Week ending August 3, 2012
Appalachian Health and Well-Being. Univ. of Kentucky. 2012. c.400p. ed. by Robert L. Ludke & Phillip J. Obermiller. maps. ISBN 9780813135861. $50. MED
Nearly 25 million people, from New York to Mississippi and the Carolinas to Ohio, inhabit the rural and urban areas of the Appalachian region. This medical text, the first of its kind, focuses on the health of the region’s inhabitants as well as those who have moved away. Ludke (family and community medicine, Univ. of Cincinnati) and Obermiller (senior visiting scholar, Sch. of Planning, Univ. of Cincinnati) have assembled almost 40 multidisciplinary subject specialists, all of whom are professionals at Appalachian-area colleges or foundations. They contributed 16 chapters, from genetics and family history to obesity and health-care disparities to mental health and substance abuse, all situated within the framework of a “continuing connection between health and justice, or fairness.” Also highlighted are positive changes that have occurred over the past decades, i.e., improved health status and innovations in delivery of health care. Most chapters include “Further Research” and “Policy Recommendations” sections as well as tables or figures. There are many bibliographic references, almost all from the medical literature of the past ten years or governmental websites.
Verdict All academic and medical institutions serving this region will want to purchase; it will also be of interest to public policymakers nationwide.—Martha Stone, Treadwell Lib., Massachusetts General Hosp., Boston
Cobb, Michael. Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled. New York Univ. (Sexual Cultures). 2012. c.240p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780814772546. $65; pap. ISBN 9780814772553. $21. SOC SCI
Cobb (English, Univ. of Toronto; God Hates Fags: The Rhetorics of Religious Violence) presents a radical examination of the prevalence of the idea of the couple in society and its effect on social attitudes toward singles. Exploring representations of couples and singles through selected examples of political theory, literary works, art, television, and pop music, Cobb argues that couplehood can be smothering and fatal to the inner lives of its participants, restricting both partners to a struggle for an eternity of togetherness that is impossible to achieve. Furthermore, the concept of the couple as the default and the couples’ desperation at their own inevitable dissolution have resulted in singlehood being regarded as a pathetic and lonely state—a viewpoint that prevents the unattached from realizing the potential that their solitude offers them.
Verdict Cobb’s approach to the topic may be too polemical for some readers, but for those willing to navigate through his theories this provides a provocative reassessment of the single state and the possible freedoms it can offer.—Kathleen McCallister, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia
Eustace, Nicole. 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism. Univ. of Pennsylvania. (Early American Studies). 2012. c.352p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780812244311. $34.95. HIST
Eustace (history, New York Univ.; Passion Is the Gale: Emotion, Power, and the Coming of the American Revolution) continues her cultural history of the Early Republic with this book in which she takes a completely distinct approach to the War of 1812. Practically a complete disaster, as wars go (especially on one’s own territory), the conflict gradually gained more popular support from the people regardless, of their feelings for president or political party. Eustace illustrates that this support was gained through appeals to the hearts of Americans, made largely through the media of the day. Newspaper articles, political broadsides, pamphlets, books, and speeches all spoke to the emotions, making the war seem an adventure in which participation would expand the country and increase positive opportunities for Americans and their families. Eustace’s descriptions of the conduct of the war are presented objectively, with plenty of blame nonetheless to go around, especially in her narrative of Gen. William Hull’s failure at Detroit and his subsequent travesty of a court martial.
Verdict Written largely for an academic audience, this study will also appeal to serious students of the period. Recommended for those readers.—David Lee Poremba, Windermere, FL
Hachisu, Nancy Singleton. Japanese Farm Food. Andrews McMeel. Sept. 2012. 386p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781449418298. $35. COOKING
A California native who went to Japan to learn about the food and stayed to marry an egg farmer, Hachisu shares recipes and techniques for preparing the food her family eats in their farmhouse kitchen in rural Saitama prefecture. The ten chapters include “Small Bites with Drinks,” “Pickles and Soups,” “Soybeans and Eggs,” and “Noodles and Rice,” and while some recipes require specialty ingredients, many can be made from produce, fish or meat, and grains that are widely available in North America. In addition to essays that highlight unusual ingredients or illustrate aspects of life on the farm, the book includes a glossary of Japanese produce, charts of vegetables and fish arranged by the methods by which they can be prepared, a resource list for ingredients and seeds, and conversion charts.
