Tag Archives: john steinbeck

The 2016 Evan Yeong Literary Awards

As I say at the beginning of every year, you can look back at the first-ever Evan Yeong Literary Awards in 2014 for a fuller description of my relationship with reading, which in turn led to their inception.

evanyeongliteraryawards2016While eventually I’ll run out of ways to write this, the purpose of the third installment of the Evan Yeong Literary Awards is to shine a spotlight on an artistic medium that has taken a bit of a back seat as screen media becomes increasingly more prevalent, calling attention to a select handful of books I read these past 12 months. In 2015 every pick was objectively a winner, but given the rocky year following it’s no surprise that these awards have their ups and downs.

In 2016 my resolution was, just as it will likely be every year moving forward until it becomes unfeasible, to read more than the year before. That said I was devastated to do the final count to see that I read exactly the same number as I did in 2015. You can check out a full list [with the exact dates of when I read each one] at this link.


waywardbus

wokest novel, PRE-2000’s

The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck
Published 1947

Although it’s fallen out of fashion since the time of its coinage in 2015, “woke” is still the most concise way to say “aware of racism and social in justice”. Throughout a novel that could serve merely as a cautionary tale of public transportation Steinbeck communicates time and time again that even though he lived as a person of great privilege, during an era where those privileges were even greater than they are now, he wasn’t afraid to pen several scathing indictments against the very class he was a part of.

eleanorpark

most disappointing, though by no means awful

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Published 2012

The fault with this YA novel can be laid at the feet of those who framed it as a solid example of an interracial relationship in the genre. Although the titular Park is half-Korean the fact is that this is not something he personally relates to as a character, and certainly isn’t a factor that others take into consideration when viewing him [save for Eleanor, who gushes over his features in a way that borders on the fetishistic]. Apart from that this book very competently portrays the familial issues that can plague teenagers, as well as the most authentic depiction of how intense young love can be that I’ve ever read. Continue reading

The Cultural Revolution

Gangs of schoolchildren sporting red scarves chant slogans as they march through the streets. A shop owner tears down an old sign for containing counter-revolutionary terminology. A man is publicly shamed for wearing pants too tight for manual labor- a young woman with scissors cut from the hem to above the knee. The son of a landlord is dragged through the streets as insults are hurled at him.

These are scenes from the so-called “Cultural Revolution”. Begun by Mao and his followers in 1966, these rallies and mass actions were meant to purge China of the last vestiges of antiquated, foreign, and Capitalist thought, replacing it with a proletarian culture that would forever cement the victory of the Maoists in 1950.

The Cultural Revolution quickly degenerated into something that could only be likened to the Reign of Terror following the French Revolution, with anyone accused of counter-revolutionary sentiment facing political and physical attacks. The “revolution” became a hotbed for corruption and suppression of dissent of any kind, and one might even argue that this major attempt to push socialism upon its inhabitants is actually what eventually led to the unraveling of Chinese Communism and its replacement with the sweatshops and slave-labor we more commonly associate with that nation today.

Mao, you see, had it backwards- trying to seize power and then change the hearts and minds of the public. That’s not a revolution, comrades, that’s just a coup. Rosa Luxemburg, an early but seminal Marxist thinker, once asserted that even if each and every civil servant and elected official were to suddenly become Communists, the world would not be one iota closer to being a Socialist one. Luxemburg understood the true nature of revolution- not some bleak military conquest but a fundamental change in the thinking and values of the majority of society. My ability to make you memorize Lenin, work on communal farms, and wave red-and-black flags will not make you Communists, no matter how long you do it (and even if it did, you’d be some pretty lousy Communists at that). The entire disastrous venture of the cultural revolution may have been avoided had Mao heeded the words of American Socialist and presidential candidate Eugene Debs when he proclaimed:

In the simplest possible terms, leaders come and go, the great will of the masses does not. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. The fight to change the basic values and principals of the people must come first– but how is this done? Continue reading

America and the Middle Class

On Saturday, I attended the inaugural caucus of the Clark County chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America.

For work purposes only, people, keep your shirts on. Gordon’s still as red-and-black as ever.

All in all it wasn’t terrible- I actually got an opportunity to talk to the keynote speaker, a local congressman, about the impending vote on military action against my adopted homeland of Syria (for the record, I said if we had money to bomb Syria, we have money to spend giving refugees the medicine, food, and housing they so desperately need).

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

I’m here to talk about what was said (over and over), before the congressman started taking questions from the crowd. Continue reading

Fame Day: Socialism Conference

I’m writing these words in the last hours of what has been a quiet May Day.

For me, at least.

Elsewhere in the world, red and black flags are being proudly waved as people march through the streets, chanting and singing. In Greece, a nation-wide strike is being carried out in defiance of massive lay-offs enacted by the government. In Bangladesh, thousands are protesting after the collapse of a sweatshop resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of workers. Similar protests have broken out in the Philippines as nearly 10,000 workers march in Manila. Youth in Spain are raging against the nearly 30% unemployment rate. Korea, Cambodia, Turkey, Indonesia- just to name a handful- are witnessing similar turnouts.

Continue reading