Ballots for Belva: The True Story of a Woman’s Race for the Presidency
By Studipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Courtney Martin
(Abrams Books, 2008)
32 pp. $16.95
This well-illustrated biography tells the story of Belva Lockwood, an audacious woman who ran for President in 1884, almost three decades before U.S. women’s right to vote was ratified by the 19th Amendment. She had to fight her way into and through law school and was the first woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court. In this election year, this book is especially useful in showing how the right to vote was fought for and won through actions by many people who refused to tolerate inequality.
When the Shadbush Blooms
By Carla Messinger
(Tricycle Press, 2007)
32 pp. $15.95
A beautifully illustrated book that deftly weaves the lives of Native Americans separated by 400 years into a unifying whole. Abenaki storyteller and writer Joseph Bruchac writes, “Both text and pictures invite you in, not as a stranger viewing a different culture, but a welcome guest. It does not embed a Native nation in the distant past. Instead, we see both then and now side by side, deeply connected, flowing into each other.”
Stuffed & Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System
By Raj Patel
(Melville House, 2007)
398 pp. $19.95
A comprehensive, well-documented indictment of the world food system in which 800 million people go hungry and 1 billion people are obese. Former policy analyst for Food First, Patel provides an in-depth look at key aspects of the food crisis while at the same time concentrating on the lives of people most affected. A valuable resource for any social studies or science teacher.
American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau
Edited by Bill McKibben
(The Library of America, 2008)
1047 pp. $40
An impressive collection of writings from dozens of environmentalists who have worked to preserve and defend the natural environment. Writings from well-known environmentalists such as Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, John Burroughs, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson are blended together with those of lesser-known writers, as well as song lyrics, protest speeches, and 80 pages of color drawings and photos. A valuable resource for teachers of all subject areas and all levels. A must for every school library.
The World of Mexican Migrants: The Rock and the Hard Place
By Judith Adler Hellman
(The New Press, 2008)
256 pp. $25.95
Judith Adler Hellman’s earlier book Mexican Lives was published on the eve of the North American Free Trade Agreement — NAFTA. It was a brilliant and intimate portrait of Mexican society as the country began to be racked by the neoliberal economic reforms pushed by global institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank — even before NAFTA took effect. In The World of Mexican Migrants, Hellman pulls this story forward to examine the diversity of migrant life — what has become of Mexicans who have chosen to flee the increasingly difficult conditions in Mexico — “the rock” — and head to the United States — “the hard place.” Stories here are based on numerous interviews conducted in five locations in Mexico and five in the U.S. Hellman is alert to the economic roots of migration, but also focuses on the additional circumstances that make migration an appealing option for women. This is an especially important book at a time when U.S. Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) agents pursue a strategy of mass arrests and deportations.
Edited by Mica Pollock
(The New Press, 2008)
389 pp. $24.95
Editor Mica Pollock begins this book with a question: “If we want schools to be vehicles for countering racial inequality, when and how should we be ‘colorblind,’ and when and how should we be ‘race conscious’?” Over 60 educators deal with dimensions of this question and each selection ends with suggestions to evaluate the article’s principle, strategic implications, and practical “try tomorrow” ideas. It’s unfortunate that the book includes no contributions from practicing classroom teachers, but there is still a lode of wonderfully insightful material here from scholar-activists like Sonia Nieto, Angela Valenzuela, Pedro Noguera, Christine Sleeter, Michelle Fine, Jeff Duncan-Andrade, and Beverly Daniel Tatum.
*Sunrise Over Fallujah
By Walter Dean Myers
(Scholastic Press, 2008)
304 pp. $17.99 Hardback
The story of a U.S. soldier in Iraq, this young adult novel is an excellent book on the injustice, horrors, and stupidity of war. The book is filled with powerful language: “doing drive-bys in the name of democracy”; an Iraqi man responds to an American soldier asking what he wants: “Treat our lives as if they are as precious as your own.” In a memorable passage, the soldier, Birdie, sees his first person killed. The victim is a teenager and the grandmother’s wails make Birdie realize that this chilling event is tragic regardless of “whose side” the teenage boy was on. In addition to the day-to-day experiences of the war, Walter Dean Myers weaves in the limited media coverage of the war and raises questions about U.S. government “intelligence.” A shortcoming is that the book’s conclusion questions why God would let this happen, but does not ask the same about the U.S. government. Nor does the book introduce the historic role of the United States in Iraq and Iran.
*Planning to Change the World: A Plan Book for Social Justice Teachers
Edited by Tara Mack and Bree Picower
(New York Collective of Radical Educators and Education for Liberation, 2008)
133 pp. $15
It’s not too late to order this unique planning book for the 2008-2009 school year. It has all the usual components of a traditional plan book — an easy-to-read calendar, space to jot lesson notes, space for student contact information, etc. — but it also includes social justice lesson activities pegged to key holidays and events, provocative quotes, and other teachers’ thoughts on planning lessons to connect the classroom to broader social issues.
*Teach Freedom: Education for Liberation in the African-American Tradition
Edited by Charles M. Payne and Carol Sills Strickland
(Teachers College Press, 2008)
304 pp. $29.95
In a field full of new books on “closing the achievement gap” for African American students, this is one of the first to take a historical and contemporary look at “education for liberation” and its inextricable connection to academic success and community achievement. As Ernest Morrell explains in the closing article, education can be disempowering when “functional literacies” are “promoted to the exclusion of critical literacies.” The first 10 articles provide a detailed history of how and why African Americans have made education a primary focus throughout this country’s history, with a focus on Reconstruction, the Citizenship Schools, and the Black Panther-run Liberation Schools. The other half of the articles help answer the question posed by Charlie E. Cobb Jr. in the foreword, “Where do we go from here?” These include detailed and critical reviews of current initiatives and an essay on the connection between hip hop, reggae and critical literacy. The collection includes an article on Citizenship Schools by Rethinking Schools editor David Levine.
Unequal By Design: High-Stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality
By Wayne Au
224 pp. $33.95
In Unequal By Design: High-Stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality, education professor and Rethinking Schools editor Wayne Au provides a damning analysis of high-stakes testing. In a mix of both scholarly and popular prose, Au examines how high-stakes testing is linked to educational inequality historically, politically, socially, and materially.
*Dear Paulo: Letters from Those Who Dare Teach
Edited by Sonia Nieto
240 pp. $25.95
Sonia Nieto has collected poignant letters from teachers and teacher educators to Paulo Freire, author of the classic Pedagogy of the Oppressed and many books for educators on critical and liberatory teaching. Through these letters we learn about how teachers today are introducing a curriculum for liberation in K-12 classrooms, the challenges they face, and the influence Paulo Freire has has had on them. The book is an inspiration to write one’s own letter to Freire in order to grapple with the ideas, relevance and application of his work. As Freire said, “. reading is not just to walk on the words, and it is not flying over the words either. Reading is re-writing what we are reading.”