Yippies, Ukuleles, and Rad Women
A biography, a solo debut, and an empowerment journal deserve attention.
Did It! From Yippie to Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary by Pat Thomas (Fantagraphics Books, 2017, $33.99, 272 pp.)
Jerry Rubin (1938-1994) can be remembered thusly: anti-Vietnam War activist, Pentagon “levitator,” Chicago 8 trial defendant, Yippie, yuppie, Wall Street prankster, Wall Street marketing director, media manipulator, pal and collaborator with Phil Ochs, John and Yoko, John Sinclair, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsburg, and above all, Abbie Hoffman. In this first biography of Rubin, the chameleonic Pat Thomas presents him in all guises. From Rubin’s untapped personal archives and new interviews, Thomas culled eclectic, multimedia evidence, and testimonials that begged for more than a straight narrative. Did It! takes scrapbook form, with Thomas weaving biographical prose through interview snippets, photos, clippings, letters, and journal and diary excerpts. It’s an enlightening and dismaying portrait of a grandiose figure. —Derk Richardson
King’s Daughters Home for Incurables by Karla Kane, Mystery Lawn Music (mysterylawn.com)
If you listen closely to Karla Kane’s lyrics—through the gauzy harmony vocals and the web of chiming acoustic instruments, including her ukulele—you’ll hear sentiments sometimes far darker than her lilting melodies, buoyant rhythms, and innocent, now-cheery, now-wistful soprano. In the waltzing title track, for instance, she offers a metaphor for current times: “A terrible troll lived up in his tower, surrounded by minions who wouldn’t say no.” She adds a touch of cautious optimism, paraphrasing Woody Guthrie: “I don’t know if this machine can kill fascists, maybe annoying them’s all right for now.” The Bay Area artist is accompanied by members of her indie-pop band, the Corner Laughers, and guests Martin Newell and Hungrytown. Sounds recorded in the English countryside (bees, birds, rain) are woven into the mix courtesy of Richard Youell, and nature references abound. —DR
My Rad Life: A Journal written by Kate Schatz and illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl (Ten Speed Press, 2017, $12.99, 76 pp.)
Kat Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl continue to stoke the fires of feminism with a journal appropriate for anyone who’d benefit from daily inspiration. The graphics, colors, and illustrations are as bold as the women and their quick-witted words. There’s advice from Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“My mother told me to be a lady. And for her that meant be your own person. Be independent.”), observation from ballerine Maria Tallchief (“Very often you are in the right place, at the right time, but you don’t know it.”), and inspiration from astronaut Mae Jemison (“The best way to make dreams come true is to wake up.”). Suggested activities abound, from writing poems to drawing a self-portrait to writing down dreams. Expect to raise your rad quotient. —Judith