Henry Giroux on Reading and Thinking Dangerously + Steve Early on REFINERY TOWN, Ada Palmer on SEVEN SURRENDERS, and New Poetry by Elizabeth Arnold
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In February, we began soliciting reading lists and recommendations from booksellers, authors, and friends of the store that, in some way, highlight the critical nature of the very act of reading. On our blog and across our social media platforms, we posted the following:
Reading is critical, in both senses of the word. Crucial, of course, insofar as it is a cornerstone of communication, a primary means by which we receive information. But it is also an active form of resistance, a tactic in the struggle against ignorance, misinformation, and manipulation. To read is to become knowledgeable; to become knowledgeable is to become powerful.
The response to this #readingiscritical project has been so overwhelmingly positive that we've decided to continue it indefinitely. Please continue to follow along, and join the conversation by tagging us on social media and/or using the hashtag #readingiscritical.

Henry Giroux's Critical Reads & Thinking Dangerously in an Age of Trump

It’s time to think dangerously again. In part, this means learning how to hold power accountable, search for the truth, embrace thoughtfulness, and recognize that no society ever reaches the limits of justice. Such thinking should be capable of both understanding and engaging the major upheavals people face and be able to connect such problems to both historical memory and larger political, structural, and economic issues. Such thinking nurtures the imagination and envisions a future in which the impossible becomes possible once again. Hannah Arendt has argued that all thinking is dangerous; this appears particularly true in the age of Trump.  

What happens to democracy when the President of the United States labels critical media outlets “enemies of the people" and derides the search for truth by disparaging such efforts with the blanket use of the term, fake news? What happens to a society when thinking becomes an object of contempt and is disdained in favor of raw emotion? What happens when political discourse functions as a bunker rather than a bridge? What happens when the spheres of morality and spirituality give way to the naked instrumentalism of a savage market rationality?  What happens when time becomes a burden for most people and surviving becomes more crucial than trying to lead a life with dignity? What happens to a social order ruled by an “economics of contempt” that blames the poor for their condition and wallows in a culture of shaming? What happens to a polity when it retreats into private silos and is no longer able to connect personal suffering with larger social issues? What happens to a social order when it treats millions of illegal immigrants as disposable and potential terrorists and criminals? What happens to thinking when a society is addicted to speed and over-stimulation? What happens to a country when the presiding principles of a society are violence and ignorance? What happens is that democracy will wither and die as both an ideal and a reality.

The need to think dangerously becomes particularly important in a society that appears increasingly amnesiac - a country in which forms of historical, political, and moral forgetting are not only willfully practiced but celebrated. The United States has tipped over into a social order that is awash in public stupidity and views critical thought as both a liability and a threat. Not only is this obvious in the presence of a celebrity culture that embraces the banal and idiotic, but also in the prevailing discourses and policies of a range of politicians and anti-public intellectuals who believe that the legacy of the Enlightenment needs to be reversed.

Thinking dangerously is inseparable from the notion of critical reading and reading critical books. It is about how knowledge, desire, and values become invaluable tools in the service of economic and political justice, how language provides the framework for dealing with power and what it means to develop a sense of compassion for others and the planet. Reading critical books is no longer an option but a necessity in the fight against manufactured ignorance. Such reading is the foundation for thinking dangerous and acting courageously. Critical reads are the basis for a formative and educational culture of questioning and politics that takes seriously how the imagination can become central to the practice of freedom, justice, and democratic change.

Henry A. Giroux is a prolific writer and political commentator, who was a central figure in the development of critical pedagogy. His most recent book, America at War with Itself: Authoritarian Politics in a Free Society,was published by City Lights in 2016See Giroux's list and more Critical Reads here
Events 3/6-3/13
Steve Early on Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City
Mon. 3/6 6pm at 57th Street Books
Elizabeth Arnold reads from her fifth book of poems, Skeleton Coast. She will be joined by Cindy Hunter Morgan reading from Harborless, a collection of poems informed by Great Lakes shipwrecks. 
Presented in partnership with the University of Chicago Program in Poetry and Poetics 
Tue. 3/7 6pm at the Co-op
Ada Palmer on Seven Surrenders: A Novel - with David M. Perry
Tue. 3/7 6pm at 57th Street Books
Partner Events
"Is American Democracy in Trouble?" with David Moss
  • Mon. 3/6 4:30pm at Harper Center Room 104 / 5807 S. Woodlawn
Poetry in Motion: A Workshop on Text and Translation in East Asia featuring Ito Hiromi, with English translation by Jeffrey Angles, and Ye Mimi 
  • Mon. 3/6 5pm at the Co-op 
Poetry in Motion: A Workshop on Text and Translation in East Asia featuring Brother Anthony of Taize and Peter Robinson 
  • Tue. 3/7 5pm at International House, Coulter Lounge / 1414 E. 59th St. 
National Youth Poet Laureate Convocation featuring Jacqueline Woodson 
  • Fri. 3/10 1pm and Sat. 3/11 6pm at Poetry Foundation / 61 W. Superior St. 

Centennial Brooks, April 6-8, 2017

The University of Chicago will celebrate the legacy of acclaimed poet Gwendolyn Brooks with events throughout the spring, including a major gathering of scholars, writers and musicians from April 6-8.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of her birth, Centennial Brooks will include a scholarly conference and a celebration of the life and poetry of the first African American poet to win the Pulitzer Prize. Presented by the University of Chicago in partnership with the DuSable Museum of African American History and the Poetry Foundation.

Born in Topeka, Kan., Brooks moved to Chicago as a child. A passionate writer, Brooks published her first poem at age 13, and by the time she was 17 her work frequently appeared in the Chicago Defender. Brooks spent the early part of her career mostly as a typist for lawyers, but was invited by the novelist Frank London Brown to teach a course in American literature at the University of Chicago—the start of a long career in higher education. Closely associated with Chicago’s South Side, in particular the Bronzeville neighborhood, Brooks’ poetry reflected the realities of urban black Chicago.

 “Centennial Brooks has twin aims, reflecting two aspects of the many-faceted work of Gwendolyn Brooks,” said John Wilkinson, chair of creative writing and the Committee on Poetics, who led the Centennial Brooks planning group. “First, we seek to recognize Gwendolyn Brooks as one of the great American poets of the 20th century. Second, we seek to honor Gwendolyn Brooks’ self-identification as a black poet, and to show her present influence as poet and cultural activist on black culture in the United States and in the wider African diaspora.”

The Centennial events at UChicago are presented alongside Our Miss Brooks 100, a city-wide program for Chicagoans of all ages interested in Brooks’ poetry and life. 

View the schedule.

Celebrate Our Miss Brooks 100 at CRES Talks presents: “Bronzeville Out: Gwendolyn Brooks and the Reshaping of African American Poetry," Tue. 3/7 4:30pm at CSRPC / 5733 S. University Ave. Click here for details.

In Print / In Store


The pass thrown 
where the wide receiver isn't, 

thrown at 

air, a gap time leaves. 
It's a

backwards leaving,

or forward to the future you might say, 

taking skill 

--and faith I've learned--
to aim at a space like that 

knowing it will fill. 

From Skeleton Coast (Flood Editions, 2017) by Elizabeth Arnold. Used with permission.
September 21, 2016 Eric Plattner and Kathleen Rooney discuss their edited volume, Rene Magritte: Selected Writings, as sketched by author and illustrator Dmitry Samarov at 57th Street Books. Rooney's second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, was published in January by St. Martin's Press. 
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