Sunday, February 7, 2010

Liberation Lit!

What's Lib Lit? Library, map, lens, scalpel, compost, chisel, textbook, excavation: voices, images, wrestling, contradicting, confirming, the matter of resistant art and practice.
-Adrienne Rich
This is exciting.

Liberation Lit, just published by Mainstay Press, is a big, bold, unique anthology of voices and visuals from around the world, all united by what editors Tony Christini and Andre Vltchek call a "liberatory" stance. It's gorgeous, too, with a cover collage made up mainly of 1930s-era illustrations from the The Masses magazine and posters from the WPA Federal Theater Project.

In defiance of the conventional view, conventional in this country at least, that true art can't be political, here Christini and Vltchek have gathered the work of an impressive roster of writers and artists all of which takes a clear stand on the great issues of the day. (And of days past, with earlier voices, from Victor Hugo to Charlotte Perkins Gilman to W.E.B. DuBois, weighing in.)

Liberation Lit is 800-plus oversized pages, divided into several sections: Liberatory Fiction, Liberatory Fiction Past, Liberatory Visuals, Liberatory Poetry, Liberatory Focus on the U.S. in Iraq, Liberatory Focus on the Prisons, Liberatory Focus on Kenya, Essays Interviews & Blogs, and Liberatory Literary Criticism. There is so much here, enough to occupy the reader for a long time. This is a collection to hold close and delve into slowly and steadily, I think, which is how I intend to approach it, dipping in and out over the weeks and months ahead. I don't know that I'll love every page; I suspect I won't agree with every word; there will probably be work whose inclusion I'll question; I'll wish other work had been included. Which is to say this anthology is not perfect, nor is it the be-all and end-all of politically conscious literature. Fine. So what? Let it be a start--what a grand start it is. Let others take heart, and follow with more. For in a time and place where left political literature is nearly impossible to find, Liberation Lit is a huge--huge!--contribution to the cultural conversation, bringing to it voices that are usually silenced.

Here is writing from and/or about Nigeria, Mexico, Haiti, Ecuador, Japan, Bangladesh, India, East Timor, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Venezuela, Nigeria, and the United States. Work written in, from, or about war, invasion, occupation, repression, racism, sexism, oppression, prisons, environmental destruction, labor; work about the terrible wreckage of imperialism, the human toll of colonialism, the experience of exploitation; and work about uniting and organizing and fighting back. Work that will make you cry, laugh, and burn to sign up on the side of human liberation.

Here in these pages there are many writers who are not well known in this country. And here as well are better known names, a range gathered together I suspect for the first time, including Adetokunbo Abiola, Eduardo Galeano, Ishimure Michiko, Doreen Baingana, Marge Piercy, Arundhati Roy, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Dahr Jamail, Gloria Anzaldua, Audre Lorde, Edward Said. (Full disclosure: I'm in here too. There's no question that I'd be trumpeting this book even if I wasn't part of it, but I sure am glad to be a part of it.)

So shake off any remaining notions about the incompatability of political partisanship and literary accomplishment, and dive in to Liberation Lit with me. Here's the website, on which you can read many of the individual pieces. Here's the Amazon page, where you can buy the book.

I expect that I will return to this book and pipe up with blog posts about it again and again as I work my way through it, for there's much in it that's directly relevant to the focus of Read Red. Thank you to Mainstay Press for this unprecedented contribution to the effort to liberate art from the shackles imposed by the gatekeepers of bourgeois-imperialist culture.