Book Review: Mountain Justice by Tricia Shapiro

5 Nov

Mountain Justice by Tricia Shapiro is worth reading even for a couple reasons. Shapiro was essentially an embedded reporter in the Mountain Justice Summer then just Mountain Justice campaigns. She documents the subject matter and inner working of these campaigns.

The book has a lot of useful and interesting information about Appalachia, Coal, Mountain Top Removal, and other subjects that are worth learning more about. It is worth the read just to explore the first hand accounts of these issues in a variety of Appalachian states.

One of the most valuable aspects to this book is the way that it documents the struggles of organizations to take action based on consensus. Shapiro shows a lot of the inner turmoil that occurs as folks try to figure out how to organize to stop mountain top removal. Some of the themes of the problems the groups encounter are: insiders vs. outsiders and how to allow locals to have more influence over the campaign, nonviolence vs. violence, inclusiveness vs. exclusiveness, consensus, communication and more. Read this book so you don’t have to repeat the mistakes that were made throughout this campaign. It is a valuable read for activists based on what you can learn and think about in regards to any large campaign.

Aside from the useful aspects of this book, I was personally frequently frustrated with Shapiro’s voice. The condescension towards ‘punk’ appearing people, the absurd nonviolence stance, and sometimes just the tone of voice were annoying. Some of the time I was less annoyed with Shapiro than with the person she was narrating for. Some of her naivite towards the subject matter made her comprehension of it be lacking. She put emphasis on some really ridiculous things that did not seem to correlate to the rest of the book, and showed her perhaps lack of experience with radical things.

I would still say read this book, even though it might have you feeling just as frustrated as you do when your real life experiences all the complications and debates of radical or anarchist activism. It is just a book, and so allows for better meditation on the situations, and even on when one might be acting just as shitty as the people in the book.

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