrence Avenue in Scarborough, I know that bridge because it’s within walking distance of my house. When Michael recollects escaping into the Rouge Valley, I know where and what he’s escaping to. When Michael talks about the buses and commuter trains and the “good” neighbourhood of “Port Junction”, I know exactly who and what he is describing, because that infrastructure has been with me my whole life.

Perhaps, when the snow melts and the sun comes back, I’ll share some pictures of the Rouge here, so you can conjure them in your minds eye when you decide to read this magnificent book.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 9: Squirrels Fall Like Dominoes

As I have mentioned previously, I love Squirrel Girl. So any time a new volume comes out, it’s a delight. This time, the crux of the story involves her friendship with Kraven, a Marvel villain, and how she encourages him to turn a new leaf. Kraven is always a delight whenever he pops up in the SG universe, so it’s nice to see him get an extended plot arc here.

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

I read Hacking and Satisfaction at the beginning of the month because I wanted to understand my own brain, and to see if these books would give me some insight into how to “rewire” myself away from constantly needing to be connected to the internet. I should have just ignored both of these and read The Shallows instead.

In this book, Nicholas Carr manages to find the happy medium between the other two. It contains both the literary quality of Satisfaction and the hefty neurological exploration of Hacking. More importantly, The Shallows goes into detail about how exactly technology changes our brains without sounding alarmist — even when those details themselves are, in fact, alarming.

What’s also surprising is that although this book was written 8 years ago, and thus discusses the technology of 8 years ago, it doesn’t feel dated. The trends he identified have only become amplified since then – the chapter on Google’s quest for “content” in order to develop truly functional AI  is particularly relevant.

January’s reads were kind of a mix, but in a good way.  In February, I hope to continue this mix of fiction and non-fiction, while also focusing on Black authors for Black History Month.

Could It Happen Here? By Michael Adams

Title: Could It Happen Here? Canada in the Age of Trump and Brexit
Author: Michael Adams
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 3 out of 5
How I got a copy: S&S sent me a free copy in exchange for a review

When Justin Trudeau was sworn in as Prime Minister, I watched the ceremony via livestream on my computer at work. I saw the cabinet ministers take their oaths, and I heard the two Inuit girls do throat singing. I saw the Metis dance at the end, and felt a swell of good things. Pride that Trudeau was a charismatic change. Relief that Harper was out.

When the Brexit referendum happened, I was surprised because I didn’t think it was a huge issue. The idea of the UK leaving the EU seemed so outlandish to me that it was low on my radar. I spent my commute that morning feeling unmoored, adrift. I eventually felt better when I had the opportunity to help two women find the right platform they needed at Union Station. Helping someone do something small but important – something immediate and unambiguous – did a lot to improve my state of mind.

When the US election happened and Trump won, I fell off a cliff for the next few months.

I don’t think I’m alone in having felt that spectrum of emotion: hope to disbelief to despair. And, as a Canadian, I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether that tide of unbelievability and surprise and chaos that Trump and his nationalist ilk represent will start spilling over into Canada.

Could It Happen Here? Canada in the Age of Trump and Brexit, by Michael Adams, attempts to answer that question. Adams, a prominent Canadian pollster and market researcher, uses this book to examine how opinions on political topics have converged and diverged between Canada and the US, focusing on such issues as immigration, Islamophobia, and income inequality.

By necessity, this book is short. Adams needed to make it as up-to-the-minute as possible, and the book references extremely recent events within 2017, like the snap election in the UK this summer that caused a majority government to lose seats.

However, the answer that Adams presents, over and over, to the question of “could it happen here” is even shorter: it probably won’t.

Canadians, he says, consistently show a more open, tolerant, and progressive attitude towards several political issues than Americans do. Immigration? Overall, we’re okay with it, he says. Should the father be the “master” of the household? In general, he says, Canadians believe this far less often than Americans do. In his words, we may have our flirtations with nationalist, xenophobic thinking, but sooner or later we eventually “muddle to the middle”.

In other words, his research seems to justify a sense of Canadian exceptionalism. Isn’t that comforting?

Never mind that Alexandre Bissonnette, the man who shot 6 congregants at a mosque in Quebec City in January, hasn’t actually been charged with committing terrorism. Never mind that a conservative protester interrupted Jagmeet Singh during a speech and said that he was going to “bring Sharia law to Canada.” Never mind that Canada has shown itself perfectly capable of electing politicians who destroy archives of scientific research and have ties with alt-right media outlets.

