Saturday, March 29, 2014

Julia Stein on WBAI radio 99.5 NY April 2 10:30 PM EST 7:30 PM PCT

I’m on WBAI again This Wednesday. "Mary Ann Miller, Producer and Host "From The Women's Desk" Celebrates Poetry Month with Lorraine Currelley, Poet, and Founder/Director Poets Network & Exchange/New Yor k and Poet Julia Stein/Los Angeles Wednesday, April 2, 10:00-11:00 EST and 7:00-8:00 PM PST on WBAI New York 99.5 FM For Los Angeles/West Coast, the show can be heard online from 7:00-8:00. We poets will be on at 7:30 pm PST. Julia Stein will read from poems about Los Angeles, women , and a poem about her grandmother that reveals her fascination with the Triangle Fire. People on the West Coast can listen The show will be New York/Los Angeles poetry dialogue on radio—very rare as I don’t think it’s ever been done before. People outside New York can listen online to live broadcast below: http://www.wbai.org/playernew.html

Friday, March 07, 2014

Stein reading on WBAI radio as part of 3/8/14 International Women's Day Celebration

I'll be reading my writing 2:30 West Coast time (5:30 NY time) in the event below: March 8- WBAI radio 99.5 New York CELEBRATES INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY, IN A CONVERGENCE OF SONG, STRUGGLE AND SOLIDARITY You can listen online to live broadcast: http://www.wbai.org/playernew.html TUNE IN THIS SATURDAY, MARCH 8TH FROM 3PM TO 10PM, AND JOIN US FOR A GATHERING OF WOMEN HOSTS AND COMMUNITY ACTIVISTS, PERFORMERS, ARTISTS, POETS AND STORYTELLERS New York, NY – International Women's Day 2014 on WBAI Radio is hosted this year by Mary Ann Miller, From The Women's Desk. **Opening Ceremony: Mary Ann Miller, Kathryn Davis, Lorraine Currelley of The Harlem Arts Fund, Writing For Peace and Pearls of Wisdom Storytellers, and Cynthia Parsons McDaniel presenting 'The Least Known Actress In The World.' **US Representative for New York's 12th congressional district Carolyn Maloney. In a phone conversation with Mary Ann Miller, to speak about her plans to re-introduce Equal Rights Amendment legislation. and many other women's voices.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Reading on radio WBAI on 3/8/14 for Internatnational Women's Day

I’ll be reading my writing on a live broadcast on WBAI radio from New York March 8 at 2:30 West Coast time (5:30 New York time) as part of International Women’s Day. I helped get some of the best women writers/novelists/poets—novelists Judy Juanita and Anya Achtenberg; poets Carol Dorf, Lynne Bronstein et all--who will be reading from around the country between 2 and 3:00 West Coast time (5:00 and 6:00 pm New York time) so check it out. WBAI will be broadcasting from 12:00-7:00 West Coast time (3:00 pm – 10:00 pm New York time) to celebrate International Women’s Day. You can listen to WBAI live on line at http://www.wbai.org/playernew.html

Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

February 24, 2014 I’d like to thank Diane Lefer, for inviting me to take part in the Writing Process blog tour, where I’m asked by a writer, Diane in my case, to answer four questions about how and why I write, and then I ask other writers to continue writing on their blogs about their process: I’ve just enjoyed reading two of Diane Lefer wonderful novels—Nobody Wakes Up Pretty and The Fiery Alphabet—as well as her award-winning short story collection California Transit Lefer is one of the few fiction writers in the U.S. capturing our contemporary writing, and her work is tremendously exciting to read. After reading Nobody Wakes Up Pretty about the gentrification of a neighborhood the heroine is living in the upper west side of Manhattan, I became aware how exiled I feel when my Hollywood neighborhood is undergoing gentrification and was inspired to write a long poem. Diane blogs: http://dianelefer.wordpress.com/ 1) What am I working on? I just finished a novel about a young woman going to Berkeley in the 1960s showing her transformations from shy, bookish girl to getting arrested in a civil rights sit-in, going to jail. and falling in love. The novel is about first time falling in love during the Vietnam War and also getting pregnant when abortion was illegal. The novel is about transformations, love, politics—and the death of the first friend your age. I also just finished my sixth book of poetry about my brother and mother’s lives as well as my brother’s fourteen year struggle with Parkinson’s and my mother’s growing frailty in her eighties. The poems talk about how my brother is a great father despite his disease and how a family survives the ineptitude of a failing health care system. I’ve written 1/3 of a seventh book of poetry about life and love in 2013-2014 when my college get shot up, when grifters try high technological electronic stealing of one’s identity, and when one can feel exiled when living in a neighborhood undergoing rapid gentrification. I’ve written my first sonnet, a love sonnet. 2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? Many 1960s novels were written in the 1960s or soon after, but mine is written many decades later, so is more concerned with love than with anger. I also write in 3rd person, not first person, and accept my young naïve heroine does make mistakes but learns from her mistakes. Though she has a central conflict with her father, sometimes he is more right than she is. I grew up with a grandmother who loved Tolstoy and Dickens, she taught me to love them too. Though I have, of course, been influenced by early 20th century modernism, I am also inspired by the 19th century novelists like Tolstoy and Dickens who combine personal stories with writing about history or politics. My fifth and sixth books of poetry show the influence of my Whitman and Neruda as I wrote long poems. Most poets these days seems to write short lyrics, but I often have written longer narrative poems often in a chronological sequence as the whole book of poetry is a story in verse in my last three books. My fifth book of poems What Were They Like was inspired by Whitman’s Civil War poetry in “Drum Taps” poems, and I’m in the small minority of U.S. poets to write about the wars of the 21st century. While most poets in the U.S. just write personal lyric poetry, my new poems are not just personal lyrics but try to capture what life is like in 2014 exploring how the personal life is impacted by larger impersonal economic/technological structures. 3. Why do I write what I do? Often to celebrate the life of a person I loved. My first book of poetry was written after my grandmother’s death to celebrate her life and the lives of her remarkable generation of immigrants’ right before World War I. Carl Sandberg asked, “Who do you owe your freedom?” Often the poems try to answer that question, as I certainly owe my freedom to my grandparents, and I wish to rescue their lives from clichés and obscurity. As for the novel, I always wanted to write about the 1960s in order to celebrate the community I felt at Berkeley in the 1960s and which I miss now. Also I was fascinated by dance for decades, and I enjoyed having the heroine develop into a serious dancer/choreographer exploring a path I did not take. From my first book of poetry I’ve been concerned with Camus’s exhortation to neither be a victim nor an executioner (or a silent partner to an executioner). Also I have been inspired by Hannah Arendt’s ideas in Eichmann in Jerusalem that even average humans in evil times can act in ways to recreate a moral world and that the poems attempt to recreate that moral world. I think poetry as well as other arts like jazz or dance can create utopian possibilities to counterpoint to our reality and to imagine a free space in which to live. 4) How does your writing process work? Writing a novel is different than writing a book of poetry. When I’m teaching, and I have been teaching either part-time or full-time the last 24 years, I can write poems in spurts in the odd free hours during the week. Or I’d blogged every Friday morning during the years 2004-2007. Only when I’m pulling the book of poetry together do I make myself work day after day until I’m done. If I am not teaching and am working on a novel, I start work at 9 am, take a short break, then work until lunch, take a lunch break, then work until about 3:00. I like to stay with the characters in the novel almost as if I was living with them day after day. After I finish the manuscript—whether of poetry or fiction—I like to put it away for a while and do something else—chores, see people—totally forgetting about the writing, so when I go back I to the manuscript I can see the writing with new eyes. On March 3, 2014, Vicki Nikolaidis will participate on the Writing Process Blog tour. Vicki Nikolaidis grew up in Iowa but when she realized there were so many warmer places to live in the world, she started traveling. Now she lives on Crete, her dream of an island paradise. After studying writing in Crete, she recently submitted a novella titled Path to Transcendence to The Malahat Review 2014 Novella contest. The novella is the first in a series of three about two characters who have intersecting lives although one lives in the contemporary world and one is from the ancient Mediterranean world. She describes “using the novellas to invent an unknown ancient religion based on creation, not destruction.” She will be participating in Writing Process Blog Tour on March 3 on her blog on Red Room: http://redroom.com/member/vicki-nikolaidis/blog On March 10, 2014, poet Lyle Daggett will participate on the Writing Process Blog tour. Lyle Daggett has been writing poems for 45 years. He is the author of seven books of poems, most recently All Through the Night: New and Selected Poems (published 2013 by Red Dragonfly Press). His poetry is influenced by Whitman, Neruda, and Tom McGrath, and he is one of the few U.S. poets who can write a brilliant long Whitmanesque poem. He has worked for a living mostly sitting in cubicles, talking on the phone and typing on computers. His political activities began at age 14 when he gave a speech against the Vietnam War in his ninth grade English class. His blog is A Burning Patience: http://aburningpatience.blogspot.com/,

