Book Review: 99 Nights With the 99 Percent

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“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.

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