Progressives On the Run


“A magisterial tour-de-force. If Galeano’s Memory of Fire had a sequel, Joel Whitney’s Flights is it: a dissenters’ history of our unjust planet and the defiant courage of those who struggle against all odds for justice” —Junot Diaz

“This mind-bending text is so profound and original it defies a brief endorsement. Just read the book!” —Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

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About the Book

In 1949, the poet Pablo Neruda escaped anti-communist Chile on horseback, scrambling across Andean mountains and rivers disguised as an ornithologist named Antonio Ruiz. During his flight, his masterpiece, Canto General, was printed as samizdat, in secret, disguised by a false dust jacket.

A year later, poets George and Mary Oppen crossed into the Sonoran Desert, fleeing F.B.I. agents who had surveilled their house in the L.A. suburbs. The Oppens spent most of the 1950s as political refugees in Mexico City, exiled from the United States for their relief work to stop evictions during the Great Depression, carried out under the auspices of the Communist Party.

Wanted for a crime she did not commit, Angela Davis went on the run twenty years after the Oppens, describing the struggle against panic in her nightly safehouse transfers: “Living as a fugitive means resisting hysteria, distinguishing between the creations of a frightened imagination and the real signs that the enemy is near.”

What did these refugees experience as they fled their homelands and friends? Bringing together a page-turning roster of refugees the author of the widely acclaimed Finks looks at artists and activists who took flight, imaginative and physical, to escape the oppression of presidencies stretching from Harry Truman to Donald Trump. In these pages are new profiles of Lorraine Hansberry, Malcolm X, Paul Robeson, Diego Rivera, Angela Davis, Gabriel García Márquez, Graham Greene, Miguel Ángel Asturias, Octavio Paz, Frances Stonor Saunders, Guatemalan guerrilla fighter Everado and his American wife, Jennifer Harbury, Nobel Peace laureate Rigoberta Menchú, deposed Honduran President Mel Zelaya and murdered Lenca environmentalist Berta Cáceres.

At once a group portrait of geniuses of creative escape, Flights is also a prehistory (and indictment) of American mass surveillance, a scourge still spreading today.

xxx pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-68219-431-7 • E-book ISBN 978-1-68219-432-4

About the Author

joel whitney author photo

Photo © Gregg Richards
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Joel Whitneyis the author of Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers, which The New Republic called a “powerful warning.” His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Baffler, The Wall Street Journal, Boston Review and New York Magazine. He is a former features editor at Al Jazeera America and a founder and former editor-in-chief of Guernica for which he was awarded the 2017 PEN/Nora Magid Award for Excellence in Editing. His essays in The Baffler, Dissent and Salon were Notables in Best American Essays 2017, 2015 and 2013. He currently curates literary programs at the Brooklyn Public Library.  

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