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Publication party, Julia Stein's 5th book of poetry and Lionel Rolfe's new memoir



Publication Party:  Julia Stein’s 5th book and Lionel Rolfe’s memoir

Skylight Bookstore 1818 No. Vermont  Los Angeles  Saturday March 30, 2013,  5:00  323-660-1175

Julia Stein’s poems in What Were They Like? look at lives—Iraqi lives, Afghan lives, and U.S. lives—caught up in the Iraq and Afghan. wars.  Her book is inspired by Whitman’s “Drum-Taps,” poems the Civil War.  At the end the Stein’s poems imagine peace and healing.  Stein writes as if Whitman met up with Sumerian myths by way of Hemingway.

What Were They Like?  is Julia Stein’s fifth book of poetry. From the feminist  poetry work of her first book Under the Ladder to Heaven (1984)  to  the love poems and poems about teaching in SouthCentral during the 1992 troubles in Walker Woman (2004), Stein’s poetry ranges from love lyric to explorations of war, peace,  women’s lives, and work.

Lionel Rolfe’s  THE MISADVENTURES OF ARI MENDELSOHN. is picaresque memoir by noted author and journalist.  Rolfe recounts the sexual and political travails of the irascible, blacklisted title character, a reporter still harboring his besieged idealistic belief in humanity's innate goodness and America's dubious potential for good amid a reality of avarice, pragmatism, cynicism, and materialism. 

Rolfe grew up in Los Angeles; his mother Yaltah was a concert pianist and the sister of the famed violinist-prodigy Yehudi Menuhin. His first book The Menuhins: A Family Odyssey, in 1978.   He has written Literary L.A., which is now the basis of a film titled Literary LA about Los Angeles writers.  In the early 90's Rolfe co-researched and co-wrote Bread and Hyacinths: The Rise and Fall of Utopian Los Angeles, on turn-of-the-century urban politics and the life of Socialist politician Job Harriman.  

 I’m doing readings for my new book “What Are They Like?” from S.F. to Los Angeles but if you can’t get to the readings
you can order Julia Stein’s books directly from CC.Marimbo by emailing or writing to us at our post office box.  “What Were They Like?” is $14.  C.C. Marimbo also has “Walking Through a River of Fire:
100 Years of Traingle Fire Poetry” edited by J. Stein for $12. And C.C. Marimbo has a website and has page for Triangle fire book and will shortly put up info on “What Were They Like?


CC.Marimbo 
P.O. Box 933 
Berkeley, CA 94701  U.S.A.      ccmarimbo@yahoo.com


 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bread & Roses: "The Singing Strike" Centennial Celebration in Los Angeles

Next Sunday I'm going to do read poetry at

Bread & Roses "The Singing Strike"
Centennial Celebration 1912-2012- with song, spoken word and film
A Benefit for the Garment Worker Center & the United Service Workers West (janitors)

March 25th,
doors open 4 pm
SEIU-USWW Hall
828 W. Washington Blvd. Los Angeles 90015

with Ross Altman, Lee Boek, Janna Cazden, Linda Fisher, Andry Griggs,
Jill Holden, the Leftous sisters, Emma Rosenthal, Julia Stein,
Teatro Jornalero Sin Frontreras, and Teatro Urbano

Endorsers: Arbeter Ring So Call, CA Faculty Assn., CSUDH, LA College Staff Guild
AFT 1521, CLUE-LA, Coffee Party, Fellowship of Reconciliation, ICUJP, IWW-LA,
Jewish Labor Committee, La County Federation of Labor, MLK Coalition for Jobs,
Justice and Peace, Occupy the Hood, San Pedro Laborfest, SEIU-USWW, Sholem Community,
UNITED HERE Local 11, USW Local 675, and the WE Project

Monday, May 23, 2011

Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom"--the Liberal as Crank and Tolstoy

May 23, 2011, 9:42 am
Jonathan Franzen’s novel Freedom celebrates the middle class liberal as environmentalist crank in a novel that is a bad imitation of Tolstoy's War and Peace.

