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BOOKS ISSUE: 25 books from 2011 to check out

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As it happens, one of Bay Area poet Jane Hirschfield's passages currently adorns the famous Kahn and Keville auto repair shop's marquee in the Tenderloin: "What some could not have escaped/ others will find by decision/ each we call fate." Well, you could never blame her for not thinking big. As a well-known and approachable poet, she sports a blurb from O, The Oprah Magazine on this, her ninth collection, the first in six years since releasing her arresting After. And while her slightly witchy, be-scarved, grandiloquent persona screams marketable poetess, there's some understated magic in her latest poems. These ones are full of plums and glass and vague Zen spells that give off, in their overall effect, an rueful, anticipatory sigh. Some childlike wonder seeps in: "Another year ends./ This one, I ate Kyoto pickles," says "Washing Doorknobs," my favorite from the collection. "But one thing you'll never hear from a cat/ is Excuse me" goes "A Small-Sized Mystery." Sometimes you can almost Hirschfield her straining for ambiguity, the poems' heavy life lessons tearing through her delicate webs of observation. Still, each poem here showcases Hirschfield's incisive power. (Marke B.)

 

PLENTY

By Yotam Ottolenghi

Chronicle Books

287 pp., hardcover, $35

Recently I returned to London, eating my way extensively through the city. One of my gustatory highlights was Yotam Ottolenghi's beloved bakery and restaurant, Ottolenghi (with four locations). Not only were his baked goods otherworldly delights, his straightforward but elegant dishes using pristine ingredients were among the freshest and satisfying of my London travels. Plenty, his new cookbook, is a cleanly designed book with vivid photos of recipes like broccoli gorgonzola pie and mushroom herb polenta. Most impressive? Ottolenghi's recipes are 100% vegetarian. The meat-free aspect is barely emphasized, and one feels no lack in the diverse range of flavors (with Middle Eastern influences) presented. Since 2006, Ottolenghi has penned the UK Guardian's vegetarian column — and he's not even a vegetarian! This speaks to how respected he's become as a chef in his use of veggies and grains. Plenty shows this talent off, but most importantly delivers approachable, easy-to-replicate recipes to tickle our palates. (Virginia Miller)

 

HILLBILLY NATIONALISTS, URBAN RACE REBELS, AND BLACK POWER

By Amy Sonnie and James Tracy

Melville House

201 pp., paper, $16.95

Gazing back in time to the era when the Black Panthers were serving up free breakfast to low income youth and coming into the crosshairs of COINTELPRO, few may be aware that an interracial coalition of radical organizers included a contingent of poor white southerners bent on fighting capitalism in solidarity with communities of color. Written by a cofounder of the Center for Media Justice and a longtime San Francisco housing activist, this detailed bit of radical history spotlights the organizing efforts of poor whites, transplanted from rural Appalachia to the low-income Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, to build coalitions of poor people in solidarity with civil rights leaders. Groups like Jobs or Income Now (JOIN), the Young Patriots, and Rising Up Angry launched campaigns against neglectful landlords and cops who brutalized their youth. They represented the white arc of the multiracial Rainbow Coalition, initiated by the Black Panthers in Chicago as "a code word for class struggle." Bizarre as it may seem, "It became common to see [Panther] Fred Hampton 'give a typically awe-inspiring speech on revolutionary struggle, while white men wearing berets, sunglasses, and Confederate rebel flags sewn into their jackets helped provide security for him.'"

(Rebecca Bowe)

 

MR. KILL

By Martin Limon

Soho Press

376 pp., hardcover, $24

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