Canada, Adams says, is resilient enough to recover from that sort of thing. But didn’t that optimism lead to the complacency that resulted in Trump and Brexit in the first place?

While he does address things like how Canada has a relative lack of gerrymandering compared to the US, he doesn’t examine the way that our first-past-the-post voting system gives disproportionate power to swing voters. Both Harper and Justin Trudeau won majorities despite getting only around 40% of the popular vote. If people consider it a travesty that Clinton lost despite winning the popular vote, how is this fact of Canadian politics any less disconcerting?

It doesn’t help that his prose is anodyne, filled with mealy-mouthed caveats and generalizations like this:

Similarly, the high level of support among Canadians for ethnocultural diversity doesn’t necessarily mean that some people won’t look askance at new neighbours whose religious customs are unfamiliar, or cast votes for traditionalist politicians who hint at bringing in more socially conservative policies if elected. The question is whether shared public services offer a suitably weighty counterbalance to the socioeconomic and racial sorting that is redrawing the geographies of our largest urban regions. Does the taxi driver with the PhD who can’t find suitable work become radicalized in his marginalization? Does his anger trigger a backlash among affluent urbanites, who lose confidence in immigration if low-income newcomers become more dependent on social services instead of becoming culturally integrated citizens contributing to the country’s economic growth?

The answer is that there seems to be a constellation of other factors and shared values that have prevented this kind of downwards spiral – some combination of policies that do produce upwards mobility, plus, crucially, a public discourse that emphasizes the benefits of a tolerant and welcoming society as opposed to a closed and hostile one.

It also doesn’t help that Adams treats Brexit and the 2016 election as purely democratic phenomena when there is significant speculation that voting machines were hacked in the US and that Russian organizations had notable ties to both the Trump and Brexit campaigns. Canadian people may be more tolerant, but that doesn’t preclude outside actors from trying to exert undue influence.

I wanted to like Could It Happen Here? I wanted to be encouraged by it. But its insistence on saying that Canada is inherently more tolerant and more resilient than other western democracies sounds very naive.

Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures

Hugo Awards Roundup: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures

Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone/Hopper Stone, SMPSP

The Hugo award deadline is right around the corner, so I’m running a series of posts about this year’s nominees in various categories. Today’s is Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.


Holy shit you guys, I have actually seen all of this year’s nominees. That’s a first, and that means there are two things to celebrate:

  1. Hollywood making decent SF/F movies in greater quantities, and
  2. My husband and I having enough disposable income to see said movies.

Yay for having money! So, let’s take a closer look at each nominee in turn.

Arrival

It is so satisfying to know that Hollywood didn’t bungle this adaptation of Ted Chiang’s mind-bending novella “Story of Your Life”. I reviewed Arrival back in November when it opened in theatres, and my opinion on it hasn’t changed that much. However, I also suspect I had such a strong reaction to the movie because of the heightened emotional state (fear, regret, exhaustion) I was in when I saw it. This movie would not have had the same impact on me if it had been released in 2015, I think.

The only thing I have to add is that while this adaptation made changes to the story that some people disagree with, I think those changes make sense. Let’s look at some comments by Abigail Nussbaum in particular:

To someone familiar with the story, there is a hint early on in Arrival of its shift in priorities and premise.  The film opens with a series of flashes to the relationship between linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and her daughter Hannah, culminating in Hannah’s death, in her early adulthood, from a disease.  In the story, Hannah dies in a climbing accident.  The change initially seems pointless–or perhaps yet another indication that Hollywood thinks cancer is inherently more dramatic than any other form of tragedy–and then troubling.  In the story, the point of Hannah’s death being accidental is that it is easily preventable.  Someone with knowledge of the future–as Louise will eventually become–could keep it from happening by saying a few words.  The point of “Story of Your Life” is to explain why Louise doesn’t do this.  Making Hannah’s death something that Louise can’t prevent seems, in the film’s early minutes, like an odd bit of point-missing.

I disagree with this. I think changing the way Hannah died was a practical decision by the moviemakers in order to achieve the desired narrative effect, rather than a ham-fisted attempt to inject the story with pathos.

