Culture & Conversation Media

The Media That Move Us: Rewire Staff Picks

Rewire Staff

Our list includes conscious comics; a treatise on love; podcasts on topics from abortion to Muslim life in the United States; and histories that we should know but don’t. Enjoy, get angry, and get active.

2016 is racing to an end, and if you’re dreading the political tidings of the new year, Rewire staff have some suggestions to fortify you for the coming fights and victories (and, yes, there will be some wins).

Asked the question “What do you think people must read, watch, or listen to right now?” our editors and writers have recommended readings, podcasts, and other media that contextualize social justice movements, help everyone imagine a better world, and inspire us to dismantle injustice. Our list includes oldies-but-goodies and recent releases; conscious comics; a treatise on love; audio offerings on topics including abortion and Muslim life in the United States; and histories that we should know but don’t. Enjoy our selections and get angry/motivated/amused/misty-eyed. And then get active.

Jessica Mason Pieklo, vice president of law and the courts
Prison Power: How Prison Influenced the Movement for Black Liberation by Lisa M. Corrigan

Prison Power is a must read for anyone invested in Black Lives Matter and other racial justice movements. Written by University of Arkansas professor Dr. Lisa Corrigan, the book brings critical historical context to the ways in which state police power shaped Black political activism and organizing. Given the fight to end the extrajudicial killing by police of people of color, Prison Power could not be more timely.

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Marc Faletti, director of multimedia
Jem and the Holograms comic series by IDW Publishing

A comic based on a 1980s toy line might seem like an odd recommendation, but IDW’s Jem and the Holograms presents the vision of an enthusiastically inclusive world that we need right now. Writer Kelly Thompson explores queerness, trans identity, body positivity, and chosen families in her clever, rollicking stories of an aspiring band finding its way, and it never feels forced or fake. Artist Sophie Campbell’s lush character designs turn patriarchal comic tropes on their heads, giving Jem a totally unique look in the comic universe. When you need a fun escape to the kind of world we’re fighting to build, check out Jem and the Holograms.

Regina Mahone, managing editor
All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks

Since it probably would be cheating to answer the question “What must people read right now?” by saying everything Rewire has published in the past six months, I am recommending bell hooks’ All About Love. It’s simple in its premise—exploring “the meaning of love in our culture”—but also life-giving in its revelations. The feminist scholar writes: “Everywhere we learn that love is important, and yet we are bombarded by its failure. In the realm of the political, among the religious, in our families, and in our romantic lives, we see little indication that love informs decisions, strengthens our understanding of community, or keeps us together.” At a time when many in our society are being forced to assert their humanity as their fundamental rights are being attacked, our role as journalists (and frankly as humans) is to speak the truth. And that truth includes the ways in which love binds us. hooks pushes us to see what love isn’t—cruelty, neglect, or intangible—and reminds us that there is still hope for those who may have lost their way. hooks writes, “The light of love is always in us, no matter how cold the flame.”

Dennis Carter, senior news editor
Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA by Frances Goldin, Debby Smith, Michael Smith

I read this book because the thought of systems in which the profit motive doesn’t rule is such a foreign concept to me as a 33-year-old U.S. citizen and resident; I wanted to see what socialist policies might look like if they were ever implemented (even on a small scale). The essays in this book offer an illuminating view of what might happen to federal and state economic policies, the criminal justice system, reproductive rights, and other societal elements that would be turned on their head if capitalism gave way to a more humane system.

Why should someone read or listen to this NOW? I think it’s vitally important today—with the incoming Trump administration—to stop working for political reforms that we’re told are possible, and instead to push for what seems impossible. This book lays out how socialist reforms could work. To strive for mealymouthed reforms is not striving at all. People who want to resist the incoming administration would do well to offer a real alternative to the new president’s policies, not just a return to the status quo, which was roundly rejected by many voters in both the Democratic and Republican primary races.

Tina Vasquez, immigration reporter
A History of Violence: Living and Dying in Central America by Óscar Martínez

In his first book, The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail, Salvadoran journalist Óscar Martínez told us the story of how people migrate to the United States. In A History of Violence: Living and Dying in Central America, we learn why they migrate: often escaping gender-based violence and gang violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, also known as the Northern Triangle. The United States’ inhumane treatment of asylum seekers from some of the most dangerous countries in the world is well documented. But as we enter a new administration that only seeks to further stigmatize, criminalize, detain, and deport migrants in record numbers, we have to truly understand the conditions people are fleeing—often created by the United States—and work to uplift these vulnerable populations.