In his novel Franzen did write some very good parts about his heroine Patty's college years in the 1970s and has created a memorable character in punk rock musician Richard Katz. The middle section were quite good focusing on the triangle of Walter Berglund, his wife Patty, and his best friend Richard; these sections follow the trio from college to mid-life crises in their 40s showing how two best male friends always compete for decades including competing for the same woman Patty. This reader always looked forward to Katz's reappearance for his honesty. As Katz disappeared at p. 381 the rest of the novel was tedious.

At one point Patty, trying to get into bed with Richard, is reading Tolstoy's War and Peace, and Franzen thinks his novel in some way is the big realist novel--562 pp.--like Tolstoy's big novel. Patty when 1st reading the novel gets "mired in a military section" but as she continues, she reads where 16-year old Natasha Rostov falls in love with Prince Andrei and now Patty even read's the "military stuff." After reading this, she sleepwalks her way into Richard Katz's bed—War and Peace as aphrodisiac! War and Peace as simpleminded romance! Patty even calls her husband Pierre, the hero of War and Peace.

The military stuff is to me the best parts of War and Peace. Tolstoy had been a soldier in the Crimean war and knew war, describes how the French invasion of Russia bring liberty, equality, and fraternity through their bayonets. The war chapters show how French reach Moscow, how the Russians fled, how the French looted Moscow. Shades of Baghdad! Actually, the Iraq War comes up in Freedom as Walter’s son goes Republican, works for right-wing think tanks, and rakes in a small fortune selling defective truck parts to the U.S. army in Iraq.

At the end of Tolstoy's novel, the once bumbling Pierre has been a prisoner of war of the French, had a spiritual awakening where he learns from a poor Russian peasant, gotten his freedom, and is plotting with his aristocratic friends for the Decembrist Revolution, the 1st great revolution to bring a democracy to Russia—it failed, of course. Pierre has become a citizen or would-be citizen of a democracy he hopes to create.

In contrast, Franzen's freedom is not creating a democracy but freedom from delusions or from adolescent neurosis. The modern Pierre or Walter has gotten a job in Washington D.C. working for a Texas billionaire to make a bird preserve which involved making deals with coal companies so they could do mountaintop removal. The novel seemed to be at this point an interesting satire of Big Green—liberal honchos who wind up doing more harm than good through political dealing. At novel's end Walter is free of his delusions that he can collude with coal companies to save birds—one version of freedom for Franzen. Walter’s son is free of his delusion of making millions by selling defective truck parts to the U.S. army.

Both Walter and Patty are portrayed as having miserable adolescences and having miserable parents, but by novel’s end Patty reconciles with her dying father, forgives her mother, and is free in this paean to banal Freudianism. At novel’s end free Patty is able to heal all the family feuds, help sell her grandfather’s estate, and get $75,000. Franzen’s main characters at the end come up smiling roses—free at last of neurosis or delusions about making the quick buck yet they are still in the cash.

At the novel’s end Walter is back at his mother's place on Nameless Lake hating his working class neighbor who loves her cat which eats birds. Walter and Patty take their most drastic action actions against these working louts: in chapter 1 Patty slashes the tires of a working class neighbor for cutting down the trees in his backyard to build a den and in the novel's end Walter kidnaps the bird-eating cat. It seems a crime in Franzenland to love one's cat or to build a den in one’s backyard. Tolstoy, in contrast, was obsessed with bringing equality to Russia and renounced his priviledges as an aristocrat.

Walter’s great crusade besides birds is for zero population growth and the novel is full of his tedious rants that too many poor people having too many babies destroy the environment. So Walter goes to war not against coal companies but against poor for having babies. In many ways Walter resembles the coal companies in attacking the poor. While the coal companies are simply greedy, Walter has a neurotic view of Nature as pristine and pure hopefully unsullied by anything as messy as humans, particularly poor humans. While Walter rants against the poor, Tolstoy celebrates what Pierre learns as a prisoner of war from another poor prisoner.

Unlike Patty, Walter never seems to heal his adolescent neurosis, and at novel’s end Walter has never forgiven his older brother Mitch for adolescent torments now goes to see Mitch who is jobless and homeless. Walter decides not to offer Mitch the vacant family house because Walter and his girlfriend—both well-heeled urban professionals—might want to live there. Franzen in a novel seemingly celebrating family and devoted to family has Walter neglect his own family in need.

Also Walter seems focused on his anti-cat crusade as two of his neighbors on Nameless Lake are foreclosed. It’s the lout neighbors who help the two families in want, not Walter obsessed with birds. Walter comes off as an elitist anti-human crank who cares nothing about his neighbors having economic problems in the Big Recession. If you want to read a book with a big heart, read War and Peace.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

LA Laborfest Triangle Shirtwaist 100th Anniversary Commemoration Events March/Aprill 2011

March 12, 2011, 11:46 am

L.A. Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
100th Anniversary Commemoration Events
March 2011

SCHEDULE

Sundays March 13, March 20, March 26 8:30 AM
THE LABOR REVIEW, with Henry Walton, host. Interviews and short excerpts of upcoming Triangle Fire Commemoration events.
KPFK, 90.7 FM Los Angeles; 98.7 FM Santa Barbara; 99.5 FM China Lake; 93.7 FM North San Diego

