Summer Reading: Books to Inspire
Compiled by Alexis Harwood

Standing Up To The Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times
Amy Goodman and David Goodman. Hyperion: May 2008. 250pp.

The award-winning journalists and authors of The Exception to the Rulers and Static return with this revolutionary work that celebrates the ordinary heroes who have stood up, often at great risk, to defend democracy and change the US for the better.

Standing Up to the Madness not only is a timely, inspiring, and even revolutionary look at who wields the greatest power in the US - everyday people who take a chance and stand up for what they believe in - but also offers advice on what you can do to help.

As the Bush administration has waged war abroad and at home, it has catalyzed a vast groundswell of political action. From African-American residents of deluged New Orleans who are fighting racism and City Hall to regain their homes; to four Connecticut librarians who refused to spy on their patrons, challenged the US PATRIOT Act, and won; to a group of high school students who were barred from performing a play they wrote on the Iraq War based on letters for soldiers; to the first US Army officer to publicly refuse orders to deploy to Iraq, charging that his duty as an officer is to refuse to fight in an illegal and immoral war, Standing Up to the Madness profiles citizens rising to extraordinary challenges. And, in the process, they are changing the way that politics is done, both now and in the future.

In communities around the United States, courageous individuals have taken leaps of faith to stop the madness. They could only hope that if they led, others would follow. This is how movements are born. What begins as one eventually becomes many. In that tradition, the authors have included the ways in which any individual can take action and effect change.

The Fire and The Word: A History of the Zapatista Movement

Gloria Muñoz Ramírez. City Lights Publishers: April 2008. 333 pp.

The Fire and the Word tells the story of the Zapatista movement, from its clandestine birth in the jungle of Chiapas, to its impact on Mexico and its ongoing influence around the world. Gloria Muñoz lived for years in remote Mayan villages and interviewed some of the group's organizers. Their first-person accounts are woven throughout the text, along with reportage and contextual history. The result is a story composed of the little pieces of mirrors and crystals that make up the various moments of the Zapatistas' years of open struggle, the reflections of a history that is still being made, one which continues to inform and inspire activists and intellectuals around the globe.

Beautifully illustrated with a collection of the most emblematic photographs from Zapatista history, The Fire and the Word is an inspiring testimony of resistance and hope.

When the Prisoners Ran Walpole: A True Story in the Movement for Prison Abolition
Jamie Bissonette. South End Press: November 2007. 258 pp.

In 1971, Attica's prison yard massacre shocked the public, prisoners, and political leaders across the United States. Massachusetts residents pledged to prevent such slaughter from ever happening there, and the governor agreed. Thus began a move for reform that eventually led to the prisoners at Walpole's Massachusetts Correctional Institute winning control of its day-to-day operations.

When the Prisoners Ran Walpole brings this vital history to life, revealing what can happen when there is public will for change and trust that the incarcerated can achieve it. In the months before they took over running the maximum-security facility in 1973, prisoners and outside advocates created programs that sent more prisoners home for good, slowing the turn of the famous revolving door by 23 percent and decreasing Walpole's population by 15 percent.

When guards protested the changes they saw as choking their livelihoods, finally refusing to run the prison, the prisoners stepped ably into the void, and all-out peace ensued. They shrank the murder rate from the highest in the country to zero. Even more significantly, they worked hard to bury racial antagonism and longstanding feuds so even "lifers" with no hope of going home could find ways to live together, learn, and grow - to regain, finally, the humanity that the system intended to squash.

Critical to the work of prison abolitionists and transitional reformists alike, this groundbreaking history offers a real-life example of a prison solution many see only as theoretical. It not only reminds us why people seek to make prisons obsolete, but also recalls a time when we were much closer to these abolitionist goals.


Alexis owns and operates Second Story Books at 550 Westcott St.