Amy Littlefield, investigative reporter
Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit

“Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless,” begins the 2016 edition of Rebecca Solnit’s 2004 meditation on hope, history, and resistance. Crucially, for Solnit, hope “is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine.” Instead, it’s a necessary tool that makes resistance possible. Hope is the beginning of action, and it starts with redefining victory and with learning to press on, even if we can’t always see the effects of our work. “I spend a lot of time looking at my country in horror,” Solnit wrote in the midst of the George W. Bush administration. I find it oddly reassuring to read those words now and to remember that the future we are facing is not new, but born of centuries of history, as is our capacity to resist it—if we can remember our ability to hope.

Christine Grimaldi, federal policy reporter
Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward

I recommend Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward. It’s a memoir of the five Black men she treasured, and lost, in just five years. Their deaths were a direct result of the institutional racism that grips the South—and let’s be honest, the rest of the country. I’ve had the book on my shelf for several years as I paid more attention to Twitter than literature. After the election, I turned to Men We Reaped to rebel against the racist, dog-whistle politics that had taken over my newsfeed. Ward’s memoir is so relevant to the conversations that we need to be having as a country right now. And it’s beautifully written. It’s the first and one of the only books I’ve been able to finish since the election. I hope others will too.

Sofia Resnick, investigative reporter
“The God Loophole” by writers at Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting

I was about seven months pregnant when I broke down in sobs upon reading the following sentence: “In 2 feet of holy water, which promises eternal life, Carlos drowned.”

Earlier this year, Reveal, a publication of the Center for Investigative Reporting, resurrected baby Carlos, a 1-year-old who died in 2012 at a religiously affiliated day care after crawling—unnoticed by the egregiously understaffed crew—down the hallway and into the church sanctuary’s baptismal font. In an investigative series called “The God Loophole,” which includes a podcast episode, Amy Julia Harris, Anna Claire Vollers, and Scott Pham reveal how day cares can circumvent oversight and regulation simply by claiming to be religiously affiliated. The series also exposes the broader extent to which the United States has empowered religiously affiliated organizations (for the most part Christian ones) to discriminate or undercut care. As an investigative reporter bent on trying to push radical change for the better, this beautifully written, rage-making series motivates me. As a new mother, it haunts me.

Cynthia Greenlee, senior editor
Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination by Alondra Nelson

Attempts to vilify the Black Lives Matter movement and cast it as a racist hate movement are nothing new. The Black Panthers experienced all this smearing before, but there is a new crop of scholarly and popular literature giving these Black nationalists their due. Body and Soul, from Alondra Nelson, is an innovative, rigorous, and accessible history that shows how much we all—not just Black Americans—owe to these radicals. The Black Panthers gave us trenchant analyses of inequality in our health-care systems, started a network of community-based health clinics, and began free breakfast programs that our government now mimics without acknowledging that the idea came, in part, from these activists whom the FBI persecuted with surveillance, brutality, and rhetorical violence. If you believe that the Panthers were merely disaffected Black people with guns, attitudes, and Afros (but no meaningful strategy, a ridiculous charge also lobbed at Black Lives Matter), pick up this book and get informed. There’s no excuse for historical ignorance.

Stacey Burns, manager of social media outreach
The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination by Sarah Schulman

Since a real estate tycoon (who may or may not be an actual billionaire) who made a name for himself in 1980s New York City is about to lead the country, I thought it might be a good idea to reflect on the effects of gentrification—specifically, the literal and spiritual gentrification spurred by the 1980s AIDS crisis, when the combination of murderous neglect of marginalized populations and deliberate policies that rewarded the “1 percent” completely ravaged New York City, killing tens of thousands of people.

