Read deeper

 

Having read Mary Slosson’s review of Deep River (Wading into murky waters,” 11/11/19), I picked up the novel from my local library against my better judgment. Imagine my surprise when I found, in lieu of the reactionary, stereotype-laden, and politically tone-deaf work described by Slosson, a novel focused on the struggles of working people in the Northwest at the turn of the century. Karl Marlantes’ novel centers as much around an IWW organizer and her desperate attempts to organize the lumber camps as it does any sort of tentatively Trumpian immigrant narrative.

While reasonable people can draw different interpretations from literature, Slosson does not even mention Marlantes’ extensive focus on the efforts of the Wobblies, or his evocative portrayal of the immigrant women who worked and fought for basic rights alongside immigrant men. The claim that Marlantes “valorizes extractive industries” is incredible, given his portrayal of those same industries as ones that broke men, women and the natural world alike in order to enrich a few among the ownership class. If Marlantes portrays the American Dream’s hold over some immigrants and native-born citizens, he also offers a picture of its antidote in the Wobblies’ organizing strikes and advocating for a vision of worker solidarity that both transcends racial boundaries and emancipates women.

I am left wondering if Slosson and I read different books. The Northwest’s history of genocide, white supremacy and natural devastation defines our present. There is no disputing this, but there are many stories to be told about it. One of those stories is the story of white supremacy, the devastation of Indigenous people here, and the exclusion of Japanese, Chinese and Black immigrants. Concurrent with this is another about people who resisted, in the ways available to them, the hatred and extractive logic of their day, and who sought to organize their communities against the brutality of capitalist-
extraction and for a more just world. These two stories are inseparable.

Read Deep River, or better yet, read the preamble to the IWW Constitution, and when considering our shared past remember: “Don’t mourn, organize!”

—Seth Douglas, via email

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