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Book Review: We Are Wisconsin

The Wisconsin uprising in the words of the activists, writers, and everyday Wisconsinites who made it happen.

We Are Wisconsin Book Cover

We Are Wisconsin
Erica Sagrans, Ed.
Tasora, 2011, 295 pages, $18

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Six months after Madison was occupied by students, teachers, and working people opposed to their governor’s anti-union bill, “Wisconsin” remains not just the name of a state, but shorthand for a movement.

It was a mass uprising that developed by the hour—sometimes faster. People knit together in defiance of threatened arrest. Pizzas arrived that had been ordered by supporters in Europe. Activists organized cleaning crews. Cops finished their shift policing the capitol and joined other workers to occupy it.

How do you capture the outrage and insights of a people’s movement just as it becomes history? Erica Sagrans has collected some of the best Wisconsin-inspired writing in We Are Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Uprising in the Words of the Activists, Writers, and Everyday Wisconsinites Who Made It Happen. 

The book provides thoughtful assessments of  Wisconsin’s lessons, and documents the energy of the movement, with original and reprinted essays and articles from established thinkers like John Nichols, Medea Benjamin, and Van Jones. Journalists share space with academics and activists, and a childhood neighbor calls Scott Walker to account.

We Are Wisconsin
We Are Wisconsin
Video: Meet the people who
made history in Wisconsin.

Contributors consider a range of explanations for why the Wisconsin moment struck where and when it did: social media, inspiration from Egypt, the state’s radical legacy, and (most persuasively) an existing progressive infrastructure reacting against an existential threat to organized labor. The book airs conflicting views on key strategic debates: how much to comply with police during the occupation; how much effort to put into recalling Republicans in the weeks that followed.

We Are Wisconsin also charts how the protest is inspiring new progressive organizations, and challenging and reinvigorating American labor. It establishes the importance of Madison, Wis., just as a new wave of protest spreads from Wall Street to cities and towns around the world.


Josh Eidelson wrote this article for The YES! Breakthrough 15, the Winter 2012 issue of YES! Magazine. Josh is a freelance writer and a former union organizer. His website is josheidelson.com

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