Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice resources 26.1

Curriculum Resources

Hey, Shorty!
A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment
and Violence in Schools and on the Streets

By Joanne N. Smith,
Mandy Van Deven, and Meghan Huppuch
(The Feminist Press, 2011)
192 pp. $13.95

Hey, Shorty! calls itself a guide in the subtitle, and it is—but it’s much more than that. It’s a poignant organizational autobiography, filled with stories of teaching and activism. This slim volume describes the formation of Girls for Gender Equity, a group designed to “lead campaigns to fight against gender inequity and dispel the belief that girls should be seen only as little adults, future mothers, sexual conquests, baby mamas, or wives.” Hey, Shorty! is packed with practical advice grounded in real-world experience.

The John Carlos Story

By John Carlos with Dave Zirin
Foreword by Cornel West
(Haymarket Books, 2011)
210 pp. $22.95

The image of John Carlos and Tommie Smith with their fists in the air at the 1968 Olympics is recognized around the world. Yet, as with so much of history, we know about the event but not the story of the organizing by athletes leading up to the Olympics, nor what happened to Carlos and Smith afterward. Read this beautifully written book and you will realize that the full story is as powerful and gripping as the photo. Highly recommended for grade 8 to adult.

The Dreamer

By Pam Muñoz Ryan
(Scholastic Press, 2010)
372 pp. $17.99

Through poetic prose and beautiful illustrations by Peter Sis, this award-winning middle school novel offers a wonderful introduction to the life of Pablo Neruda as a child. Ryan shows how the power of Neruda’s imagination and his burning desire to write put him in direct conflict with his dictatorial and abusive father. She also introduces the land struggles of the indigenous people and their allies, including Neruda’s journalist uncle. Neruda’s commitment to following his dream to write, as told in The Dreamer, will provide inspiration to many readers not only to read Neruda’s poems, but also to write their own.

A children’s picture book about Neruda has also just been published: Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown (Holt, 2011). A beautifully illustrated introduction to Neruda’s role as an activist poet, it misses the opportunity to tell more about the challenges he faced as a child.

Howard Zinn on Race

Introduction by Cornel West
(Seven Stories Press, 2011)
239 pp. $14.95

Howard Zinn on War

Introduction by Marilyn B. Young
(Seven Stories Press, 2011)
272 pp. $16.95

Howard Zinn on History

Introduction by Staughton Lynd
(Seven Stories Press, 2011; second edition)
287 pp. $16.95

The genius of Howard Zinn was not so much that he spoke truth to power so effectively—although he did. It’s that he spoke truth to us so effectively. In his writing, speeches, and interviews, Howard Zinn had an uncanny knack for cutting to the heart of an issue—capturing the most essential concerns with wit, passion, and eloquence. In these three volumes, Zinn constantly draws on the past to prove that the future is not written, that people’s action has always made a difference, even when the powers that be ignore or rewrite that history. These three volumes offer short essays that could be used with students, and longer ones to help educators step back and consider what is really worth teaching.


Why We Come
(Por Que Venimos)

Marin Immigrant Rights Coalition
45 min. (2011)

Why We Come is a simple yet deeply affecting film about why people leave Mexico and Central America to come to the United States, what happens on the journey, and how they cope with life here. It was created by a community organization in Marin County, Calif., and has a local, somewhat homemade feel, but the migrants’ stories are intimate and compelling, and its simplicity makes it a valuable classroom resource. Interview clips with writer and photographer (and Rethinking Schools contributor) David Bacon help provide a broader context to migrants’ from-the-heart testimonies.

Into Eternity

By Michael Madsen
Distributed by the Video Project
58 min. classroom version (75 min. version included on DVD)

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster earlier this year, the Obama administration declared its continued confidence in nuclear power. But nuclear waste will remain terrifyingly poisonous for tens of thousands of years, and that fact is rarely addressed in the media or in the curriculum. Into Eternity, a disturbing film about ONKALO, the “permanent” nuclear waste facility in Finland, asks how it is possible to bury poisons and keep them safe for 100,000 years. This haunting—one might say, creepy—film may be too slow for some students, but it raises profound questions about our responsibility to future generations that should be asked in high school science, global studies, economics, and government classes.

Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth

By Anne Galisky
88 min. (2009)

As deportations continue at a rate exceeding that of the Bush administration, the stories of undocumented high school students included in Papers become even more urgent. The young people in the film discuss their lives with extraordinary honesty and insight, and their teachers and administrators show how educators can express solidarity, not merely sympathy. At 88 minutes, Papers is long, but it’s a magnificent resource for a faculty meeting or for professional development. By the end of the film, it’s impossible not to recognize the lunacy of an immigration policy that criminalizes people who are simply trying to live decent lives.

Parent Power

By the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University
35 min. (2011)

This half-hour documentary packs in the history, strategies, and inspiration of 15 years of parent organizing in New York. Starting in one school, the movement grows to a district and then a citywide coalition. An antidote to Waiting for “Superman,” this film demonstrates the power of parents working collectively for better schools for all children. Charles M. Payne, of the University of Chicago, writes: “Parent Power is about parent ingenuity, persistence, and capacity to outlast a bureaucracy that tried to quash parents’ organizing energy.”

The Last Mountain

Directed by Bill Haney
DADA Films
95 min. (2011)

The Last Mountain refers to Coal River Mountain, slated for destruction by Massey Energy Co. through the process known as mountaintop removal—blasting and scraping off an entire mountain to get at coal seams buried within. The film “introduces us to the brave folks, the heroic people who are rising up and saying we aren’t going to take this anymore—we’re going to save our community,” in the words of singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris in a promotional clip for the film. And that’s a key contribution of The Last Mountain to the fine collection of mountaintop removal films [see “Coal at the Movies” in the Spring 2011 issue of Rethinking Schools.] It exhibits and celebrates a tapestry of resistance to mountaintop removal mining—from the eloquent opposition of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who “stars” in the film; to homegrown activists like Bo Webb, Ed Wiley, and Maria Gunnoe; to the courageous young people from around the country who commit civil disobedience to prevent this environmental devastation.


Multiplication Is for White People”: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children

By Lisa Delpit
(The New Press, 2011)
256 pp. $26.95

Once again, Lisa Delpit addresses key issues in education with laser attention to the kind of teaching that students, particularly African American students, need to be successful. She challenges the low expectations and stereotypes that are pervasive in schools and school policy today. In the course of the book she points out the weaknesses of scripted “teacher-proof” instruction and of Ruby Payne’s popular work on the “culture of poverty.”

Compiled by Bill Bigelow and Deborah Menkart.