To first-time viewers, the revelation is that all of the scenes involving Hannah are flash-forwards rather than flashbacks. To make that twist resonate to the audience, Louise (played by Amy Adams) must look the same in both the present-day narrative and the near future. If Hannah is an adult, then Louise needs to look visibly older on screen to avoid suspension of disbelief. But if the passage of time between the two periods is less than a decade, Louise looking substantively the same age is a lot more plausible – and thus it’s easier to set the audience off their guard.

Deadpool

Ladies and gentlemen, let us salute the first comic book movie to show pegging on-screen. Let us also salute the mental image of my Boomer-age aunt and uncle watching Deadpool in the theatre. Because I know that, had I watched it with them, being in their proximity during the on-screen sexytimes would have made me melt into my seat in embarrassment. I would probably have also had to explain everything to them afterwards because my aunt is the kind of person who didn’t understand The Matrix when she first saw it.

So yeah. Deadpool. Lotsa sex jokes. Lotsa gore. Lotsa fourth-wall breaking. Mucho potential inter-generational embarrassment that, thank god, was avoided.

Ghostbusters

You know what? I liked Ghostbusters, MRA-rage be damned. It wasn’t a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination, and I was never a big fan of the original 80s incarnation in the first place. But I am all for Kate MacKinnon’s performance. Let’s just fill the rest of this section up with Holtzmann GIFs, ok?



Hidden Figures

I reviewed Hidden Figures back in January. It’s a good movie with great performances. The only problem I have with it is that you can tell that the original story was altered to make it more Hollywood-friendly. I’ll just share the money quote here:

For example, when Mary is encouraged to become an engineer, she initially brushes her coworker’s words aside by saying that as a black woman, there’s no point in her trying. It’s impossible, she says. So what, he replies, I’m Jewish and my parents died in the Holocaust, yet we’re both here working on getting a man into space. Nothing is impossible! Considering that Mary’s interlocutor has less than a dozen more lines in the entire film after this, his dialogue is a bit on the nose; it’s clear that he’s here only to fulfill that particular beat of the script.

Other parts of the script are also predictable. Do we have a scene where Katherine gives rise to her frustration and in a cathartic burst of rage berates her boss because there’s no bathroom nearby she can use? Yes! Do we have a scene where said boss, chastened and enlightened, does something dramatic and symbolic by taking a crowbar to the “coloured ladies” bathroom sign as a way to desegregate the campus? Yes! Do we have a scene where Katherine has to prove her mathematical worth at the very last minute, with little time to spare, in order to make sure that John Glenn doesn’t die in space? Yes!

Rogue One

When I saw Rogue One in the theatre, I really wasn’t expecting the movie to go there. You know. The whole thing with “even though one of the major taglines of the movie is that rebellions need hope to survive, every single goddamned important character in this movie DIES.” I wasn’t expecting it to go there.

It’s not a perfect movie, and Max Gladstone wrote a really good piece about how they could have fixed Rogue One‘s script to make it better. But what I care about most is Chirrut and Baze. I also think that not casting Tatiana Maslany as the lead was a huge missed opportunity.

Stranger Things, Season One

I’ve mentioned previously how long series of things are overwhelming to me. So much stuff to catch up on. So the length of shows like Stranger Things is perfect. Eight episodes, one plot arc, mostly killer and very little filler.

I took a big break after episode 6, which finishes with Jonathan and Steve fighting, and Steve slut-shaming Nancy in public. The plot development there put a bad taste in my mouth. But episode 7 was amazing, because it’s the first time where everyone teams up. There are still some things I’m conflicted about – for some reason, I wasn’t a huge fan of the actress they chose to play Nancy – but other parts are great. My husband couldn’t stand Dustin, but he’s my favourite character because he’s so emotionally perceptive.

Into the Gray Zone by Adrian Owen

Title: Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death
Author: Dr. Adrian Owen
Publisher: Scribner
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3 out of 5
How I got it: I was given an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for this review

About 5 years ago, I read Westlake Soul by Rio Youers. It’s a short sci-fi novel where the title character lives in a persistent vegetative state. He rests in his bed and appears unresponsive to the outside world, but inside, his mind is a ferment of activity. In his own head, Westlake is a superhero, and his nemesis is Dr. Quietus, a personification of death.

In Westlake Soul, Youers imagines the inner life of someone locked into their own body. Do such people have consciousness? Are they aware of what goes on around them, even if they’re unable to make that awareness known?

