Another Positive CHOICE Review: For Insider Histories, Part 2

It’s never happened to me before but I’m delighted that it did: Positive (okay, actually glowing) reviews two months in a row in CHOICE. Last month they reviewed Michael “Mica” Kindman’s story, My Odyssey through the Underground Press, which is volume 2 in the Voices from the Underground Series. This one is for Insider Histories of the Vietnam Era Underground Press, Part 2, which is volume 3.

Readers of popular journals may not be familiar with CHOICE but it is a key decision maker for librarians purchasing books for their libraries. I’m grateful to them for permission to reprint it here. It appears in the September 2012 issue. While it contains a few errors, they are minor and do not detract from the overall importance of the review.

This volume joins the series’ first volume (reprinted in 2011) and includes another interesting diverse sampling of underground newspapers that existed during the Vietnam War period. Examples include The Ally (an American GI newspaper), the Eugene AUGER [sic] (focusing on the antiwar movement), The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service, The Furies Collective [sic] (a Washington, DC-based feminist and lesbian newspaper), It Aint Me Babe (the first national newspaper of the Women’s Liberation Movement), The Kudzu (a Jackson, Mississippi, newspaper published by the Southern Student Organizing Committee, affiliated with Students for a Democratic Society), and New Age (an underground workers newspaper), among others. There are also background stories and firsthand tellings that complement the content of volume 1, from Fag Rag (a Boston-based underground newspaper that was part of the Gay Liberation Front press) and The Fifth Estate (out of Detroit). The book features illustrations, including staff working and pictorial collages. Required reading for those interested in the underground press or this era in the US, this book directs attention to and provides missed voices in scholarship of this period in history. Summing Up: Essential. All readers.—M. Goldsmith, Nicholls State University (Reprinted with permission from CHOICE http://www.cro2.org,  copyright by the American Library Association. )

Feminist Author Susan Brownmiller to Write Foreword to Volume 3

I am delighted to announce that Susan Brownmiller has agreed to write a foreword to volume 3 of the four-volume Voices from the Underground Series.

Susan is one of the pioneer leaders of the second wave of the feminist movement that burst forth in the sixties and seventies and is still changing the world. Her first book, the groundbreaking Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, redefined rape forever as a feminist issue. She has been a supporter of the Voices from the Underground Series since it first came out in its earlier iteration in 1993.

Not long after the first edition went out of print, long before it had reached its sales potential (a story for another time), I received a phone call from Susan. She was at the time in the process of writing her history of the feminist movement, In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution, and she needed a copy of Voices for her research. She said, “Hi, Ken, this is Susan Brownmiller.” I thought to myself, “Susan Brownmiller!” Honestly I can’t remember if I expressed my surprise out loud. Okay, I admit it, I felt like a groupie because she was an important figure in a movement that I at times followed and at other times led (I’m talking about the general antiwar/countercultural movement, not the feminist movement) but at all times respected highly and loved being a part of. Sadly I wasn’t able to help her—my personal supply of books to sell was already gone. Fortunately Marilyn Webb, whose story of the founding of off our backs, the first major feminist paper to emerge on the east coast, appears in the just-released first volume of the four-volume series, was able to help Susan. Marilyn’s story is footnoted several times in Susan’s book.

I never forgot that incident, so while I was working on this new edition I contacted Susan and asked her for a testimonial quote. Generously, she came through. Her quote appears on the back cover of volume 1, along with quotes from Bill Ayers, Tom Hayden, and Chris Atton, professor of media and culture at Scotland’s Edinburgh Napier University. Here’s what Susan wrote:

What a boon to historians! Ken Wachsberger’s Voices from the Underground is crucial to an understanding of the literary and political history of the 1960s counterculture movement. This valuable resource must stay in print, if only for academics who wish to study the amazing phenomenon of the alternative newspapers, put together by amateurs, that sprang up across the country in those fervent years. Wachsberger’s material, largely in the form of “how we did it” memoirs, is rich in personal histories and anecdotal details that are collected nowhere else.

So when I visited her on my next trip to New York I expected her to tell me how much she loved the book. Instead she said, “You don’t have enough on the feminist press. You need to include It Aint Me Babe.” I tried to explain to her that I already had off our backs and The Furies, the lesbian feminist paper put out by the legendary Furies collective, and that, while the book contained representative writings of the different genres of underground papers, it didn’t pretend to be comprehensive. But she insisted the feminist papers deserved more. She told me to contact Laura X, whose interview with a rape victim in Berkeley had inspired Susan to write Against Our Will.

Laura X is legendary in feminist lore as the premier archivist of the feminist movement. She embraced my invitation and pulled together other key figures from Berkeley’s It Aint Me Babe, the first major feminist underground paper, to tell their story for the first time. The lead author is Bonnie Eisenberg, founder of Babe, but she received critical help from Laura, Trina Robbins, Starr Goode, and Alta. Appendices are by Laura, who writes about her archives, and Trina Robbins, one of the pioneer feminist comix artists, who helped to break through the men’s-only barrier.

The story of It Aint Me Babe appears in volume 3, which will be out next year, so it was only natural for me to invite Susan.

I am truly honored that she accepted my invitation.

And, incidentally, she was right. I needed to include It Aint Me Babe.