Sarah Schulman—a novelist, playwright, English professor, and activist—came of age during this plague era, when she became a member of the direct action grassroots organization ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power.) Her chronicle is a cautionary tale, a look back at an era of unbearable injustice, and most importantly, another reminder to resist. She notes that “the AIDS experience may be where I came to understand that it is a fundamental of individual integrity to intervene to stop another person from being victimized, even if to do so is uncomfortable or frightening,” citing ACT UP’s politics of accountability: “If someone hurts you, you have the right to respond.”

Kat Jercich, managing editor
“See Something Say Something” by Ahmed Ali Akbar

In the wake of the election of a president-elect who ran his campaign on xenophobia, misogyny, racism, and Islamophobia, a podcast that highlights the wide spectrum of Muslim experiences in the United States is essential listening. Hosted by BuzzFeed staff writer Ahmed Ali Akbar, “See Something Say Something” is poignant, thoughtful, and nuanced. A particularly gripping episode has Ahmed interviewing his father, throughout which the affection and respect the two have for each other is vividly present. It’s also frequently hilarious: I caused a bit of a scene in the grocery store recently yipping with delight at the episode featuring BuzzFeed Deputy Social Media Director Tabir Akhter and two NYU-attending teens, Romaissaa and Zainab. Ahmed himself is a warm and approachable interviewer, and it’s clear how comfortable guests feel in the studio. As a non-Muslim, I also appreciate that See Something Say Something puts the onus on me as a listener to learn more about some of the concepts with which I’m not familiar—a skill that I think consumers of media should cultivate, particularly in the years to come.

Jenn Stanley, senior staff reporter
Shades of Gray by Jonathan Mitchell

As Rewire‘s resident audio nerd, I thought I’d make a sonic contribution to this list. “Shades of Gray” by Jonathan Mitchell is an hour-long audio mosaic of stories from people directly affected by abortion. It was a bit more radical of an idea when it came out in 2003, but it’s timeless and definitely worth a listen. This documentary is so important now because it doesn’t take sides, it just presents voices. It’s challenging because it asks listeners to do the same—to listen without judgment. It washes over the listener, and in the end, puts her in a better mindset for approaching conversations with people on both sides of the aisle.

So this holiday season, I dare you to listen and then send it to your anti-choice family members, and then just talk about it.

Laura Huss, editorial and research associate
“Let America Be America Again,” a poem by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes’ “Let America Be American Again,” published in A New Song, has evoked visceral reactions and emotions in me each of the numerous times I’ve read it since the presidential election results: from hope and encouragement to sadness and anger. In the midst of campaign and presidential promises that use words to blindfold us and obscure the truth, this poem compels me to keep looking for the manipulations, calling out the falsehoods, and resisting the warped narratives of our nation’s past. As we enter 2017, our resistance must be bold and unified, but also reflective and intersectional. I read this poem as a reminder of the ways in which language, ideas, and history have furthered agendas, both good and bad.

Shonté Daniels, editorial associate
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race by Jesmyn Ward

The Fire This Time is a stellar continuation of James Baldwin’s classic The Fire Next Time. It presents the complexities of Black life, its disturbingly dark times, and the pleasant times of hope. This book is incredibly important now especially as we brace ourselves for a new president, and it proves why art is so necessary in a time of crisis. When everything seems hopeless, we write, and we spread our truth as far as it will spread. Check out my longer review of The Fire This Timepublished on Rewire earlier this year.

Lauryn Gutierrez, communications associate
Good Girls Revolt by Amazon Video

Need to get fired up for the long fight to come? Devote time this holiday break to get inspired by the women of Good Girls Revolt. New from Amazon Video this fall, Good Girls Revolt is a vivid depiction of Lynn Povich’s equally excellent nonfiction book detailing how the women of Newsweek, tired of facing the daily barrage of sexism at work during the 1960s and 1970s, decided to do something drastic: sue their employer for equal rights and equal pay.

I read Povich’s book several years ago after it was gifted to me by a wise older cousin who recognized the baby feminist in me before I did, so I eagerly began to watch this show just as the presidential election was wrapping up. After Election Day, it felt to me and many of my friends as though the world was unraveling as we knew it. I found some solace in watching this show every night after work. The story of these young, brave women was a good reminder that change never comes easily, and although you may feel you’re unprepared for the battle to come, it’s always better to stand up and speak out for what you know to be right than to stay silent on the sidelines.

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