Into the Gray Zone, by London-based neurologist Adrian Owen, is a non-fiction book that answers those questions. Specifically: yes, it is possible, and even somewhat common, for people in persistent vegetative states (who are in “the gray zone”) to be fully aware of what’s going on around them.

The book describes the initial discovery of this fact, as well as the subsequent experiments that Owen and his colleagues developed to provide further proof. The experiments themselves are rather elegant. First, they needed to prove that patients in the gray zone could still perceive and and understand familiar words and images. Then, they needed to prove that these patients could display intent.

They did that by scanning the brains of gray zone patients after asking them to think of a specific activity or image. Thinking of one kind of activity (playing tennis) results in different patterns of brain usage then thinking of another (finding your way around your house). The true stroke of brilliance is that, upon realizing that these two types of thoughts result in distinct brain patterns, you can use that as the basis for getting the patients to answer simple yes/no questions. “Do you feel any pain? If yes, imagine playing tennis. If no, imagine walking around the house.”

On the surface, this discussion of how our brains work is fascinating. Being able to determine who is in the gray zone yet conscious — and even communicate with them — is a huge achievement. World-changing, even!

But, while Owen may have a knack for explaining complicated concepts clearly to the reader, I still found Into the Gray Zone hard to read. But it’s not a problem of content. Rather, it’s one of tone.

Owen claims to respect his patients. However, I get the sense that the book is more about his personal journey and career rather than the wonders and potential terrors of the human brain.

This is immediately noticeable in the first chapter, where Owen talks about one of his former patients:

One patient I worked with had minimal frontal-lobe damage but became wildly disinhibited as a result. Before his injury he was described as a “shy and intelligent young man.” Postinjury he abused strangers in the street and carried a canister of paint with him to deface any public or private surfaces he could get his hands on. His speech was littered with expletives. His wild behavior escalated: he persuaded a friend to hold his ankles while he hung from the window of a speeding train, a lunatic activity by any measure. His skull and most of the front part of his cortex were crushed when he crashed headlong into a bridge. By some circular twist of fate, his minor frontal-lobe injury led directly to major damage to the same part of his brain.

Notice anything about that passage? If not, try this one less than 2 pages further in:

My patient was a lanky youth with wild hair whom I tested for memory impairments following surgery that he had received to combat seizures. He was also the defendant in a murder trial. The victim was his own mother, strangled while she was securely locked in the house with her son. Just the two of them. The case turned on his being a martial arts expert with a history of epileptic automatisms, and he could (although the evidence remained entirely circumstantial) have killed her through a series of routine martial arts maneuvers and remained entirely unaware of this dreadful act.

When I tested his memory using what were then our state-of-the-art computerized tests, I sat near the door — a strategy I had seen in numerous TV crime dramas. I didn’t feel safe. I needed a weapon. All this now seems ludicrous, but there I was, sitting in a closed office with a man who was accused of killing his own mother with his bare hands without even knowing that he’d done it! If he had done it, could he be judged responsible? I wasn’t sure. The thinking then and now was that automatisms, rather than expressing subconscious impulses, are automatic programs firing in the brain, completely outside our control. If he had been a carpenter, he would have been sawing a piece of wood rather than karate-chopping his mom.

Both of these anecdotes display a disturbing lack of respect for his patients. A studious young man turns into a hellraiser because of a brain injury but hey, he gets his just desserts because said injury becomes the “twist of fate” that enables him to experience a horrible death. As for the second patient, how about using the phrase “karate-chopping his mom” to add a dose of levity to the idea of matricide? Sounds fun, right?

Into the Gray Zone goes into great detail about the medical advances and unpredictable developments that have allowed researchers to communicate with people in the gray zone. But through it all, I get the distinct sense that Owen needs more empathy. Or at least, the two anecdotes I’ve quoted above predisposed me towards treating this book with skepticism.

I’ve read works on similar topics by authors like Oliver Sacks and Gabor Maté. While they may be somewhat dry in places, both doctors approach talking about their patients with a sense of care and even wonder. In contrast, while Owen displays amazement about the scientific advances he’s been able to contribute to, he also spends a significant amount of time talking about how a failed relationship with a colleague named Maureen informed his practice.

