.Oakland’s Writes

The Town’s literary legacy shines on

Oakland’s underground literary history is often hinted about, but seldom praised. From the writing of Gertrude Stein and Sarah Fabio, to Michael Chabon’s immortal words praising Telegraph Avenue, what locals fondly call “The Town” is a vastly underrated literary city.

Not only is The Town an author’s haven, but the East Bay Express has helped produce some of the writers of the most noteworthy books this season. Here’s a partial list of what Oakland offers book-lovers this spring:

Why The Black Hole Sings The Blues: Poems, 2007–2020 (Dalkey Archive) – Ishmael Reed

Better known as the award-winning author of 25 books, including Mumbo Jumbo, The Last Days of Lousiana Red and Yellow Back Radio Broke-down, Reed also has credits as a publisher, television producer, songwriter and—foremost among his early readers—poet, with his collection, Conjure, being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972. When it comes to his poetry, Reed has been called a “fire-spitter,” unafraid to speak truth to power or himself. Why The Black Hole Sings The Blues continues the artist’s introspective journeys, as well as his wizened wit on contemporary culture, as he navigates his eighth decade on Earth.

In Defense of Ska (CLASH Books) – Aaron Carnes

A regular music contributor to the East Bay Express, music journalist Aaron Carnes defends a musical genre and social movement that “music snobs” considered indefensible.

In a mix of interviews, essays, personal stories, historical snapshots and ephemera, In Defense of Ska dissects and analyzes the global phenomena of Ska music culture, while celebrating its multicultural, working class roots.

Beginning with a brief history of Ska music, Carnes covers the places, people and fashion upon which the culture was founded and follows the die-hard fans and neophytes that keep that culture thriving today.

Wite Out: Love and Work (SPD Books) – Linda Norton

Last year Lake Merritt’s own Linda Norton produced this long memoir-poem that examines how a white-identified woman has encountered, and resisted, linguistic white supremacist terrorism throughout her life. Norton’s observations hit home, mostly because she employs the language of white privilege to both examine and excavate it. Wite Out is a must for anyone trying to understand the nuanced aggression of systemic oppression and how it affects the afflictor and afflicted in equal measure.

Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live―and How Their Wealth Harms Us All (Simon and Schuster) – Michael Mechanic

Former managing editor of the East Bay Express and current Senior Editor of Mother Jones, Michael Mechanic releases his latest with Simon & Schuster on April 13. Jackpot literally “follows the money” to tell the story of the astronomical gap between the super-wealthy and the rest of us,  through data-analysis, first-person observations and damning testimony. The recent rise of the call that Earth has no place for billionaires, and the immeasurable harm their continued existence does to the delicate balance of our planet, is confirmed in Mechanic’s book. A must-read for current times. “I’ll always have a fondness for the Express, which helped launch the careers of so many amazing authors and journalists,” Michael said.

D. Scot Miller
Managing Editor of The East Bay Express, Former Associate Editor of Oakland Magazine and Alameda Magazine, Columnist-In-Residence at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)'s Open Space, Advisory Board Member of Nocturnes Journal of Literary Arts, and regular contributor to several newspapers, websites and magazines. Miller is the founder of The Afrosurreal Arts Movement through his publication of The Afrosurreal Manifesto in The San Francisco Bay Guardian, May 20, 2009.
East Bay Express E-edition East Bay Express E-edition