Sunday, March 13 10:30 AM (Free admission)
A Flame That Keeps Burning: Marking the Centennial of the Triangle Factory Fire
An original program of drama, poetry and music that explores the legacy of the infamous fire and the struggles for workers' safety which continue today.
At: Westside Neighborhood School Campus, 5401 Beethoven Street, Los Angeles, CA 90066
Presented by the Sholem Community, Arbeter Ring/Workmen’s Circle, Progressive Jewish Alliance and LA Laborfest. For childcare contact Events@Sholem.org For more info: http://tinyurl.com/triangle100

Sunday, March 13 7:30 PM
Walking through a River of Fire: 100 Years of Triangle Fire Poetry
Publication party for the new poetry anthology edited by Julia Stein, with an introduction by Jack Hirschman. Hosted by Julia Stein, anti-sweatshop activist, with SF writers Hilton Obenzinger and Alice Rogoff.
At: Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd CA 90291-4805
http://www.beyondbaroque.org/events.html

Thursday, March 17 7 PM
Public Works Improvisational Theatre's LA Times Bomb (Fourth Edition)
A theatrical salon in which we look at Los Angeles in 1911 from a hundred years in the future, and a look at anything we want to in between, in an effort to illuminate contemporary events and their immediate personal, political and social relevance.
At: Edgar Varela Fine Arts (EVFA) - 727 S. Spring Street, LA 90014 Free Admission
publicworksimprov.com & latimesbomb.com (contact leeboek@publicworksimprov.com)

Friday, March 18 7:30 PM
Walking through a River of Fire: 100 Years of Triangle Fire Poetry
A reading from the new anthology by editor Julia Stein, with Lee Boek, actor/writer, and Lynne Bronstein, poet/journalist.
At: Skylight Bookstore, 1818 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles 90027 (310) 822-3006 http://www.skylightbooks.com/

Monday, March 21 9 PM
Triangle: Remembering the Fire
A new documentary by Daphne Pinkerson about the fire and its aftermath. HBO
FOR UPDATES, GO TO www.lalaborfest.org

Friday, March 25 7:30 PM (Sliding scale donation $10 – no one turned away.)
The Triangle Fire – Remember Our Past. Inform Our Future.
LA Laborfest presents, as a benefit for the Los Angeles Garment Worker Center, an evening of music, theatre, spoken word, and film, with special guests, labor leaders, municipal officials, and rank and file workers. Spanish or American Sign Language translation available with advance notice.
At: Echo Park United Methodist Church 1226 N. Alvarado, LA 90026 lalaborfest@gmail.com
310-704-3217

Friday, March 25 - Saturday, March 26
Triangle Fire Shabbat Commemoration
Jewish congregations throughout the Southland will remember, consider and reflect on the importance of this event and its meaning today.. Complimentary study materials are available through Progressive Jewish Alliance, 323-761-8350 x102 or office@pjalliance.org

Saturday, March 26 10 AM
March and Rally for Our Communities and Our Jobs
The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor rallies in support of grocery workers and all working families. LA Laborfest will be there in period costume to remember the victims of the Triangle Fire, and make the connection to contemporary issues and events.
Gather at: LA Convention Center and march to Pershing Square for the rally at 12 noon

Sunday, March 27 2 PM
The Triangle Factory Fire: By the Sweat of Their Labor
An afternoon of music by Voices of Conscience, selections from Julia Stein's collection of Triangle Factory Fire poems and photographic art by the "Common Threads" Art Collective.
Co-sponsors: Arbeter Ring (Workmen's Circle), the Sholem Community, the Jewish Labor Committee Los Angeles and LA LaborFest.
At: Arbeter Ring, 1525 S. Robertson, LA 90035. (310) 552-2007 or circle@circlesocal.org

Thursday, April 21 11 AM – 9:30 PM
Labor, Social and Environmental Justice Fair
Booths, Workshops, Live Entertainment, Refreshments, Art Exhibits, and More!
CSU Dominguez Hills Labor Studies Dept and Club
idspace@csudh.edu (310) 243-3640

All venues are wheelchair accessible and disability affirmative. Contact each event sponsor or venue for other special accommodations at least 72 hours in advance.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My new book: "Walking Through the River of Fire; 100 Years of Triangle Factory Fire Poems"

C. C. Marimbo announces the premiere publication of 2011:
"Walking Through the River of Fire: 100 Years of Triangle Factory Fire Poems"
Edited by Julia Stein with an introduction by Jack Hirschman

This anthology remembers a turning point in U.S. history when on March 25, 1911, a fire swept through the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. The owners had locked the main door; the fire escapes broke. Within the hour 146 immigrant workers—mostly women--were dead. The Triangle fire galvanized a national social justice movement to protect workers’ health and to build unions.

The anthology of poems is organized to tell the story of the fire chronologically: the first group of poems deals with the fire itself and those who died, those who survived, and those who witnessed. The next group of poems describes identifying the bodies and the funeral. The third section describes the trial and organizing for new laws to make it safe to work. The last group of poems looks back at the fire years later. These poems tell a dramatic, gripping story in a way that actors or poets can producer readers’ theater or poets’ theater to engage the audience in the Fire.

A few days after the Triangle fire in 1911 Yiddish poet Morris Rosenfeld published in Yiddish his “Memorial to Triangle Fire Victims” on the front page of the Jewish Daily Forward. After a few years American poets forgot about the fire, forgetting for 55 years. When editor Julia Stein was a young poet in 1980 writing poetry about her grandmother’s generation of immigrant garment workers, she first wrote about the Triangle Factory fire inspired by Morris Rosenfeld’s poem. Then through the work of literary critics Janet Zandy and Karen Kovacik, Stein discovered a new post-1980s generation of poets writing about the Triangle fire. These new Triangle poets are Chris Lllewellyn (1981); Mary Fell (1984); Hilton Obenzinger (1989); Carol Tarlen (1996), Ruth Daigon (2001); and Alice Rogoff (2010).

