News

25 Nonfiction Books for Anger and Action

Literary Hub posted a list of 25 nonfiction books for the Trump age. If there’s one thing that’s been making me feel better in these last few days (aside from the sight of high-school students organizing walkouts around the country, in Phoenix and Omaha as well as Berkeley and New York) it’s that I seem to have written something that people find useful in this moment.

There’s other great stuff on here (my labelmate Ari Berman on voting rights and Angela Davis; The New Jim Crow and Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind and probably the only time I’ll make a literary list alongside James Baldwin) and a few that I’d quibble with. So I also made my own list on my Goodreads page.

News

From Black Lives Matter to the Fight for $15: Why Americans Are in Revolt: Interview at The Nation

Astra Taylor gave me an excellent piece of book-writing advice early on in the process and at the end, she’s here to interview me for The Nation.

AT: So do activists need to give people in power paths to be heroes, not just villains?

SJ: I think it’s important to tell the story the right way. Seattle’s socialist City Council member, Kshama Sawant, has this great line in the book where she says, to paraphrase: “If you tell people this fairy tale that the benevolent leaders sat down and granted the workers of Seattle a $15 minimum wage, not only is it a profoundly disempowering narrative, it’s actually wrong. You miss the fact that there’s a fundamental conflict between the rich bosses and the workers who work for them, and there’s actual organizing that went on to win it.”

Read the whole thing at The Nation (or in your print magazine!)

News

Movements, Not Presidents: The Nationwide Fight Against Neoliberalism: Review at Common Dreams

Jake Johnson at Common Dreams reviews Necessary Trouble and picks up on some really great threads, like the below:

While examining this space, Jaffe recalls, she met an emergency medical technician, there generously offering her services to the protesters.

“So far we’ve given out lots of Band-Aids,” she told Jaffe, “because everyone has blisters, lots of cough drops because nobody has a voice.”

Perhaps inadvertently, in her description of the nagging physical ailments that accompany tireless protest, this unnamed EMT nicely underlined the political reality that drove thousands to join the burgeoning movement in the first place.

The public has long been without a voice—at least, without a voice powerful enough to justify America’s official classification as a representative democracy. While democratic forms remain, any lingering residue of the popular will has long since been driven out of the political process. The results, while devastating, have not been entirely surprising.

Read the whole thing at Common Dreams. One of my favorite reviews thus far.

News

The Fight Against Austerity Started Here: Excerpt at The Nation

The excellent folks at The Nation (who published my first-ever piece of labor journalism) have an excerpt from Necessary Trouble up, as the book continues to roll on.

The [Teaching Assistants’ Association] had already planned a rally for Valentine’s Day, in a preemptive strike against likely cuts to the university, and Hanna was deluged with emails asking her to come home. She was observing the popular revolution that had begun in Egypt in the winter of 2011, part of what came to be known as the Arab Spring. But the attacks on the union and the university were serious enough that she returned just in time for the February 14 action. The TAA led a crowd of marchers up State Street from the university campus to deliver a thousand valentines protesting Act 10 to Walker at the Capitol. It was an impressive showing, but marches were common enough in Madison that few expected this one to be different. Jenni Dye, a lawyer based in Madison, was downtown eating brunch and saw the protesters. “I thought, ‘Oh look, another Madison protest.’”

Read the rest at The Nation.

News

Necessary Trouble: A Necessary Read: Review at Jobs With Justice

One of the fun experiences of writing this book has been people who are normally on the receiving end of my interviews and coverage in turn covering the book. The folks at Jobs With Justice posted a lovely review of Necessary Trouble, by Kyle Friend:

Jaffe delves deeply into the nuances of American capitalism throughout the book, providing the reader a roadmap to understanding the rebirth of American activism. She saunters through a short history of Walmart, the retail giant which has effectively been able to set substandard labor practices by very virtue of its size, and the efforts to organize its employees. She also explains and shows how credit has been used as a crutch to stave off stagnating wages since the 1970s; and she rightfully connects disastrous austerity policies in the European Union to the policies pursued by conservative statehouses across the United States.

Read the rest at Jobs With Justice.

