Week ending August 8, 2014
Alter, Ethan. Film Firsts: The 25 Movies That Created Contemporary American Cinema. Praeger. 2014. 284p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781440801877. $48; ebk. ISBN 9781440801884. FILM
Contemporary American cinema is presented as formed by 25 selected films, based not on artistic but on innovative elements, “firsts,” that affected the film industry with their singular contributions. For instance, 1989’s sex, lies, and videotape introducing a commercial prospect for independent cinema, Blade Runner (1982) releasing the director’s cut (in 1992), Psycho (1998) spawning the remake culture, The Hurt Locker (2008) garnering a best director Oscar for a woman, Life in a Day (2011) using YouTube as source content, Show Girls ’95 testing the NC-17 rating, Thin Blue Line (1998) saving the life of a death-row prisoner, and more. Alter, chief film critic and editor for the website televisionwithoutpity.com, discusses each film incisively, adding detailed anecdotes of the origins, effects, and challenges of these contemporary works in a changing field, showing extensive examples of their influences. Documentation from widely differing sources suggests the reliability of a mortarboard; the book’s articulate witty style conjures up a porkpie.
Verdict Interesting and entertaining for the generalist, essential for the film student, and fun for the American culture buff.—Ann Fey, SUNY Rockland Community Coll., Suffern
Babbs, Michelle. Anti-Inflammatory Eating Made Easy: 75 Recipes and Nutrition Plan. Sasquatch. Nov. 2014. 208p. photos. index. ISBN 9781570619335. pap. $22.95. COOKING
Many people swear by an “anti-inflammatory” diet to help ease everything from joint pain to cancer. In many ways, it strongly resembles a Mediterranean diet, focusing primarily on plants, with protein coming from legumes, nuts, and fish. In her first cookbook, Babb provides a brief introduction to this type of eating and also a plan for a 21-day cleanse. The vast majority of the book though is a basic cookbook, with 75 delicious-sounding recipes. Nicely illustrated with beautiful color photos, the recipes include all the usual categories (breakfast, salads, sides, vegetarian entrees) but also some you might not expect, including fish and meat entrees, snacks, and desserts. While some ingredients may not be in your pantry (chia seeds, agave nectar), the recipes themselves are generally uncomplicated and mainstream enough to please most palates.
Verdict A nice addition to the cookbook shelf, with recipes that will appeal to many, not just those with specific health concerns. A trendy topic, recommended for public libraries and health collections.—Susan Hurst, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH
The Big Book of Symptoms: A–Z Guide to Your Child’s Health. American Acad. of Pediatrics. 2014. 277p. ed. by Steven P. Shelov & Shelly Vaziri Flais. illus. ISBN 9781581108408. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781581108330. CHILD REARING
In this directory-style guide to common childhood illnesses and accidents, coeditors Shelov (pediatrics, Stony Brook Medicine; associate dean of undergraduate medical education, Winthrop Univ. Hosp., Stony Brook) and pediatrician Flais give parents some at-home advice for self-diagnosis and treatment and when to seek medical help. The book is arranged in an A-to-Z format within age group, which means that certain illnesses, such as diarrhea, will have two entries depending on the age of the child experiencing the symptom. Chapters for three age groups (early infancy, babies and children, and teenagers) are followed by two additional sections on first aid and safety and prevention. Illustrations, charts and graphs, and anatomical cross-sections lend additional insight into topics such as bee stings, jaundice, wandering eyes, and eating disorders.
Verdict In July 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published My Child Is Sick: Expert Advice for Managing Common Illnesses and Injuries by Barton D. Schmitt, whose bulleted and numbered triage system was more helpful. While any AAP title is worthy of consideration for libraries, those owning Schmitt’s can pass on this.—Julianne Smith, Ypsilanti Dist. Lib., MI
Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal. New York Univ. Sept. 2014. 384p. ed. by Jennifer Cognard-Black & Melissa A. Goldthwaite. ISBN 9781479830213. $30. COOKING
Food and cooking are infused with culture and meaning, steeped in stories and history, salted with memory. This book is a collection of stories, memories, literature, and poetry of food and cooking. With various writers and chefs sharing their experiences with and thoughts on food, this book takes the reader into the world of food literature and food sociology. Selections range from poetry and fiction to cookbook excerpts. All are arranged as one might arrange a cookbook, starting with appetizers and ending with dessert. Each section begins with an excerpt from an influential American cookbook, progressing chronologically from the late 1700s through the present day. The work is one a reader could happily read cover to cover, or, as with a good meal, savor one piece at a time. The selected authors are all American, but the topics covered are a melting pot from 100-year-old eggs to turkey gumbo to commodity foods. Authors include Sherman Alexie, Julia Child, Fannie Flagg, and Alice Waters.