Some of these poets’ Triangle poetry won major poetry prizes: Llewellyn’s book won the Whitman Award for Poetry while Mary Fell’s won the National Poetry Series. These poets attack the sweatshop, recapture the lives of immigrant women and of women workers, and inscribe workers’ lives and tragedies into literature. These poets have reacted to the post-1980 growing inequality in the United States with their Triangle fire poetry. The poems here are only a small selection of 100 years of literature about Triangle fire: a growing body of poetry, novels, dramas, and performance pieces. This small group of American poets is producing a new American poetry: public, historical, and engaged with society.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
To: Randy Fingland, CC Marimbo, PO Box 933, Berkeley, CA 94701-0933

Send me _______________ copies of

Walking Through the River of Fire: 100 Years of Triangle Fire poetry
44 pages, hand-sewn limited edition, ISBN 1-9030903-57-X publication date February 1, 2010
$12 (+$2 S and H for one; for every copy thereafter, 50cents; 25 or more free freight)
For further information: Randy Fingland, CC. Marimbo or Julia Stein, juliast@earthlink.net

to order, Name____________________________________________________

Address____________________________________________|______

City__________________________________________State______Zip______
(Kindly make checks payable to Randy Fingland

Send to Randy Fingland, CC Marimbo, PO Box 933, Berkeley Ca 94701-0933

Monday, May 10, 2010

Leslie Evans's Revealing and Brilliant American Radical Memoir

Leslie Evans' recently released memoir Outsider's Reverie: A Memoir (Boryana Books) is a fascinating look at how American radicals in the post World War II generation transformed from alienated '50s teenagers to '60s radicals to late '70s radical intellectuals to '80s leaving radical politics. The books is also a wonderful Los Angeles memoir.

The first seven chapter wonderfully captures Los Angeles and the 1950s and early 1960s youth counterculture there. Evans describes his feelings of being a teen outsider stemming from his parents' belief in spiritualism and seances; his family's poverty; and his parents' disintegrating marriage. He grew up in a tough working class neighborhood of Beverly and Temple just west of downtown Los Angeles. During high school Evans stumbles upon Colin Wilson's The Outsider, a 1950s cult book among the intellectually alienated. The Outsider gave Evans an intellectual identity as well as a reading list--H. G. Wells, Camus, Sartre, Blake, T. E. Lawrence, Nijinsky, P.D. Ouspensky, George Guardjieff et al. Evans as well as thousands of other 1950s outcasts devoured these books developing their outsider identity.

I was growing up in Los Angeles a little younger than Evans also read Wilson and many of these same books. My old friend Lionel Rolfe published Evans' book with his small press Boryana Books; Rolfe's previous press California Classics published my 2nd book of poetry and also Bread and Hyacinths, a book about Job Harriman and the 1912 socialist movement of Los Angeles. Rolfe has long written and published books which are a rebel as well as a intellectual history of Los Angeles in the 20th century.

Evans' memoir has wonderful chapters about his time at Los Angeles City College participating in the civil rights movement and coffee house scene around LACC and then his recruitment into the youth group of the Socialist Workers Party, the dominant U.S. Trotskyist party. He wonderfully describes being the party's first organizer at UCLA and the UCLA radical scene of the early 1960s. He aptly summarizes this time with the Wordsworth quote, "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven." These chapters beautifully capture the early 1960s radicalism among Los Angeles youth.

The heart of this book is Evan's 22 years in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), starting in Los Angeles and then over a decade and half in New York during the SWP's glory years when it was central to mobilizing huge numbers in the anti-Vietnam War marches. Evan's book is looking back after he was expelled when the party became a cult in the early 1980s. This memoir is much like The God that Failed, the book of essays by 1930s writers including Richard Wright, Ignazio Silone, Arthur Koestler who were Communists and wrote about became disenchanted with the Communist Party.

Evans' describes SWP as always having cult-like features even in the early 1960s. His party mentor counseled Evans, a poor youth, to drop out of UCLA when he only had one semester to finish as "workers will never trust you if they know you have an escape hatch you can always jump into when times get hard." Evans then flunked out, and soon began his new life in New York working for party publications at subsistence wages and living in tenements. During the 1960s the SWP never wanted its members to have children but since Evans was very young and uninterested in fatherhood at the time, he doesn't complain.

His 1960s/early 1970s chapters give great descriptions of the highs--he learned how to be a reporter, an editor, run a printing press. The SWP still had a lively bunch of middle aged and senior intellectuals who mentored young Evans; Evans wrote about 1960s revolts around the world. Party activists worked hard building anti-war demonstrations which grew and grew, and Evans participating in this making of history.

In the early 1970s the SWP elders had promoted young Jack Barnes to party leadership by the early 1970s while Evans became editor of the party's theoretical magazine. Evans' explains the SWP's decline as Barnes and his group became a tight anti-intellectual clique who wanted the whole organization to speak with the Barnes' voice. Trotskyism have previously had a rich intellectual history in the 1930s with leading U.S. writers around Partisan Review magazine were Trotskyists as well as leading French and Mexican painters; Evans in his magazine wanted continue this tradition by reaching out to the new radical scholars in the universities with the magazine but Barnes stopped him. Evans published articles on welfare, inner cities, prison revolts, pollution, energy crises. Barnes criticized these pieces and then removed Evans as editor of the party's theoretical magazine.

In the 1970s radicals could have continued to hook up together in broad coalitions and innovative journals but Evans shows that the sect leaders stopped this intellectual openness. I saw the same process going on in the women's movement where I edited Sister, a feminist newspaper in Los Angeles running anti-nuclear as well as articles on women. Secterian feminisst wanted to toe a strict feminist party lie leading to the end of the coalition that run the paper and then the end of the newspaper.

With the end of the huge anti-war demonstrations after 1972 the SWP like other radical groups looked for new places to be active as the country grew more conservative. SWP was one of a number of small Marxist groups which sent its members to work in industry, a move which further isolated the leftists from their urban base. For the last 5 years of the 1970s Evans was disenchanted with the Barnes' leadership but hung in his little niche putting out historical books for the party until he went into industry getting a job as a miner in the iron range in northern Minnesota. Evans explains why he and others hung on: "for most of us the party was our lives. We looked on nonmembers the way a Christian fundamentalist looks on the apostate and the unsaved, as not really part of the true human race ...."

