Utne Reader's library is abuzz with a steady flow of 1,500 magazines, newsletters, journals, weeklies, zines, and other lively dispatches from the cultural front that are rarely found at big-box bookstores, newsstands, or even online. So we share the highlights (and occasional lowlights) of what's landing in our library each week in 'From the Stacks.' Check in every Friday for the latest edition.
In many communities, battles are raging over affordable housing for low-income families and individuals. The issues parsed in these debates are complex and diverse, and local media often don't shed much light on them. Enter Shelterforce, the quarterly magazine of the National Housing Institute (NHI). Though it's written for people and organizations working in the field, Shelterforce provides remarkably accessible explanations of the economic and social dynamics of affordable housing and community building. In the Winter 2006 issue, I almost skipped past the cover story detailing the sale of 'Manhattan's last middle-class enclave,' assuming that it would be too insider for a layperson. Happily, I started skimming the piece instead and quickly found myself absorbed in its discussion of the evolution of rent laws in New York City. The magazine's Fall issue reported on Hurricane Katrina evacuees struggling to find affordable housing in Texas cities. The NHI also maintains a frequently updated collection of Katrina-related resources and articles on its website. -- Danielle Maestretti
It's easy to read Open Spaces from cover to cover. Take the latest issue, filled as it is with solid writing on a diversity of topics. Issue #1 of Vol. 9 opens with a detailed essay on Léon Theremin, inventor of the eponymous electronic instrument that turns radio waves into spooky music. The issue also includes a thorough primer on another spooky topic -- presidential signing statements. According to Philip J. Cooper, the article's author, the Bush administration has used these seemingly innocuous documents that accompany congressional enactments to slip its political and legal intentions under the radar of critics and opponents. -- Evelyn Hampton
The best zines are those without rules. Every so often, Possum Garage Press puts out a tiny, black-and-white booklet featuring poems and illustrations from lesser-known artists, and -- judging from the batch we were just sent -- it's always a gamble as to what you're going to get. Number 4 features an eight-page prose poem about 'what happened when it snowed / too much snow'; #7 opens with a reader's musings on '[a]llowing illegal immigrants to stay in this country'; and #8 contains a previously unpublished 'picture-story' from 1956 about a downtrodden horse in the midst of an existential crisis. The drawings are light and whimsical, with buxom possums gracing the cover, and the issues often begin with a politically charged editor's note. To subscribe, mail $5.00 to P.G.P. c/o Lanyon Studio, 8 Winston Avenue, Wilmington, DE 19804. -- Mary O'Regan
It's been five years since 20 prisoners first arrived at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, and the AshevilleGlobal Report has been fighting to shut the place down ever since. The latest issue of this free weekly newspaper from Asheville, North Carolina, reports on the protests that marked the glum anniversary, while covering a host of other human rights injustices worldwide. The Jan. 18-25 edition features the kind of feisty reporting that earned the newspaper an Utne Independent Press Award nomination in 2004. -- Bennett Gordon
Gabriel García Márquez, the renowned Colombian novelist, kicks off the latest issue of Political Affairs, the monthly publication of the Communist Party, USA. In an ode that originally appeared in the Cuban newspaper Granma, Márquez writes of 'The Fidel Castro That I Know,' subtly explaining the leader's longevity and the controversy that constantly surrounds him. The February issue also covers the connection between poverty and AIDS, and celebrates the recent Wal-Mart union organizing successes in China. -- Bennett Gordon