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B o o k R e v ie w s 4 8 1 Westerners ofall class backgrounds are familiar with these stories, although they too often seem to vanish as shockingly and rapidly as they appear. At the time I began reading this book, a variety of articles were circulating about an exceptionally high rate of rare cancer diagnoses in Libby, Montana, located near my hometown. Asbestos contamination from a vermiculite mine appears to be the cause. A pending lawsuit posits the mine’s officials were well aware of the contamination but chose (along with company doctors) not to disclose this information to the company’s employees or the town’s residents, many of whom were given toxic material from their workplace to use in their homes and gardens. Working-class people’s lives have always been cheap to their employers, as stories like this demonstrate, and are particularly vulnerable in the United States at this time, which is “a time ofruthless economic disparities, of disappeared jobs and struggling cities and towns, of political and corporate oligarchies, and fear of America’s vulnerability and its imperialistic power” (3). Cultural visibility and social empowerment are clearly linked, and work­ ing-class lives and experience portrayed in Hands, beyond providing sobering depictions of capitalism’s depravity, illustrate vividly and movingly the strength and vision working-class experience provides its artists and activists. W OBBLIES! A Qraphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World. Edited by Paul Buhle and Nicole Schulman. London: Verso, 2005. 305 pages, $25.00. Reviewed by Martha A. Sandweiss Amherst College, Massachusetts This popular, celebratory history of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) marks the hundredth anniversary of the radical labor movement’s founding in 1905. The product of many different artists and writers, this book challenges conventional history book formats much as the Wobblies chal­ lenged the economic structures that shaped the lives of American workers. No single voice shapes this book; no tight narrative thread holds it all together. The story of the IWW, the editors write, “was collaborative, collective, not reliant on any one hero or heroine” (2). Correspondingly, this book combines brief written accounts of the IWW with a collection of graphic stories created by more than thirty artists working in a variety of visual traditions ranging from 1930s political art to the underground comix movement. Text and images are united in the emerging tradition of the graphic novel. The loose, chronological structure of the book takes the reader from the union’s early days, with tributes to such figures as Mother Jones, Big Bill Haywood, and Emma Goldman, up to the present, with portraits of folksinger Utah Phillips and the activists Gary Snyder and Judi Bari. Along the way, graphic stories appear about some of the central events in the IWW’s history— W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e W in t e r 2 0 0 6 the 1912 strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts; the 1913 pageant of the Paterson Strike that brought John Reed, Mabel Dodge, and a host of other Greenwich Village artists to the strikers’ support; the ongoing repression aimed at move' ment leaders through the 1910s and ’20s. By 1960, the union which once represented tens of thousands of workers, had only one hundred paid members. But this book argues for its renewed and continued vitality by highlighting the support it has offered in recent decades to various student movements, environ­ mental activists, and even—in Manhattan—Starbucks employees. Nothing in this book explains precisely how it came together. The artists range from established figures like social activist and printmaker Sue Coe and cartoonist Harvey Pekar, to graduate students, first-time artists, and figures best known within the comics world. Most of the fifty graphic stories seem to have been created specifically for this volume, but it’s not clear. Were the artists assigned particular topics? Did the editors vet their work for historical accuracy? A reader will likely feel uncertain whether to turn to this book as a history text or as a rousing graphic counterpart to the celebratory folksongs...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 481-482
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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