Evans describes a fascinating tale of failure as a miner/SWP militant in the Iron Range; the 12 SWP activists valiantly tried but failed to support miners' union dissidents while their party began expulsions of dissidents to the new party line--a great irony. Evans realized that when the miners' faced huge layoffs the tiny group of 12 SWP members on the Iron Range failed at doing anything to stop the layoffs. The "turn to industry" was a huge failure never actually discussed in the party. Evans argues that the Barnes group was disenchanted with Trotsky, wanted to realign SWP "as the U.S. franchise of the Cuban Communist Party," so Barnes made a "preemptive strike against all those in the SWP who could not be trusted to go along with such a shift."

Finally, Evans moved back to Los Angeles where he and many others were formally expelled in bizarre trials--recreations of 1930s purge trials. Evans is particularly poignant in his psychological descriptions of himself and other SWP militants who had spent 20, 30, 40 years in the party which was the most important thing in their lives and were being expelled: "Now they were like deer on a railroad track with the train bearing down on them. I was a sympathetic observer of their dilemma, the collapse of their lives." SWP kept on expelling and losing members until it became a tiny sect of 200 people.

In analyzing his expulsion, Evans criticizes the dictatorial tendencies of Lenin and Leninist-based parties such as SWP, arguing that Lenin both theoretically justified a dictorship as well established in practice the dictatorship. Evams also criticizes Trotsky for agreeing to Lenin's supression of the other left and liberal parties "when he was in power, protesting the arrest and execution of Communists by Stalin" (286). Evans, always a boy from the streets with survival skills, hooks up with an old girlfriend who becomes the love of his life and gets himself into graduate school at UCLA in sociology where he encounters Max Weber and ceased being a Marxist by 1988. He criticizes both three aspects of Marx: 1) Marx's dialectic is wrong; 2) Marx based his theory of 19th century science which was criticized by 20th century science; 3.) Weber not Marx shows that the state could bring dictatorship rather than liberation.

At the end Evans winds up happily married, becoming part of his wife's extended family, and an editor/researcher at UCLA. He and his wife restore a 100-year old house in West Adams district as part of the middle class who gentrify of the inner city near USC. He concentrates not on international but on neighborhood politics--doing anti-gang work. He and his wife build a huge garden around their rebuilt house--literary "cultivating their garden." The books ending--stories of cats and family--could be trimmed a bit. But Evan's memoir is a fascinating tale about teenage alienation in the 1950s, a radical youth in 1960s, the decline of the Socialist Workers Party into a bizarre cult in the 1970s, and the transformation of a young radical into a middle aged man cultivating his garden in the 1980s--the story of many in his generation.

Friday, July 10, 2009

On National Health Care and the For-Profit Nursing Home Nightmare Part I

My mother spent four months last year in for-profit nursing homes in 2008-9. Before that, I had researched statistics that the U.S. health care system is 1/3 more expensive than any other industrialized nations but our health is the worse of any industrialized country. I knew those statistics, but seeing up close how my mother was treated in two nursing homes, I began to understand exactly why we pay so much but get so little from our privatized health care system.

My mother, who had been in fairly good health, in her 86th year fell, broke her hip, and had immediate surgery. The surgeon instructed the nurses to get her walking the next day, and I watched as two nurses helped my mother up and gingerly walk two steps to a chair. His instructions were she needed to walk as much as possible and shouldn’t stay in the hospital. She was moved the next day to a nursing home I will call Bel Air Nursing Home (not its real name) but it is located in one of the most expensive areas of Los Angeles.

Bel Air at first glance looked like the Rolls Royce of nursing homes. The cafeteria had attractive wooden tables and chairs; there were two attractive outside patios carefully landscaped with plants in planters and more tables and chairs. The gym for physical therapy was large and well-equipped. My mother had two roommates but her own TV and phone on a bedside table in fairly large room.

The actual nursing care stank. Besides needing to walk daily to relearn how to walk, My mom need to be walking or at least sitting in a wheelchair or she’s get bedsores, but the first two days every time I visited she was in her hospital gown not even dressed. Nobody showed her how to use the overhead TV while the phone was on the bedside table outside her reach. An aide put down a pudding on her bedside table where she couldn’t reach and refused to listen to my request to put it on the overhead tray. If she was having physical therapy, nobody told me when it started but sometime it did start, I guessed.

My mom said a male patient sexually harassed her. I sat next to her while a male patient in a wheelchair wheeled into her room, wheeled past her, and then stopped by the middle patient for about 10 minutes. Finally, he wheeled his way past me out the door. I went and complained to the RN that male patients shouldn’t have such access to my mother’s room.

My mother complained that her Certified Nursing Assistant verbally insulted her. The actually nursing is done by Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), immigrant or black women who got a little training, do all the hard work, and are paid barely above minimum wage. Most of them seem hard working and deserve a raise but one had insulted my mom. In the central station are the Registered Nurses (RNs) whom I never saw work with the patient. Daily whenever I came in I asked the RNs how my mother was and they would read off her chart—they didn’t know my mother at all. The licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) give out medication and also I never saw any work with the patient. All the six nursing homes I saw were organized this way. After my complaint, the RN removed the offensive CNA from working with my mom.

At this point I figured the only way to get my mother dressed and out of bed was to demand a meeting with the head of nursing which I did. Preparing for the meeting, I discovered online that Medicare does inspections of all the nursing homes in the country and puts the results online (http://www.medicare.gov/Nursing/Overview.asp) including a listing of “Nursing Home Resident Rights.” I learned it doesn’t matter if the nursing home is located in the most expensive neighborhood in the city with the fanciest decorations. If you want to know what it’s really like, read Medicare evaluation online.

According to Medicare inspections in June 2008, Bel Air rated one star out of five (much below average) for health inspections, one star for nursing home staffing, one star for quality measures.My mother was there October 2008, a few months after the report. Most interesting was to me was two out of four (“minimal harm or potential for actual harm”) for two categories: “Make sure that residents with reduced range of motion get proper treatment and services to increase range of motion” and for “Develop a complete care plan that meets all of a resident's needs, with timetables and actions that can be measured.”

I downloaded the report and handed it to the director of nursing in our meeting. Her male associate said, “We’re working on it.” Since they were unable to come up with a complete nursing care plan, I wrote up one and handed it to the director of nursing (cc’d a copy to her doctor) asking for reasonable items such as the CNAs dress my mom daily and wheel her to the cafeteria for meals and daily activities such as bingo. The director of nursing took my written out nursing plan, headed upstairs with me beside her, and handed it to the RNs, telling them to do it. From then on my mother was dressed daily and taken to the cafeteria for meals and bingo.