Verdict This beautifully designed and photographed book highlights an aspect of Japanese cuisine that is less well known in the West than sushi or ramen and does so in an accessible manner. Fans of the local-is-best ethos of the Chez Panisse cookbooks or the Slow Food movement will find much here to love.—Stephanie Klose, Library Journal
Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Pantheon. 2012. 448p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780307377906. $28.95. PSYCH
Haidt (psychology, Univ. of Virginia; The Happiness Hypothesis) is a social psychologist who has extensively researched and written about the psychology of morals (see www.yourmorals.org). The breadth of interdisciplinary research brought to bear on his explanation of why humans can be so convinced they are “right” is truly impressive; legal and business ethics, politics, biology, philosophy, sociology, and cognitive psychology all contribute evidence to his assertion that “morals bind and blind.” The moral matrixces that have coevolved in human culture, often through religions, allow people to live together but can also make it difficult for them to understand one another when they construct or ascribe to matrices using different components. Haidt explains how liberals, libertarians, and conservatives get it right and where they go wrong. In spite of a daunting 52 pages of notes and 28 pages of references, the tone here is conversational, nonjudgmental, and accessible to thoughtful readers from any political or religious position.
Verdict Strongly recommended for anyone who has ever despaired of finding common ground for discussion with people of differing religious or political beliefs. Readers will come away with greater self-awareness, increased appreciation for the potential values of others’ viewpoints, and—if they want—strategies for reaching across the divide.—Paula McMillen, formerly with Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas
Kelly, R. & with David Ritz. Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me. SmileyBooks: Hay House. 2012. c.392p. ISBN 9781401928353. $29.95. MUSIC
Although he’s best known in mainstream culture for his baffling long-form music video operetta “Trapped in the Closet” and for sordid accusations that threatened jail time, Robert Sylvester Kelly’s place as a titan of soul music, one who imported a previously rare hip-hop swagger to R&B, is secure. Written with Ritz, a preferred collaborator for soul artists like Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin, Kelly’s memoir tells of a poverty-stricken childhood in Chicago, encompassing his shame over an inability to learn to read, which apparently persists in adulthood owing to dyslexia. But a talent for basketball and music, encouraged by his mother and a teacher (each receiving numerous encomia herein), pointed a way out: as a teenage street singer, he entertained pedestrians with extemporaneous songs extolling McDonald’s. By the 1990s and beyond, he became the most enduring exponent of the “new jack swing” movement in soul music, not only through formal innovations like investing R&B with conversational cadence but also by writing modern-day standards like “I Believe I Can Fly.”
Verdict Although this book is an essential title for Kelly’s fans, cowriter Ritz was unable to coax much insight or reflection regarding the creative process or turbulent life from an artist who evidently speaks candidly only in song.—Rob Kemp, Brooklyn
Kozol, Jonathan. Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America. Crown. Aug. 2012. c.368p. index. ISBN 9781400052462. $27. SOC SCI
Kozol’s (Death at an Early Age) 13th book is a follow-up to his earlier books, beginning with Rachel and Her Children, about children herded into an infamous homeless shelter in the Martinique Hotel in 1980s Manhattan and later moved into public housing in the South Bronx, the nation’s poorest congressional district. Many of Kozol’s readers have wondered what happened to these children. The youngsters have faced the gamut of social problems in inner cities: poverty, unemployment, drugs, disease, crime, and murder. While some of the boys tragically could not overcome their circumstances, many of the girls have found a somewhat stable adult life through dogged persistence in gaining an education. The story of a girl named Pineapple and her sisters’ struggle to make it through high school and college despite their parents’ deportation to Puerto Rico is particularly moving.
Verdict Although Kozol has made these points many times, this is a fascinating portrayal of the effects of social policy on real people over the past 25 years. Recommended for teachers, social workers, and anyone interested in poverty and education.—Kate Stewart, American Folklife Ctr., Washington, DC
MacLauchlin, Cory. Butterfly in the Typewriter: The Short, Tragic Life of John Kennedy Toole and the Remarkable Story of A Confederacy of Dunces. Da Capo. 2012. c.288p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780306820403. $26. LIT
MacLauchlin (English, Germanna Community Coll.) dedicated five years to learning and writing about the life story of John Kennedy Toole, who killed himself at age 31 in 1969, his novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, still unpublished. The hard work certainly shows in the resulting biography. The reader experiences the life and death of Toole, as well as the amazing journey that the manuscript of A Confederacy of Dunces took long after its author was gone. MacLauchlin’s thorough research included interviewing those who knew Toole and examining Toole’s personal papers at Tulane University. He shows a connection to and understanding of Toole that translates to readers, making them feel as if they, too, have entered Toole’s mind and are with him through his ups and downs. There are several instances where Toole’s behavior seemed unusual to MacLauchlin but would make complete sense to other native New Orleanians (such as this reviewer). Those moments aside, MacLauchlin has a deep understanding of Toole without making any unfounded assumptions.
