I’ve done quite poorly with my lovely pile for Kaggsy and Lizzy’s ReadIndies challenge: this is only my fourth read for the challenge, but fortunately they’ve extended it until the middle of March, so I have time to squeeze in a few more. It fits into my TBR Challenge, too, at least. This excellent book from Pluto Press showcases community activist responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, and this seemed a good time to read about it. I originally spotted this on Lovely Bookshelf’s list of Books for Leftists during Non-Fiction November 2020 and bought it in April 2021 among a lot of other books but I do cheerfully note that I have read 11 out of the 16 books featured in that post (and I’ve just created a NetGalley collection on my Kindle so I can see the poor neglected e-books from other sources that languish on it …).

Marina Sitrin and Colectiva Sembrar (eds.) – “Pandemic Solidarity: Mutual Aid During the Covid-19 Crisis”

(24 April 2021, bought with money Ali gave me at Christmas)

The fact we have created a web of solidarity that is able to reach the most vulnerable and precarious during this crisis – it’s a great achievement. (p. 153)

Rushed out to be published in June 2020, this takes a look at endeavours from around the globe inspired by the very beginning of the pandemic; the editor and her circle took a sort of snowballing approach through their networks to reach out to people who might want to contribute and submit pieces or interviews about their or people in their networks’ work. It’s very determinedly non-hierarchical and as equitable in what and who it shows as it can be, extending to putting America (or Turtle Island, as North America is known by many of its Indigenous inhabitants) and Europe towards the end of the book, and covers such a huge range of projects so it feels very inspiring and also bittersweet.

I suppose my reading of this felt a little bit like when I read Mass Observation archive books or novels set in the two world wars and written before they had finished. There’s an air of expectation and hope that feels poignant: people often comment how the best has been brought out in communities – which it was, of course, at that time – and how this is likely to last, and I’m not sure whether we haven’t fractured back into individualism as things have gone back to “normal”.

The efforts range from helping elders who are in lockdown to people with disability’s reaction and activism through food banks and radio stations, pet care and keeping in touch by phone. The countries covered range from South Korea to Italy to Mexico, Argentina, Greece, Kurdistan – and it’s very notable that the basis for the UK work seems here to be on community groups rather than the fierce, protective, left-wing activism in many other countries, where disparate groups banded together to give a combined response.

A worthwhile work of record and history and a book to warm the heart, although reading it now raises more questions than it would perhaps have done at the time of publication.

ReadIndies publisher note: This one is from Pluto Press, who describe themselves as “An independent publisher of radical, left‐wing non­‐fiction books. Established in 1969, we are one of the oldest radical publishing houses in the UK, but our focus remains making timely interventions in contemporary struggles.”

This was officially my fourth ReadIndies read (one of them was a book published by Canongate I reviewed for Shiny New Books, which I talked about on Tuesday).

This was TBR Challenge 2021-22 Quarter 2 Book 9/53 – 44 to go.