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Smart Reality

Six Bay Area-inspired non-fictions that breathe life back into the real world.

Photo by Nathan Penlington via Flickr

Last week you might have caught the season premier of Bravo’s “Start-Ups: Silicon Valley,” a reality TV show that introduced six overly ambitious, work-hard-play-hard, potty-mouthed Bay Area entrepreneurs à la "Jersey Shore." Reality check. Reel it back. Each week, instead of stuffing your brain with Hollywood’s silly overhyped version of the real deal, woo yourself out of dumbed-down darkness, and back to a fuller picture of reality with these new and upcoming fiction books and documentaries.

What’s The Matter With White People?
By Joan Walsh
In her personal and political memoir, San Francisco-based Joan Walsh, Salon.com editor-at-large and MSNBC political analyst explores the division between right-wing culture warriors and a fearful white-working middle class in postwar America. Influenced by her experiences living in multicultural San Francisco, the former San Francisco magazine political columnist honestly reveals her thoughts on race, income inequality, the partisan divide and why white working class families defected from the Democratic Party.
"What's the Matter with White People?: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was," Wiley, 278 pages, $25.95.

Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power
By Seth Rosenfeld
For the true-crime aficionado, the story of the FBI’s secret investigation of the Free Speech Movement’s Mario Savio and UC Berkeley’s civil rights and anti-war protestors of the 1960s. Complete with plot twists, FBI surveillance, illegal break-ins and poison-pen letters, Rosenfeld’s riveting tale sheds light on what happens when secrecy and unchecked power goes awry.
"Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power," Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 752 pages, $40.

Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party
By Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr.
In 1966, Bobby Seale and Huey Newtown banded together to form the Blank Panther Party, a revolutionary socialist movement based in Oakland that sought to militantly protect black neighborhoods, fight police brutality, and achieve working class liberation at all cost. According to Seale, the book, published next January, “clarifies the history of our movement, our aspirations, our struggles, and the bitter challenges we faced.”
"Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party,"  University of California Press, 560 pages, $34.95.

Black Fire
By Robert Graysmith
The San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist who brought us the New York Times 1986 bestseller, Zodiac, brings this: the first biography of the real Tom Sawyer, a mid-nineteenth century San Francisco firefighter—and friend of Mark Twain—who hunted down the city’s serial arsonist known by some as “The Lightkeeper.”
"Black Fire: The True Story of the Original Tom Sawyer—and of the Mysterious Fires That Baptized Gold Rush-Era San Francisco," Crown, 288 pages, $26.

Robert Duncan in San Francisco
By Michael Rumaker
After Michael Rumaker graduated from the Black Mountain College, he made his way to San Francisco where he entered the creative and artistic circle of American SF Renaissance poet, Robert Duncan. Next January’s re-release of Rumaker 1996 book is a portrait of gay life in the 1950s and an insight into the literary personalities of the era. The expanded 158-page edition features unpublished letters, between Rumaker and Duncan, in addition to an interview with the author.
"Robert Duncan in San Francisco," City Lights Publishers, 158 pages, $12.95.

The Waiting Room
Directed by Peter Nicks
Through a blend of cinema vérité and character voice overs, this documentary and social media project weaves real-life stories of the patients, staff and doctors at Highland Hospital, a safety-net hospital in Oakland catering to a community of largely uninsured patients. Bay Area-based director Peter Nicks creates an eye-opening narrative that gives a very real, human experience to the healthcare debate.
“The Waiting Room” is screening @ the Roxie Theater in San Francisco, the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, and Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley, Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, and Camera Cinemas in San Jose