Maureen, a fellow student while he was in medical school, was also studying the brain. But while he wanted to unravel its mysteries — treating the brain as a fascinating yet confounding object — she wanted to care for people with psychiatric problems. They eventually broke up; years later, she suffered an aneurysm and never recovered, becoming vegetative herself.

Her spectre haunts the book — Owen constantly talks about how his thoughts of her and his hope for an eventual cure for her condition motivated him to understand patients in the gray zone. But he also admits that it was only after both her and his own mother entered the gray zone that he truly felt empathy for people in the gray zone and the family members left behind who were trying to cope. Before that, his patients just seemed like puzzles to solve.

I’m really disturbed by this, as it just reinforces a popular stereotype that good doctors, the ones that deserve acclaim, don’t necessarily need to care about people to succeed. We see it in House and other forms of pop culture that venerate the Jerk Doctor. Now, Adrian Owen may not be a jerk, but I’m still put off by how much of the focus on Into the Gray Zone he places on himself.

The March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Title: March, vols 1-3
Authors: John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Illustrator: Nate Powell
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Format: Print
Rating: 5 out of 5 (the entire set)
How I got a copy: I purchased the slipcase set from Indigo

Today is John Lewis’s birthday. Today is also the anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X.

There’s a perverse symmetry in that — that two leading figures of Civil Rights and African American liberation should have their lives bookended by this date.

John Lewis is still alive. Of the prominent leaders of the Civil Rights movement in the 60s, he’s the only one left. He shook hands with JFK. He was colleagues with Martin Luther King Jr. He helped lead the march from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama. He’s been arrested, beaten, spat on, and denied vindications and liberties more times than I can count. He’s represented his congressional district in Georgia for 30 years. By any meaningful sense of the term, John Lewis is a living legend.

Which means that it’s a damn shame that I, as a Canadian, only recently heard about him in great detail when, last month, he announced that he would refuse to attend Donald Trump’s inauguration.

As a result, his books flew off the shelves. I followed suit and ordered a copy of his March trilogy, a series of graphic novels about his life. I spent the whole past weekend reading them, and only just finished them this evening.

The March trilogy details the life of John Lewis from his childhood on a sharecropping farm in Alabama through to his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement in the late 50s and 60s. He was an instrumental member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. As a child, he was committed to his schoolwork and his religious study, but also aware of the hypocrasies of the segregated school system in which he was taught.

When Martin Luther King Jr first came to his attention in 1955, he immediately saw the value of King’s form of social gospel, and learned more about non-violent activist techniques. He was an architect of them in his own right, helping to coordinate lunch counter sit-ins. As time progressed, his work with the SNCC led to him being considered one of the chief movers of the Civil Rights movement.

The March trilogy shuttles back and forth between Lewis’s memories of the past as an activist and the present day – said present day being January 20th, 2009, the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration. The series ends with the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

In light of the struggles and violence that Civil Rights protesters faced, the fact that the US elected Barack Obama is a signal achievement. It’s amazing to think that it took just over 40 years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act for such a thing to occur, after years — centuries — of disenfranchisement.

When Obama started office in 2009, the Voting Rights Act still ensured that marginalized communities across the country had the right to vote. However, in 2013, key provisions of the act were struck down by the Supreme Court. Voting restrictions have popped up like mushrooms in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

As someone viewing all this from the outside — as someone who knew only the barest outlines of the Civil Rights movement — the brutality that Civil Rights protesters met with as they struggled to gain the unfettered ability to vote is astonishing. But it’s disheartening to realize that we haven’t really improved that much in the interim, despite advances in legislative protections.

We still need to be reminded daily that black lives matter, even though this should be a given in our society. Black people still face an increased risk of incarceration or death at the hand of police departments. Looking at how much further we have yet to go, despite the lifelong efforts of Lewis and his political descendants, it’s a shame to see how quickly such changes have been rolled back after it took years of monumental, bloody effort to ensure they ocurred in the first place.

It’s a privilege to be able to hold this set of books, a privilege that the lessons within are being presented to a new (perhaps more complacent?) generation in a format that is both compelling and easy to absorb. On a personal level, I found it really interesting to see the nitty, day-to-day work involved in organizing a protest, the calculation and strategy involved in doing test efforts to determine what actions would have the most impact. The March trilogy is essential as both a historical primer and as an introduction to the art of successful resistance.

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