Verdict This book will delight foodies, food historians, anthropologists, cookbook enthusiasts, and any literature fans who like to eat.—Dawn Lowe-Wincentsen, Oregon Inst. of Technology, Portland
Bradley, Fern Marshall. Saving Vegetable Seeds: Harvest, Clean, Store, and Plant Seeds from Your Garden. Storey. 2014. 80p. illus. index. ISBN 9781612123639. pap. $8.95. GARDENING
Bradley’s (editor, All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening and Vegetable Garden Problem Solver; author and editor of many others gardening titles) practical book covers the basics, offering step-by-step, easy-to-understand instructions on everything from harvesting to cleaning, drying, and storing. She also goes beyond the basics to discuss controlling pollination and other more complex techniques for propagating plants and saving their seeds. One section addresses how to save seeds crop by crop for 12 of the more popular vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, lettuce, and squash, with instructions for each one addressing how to choose the best vegetable from the crop for seed, when to pick, and the easiest method for seed harvesting.
Verdict Expert gardeners won’t discover anything new here, but beginning and even intermediate growers will find the book filled with useful information to set them on their way to becoming successful seed savers.—Stefanie Hollmichel, Univ. of St. Thomas Law Lib., Minneapolis
Dennison, Matthew. Queen Victoria: A Life of Contradictions. St. Martin’s. 2014. 208p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781250048899. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466850019. HIST
Dennison concentrates on the high points of the life of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch (1837–1901). The irony is that those with a solid knowledge of English history may find a lot of details are omitted or matters are oversimplified; those with less knowledge will not be able to fill in the holes. While the life of Queen Victoria was undoubtedly an interesting one, we get little of the day-to-day and more of her feelings about an event or person. In these pages, Dennison sets out to show the contradictory nature of a complex character; whether Victoria was contradictory or not, Dennison succeeds in showing her changeling qualities through the periods of her life. Much has been written about this queen, who gave her name to an age; previous titles explore her girlhood, her marriage, her legacy, her children, and more.
Verdict This title seeks to cover the whole life, and it succeeds for readers who are looking for a treatment that covers its subject in a concise and perfunctory manner.—Linda White, Maplewood, MN
Griner, Brittney with Sue Hovey. In My Skin: My Life on and Off the Basketball Court. It: HarperCollins. 2014. 224p. photos. ISBN 9780062309334. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062309341. SPORTS
WNBA star Griner’s memoir explores her childhood, college basketball experience at Texas’s Baylor University, and transition to playing professionally for the Phoenix Mercury. Examining serious issues such as body image, bullying, sexual identity, and gender, the author (b. 1990) traces her sometimes difficult journey toward gaining the freedom to fully express her individuality as a female athlete. While the six-foot-eight-inch tall Griner openly embraces both her self-image and her sexuality as a lesbian, she dealt with hurtful insults and bullying for years and struggled with anger as a result. The author gracefully addresses prickly topics including her views on Baylor’s antihomosexuality policy and her challenging relationships with her father and with Baylor coach Kim Mulkey. Written in a straightforward, conversational tone, this autobiography feels accessible, openhearted, and genuine, although rather premature for such a young athlete. As a boundary-breaking figure in women’s sports, Griner displays a determination to overcome the obstacles in her life that serves as a relatable, inspiring example for all those facing bullying.
