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End of an Era: Books for the Obama years

Emmett Rensin included Necessary Trouble in his round-up of books to read to understand the Obama era, at Bookforum.

Necessary Trouble is a book that’s virtue lies primarily in the willingness of author Sarah Jaffe to perform the actual work of a journalist and go investigate these movements in person.. She explores all kinds: the reactionary, the revolutionary, the mundane, and shows that residents of fly-over states clad in red trucker hats are not the only demographic that has escaped the notice of Washington. The hidden chaos of the Obama era has also produced viable movements for revolutionary change, including movements that are perhaps more threatening than their reactionary counterparts to the power of liberal technocracy because these left-wing movements cannot be fought in the open without betraying the conservative instincts of many notionally liberal progressives and Democrats.

Read more.

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A Diary of Protest for the Days to Come: Review at The Indypendent

Michael Hirsch at the Indypendent had the first post-Trump-election review of Necessary Trouble and concludes that trouble is, yes, even more necessary:

Perhaps, but we knew a Clinton administration would be no springtime in paradise. Neoliberalism is an uninspiring alternative to Trumpism, and the neoliberal order is cracking up, even if it is doing so in a manner few imagined possible. A finely written book such as Jaffe’s is not just a palliative of hope: The stories she reports of people building power through struggle offer a healthy direction forward.

Read the rest at the Indypendent.

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The Revolution Will Be Intersectional: Labor Journalist Sarah Jaffe Writes of a New Radicalism

The excellent Katie Klabusich reviewed Necessary Trouble at Rewire. This came out before the election, but remains relevant:

As someone who got involved, in part, because I could see that I wasn’t the only who was frustrated and wanted better, Jaffe’s thesis that this is a “new time” resonates with me.

If she’s right—and I think that she is—we’re at a precipice, which the outcome of next week’s election will only amplify.

“Anger continues to simmer just under the surface, and occasionally, when enough people are angry enough to overcome their reasons for holding back, it explodes,” writes Jaffe.

Read the rest at Rewire.

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.