“Most lucky reporters get to see one major movement in their lifetime,” Chris Faraone wrote in early October 2011. “Occupy is shaping up to be the most intense beast I’ve ever witnessed.” At that time, Faraone was in southern Florida, seeing the earliest days of Occupy Miami, and coming to terms with his initial skepticism. “I’m becoming convinced that of all the mass movements I’ve covered,” he says, “this one will grow the quickest, and become the biggest.”
In his new account of the Occupy movement, 99 Nights With the 99 Percent, it’s fair to say that Faraone approaches his subject from a unique angle. Like many veteran activists, he has deep roots in the precursors to Occupy. 99 Nights’ first two chapters cover this world of high morale and low turnout, from spirited actions in front of Bank of America branches to anti-foreclosure neighborhood barbecues. If this portion of the book is gritty and loose, it is also infused with the same tough spirit that Faraone encounters throughout the next three months. It is this spirit that allows him to overcome his early reservations about Occupy’s procedural tedium and its tendency to overshadow other ongoing struggles.
Faraone’s book, like the movement itself, is diverse and challenging. The structure is strictly chronological, but swings wildly between a number of different occupations, personalities, and events. During the first three months of Occupy, Faraone crisscrossed the country at a dizzying pace, and his writing manages to capture at least some of that madness. In between working groups and flash-bang grenades, the book overflows with interviews, photos, and blistering first-hand narrative.
At the same time, there is little that Faraone romanticizes about the movement. Though it’s clear he is energized by what he sees, the book maintains a critical tone that gives his narrative a good deal of authority. Faraone pulls no punches in describing camps’ lack of diversity, internal violence, and complicated relationships with police and other movements. Faraone’s furious attention to detail presents an absorbing, immediate account infused with red-eyed sincerity.
It’s that sincerity in fact that makes 99 Nights a less than complete history. But if we don’t get a full picture of a disparate and complex movement, we do get a vivid sense of the passion and energy that pervaded it.
Read an excerpt of 99 Nights With the 99 Percent, right here.
Image by Katie Moore. Used with permission.