Verdict Best suited to general readers interested in basketball, bullying, LGBT issues, or female identity in sport. Readers may also enjoy Kate Fagan’s The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians.—Ingrid Levin, Salve Regina Univ. Lib., Newport, RI
Hobsbawm, Eric. Fractured Times: Culture and Society in the Twentieth Century. New Pr. 2014. 336p. notes. index. ISBN 9781595589774. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781595589927. HIST
This final volume in prolific Marxist historian Hobsbawm’s (1917–2012; The Age of Revolution) oeuvre contains essay-length pieces previously published or presented as lectures, brought together here for the first time. On topics ranging from the avant-garde to the American cowboy, Hobsbawm bemoans the uncertain position culture will have in the future. The rise of media influence over the mindful examination of current social issues troubles him, as does the loss of intellectual records to technical obsolescence. Hobsbawm has no definitive answers but uses his sharp intellect to explore all topics with passionate urgency and, occasionally, subtle humor. Coming two years after the author’s death at the age of 95, Fractured Times is a respectable capstone to an esteemed career in which he produced more than 30 books, as well as gave countless lectures. Hobsbawm’s formal language is not for the casual reader; this book is more textbook than mainstream history. Demanding as it is, this is history written by a man of staggering intellect and made readable by virtue of his endearing personality.
Verdict These passionately written pieces should appeal mostly to scholars of social history.—Lisa Guidarini, Algonquin P.L., IL
Karmel, Annabel. Top 100 Meals in Minutes: Quick and Easy Meals for Babies and Toddlers. Atria. Dec. 2014. 144p. photos. index. ISBN 9781476729787. $23; ebk. ISBN 9781476729800. COOKING
Karmel (Top 100 Baby Purees) offers another “top 100” with quick meals for the small-fry set. These recipes are designed to introduce many different kinds of food including fruit purees, pasta, and fish. Also featured are meat/poultry, veggies, and desserts. Karmel lets readers know whether you can freeze each recipe and for how long. Varied entries include little chicken and leek pies, sweet potato and butternut squash soup with cheesy croutons, and chocolate and apricot Rice Krispie squares. Your pantry may not have some of the ingredients needed, such as crème fraiche or tagliatelle. Strawberry and watermelon Popsicles sound fun, and you can make them with your helpful toddler. The purees are incredibly easy, essentially mashing fruit. Enticing photos encourage sampling, and most recipes do not require many steps. The “meals in minutes” concept is appealing as long as you have time to get to the store for supplies. This handy guide provides ideas when the little one is running on empty.
Verdict Good source for tempting small, developing palates.—Barbara Kundanis, Longmont P.L., CO
Kreeft, Peter. Letters to an Atheist: Wrestling with Faith. Rowman & Littlefield. Sept. 2014. 176p. ISBN 9781442232716. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781442232723. REL
When a young woman expressed concern about her atheist brother, Kreeft (philosophy, Boston Coll.; Catholic Christianity; Making Sense out of Suffering) offered to enter into correspondence with him. In this thoughtful defense of theism, the author spells out the grounds for his belief in God and imagines how the woman’s brother might reply. Assuming his interlocutor’s (and reader’s) intelligence and understanding of basic logic and philosophical terminology, Kreeft distinguishes different types of atheism; addresses the problems he sees in materialism, naturalism, and scientism; and responds to traditional antitheistic arguments. Only in the last 20 pages does he go offtrack, with sound-bite defenses of traditional Catholic doctrines on sexuality and unconvincing dismissals of the Church’s roles in historical violence and recent child-abuse scandals. Kreeft gives most credence to first-cause and moral arguments for God’s existence, stressing that both truth and goodness must be grounded in the nature of reality.