News

How do we make America great? ‘Necessary Trouble’ and ‘Against Democracy’ take contrasting views: Review at the Los Angeles Times

That lovely warm feeling when reviewers get what you were trying to do, times 100 with this review from Molly Sauter at the Los Angeles Times:

Yet with the election looming, Jaffe’s “Necessary Trouble” reminds us that even now the political stage is much wider and richer than pulling a lever every couple of years, choosing between candidates whose differences increasingly have more to do with labels than politics. We have more options than what’s on offer.

Contrasted with “Against Democracy,” which works out far better than I would have expected. Read the whole thing here.

News

9 Books for Back-to-School That Times Editors Think You Should Read: More love from the NYT!

So pleased that Necessary Trouble made the New York Times Book Review editors’ list of nine books for back-to-school reading! Excellent company, too.

NECESSARY TROUBLE: Americans in Revolt,by Sarah Jaffe. (Nation Books, $26.99.) Jaffe examines the rebirth and re-envisioning of activism over the past decade by groups on both right and left. There’s a reason for all the tumult.

 

News

Beyond the Ballot Box: Review at the London Review of Books

Tim Barker, comrade from the Dissent days and elsewhere, writes a lovely review of Necessary Trouble at the London Review of Books. I couldn’t ask for a better reviewer.

Jaffe is committed to the basic job of reporting, in ‘meeting activists where they lived and worked and organised’. Her prolonged engagement (she spent, for example, four years covering union efforts at Walmart) gives her rare authority in describing the ethos of the movement. It has also yielded dozens of revealing interviews with a wide range of participants, whose explanations of their own activism provide a different perspective on the new protests than the familiar analysis of the chattering classes. We hear two kinds of story again and again. The first describes the moment when previously apolitical people take action in response to some insupportable element of everyday life – a vicious boss, a foreclosure, the sight of police officers pointing guns at neighbours. In the second, established activists, dedicated but accustomed to frustration, realise that this time it’s not just ‘another Madison protest’ or ‘just another young man in St Louis being gunned down’. Movements, Jaffe suggests, require both unpredictable and experienced organisers. (She reinforces this point by showing how important leftist cadres have been historically, and how devastating anti-communism has been to social movements in general.)

The rest is (paywalled, unfortunately) at the LRB.

News

“Necessary Trouble”—Why Grassroots Protest Movements Are Reshaping America: Interview at The Influence

My former AlterNet coworker Tana Ganeva helped launch The Influence this year, and she and I sat down last week to talk Necessary Trouble and why some people take action and others fall into despair.

I wanted to talk about the Deaton-Case study that found lower-middle-class and poor white people are basically dying from alcohol, drugs and suicide. Earlier you mentioned that the media is shocked that people are still angry. And it seems like there are parallels. When this study came out, it seemed like everyone was shocked that people are basically killing themselves, slowly or literally. It seems like the same factors that drive some people to organize movements drive others to despair. 

It’s absolutely true. When you’re struggling, you have a couple of options. For example, I talked to mostly older women near retirement age facing foreclosure. They talked very movingly to me about the shame that they felt, and about the despair and the fear and how hard it was for them to ask for help.

But these are the people who did ask for help. They really got motivated and took action and they were lucky enough to find somebody that was doing this work in their neighborhood in Atlanta. But if you live in Ripley, Mississippi and you’re facing foreclosure, and there is no Occupy Our Homes to come help you, can you feel like you’re not alone with your problems? Can you feel like your problems aren’t personal failings?

Read the rest at The Influence

News

Red Scares and Radical Imagination: Excerpt at Moyers & Company

The wonderful folks at Moyers & Company have excerpted my chapter on one of my greatest obsessions, the Red Scare.

To Sawant, the victory showed that her message, and its appeal to the working class of a wealthy city, had resonance. “People don’t need some kind of detailed graduate-level economics lesson; they understand that the market is not working for them. The market is making them homeless. The market is making them cityless. And they’re fed up, and they’re angry.” Angry enough, it seemed, to take a leap of faith and support a candidate whose ideas had only recently been presumed to be unthinkable.

Read the rest at Moyers & Company