A week later I was called into a meeting with the social worker, RN, and physical therapist. Naïve me thought they would tell me how my mom was doing. Nope. They all three asked me again and again and pounded at where I was taking my mom because in a week they would expel her. They harassed me verbally and viciously for ½ hour. I mentioned the name of the only other nursing home I knew called F nursing home. They ignored me and pounded at me with their questions. Two days later the physical therapist told me to go ask the social worker to arrange transfer to F nursing home. At this point the social worker who had beaten me up verbally then was amazingly efficient arranging the transfer. After using up two weeks of my mother’s topflight medical coverage, they expelled my mom to another nursing home.

Bel Air was, I learned, did the lowest level of custodial care—letting her lay in her hospital gown being taken care of a poorly paid poorly trained overworked staff was fine. It saved then money. The RNs did nothing until I complained. Then one of them harassed me. I like RNs—my mother was one and many of her friends were. I thought the CNAs most of them were hard working and deserved a raise. It’s the executives of the company that design the policies that provide poor nursing care but great profits for the companies. This is for-profit medical care in the nursing home—extraordinarily expensive designed to give profit to the company and extraordinarily bad for the patient. But the decorations were fine!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Wrestling with Zionism"

Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon, the co-editors of "Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," say in their introduction that they wanted to read a book of dissident American Jewish responses to the Palestinian-Israel conflict. No such book existed so they created this anthology of essays and poem which was published in 2003. The book has an impressive roster of contributors of American Jewish poets, playwrights, and academics including Arthur Miller, Susan Sontag, Adrienne Rich and many others. This anthology ably documents the 100-year historical tradition within the Jewish community of those Jews who criticized first Zionism and then Israeli policies; however, the book’s last section “Resistance and Activism” has weaknesses.

Section I reprints the writings of three neglected left Zionists: Ahad Ha’am, the creator of spiritual Zionism; Judah Magnes, the founder of the Hebrew University, and Martin Buber, the philosopher. Before 1948 all three men rejected Jewish military might and a Jewish state but instead championed a cultural Zionism in a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Judah Magnes went the furthest in advocating a binational state in which all groups—Jews, Arabs, Moslems, Christians—would have equal rights. Magnes’ binational state where Jews would have no special privileges was indeed a Zionist position though many Israelis now treat the idea like anti-semitic heresy.

These historical writings show that before 1970 American Jewish progressives as well as Ahad Ha’am, Magnes, and Buber severely criticized mainstream and right-wing Zionists. The editors happily rescue from oblivion the 1948 letter where philosopher Hannah Arendt, Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook and over 30 American Jews roundly condemned Begin’s right-wing group, the Irgun, for the massacre at the Arab village of Deir Yassin and they called the Irgun fascist. Adding to these earlier criticisms, journalist I.F. Stone develops an anti-imperialist critique of Israel in 1967 describing how mainstream Zionists offered themselves as outposts in the Arab world to imperial powers: the Turks in 1900; the German Kaiser soon thereafter; and the British in 1915.

Section II “The Contemporary Crisis” provides excellent essays both analyzing and criticizing current U.S and Israeli policies. Joel Benin in “The United States-Israel Alliance” describes how after 1967 Israel in return for carrying out U.S policies got U.S. arms. Michael Massing’s “Deal Breakers” discusses how two right wing American Zionist organizations effectively lobby U.S. presidents and the Congress. Seth Ackerman’s “Israel and the Media” shows how U.S. mass media in the 1970s-1990s became ardently pro-Israel. Finally, Phyllis Bennis in “Of Dogs and Tails” analyzes the four pillars of this U.S.-Israel alliance: Israel’s acting as U.S. #1 Middle Eastern ally; the Christian Zionists support of Israel; the neo-conservatives politicians; and the defense industry’s advocacy of increased military aid. These essays are a must read for anyone seriously interested in a critical understanding of the U.S.-Israeli alliance.

The third area where this anthology does good work is documenting a thirty-year right-wing Zionist assault on American Jewish dissidents. Michael E. Staub’s “If We Really Care About Israel: Breira and Its Limits” is a fine essay describing how in the 1970s right-wing Zionists destroyed the moderate Jewish peace group. Though Breira was quite mainstream (it never identified as left-wing and was often led by moderate Hillel rabbis), right-wing Zionists assaulted it in the media, libeled it as pro-PLO, resulting in Breira’s destruction. Staub argues that after Breira was destroyed the American Jewish community splintered: many Jews left the community physically or spiritually. The anthology's essays point out how right-wing Zionists again and again resorted to smear attacks from smashing Breira in the 1970s to attacking Jewish anti-war critics of Israel in 2003, which Esther Kaplan discusses in “Globalize the Intifada.”

Section Four in particular deals with right-wing Zionist charges that criticism of Israel is anti-semitic. UC Berkeley professor Judith Butler takes on Lawrence Summer’s statement that calls for boycotts of Israeli are anti-semitic. Butler argues that when criticisms of Israel’s policies are called anti-semitic, the charge is both an attack on freedom of speech and an act that undermines attempts to fight real anti-semitism.

In the same section Phillip Green in his essay argues that the left is not anti-semitic but when right-wing Zionists make Israel and Jewishness synonymous, it is they—and not the left—who have sown the dangerous seed of the new waves of anti-Semitism. This is all too clear in Europe today, where the nationalist ideological equation [Jews = Israel] has helped to inflame some youth who commit most of the anti-Semitic outrages attributed by American propagandists to “the French”—among whom, contrarily, it is chiefly the student left who participates in marches against anti-Semitism. Both Butler and Green construct powerful, coherent arguments that right-wing Zionists make bogus claims that they defend Jews from anti-Semitism.

