Tag Archives: againstthetidebooks

MY BOOKS ARE HERE…

 

…and they are beautiful! What a joy after all these years of labor and learning on how to become a writer. The books are here because of Mike’s insistence that I finish, because I’m a Detroiter and Detroiters never quit, and because of my amazing editor and her design team from Maverick Books. And, of course, all the support and encouragement I received from my family and friends.

As I approach my September years, my memoir is my gift to young women and those young of heart, who are struggling to put their lives and daily experiences into perspective during this period of divisive politics and racial inequality. To older readers who have shared these years with me, I hope you find solace in the recalling the gains that we made for a better humanity in the social justice movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

I am excited about the book’s exclusive “Activist’s Survival Guide,” which offers a relevant, critical bridge between generations of world changers fighting for a better tomorrow. A condensed version of the guide is included on a removable postcard enclosed in the book.

I want to thank my developmental editor, Cheryl Woodruff for sticking with me and for challenging me to write dozens of topic essays and record those closed-eye descriptions of some of my moments of pain. I understand that this was necessary to bring substance to my writing and create a work that offers a deep experience for my readers.

I confess that I didn’t always agree and appreciate the feedback from my team. But, I have learned to listen and usually to comply with their input because I knew (and was sometimes reminded) that they were the ones with the expertise. I see now, how their influence added value to my work. As I peruse the final product, and experience the wondrous feel of the book in my hands, I am totally delighted. I hope you will be too.

My book is available for pre-order on Amazon and the Seattle Book Company. My sell-date is May 15, 2018. I am using this interim period for reviews. If you know anyone who might do a review, please contact me via this website. A press release is posted on my website media page.

I have several book signings coming up. I will list these on the Against the Tide Facebook page. Don’t forget to follow us.

My niece, Alena and me at Pages Bookshop.

ONLY LEFT HANDED PEOPLE ARE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND (words on my lefty son’s favorite tee-shirt)

So, why, since I am right-handed, did I choose to name my book: WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist?

You can attribute it to the anthropologist in me. Or you can attribute it to a brainstorming session with my editors in a search for a unique book title. In either case, you would be correct. And it fits, you see, because during that period I was a foot soldier using my left hand to advance social justice and my right hand to love and sustain my family.

Throughout our known history, cultures have ascribed meaning to the symbolism of right and left handedness. These distinctions about right and left appear in science, nature, the writing of our various languages, and in our politics.  Chris McManus has written a fascinating book titled: Right Hand, Left Hand: The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms and Cultures (Harvard University Press, 2002) and suggests “that our asymmetric bodies, which emerged from 550 million years of asymmetric vertebrate evolution, may be linked to the asymmetric structure of matter.” The book is a bit of a heavy read but engaging throughout for all you science junkies.

We know that the majority of people are right handed but evolutionary studies cannot yet tell us why. We do know from the study of medicine that the left side of our bodies is controlled by the right side of our brains. This brings me back to my son’s favorite shirt; his right brain controls his left handed function.

Right and left hand are deeply embedded in nature as well as  our cultural and sociopolitical structures. We know from the study of physics that tornadoes spin counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. We know that European writing goes from left to right, while Arabic and Hebrew go from right to left.

The meaning of right and left was formalized in western politics as early as 1789. In France, radicals pressing for change were seated on the left hand side of the legislative chamber where they could be ignored, and conservative nobles were seated to the favored right of the presiding officer. This historical practice contributed to the evolution of the terms we use today to identify the political progressive left and the conservative right in western politics.

Today, we are facing a leadership crisis in our country. It is time to resist. The political left needs to arm ourselves for the emerging social justice struggle with knowledge of our history and lessons learned from the past. My book contains lessons learned in 50 years of struggle and an “Activist Survival Guide.”

“These are days when no one should rely unduly on his “competence.’’ Strength lies in improvisation. All the decisive blows are struck left-handed.”

–Walter Benjamin, German philosopher, 1882-1940

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: LESSONS FROM A GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST

By Joann Castle   Coming soon…

Please click “follow” at the top right of this document and keep up-to-date on my publication time-line. You won’t want to miss this.

