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Octavio Romano

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Recent and Recommended Books of Note

Recent and Recommended Books of Note



A Power among Them: Bessie Abramowitz Hillman and the Making of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America

University of Illinois 978-0-252-03230-1
The extraordinary life of labor activist, immigrant, and feminist, Bessie Abramowitz Hillman
Karen Pastorello's pathbreaking biography of Bessie Abramowitz Hillman places Hillman at the center of events that marked the founding of Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA). Born in Tsarist Russia to an educated family, the teenaged Bessie Abramowitz immigrated alone to Chicago to escape an arranged marriage. 

Empowered by her connection to the social feminist reform movement centered at Hull-House, she was one of the first to walk off the job as a button sewer in September 1910 in protest of an arbitrary reduction of wages. Within weeks, more than thirty-five thousand workers followed the lead of Abramowitz and her cohorts. A massive strike resulted, paralyzing men's clothing manufacturers in Chicago and paving the way for the organization of the men's garment industry under the United Garment Workers (UGW).

In 1914 Bessie Abramowitz Hillman led a breakaway group from the exclusionary UGW to reorganize as the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and was the first woman appointed to the general executive board of the new union. While married to Sidney Hillman (the ACWA's first president) and raising two children, she traveled throughout the rural Northeast, organizing workers in sweatshops that had relocated from unionized metropolitan areas. 

In the 1930s she worked to bring black laundry workers into ACWA, and during World War II she established child-care centers and recreational facilities for the children of war workers. After the war, she served on numerous federal commissions on women and labor, seeking to end race and class injustice and improve the quality of life for working women.

The description of Hillman's career as a feminist in the labor movement indicates the prominence of women labor activists in that movement during the early and middle twentieth century. Drawing from newly discovered, official union records and valuable interviews of family members, Pastorello traces the life of a key female labor activist whose sixty-year career spanned Progressive Era social feminism and the feminism of the postwar labor movement.

 Demanding Child Care: Women’s Activism and the Politics of Welfare, 1940-1971

Univ of Illinois 978-0-252-03625-5
Natalie M. Fousekis
A revealing study of early child care political action and advocates in California
During World War II, as women stepped in to fill jobs vacated by men in the armed services, the federal government established public child care centers in local communities for the first time. When the government announced plans to withdraw funding and terminate its child care services at the end of the war, women in California protested and lobbied to keep their centers open, even as these services rapidly vanished in other states. 

Analyzing the informal networks of cross-class and cross-race reformers, policymakers, and educators, Demanding Child Care: Women's Activism and the Politics of Welfare, 1940–1971 traces the rapidly changing alliances among these groups. During the early stages of the childcare movement, feminists, Communists, and labor activists banded together, only to have these alliances dissolve by the 1950s as the movement welcomed new leadership composed of working-class mothers and early childhood educators. In the 1960s, when federal policymakers earmarked child care funds for children of women on welfare and children described as culturally deprived, it expanded child care services available to these groups but eventually eliminated public child care for the working poor. 

Deftly exploring the possibilities for partnership and the limitations among these key parties as well as the structural forces impeding government support for broadly distributed child care, Fousekis helps to explain the barriers to a publicly funded comprehensive child care program in the United States.

"A gripping tale of California politics, working women's activism, and the welfare state. Fousekis introduces readers to a remarkable cast of characters: ordinary women who recognized that to support their families they needed the peace of mind that quality child care could provide; visionary educators and teachers who understood child care as part of public education, and not social assistance; and male allies in the legislature and public service who were instrumental in policymaking."--Eileen Boris, coeditor of The Practice of U.S. Women's History: Narratives, Dialogues, and Intersections

"A delightful book of interest to students and scholars of the welfare state, second-wave feminism, social reformers, the history of education, and the anti-Communist movement. Fousekis does an exemplary job of integrating women's personal stories into the childcare movement."--Robyn Muncy, author of Creating a Female Dominion in American Reform, 1890–1935

Natalie M. Fousekis is an associate professor of history and the director of the Center for Oral and Public History at California State University,

Rascuache Layers: Toward a Theory of Ordinary Litigation
 University of Arizona Press (September 1, 2011) 
ISBN-10: 0816529833 ISBN-13: 978-0816529834
Alfredo Mirandé, a sociology professor, Stanford Law graduate, and part-time pro bono attorney, represents clients who are rascuache---a Spanish word for "poor" or even "wretched"---and on the margins of society. For Mirandé, however, rascuache means to be "down but not out," an underdog who is still holding its ground. Rascuache Lawyer offers a unique perspective on providing legal services to poor, usually minority, folks who are often just one short step from jail. Not only a passionate argument for rascuache lawyering, it is also a thoughtful, practical attempt to apply and test critical race theory---particularly Latino critical race theory---in day-to-day legal practice.