Many of these writers--Tony Kushner, Alisa Solomon, Adrienne Rich et al.—decry the attempt of right-wing Zionists to impose ideological conformity as harmful to the American Jewish community. Furthermore, Kushner et al. refer to Jewish sources demanding justice for all in their criticism of Israel, particularly the centrality of justice in both secular and religious Jewish thinking. Harvard researcher Sara Roy, a child of Holocaust survivors, and poet Irene Klepfisz, a Holocaust survivor, both argue that the best way to honor Jews who died in the Holocaust is to keep alive their vision of justice for all and their outrage against injustice, as Klepfisz says, “apply it to all situations, whether they involve Jews or non-Jews.”

Marc Ellis, a controversial founder of Jewish liberation theology, contributes some of the most original ideas in the book. Prior to 1948 the large majority of Orthodox (highly religious) Jews were hostile to Zionism. Ellis argues that in the 1950s some Israel right-wing theologians have created a branch of Orthodox Judaism—the religious in the settler movement-- in service to the state and its power. In reaction to this religion-serving-the-state Judaism, Ellis calls for the rebirth of the prophetic voices to criticize Israel just as the prophets in the past did. He gives a Jewish theological blessing for the “secular Jews of conscience who have come into solidarity with the Palestinian people.” When these writers’ advocate that American Jews put the struggle for justice for all at the core of their values, they open up a safe space for both secular and religious Jews critical of Israel.

The editors of this anthology have wisely included writers with different opinions. Some essayists have sounded important minor themes. I. F. Stone and Adrienne Rich are only two of the book's over 50 Ashkenazi Jewish writers who point out the importance of Arab Jews (Jews from Arab lands such as Tunisian Jews, Iraqi Jews etc.) to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Stone argued in 1967 that one of the first steps needed to be taken toward peace is “the eradication of prejudice that greet the Oriental and Arabic-speaking Jews in Israel …” Adrienne Rich salutes what Israeli novelist Shulamith Hareven calls “Levantine” cultures or that rich mixture of cultures in the Middle East, which Rich likens to American multi-culturalism. Yet this book only includes two Arab Jewish writers. Iraqi Jewish American Ella Habiba Shohat eloquently describes those Jews born in Arabic country who learn to speak Arabic as their first language and who identify with many parts of Arabic culture. Ammiel Alcalay in his essay “No Return, which is a linguistic tour-de-force, describes key moments in Arab Jewish intellectual history of the last forty years.

The American Jewish progressives of Wrestling with Zion need to include more Arab Jews such as writers Sami Shalom Chetrit and Jordan Elgrably. In Los Angeles Moroccan-Jewish American Elgrably has worked with Arabs, Armenians, and Persians et al. to create a Levantine Center that promotes many Middle Eastern cultures. Such centers are crucial to helping the American Jewish community redefine itself as well as to help make peace in the Middle East.

Only I.F. Stone and Phyllis Bennis discuss how, as Stone says, Israel “is creating a kind of schizophrenia in world Jewry.” Stone pointed out that outside of Israel “the welfare of Jewry depends on the maintenance of secular, non-racial pluralistic societies” while many Diaspora Jews defend within Israel a society where “non-Jews have lesser status than Jews, and in which the idea [of the Israeli state] is racial and exclusionist.” Stone wrote in 1967 when many Jews marched for civil rights in the United States, helping to promote a secular, non-racial society.

Much later Phyllis Bennis writes in 2002 about right-wing American Jews have an alliance with some Christian fundamentalists who call themselves Christian Zionists. Bennis quotes Robert Zimmerman, president of the American Jewish Congress (AJC) that the Christian fundamentalist have a domestic agenda that “threatens ‘the freedoms that make Jews safe in America.’” Bennis points out that all other major American Jewish organizations ignore AJC’s fears. Now American Jews need to take more seriously Bennis’s arguments that alliances with Christian fundamentalists potentially harm American Jews.

Finally, the weakness of book is in its discussion of current activism as of 2003. A whole section of this book debates the so-called “Law of Return,” the Israeli law whereby any Jew in the world can settle in Israel, claiming full citizenship that includes rights and privileges denied to Palestinians who used to live there but cannot return to live. Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz intellectually wants to refuse the law of return while Letty Cottin Pogrebin, one of the founders of Ms. magazine, defends it. Throughout this debate neither Kaye/Kantrowitz nor Pogrebin looked at how the Arabs’ fear of an ever-expanding Israel are increased by the Law of Return encouraging world-wide Jewry to return to Israel. After 47 British Jews in August 8, 2002, rejected the right to return to Israel, Kaye/Kantrowitz still ends her essay with an “imaginary” renunciation of the right to return. One wonders why not a real renunciation?

Also a section on Israeli politics would improve this book, particularly critical analysis of three areas: what social classes/ethnic groups support the major Israeli political parties and how has these changed in the last 30 years? how did the settler movement including its religious elements develop in the last 30 years as a political force? what groups comprise the Israeli peace movement and also how have they changed over the last 30 years? Also an essay on how American Jewish critics of Zionists could work with Israeli peace groups would be an addition to the book. Only Psychiatrist Dr. Robert Jay Lifton’s excellent essay on why he founded Friends of Courage to Refuse to support the Refusniks, Israeli soldiers who refuse to fight in the occupied territories, speaks to this point.

The book ends with “Doing Activism: Working for Peace: A Roundtable Discussion” with eight activists representing small dissident groups from Boston, New York, Chicago, and the Bay Area as of 2003. Yes, these groups have bravery and moral vision but they have hardly any presence outside a few urban centers in 2003. Steven Feuerstein from Chicago’s Not in My Name said most of these groups’ anti-occupation demonstrations were ineffectual since these groups lacked defined political goals and strategy to obtain their goals. Most of these activists wanted to reduce or eliminate U.S.’s financial support for Israel’s West Bank settlements, but Feuerstein argued that they lacked “the political will or power” to do so. Instead of discussing Fuerstein’s criticisms, most of the others debated among themselves rhetorical strategies, the uses of history, and even the definition of Zionism. Nobody in these 2003 or pre-2003 pieces took up Feuerstein’s criticisms that a small number of dissident Jewish groups based in a few big cities who disagreed among themselves lack the political vision, strategy, or power to change the nearly 40-year old U.S.-Israel alliance. How should these small groups go in coalition with others in? Which others?

The virtues of this anthology far outweigh its flaws. This is a crucial, important, and informative book. Though published in 2003, the book still has many important historical essays still extremely relevant today.