MARTHA ALDERSON PUT STORY STRUCTURE ON MY DINING ROOM TABLE

I didn’t begin my life thinking that I would be a writer. I was always much too busy for that. But after my kids left home, I began to write some small articles for newsletters and I found myself keeping a journal. I felt empty with everyone gone and it gave me comfort to commit my thoughts to paper. Over the years, my urge to write kept growing. I started writing stories for my friends and they encouraged me to write more. The idea of writing a book seemingly started without my consent but the words kept waking me up at night. Writing was taking hold of me.

As I struggled to make sense of my bedside notes, I learned of a writers’ group at Wayne State University’s Institute of Gerontology, called “Adventurous Writers.” It was there that I began to learn the trade: developing a theme, learning how to plot a story, the elements of the hero’s journey, and the importance of through-lines. After the basics are in place, you top it off with a “hook,” a cherry on top of an ice cream sunday, something to immediately capture the readers’ interest so they can’t put it down.

We studied many different approaches for mastering story structure. My favorite book that taught me how to write was The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Alderson (Adams Media, 2011).  In the text were diagrams of plots illustrating elements of the universal story, prescribing how many pages should be devoted to the beginning of the story, exactly what page should end the beginning and when to move the story upwards in intensity towards the crisis. Once your hero is over the hump and just when you thought everything was going well, she is thwarted by another barrier, the climax, which quickly unfolds into the resolution. All stories follow this same plot structure. Think about it when you are watching a movie or your favorite TV show.

As I took hold of the ideas in Anderson’s text, I dutifully made a trip to the butcher at Eastern Market and tried to explain why I needed a long piece of butcher paper. The butcher looked puzzled but he gave me the paper. I started my plot-planning on the dining room table, minimizing our eating space to my husband’s chagrin. I used red sticky notes for hot emotional scenes, blue for the cooler transitions, and yellow for the lessons I was learning. As the story grew more involved, i needed more space and I moved to the to the living room floor, blocking access to our front windows and my husband’s favorite easy chair. After a spousal chat, I withdrew to the wall next to my computer but the story moved on.

My confrontation with the archbishop was my first chosen hook, but as my story evolved and I worked to get its elements in the proper places, the archbishop got replaced with J. Edgar Hoover’s counter-intelligence program, COINTELPRO. You will want to meet the characters in my upcoming book:

What My Left Hand Was Doing:

Lessons from a Grassroots Activist

by Joann Castle

Coming soon: Click “follow” at the top of this page for updates on publication.

PEOPLE ASK ME WHY I WRITE IN MY GENRE

#Sylvia Hubbard always asks her new Motown Writers, “What is your genre?” As a novice writer, when I first heard her say that, I didn’t know what she meant. But I soon learned that books are divided into categories called genres. You may notice this when you visit your library or your favorite book store. My genre is called “historical narrative.” This simply means that I write about history in a story form.

“You tell good stories,” a friend commented. “Why don’t you write fiction?” Because I’m an activist and I can’t stop feeling that every moment of my life should matter in the quest for a better world. I write in my genre because I want my work to contribute in some small way to inspiring others to think about the world in new ways.

I am also an anthropologist, trained to see that we are all products of our cultural outlooks, our belief systems, our social structures, our rulers, the trappings of our times and our access to resources. I see the world in broad strokes encompassing many cultures, societies and nations. This is where I draw my outlook on life. This is work I love.

This is the perspective I use in my new book: WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist, (a Detroit Memoir). We all start our lives viewing ourselves through a certain lens, usually stemming from our family and our childhood experiences. Yet as we grow and learn, we begin to expand our vision and open our view to understanding the experiences of others. We are fortunate today, to be living in a time that is forcing us to come to grips with reality of life in the United States, the challenges to our democracy and our relations with the outside world.

We must not allow ourselves to become isolated at a time when we need community more than ever before. I hope you will find pivotal intergenerational lessons learned in my story that can be applied to the new historical struggle emerging from our young and spirited upcoming social activists. Listen to their narrative. They hold our future in their hands.

Coming soon: What My Left Hand Was Doing: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist. Then start your own discussions.

Click “follow” at the top of this page for updates on publication.

WHAT HAPPENED TO COLLABORATION AND COALITION BUILDING?

Control, Conflict and Change Book Club Discussion. Photo by Ken Castle, 1971. Copyright 2017.