Every chapter presents an actual case from Mirandé's experience (only the names and places have been changed). His clients have been charged with everything from carrying a concealed weapon, indecent exposure, and trespassing to attempted murder, domestic violence, and child abuse. Among them are recent Mexican immigrants, drug addicts, gang members, and the homeless. All of them are destitute, and many are victims of racial profiling. Some "pay" Mirandé with bartered services such as painting, home repairs, or mechanical work on his car. And Mirandé doesn't always win their cases. But, as he recounts, he certainly works tirelessly to pursue all legal remedies. 

Each case is presented as a letter to a fascinating (fictional) "Super Chicana" named Fermina Gabriel, who we are told is an accomplished lawyer, author, and singer. This narrative device allows the author to present his cases as if he were recounting them to a friend, drawing in the reader as a friend as well.

Bookending the individual cases, Mirandé's introductions and conclusions offer a compelling vision of progressive legal practice grounded in rascuache lawyering. 

This is an important volume for anyone---practicing or teaching---involved in the legal defense of Latinas and Latinos.

 Becoming Mapuche: Person and Ritual in Indigenous Chile

University of Illinois, 978-0-252-07823-1 Pub Date: 2011
Magnus Course

A nuanced exploration of one of the largest and least understood indigenous peoples
Magnus Course blends convincing historical analysis with sophisticated contemporary theory in this superb ethnography of the Mapuche people of southern Chile. Based on many years of ethnographic fieldwork, Becoming Mapuche takes readers to the indigenous reserves where many Mapuche have been forced to live since the beginning of the twentieth century. Exploring their way of life, the book situates the Mapuche within broader anthropological debates about indigenous peoples in South America. 

Comprising around 10 percent of the Chilean population, the Mapuche are one of the largest indigenous groups in the Americas. Despite increasing social and political marginalization, the Mapuche remain a distinct presence within Chilean society, giving rise to the burgeoning Mapuche political movement and holding on to their traditional language of Mapundungun, their religion, and their theory of self-creation.

 In addition to accounts of the intimacies of everyday kinship and friendship, Course also offers the first complete ethnographic analyses of the major social events of contemporary rural Mapuche life--eluwün funerals, the ritual sport of palin, and the great ngillatun fertility ritual. The volume includes a glossary of terms in Mapudungun.

"In Becoming Mapuche, Magnus Course asks a question at once anthropological and Mapuche: what does it mean to be a 'true person'? On a theoretical level, this question allows the author to skillfully traverse back and forth across the abandoned terrain between the categories of classical modernist anthropology and those of its postmodern critique. In choosing this analytical strategy, the author has produced a remarkably rich ethnography of a rural Mapuche community, one that touches on the themes of both phases of anthropological thought in a rich synthesis of themes. 

Further, in finding this systhesis, Course has surely begun to fulfill his own hope expressed herein, that of freeing Mapuche ethnography from its sub-disciplinary isolation and showing the way to comparisons with Andean and Amazonian societies and far beyond."--Peter Gow, author of An Amazonian Myth and Its History

"Becoming Mapuche makes significant contributions to South American ethnology by providing ethnographically based explorations of Mapuche concepts. Magnus Course also greatly contributes to more general theoretical concerns in anthropology such as social personhood, theories of exchange, and kinship studies. Written in a clear style, the book is both accessible to general readers and stimulating for anthropologists."--Jonathan D. Hill, author of Made-from-Bone: Trickster Myths, Music, and History from the Amazon

"An insightful ethnographic account of the way the rural Mapuche person is constituted through different modes of men's sociality and how the centrifugal expansion of relations across time and space gives rise to collective social events. Course presents the stunning new political possibilities that emerge from a rural Mapuche class-based identity that challenges the ethnic perspectives held by urban Mapuche intellectuals and indigenous rights activists."--Ana Mariella Bacigalupo, author of Shamans of the Foye Tree: Gender, Power, and Healing among Chilean Mapuche
Magnus Course is a lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Edinburgh.

I'm Neither Here nor There: Mexicans’ Quotidian Struggles with Migration and Poverty  

Paperback Duke University Press Books (June 13, 2011)  

ISBN-10: 0822350351 ISBN-13: 978-0822350354

Patricia Zavella (Author)

I’m Neither Here nor There explores how immigration influences the construction of family, identity, and community among Mexican Americans and migrants from Mexico. Based on long-term ethnographic research, Patricia Zavella describes how poor and working-class Mexican Americans and migrants to California’s central coast struggle for agency amid the region’s deteriorating economic conditions and the rise of racial nativism in the United States. 
Zavella also examines tensions within the Mexican diaspora based on differences in legal status, generation, gender, sexuality, and language. She proposes “peripheral vision” to describe the sense of displacement and instability felt by Mexican Americans and Mexicans who migrate to the United States as well as by their family members in Mexico.
Drawing on close interactions with Mexicans on both sides of the border, Zavella examines migrant journeys to and within the United States, gendered racialization, and exploitation at workplaces, and the challenges that migrants face in forming and maintaining families. As she demonstrates, the desires of migrants to express their identities publicly and to establish a sense of cultural memory are realized partly through Latin American and Chicano protest music, and Mexican and indigenous folks songs played by musicians and cultural activists.

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