Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Book Review: 'Get Opinionated: A Progressive's Guide to Finding Your Voice (and Taking a Little Action)' by Amanda Marcotte

Review by Susan Gardner
Big mouths can make big changes.
-- Amanda Marcotte, Get Opinionated
Voice. Outrage. Proclaiming the nudity of emperors. Calling out bullshit. Using ridicule and intellect in equal amounts. That's what our writers on the left are here for, right? For focus, for cutting through the spin, for full-throated bellows and blows to hypocrisy and absurdity.
One of our own has a book out now, and it's a pure delight to read.
Get Opinionated: A Progressive's Guide to Finding Your Voice (and Taking a Little Action) 
By Amanda Marcotte 
Seal Press: Berkeley, CA 
Softcover, 256 pages, $15.95 
March 2010

Money quote:
I've been a political blogger and writer for over five years now, and the Obama victory made me realize how many of my political opinions are about what I don't believe instead of what I do. Now that we've got power, we'd better start getting opinionated.
There was no mastermind, no magic formula, no brilliance at all. What conservatives have had for a long time that liberals haven't is a clarity of purpose. They have strong opinions about what they want the country to look like, and strong ideas about how to get there. Liberals have had a hodgepodge of political correctness, infighting and an unwillingness to even label ourselves liberals. But as soon as we had the clarity of purpose that hating Bush brought us, we were able to pull out some victories.
But we can't lean on Bush hatred anymore. Nor can we scatter to the winds and let a bunch of stubborn right-wing nuts take the country over yet again. In an attempt to push the dialogue forward, I wrote this book to give some shape and definition to major issues that liberals should embrace on their own, no matter what angle they come from.
Author: Blogger at Pandagon, former official blogger for the John Edwards presidential campaign, author of It's a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments.
Basic premise: Speak up, shout out, have fun, find your niche, activate your activism and learn how to shoot down ridiculous right-wing absurdities. The book is divided into handy sections that deal with reproductive rights, environmentalism, the war on science and rationality, etc. The main notion is that you can be informed, be passionate, be involved in politics and have a blast while you're at it. Action is the bottom line, but this is the "fired up" part of getting "ready to go." And Marcotte realizes that united as the left was in opposing Bush, we're having a bit of a struggle maintaining harmony and momentum now that Democrats are in power once again.
Clearly, helping to think through the shape and definition of major issues is one of the most important tasks we can be doing collaboratively with out time right now.
Readability/quality: Easy and breezy to read, laugh out loud funny in many parts, Get Opinionated shows Marcotte coming into her own, confident and sure of her step. As she brings her brand of irreverent, sharp-as-a-tack humor to bear on the outrageous claims from the far right, she gives no quarter. She's really hit her stride in the past couple of years of daily blogging, and her ease with her voice and subject matter shines through all of Get Opinionated. Her focus zeroes in pop culture, feminism, politics and where the hell the country is headed, particularly when being pushed to and fro by the hypocrisy of the religious right. More and more she is taking on some of the outlines of her fellow native Texan Molly Ivins, although she's definitely more ribald, less patient and far more willing to boldly identify as a feminist.
Who should read it: Oh, anyone who wants to have a good time while they get reacquainted with the ways and places to take action. Fans of Ivins and Hightower, readers at Pandagon, fellow feminists and anyone thirsting for stripped-down, bare-bones truth-telling with a good side serving of humor would definitely appreciate Get Opinionated. It would also be a great introduction to today's liberalism for the "I'm political but don't know it yet" crowd.
Bonus Quote:
Just to finish off with a sample: Here's Marcotte describing the utopias envisioned by the Libertarian Dude and the Libertarian Lady:
[Libertarian Dude utopia] They're ensconced in their castle, protected from the impoverished masses by a moat and mostly by a giant arsenal of unregulated assault weapons. Throngs of grateful women live in the castle for protection and pay for said protection with sexual favors and chores. There is no need for schools or any other social infrastructure, because the grateful women have to take care of all the shit work to earn their keep. There's no need for a fire department when you live in a castle made of stone.
[Libertarian Lady utopia] Not much different than the guys' version, except they have a seat at the guys' table while the other women wait on them. It's good life of shooting off guns, being rich, and being told by the men around them that they're so much better than those other women, who don't know how to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Smarter. Sexier. Better aim. A sterner voice when addressing the help.

Marcotte's brand of lively, acerbic political smarts can serves as a great attraction to younger political neophytes, who can often be turned off by the older generation's preoccupations with older movement politics. She has just enough awareness of previous generation's work -- particularly in feminism -- to get readers up to speed, and she expands the playing field for progressives by making political awareness as entertaining as Jon Stewart -- with purpose.

Editor's note: This review was originally published at the Daily Kos, which notes that its "content may be used for any purpose without explicit permission unless otherwise specified." The original page can be found here. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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