Verdict Recommended to all literary biography collections and necessary for all those studying the prominent cultural figures of New Orleans.—Sonnet Ireland, Univ. of New Orleans Lib.
Pedersen, Laura. Planes, Trains, and Auto-Rickshaws: A Journey Through Modern India. Fulcrum, dist. by Consortium. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9781555916183. pap. $16. TRAV
Pedersen’s (Buffalo Gal) is one more book in the new genre of interpreting contemporary India to the West. This one is intended specifically for American readers. Compared to other books in the genre, Pedersen’s is especially sympathetic, chatty, and funny (“Dogs will stop by and inquire if there is a sandwich you are not going to eat,” she notes). Unfortunately, the book is in need of a decent fact-checker (N.B., this reviewer saw only an uncorrected galley). For example, Pedersen writes of the swastika, “the Nazis co-opted the symbol from Sanskrit where it’s the character for the sacred meditative om,” but the symbol for the swastika is actually quite different from the one for om. However, in the last chapter, “Game Changers, Women and Children,” Pedersen offers a perceptive list of the gender-related attitudes and customs that need to change in India, from a Western point of view.
Verdict Unlike other recent books in this genre (e.g., by Patrick French, Diana L. Eck, Akash Kapur), Pedersen’s does not go into any great depth but does provide an entertaining introduction to the country. An optional purchase.—Ravi Shenoy, North Central Coll. Lib., Naperville, IL
Scalia, Antonin & Bryan A. Garner. Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts. Thomson Reuters. 2012. 608p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780314275554. $49.95. LAW
Originalism is a method of constitutional interpretation that considers the original intent of the framers and the plain meaning of constitutional text as the final word in applying the Constitution to judicial decisions. Critics of originalism argue that other factors, such as legislative history and intent, should be considered in constitutional interpretation. In this book, Associate Supreme Court Justice Scalia and Garner (law, Southern Methodist Univ.) explain why they believe that originalism is the only acceptable method of constitutional interpretation. The lengthy introduction addresses the foundation of originalism and its roots in legal history. Each of the following 70 chapters discusses a tenet of originalism, beginning with its basic principles and then moving into the various interpretations of text, the meanings of words, and the semantics associated with the text. After examining the semantics, context, and meanings of the text, the authors conclude the book by considering what they see as the falsities of other schools of constitutional interpretation. This book does not defend originalism or compare it with other schools of interpretation. The authors state very clearly throughout the book that they are originalists and that the purpose here is to explore all the facets of originalism. Readers looking for a basic explanation of constitutional interpretation will want to look elsewhere.
Verdict This well-written book goes into detail on a very complex subject—it is not for the general or casual reader. Law students and members of the legal community will find it interesting; other readers should skip it. Recommended for law libraries only.—Becky Kennedy, Atlanta-Fulton P.L.
Slotkin, Richard. The Long Road to Antietam: How the Civil War Became a Revolution. Liveright: Norton. 2012. c.496p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780871404114. $32.95. HIST
Slotkin (English, emeritus, Wesleyan Univ.; No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864) presents a panorama of challenging topography, questionable strategy, bloody close-quarter combat, and uneven generalship, culminating in the battle at Antietam Creek, September 16–18, 1862. The battle is but the denouement of the author’s thorough analysis. The Civil War, he insists, took a savage turn toward political radicalism and massive battlefield casualties, as exemplified at Antietam. Slotkin trails the protracted struggle before then between Union general George B. McClellan and an exasperated President Lincoln: McClellan, a Democrat, hoped to replace Lincoln in office and public favor. Slotkin successfully documents “Little Mac’s” tolerance of slavery and Southern demands for independence, his wavering campaign offensives, his delaying tactics, his insubordination of orders, and his rumored involvement in a possible military coup. In contrast, the reader comes to appreciate Lincoln’s central understanding that without an immediate and permanent resolution of the slavery question through the waging of total war and the Emancipation Proclamation, short-term sectional appeasement would only guarantee a costlier struggle down the road.
Verdict Slotkin offers both the best historical account of the McClellan-Lincoln standoff yet and a persuasive indictment of “Little Mac’s” self-serving plans to prolong the struggle and delay Northern victories. Highly recommended.—John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland