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Protest books help us examine our values

Edward Abbey once said,“sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.” Protesting is an action that anyone can take. It is a way to make this will of the people heard when those in power take action that others don’t agree with.

Protests can take many forms – from mass demonstrations to the actions of individuals; from marching on Washington to a lone man in the desert with a monkeywrench. There have been times when reading a specific book has been an act of protest. These novels explore motivation and means of civil disobedience.

Kirbie Bennett, Maria’s Bookshop book seller, recommends Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa. Set in Seattle during the World Trade Organization protests of 1999, the story follows Victor, a 19-year-old runaway, and his chief-of-police father as they navigate the issues on both sides of the protest. The book also follows several other characters and examines the ways that their ideas meld and clash with the outside world.

This book is “relevant now more than ever,” says Bennett. “It is a condemnation of neoliberalism. The protest shut down the meetings and people took notice. Works of fiction have a place in building resistance movements. Literature has a valuable role in expressing freedom and a powerful role in building democracy in the streets, which is what the Seattle protests represented.”

No book influenced the nature of civil disobedience in the West the way The Monkey Wrench Gang did.

“Ed Abbey’s book is especially important to the Southwest,” says book seller Meghan Doenges. “It makes the dam controversy more accessible through Abbey’s writing and the characters.”

The book follows four fictional characters led by George Washington Hayduke as they cut down billboards, pour sugar into the gas tanks of construction equipment and hatch a plot to blow up the Glen Canyon Dam.

“His views are so extreme that it lends more power and passion to an issue that others often write off,” Doenges says. “By advocating for environmental terrorism, he advocates for drastic actions, actions not necessarily violent, and highlights the importance of people taking measures into their own hands through grass-roots organizations because the traditional means are often ineffective.”

The writings of Abbey greatly influenced the organization Earth First! and brought the term “monkey-wrenching” into common vernacular. He showed us that a single man can take action and make a difference.

Books have often shed light on the importance of protest. From Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, which he nailed on the Castle Church doors, to the Hunger Games, protests and the ideas surrounding them are important to our society. They help spread the ideas of the civil rights and the Suffrage movements, they help us examine our values in modern America, and often show how the common people would like to change our society for the better.

These books, and more, are available at the Durango Public Library and your favorite independent bookstore.

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