Verdict Given that the atheist’s side of the correspondence is fictional, it comes as no surprise that this warm, philosophical defense of faith in God will speak more to believers’ inner doubts than to actual skeptical questioners.—Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL
Kwarteng, Kwasi. War and Gold: A 500-Year History of Empires, Adventures, and Debt. PublicAffairs. 2014. 432p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781586487683. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9781610391962. HIST
Kwarteng places the 2008 global financial crisis in historical context and makes the case that money in all of its forms is key to building hegemony and financing war. Deficit spending, trade imbalances, inflation, and the value of currency, he explains, have long been tools that countries have used to increase power and influence their citizens’ standard of living. The 2008 financial crisis was the bursting of a credit bubble like many others. While the book’s title suggests that it will cover 500 years of monetary history, the thrust of the narrative takes off with the stable monetary years of the Victorian era. Paper money was pegged to gold, profits were predictable, and those with money were almost guaranteed steady interest provided that they behaved responsibly. Constancy unraveled, however, with the outbreak of World War I, and from 1914 to 1921, Britain’s national debt grew by 1,000 percent. Since World War I, Kwarteng continues, deficit spending has increased steadily in the West, sometimes owing to wars and other times to pay for social programs or because of the rising costs of major goods such as oil. The author is a conservative member of the British Parliament who has spent considerable time in the United States. This book has a decidedly Anglo-American view and is largely nonpartisan, and while the author clearly describes the world’s descent into easy credit and irresponsible monetary policies, he doesn’t offer solutions.
Verdict This book will be valued by historians seeking a foundational understanding of the role of monetary policy, students of international relations and international finance, and readers seeking a broad understanding of fiscal policy.—Beth Dalton, Littleton, CO
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Hall: A Celebration of Baseball’s Greats; In Stories and Images, the Complete Roster of Inductees. Little, Brown. 2014. 642p. photos. index. ISBN 9780316213028. $35. SPORTS
This book consists primarily of short essays on all current members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, starting with a section on pitchers and ending with one on executives. Each section is arranged chronologically by the person’s year of admittance to the institution, and essays are accompanied by a photo of the person and one of the plaque that hangs in the hall, except for the material on umpires and executives, for whom only plaque reproductions are provided. Nothing new is presented in these entries, but they serve as worthwhile ready-reference material, as they cover all of the individuals’ significant accomplishments. The highlights of the book are the ten long essays written by select position players and one pitcher, Nolan Ryan. Ryan’s essay, along with those by Carlton Fisk and George Brett, are notably illuminating as they revolve around how much a baseball career is given to happenstance, especially in its early days. This book would have been improved by the inclusion of a short piece describing the hall’s selection process.
Verdict Appropriate for all baseball fans but especially newcomers. Fans will want to at least look at the entries for their favorite players.—Derek Sanderson, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY
Qiu Peipei & others. Chinese Comfort Women: Testimonies from Imperial Japan’s Sex Slaves. Oxford Univ. 2014. 256p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199373895. $24.95. HIST
Beginning in the 1990s, when surviving “comfort women” who had been used as sex slaves by World War II Japanese military first began to tell their stories, the voices of Chinese women were notably absent. In this first English-language monograph to capture and record the memories of those women, three scholars (Qiu plus Su Zhiliang and Chen Lifei) compile testimonies that ably document the political and cultural reasons for this silence. The 12 personal narratives printed here are grippingly poignant and painful to read. Relying on these interviews along with other newly released archival documents and investigative reports based on field research and eyewitness accounts, the authors reveal aspects of Japanese practices not previously well known—the mass abduction of women, the use of local collaborators, and the various categories of improvised comfort stations that were assembled. Historical background tracing the establishment of the system from the earliest stages of Japanese aggression in China is detailed in an opening section, while later chapters deal with the postwar lives of the survivors, documenting the discrimination, ostracism, poverty, and psychological torment they experienced while living in a culture both nationalistic and patriarchal. The authors carefully explain the complexity of the story in a nuanced and sensitive way. They are anxious to describe the reality of these women’s experiences so as not only to correct the historical record but, more important, to seek justice for the victims and their survivors. Major legal debates and events concerning lawsuits and the development of the redress movement are included.