I’m an activist, I can’t stop. I’ve been pursuing social justice issues for fifty years. I’ve been an organizer as well as a foot soldier in many stages of the social justice movement and feeling good about my skills. But over the last few years as I’ve begun to write about my experiences, I’ve faced a new problem in my life, a wall of anguish about my ability to master the challenges of social media, when all I want to do is communicate with my readers.

I  can see the good in social media. Activists all over the country have harnessed its power to spontaneously express outrage and get people on the streets to protest our social ills. It has changed our social conversation and has clearly brought issues of race and white supremacy in our country into timely focus for broader discussion. But where is that discussion occurring?

There is a quote from Alan Kay that resonates with me, “The best way to protect the future is to invent it. 

If we want social change, we need to create the educational opportunities, the collaboration and coalition building necessary for a better tomorrow.

Here are my problems with social media as a foundation:

  1. Social media encourages isolation.
  2. Social media has reduced our social interactions to like, comment, share, tweets and retweets or simply post a photo. Living life in the social media fast-lane robs us of the poetry and warmth of human communication. To solve our social issues, we need to talk.
  3. Social media can speak falsehood or truth. Our right to know the truth is one of our most precious democratic values.
  4. My friends and cohorts text often. Yes, we accomplish a lot of work but I regret the loss of the sound of their voices.
  5. The depth of post-9/11 surveillance may never be totally known to us but anyone who uses a credit card, a smart phone or signs-on to social media is already under surveillance.

It’s time to get together and talk.

Check out my new book: What My Left Hand Was Doing: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist and start your own discussions.

Click “follow” at the top of this page for updates on publication.

GRIEVING AND LEGACIES

I’m grieving right now. At the moment my pain is who I am. For forty-five years, Mike Hamlin was my confidant, my lover, my husband, and my best friend. In that sense, I have nothing to complain about. I was so fortunate to be loved by Mike who was both a committed black labor activist and a devoted family man. Mike gave me everything in life that mattered. As a mutual friend told me recently, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”

I am desperately working to finish my book which is a tribute to Mike, our love for each other and for those who give their hearts to the struggle for social justice. My story takes place in Detroit during the tumultuous years of the 60s and 70s, but it is more–in that I seek parallels in our current period and offer lessons learned on how to avoid mistakes we made in the past.

Mike was a big supporter of my decision to use the written word as a medium for reflecting on our history. He was also my first-line proofreader, which led to many hours of mutual reflection on the period and what it means today. Our long discussions revealed many facets of the intense aspects of being in a movement. I learned, and he learned many details of our experiences during this period that in our busy lives, we had never discussed before.

Now you can read about it in my UPCOMING BOOK:

What My Left Hand Was Doing: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist

       by Joann Castle

Includes an Activist’s Survival Guide.

COMING IN FALL 2017: “Follow” my blog to get the latest details.

BURTON THEATRE VENUE PROMOTES COMMUNITY DISCUSSION

Mike and I recently attended a showing of the movie, “Brothers on the Line” at Cinema Detroit an independent film theatre in Detroit’s midtown district, and the original site of the Burton Theatre whose name still stands at the driveway entrance. Mike was invited to participate in a panel discussion of the film.

“Brothers on the Line” is a well-constructed documentary covering the story of the Reuther brothers and the making of the U.A.W. Written and directed by Sasha Reuther, grandson of Walter Reuther, this film stands both as a fitting memorial about the dedication of the Reuther family to a more just society as well as IMG_5219an excellent educational tool for our younger generation.

The panel was introduced by Tony Paris, lead lawyer at the Maurice Sugar Law Center, and included Graham Cassano, author, professor, and film critic from Oakland University; Steve Babson, author, labor educator, and union activist who assisted with production of the film; and Mike Hamlin, co-founder of the Inner-City Voice newspaper and one of the leaders of DRUM and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, who spawned a black workers movement in Detroit in the late 1960s.

We should support Detroit’s independent film theatres that offer alternative films and venues for interactive community discussion. Our appreciation goes out to Paula and Tim Gathiet who are keeping the Burton Theatre tradition alive. Check them out at: www.cinemadetroit.com.

Mike’s book. A Black Revolutionary’s Life in Labor: Workers Black Power in Detroit is a book for labor activists, students and educators, community organizers and lovers of black history. Order your copy now on this website. Also available on Amazon.com.

Won’t you join us on our journey. Click ‘Follow’ on this blog page.