June 26, 2024
Alina Sipp-Alpers

Media Recommendations for February

Our February recommendations:

Descendant, original Netflix movie

Rating: PG

Length: 1 hour 49 minutes

Description from Netflix: Descendants of the survivors from the Clotilda celebrate their heritage and take command of their legacy, as the discovery of the remains of the last-known slave ship to arrive in the United States offers them a tangible link to their ancestors.

Why I recommend: I recently watched Descendant for the first time and was really wowed by the film, which follows the descendants of the last known ship to bring enslaved Africans to America in 1860. The family of Timothy Meaher, the man who stole and sold the people he forcibly brought to America, still lives in Mobile, profits off of the extreme wealth Maeher was able to amass because of the sale of enslaved people, and is involved in and profits off of the heavy industry that now takes place surrounding the area in which the descendants now live. While the movie does focus on the search and finding of the ship, it really centers around and follows in real time a larger conversation between the descendants about what justice means and looks like to them. This is not a simple story of suffering, of atrocity, of despair. Like so many other stories about enslaved Africans and their descendants, it is a story of survival, of resistance.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

Rating: Young Adult

Length: 477 pages for the hardcover version (and available for free at the link above)

Description from publisher, edited by me for length: In the virtual future, you must organize to survive. Millions of people around the globe are engrossed in multiplayer online games, questing and battling to win virtual "gold," jewels, and precious artifacts. Others seek to exploit this vast shadow economy, running electronic sweatshops in the world's poorest countries, where countless "gold farmers," bound to their work by abusive contracts and physical threats, harvest virtual treasure for their employers to sell to First World gamers.

Young people become entangled with the mysterious young woman called Big Sister Nor, who will use her experience, her knowledge of history, and her connections with real-world organizers to build them into a movement that can challenge the status quo.

The ruthless forces arrayed against them are willing to use any means to protect their power. To survive, they must out-think the system. This will lead them to devise a plan to crash the economy of every virtual world at once.

Why I recommend: I read For the Win about 2 years ago and really enjoyed it (and have been planning on reading it again soon). The book takes place in a not-too-distant future where new kinds of sweatshops exist but exploitation remains the same. For the Win depicts one path of resistance which takes place entirely digitally, and as our world, and therefore our organizing, becomes more digital, the book is a view into how not only work, but organizing, might become more virtual. Of course the book is not a guidebook on digital organizing, but it is a representation of how powerful digital organizing can (and hopefully will) be in a new age of work. Throughout the novel, I really appreciated the ways in which Doctorow writes about both the dangers of organizing in an abusive system and the incredible way that same organizing can change everything for the people involved.

Convert or Leave, History This Week by the History Channel

Rating: PG

Length: 28 minutes

Description from History This Week: July 31, 1492. In cities, towns and villages across late medieval Spain, whole districts have emptied out. Houses abandoned, stores closed, and synagogues—which until recently had been alive with singing and prayer—now sit quiet. Exactly four months earlier, the King and Queen of Spain issued an edict: by royal decree, all Jewish people in Spain must convert to Catholicism or leave the country -- for good. Why were the Jews expelled from Spain? How did Spaniards, and then the world, start to think of religion as something inherited, not just by tradition, but by blood? And how does this moment help us understand the challenge of assimilation today?

Why I recommend: I love the History This Week podcast and have listened to almost all of their episodes. I listened to this episode in 2021 and have since listened to it twice again because I think it’s so fantastic. Over time, and for many reasons, Judaism has become an ethno-religion which is thought of as being passed down, not just in practice of the religion, but by blood. This episode is a really fascinating discussion of one of the many ways in which that happened by telling the story of the expulsion of Jews from medieval Spain. Not only is the story captivating, it’s discussed by host Sally Helm in a digestible and thought-provoking way.

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