Books I read in June

Two books by Doreen Valiente, a history of antifascism, a collection of SF shorts by N K Jemisin, and some light porn involving Morris dancing.

Natural Magic by Doreen Valiente

I really enjoyed reading this. She wrote it to counteract the idea that you need expensive stuff and courses to do magic, and so it’s a compendium of things you can do with low-cost items. It’s beautifully written too.

Spring in my Step, by Sallyanne Rogers

I read this in April or even March but forgot to list it. It’s a 110-page novella about a woman who does Morris dancing and accidentally falls for a guy who dances for a male-only Morris side that includes a massive misogynist, and the drama that ensues. Very enjoyable and pleasingly feminist. Here’s an interview with the author.

Antifa: the Anti-fascist Handbook by Mark Bray

A history of the armed struggle against fascism during peacetime from around 1900 to the present. It’s important to be aware of the contribution of the armed struggle to keeping fascism down. But, as the book itself says, we also need to build a broad popular movement to prevent fascism gaining a foothold on the political landscape. The major problem with this book is that it doesn’t mention any mainstream anti-fascist activism (examples in the UK include Unite Against Fascism, Hope Not Hate, and Movement for Justice). The policy of no platform for racists has been very widely used to prevent racists and fascists from speaking at universities. If you didn’t know anything about anti fascist organizations, you could come away from this book with the impression that the only thing that held fascism at bay was the armed struggle against it — which is clearly important, but not the whole story. Given the fact that we are currently dealing with an upsurge of fascist violence, and the penetration of fascistic behaviour and policy into the governments of various countries (the UK and the USA among them), a re-evaluation of the contribution of armed antifa groups was clearly overdue. However, I would have liked to see more about groups like Unite Against Fascism, Hope Not Hate, and Movement for Justice. I did find the book somewhat unputdownable and would definitely recommend reading it. It’s very well written and explains a lot that was previously unclear to me. It’s very clear that we all owe a debt of gratitude to the generations of unsung Antifa whose eternal vigilance has kept the fascists from organizing. The section on free speech is important, as it provides good arguments as to why fascist ideas should have no place in public discourse, and there’s no point debating them because they are not rational.

We as a culture have to push back against all manifestations of racism: micro-aggressions, slurs, hate speech, statues glorifying colonialism, under-representation of BAME/BIPOC people in the media, racist policing, courts, prisons, all the way to fascist and white supremacist groups. It will take a broad and deep approach to root out fascism and racism and white supremacism.

The book concludes with the view that both mass organization against fascism and militant anti-fascism are necessary to prevent outbreaks of fascism (such as the ones we are currently witnessing).

Witchcraft for Tomorrow, by Doreen Valiente

Interesting read. Doreen Valiente’s style is engaging and pleasant. She puts Wicca and witchcraft into their cultural context, and tries to show links with other related religions. I like her attitude to sexuality and life in general. The book also has a book of shadows in it for people wanting to start their own coven.

How long ’til Black Future Month, by N K Jemisin

This is an excellent collection of science fiction short stories. It has Haitian steampunk, a story that is a comment on The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, a time travelling restaurant, and many more. These stories are rich and multilayered and powerful. Highly recommended.

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