Verdict The nature of the subject makes this groundbreaking scholarly account of interest to informed laypersons seeking to learn about military history, World War II, and the sexual exploitation of women.—Marie M. Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ
Robinson, Andrew. India: A Short History. Thames & Hudson. 2014. 248p. illus. index. ISBN 9780500251997. $24.95. HIST
In this engrossing read, Robinson (Cracking the Egyptian Code; Rabindranath Tagore: The Myriad-Minded Man) examines the broad sweep of Indian-subcontinent history, distilling four millennia into 200 pages. He peppers the narrative with fascinating asides and insights throughout, adding richness to the story. For example, he relates how 19th-century Europeans reconstructing the history of Indian Buddhism resorted to examining texts preserved in monasteries in Sri Lanka, Tibet, and China, since no Buddhist manuscripts survived in India. Additionally, when discussing the arrival of Islam to the Indian subcontinent, Robinson highlights the problematic nature of the most popular theory of conversion today—namely, conversion as a means to escape social oppression inherent in the Hindu caste system—by noting that the preponderance of Islamization occurred in regions that had never lived under the Hindu social order: eastern Bengal, western Punjab, the Northwest Frontier, and Baluchistan.
Verdict Given the brevity of some the book’s chapters (the longest is 20 pages), serious-minded readers of Indian history may find this title lacking depth, but nonspecialists will see it as an excellent introduction to the subcontinent’s history.—Chris Sauder, Round Rock P.L., TX
Rose, David. Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire and the Internet of Things. Scribner. 2014. 256p. notes. ISBN 9781476725635. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781476725659. SOC SCI
Technologist Rose (MIT Media Lab) believes that ordinary objects that record data, connect to the cloud, interact with the environment, and care for their owners are delightfully, magically disruptive. Smart objects’ inspiration comes from myth and legend, he explains, and sharing data is beneficial if users own and control their information. Therefore, readers should not fear “dystopian scenarios.” However, many of Rose’s examples of commercially available enchanted objects also gather information for landlords (tenants’ energy use), power companies (energy load), employers (sales team performance), and the U.S. military (multisensory HUD) but not for their users. Even the enchanted garbage pail prototype sends orders to Amazon. Readers looking for a more evenhanded view of the Internet of things might prefer Adrian McEwen and Hakim Cassimally’s Designing for the Internet of Things, while those wanting a cautionary tale can try This Pervasive Day, edited by Jeremy Pitt.
Verdict Despite its shortcomings, Rose’s work will be enjoyed by those interested in the minds, personalities, and ideology behind pervasive computing.—Eileen H. Kramer, Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston
Social Issues in Contemporary Native America: Reflections from Turtle Island. Ashgate. 2014. 237p. ed. by Hilary N. Weaver. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781409452072. pap. $39.95. SOC SCI
Weaver (social work, SUNY Buffalo) has compiled a well-organized and -researched collection of essays related to social work in contemporary Native American communities. The collection is valuable and unusual in that the authors of all of the chapters are Native American scholars and social workers. The authors initially take a hard look at historical attitudes of assimilation and paternalism toward Native Americans that were promulgated by both the United States and the Canadian governments during the 19th and 20th centuries. This background information forms the core of the first of four sectional divisions in this work, covering policy formation; social work past, present, and future; indigenous peoples across the life cycle; and well-being and the community context. These sections and their component chapters complement each other well while covering various and differing themes related to social welfare and social work practices, both past and present, among both Native Americans and the First Nations people of Canada. This insightful collection explores native ways of thought and practice in social work that are specifically directed toward other Native Americans and may, therefore, be more relevant, appropriate, and successful than previous Anglo-American and Anglo-Canadian attempts at tackling the social issues of the peoples involved. All of the chapters are well documented with copious references.
Verdict This work will be of interest to scholars in the fields of social work and Native American studies as well as to social work professionals who work with Native Americans.—Elizabeth Salt, Otterbein Univ. Lib., Westerville, OH
Strong, Roy. Remaking a Garden: The Laskett Transformed. Frances Lincoln. 2014. 208p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780711233966. $50. GARDENING
The best gardens are a true reflection of their creators, and this is the case with the Laskett gardens in Herefordshire, England. After purchasing the estate that houses the gardens, historian, author, and critic Strong and his wife, theater designer Julia Trevelyan Oman, spent the next 30 years transforming the initially ramshackle landscape surrounding their new home into one of the largest formal gardens in England. When his wife died in 2003, Strong realized the Laskett required some much-needed renovation. This title is a succinct chronicle of the subsequent changes, but its real selling point is the wealth of luscious color photographs by Clive Brousnell that give readers a front row seat to the renovation project.
Verdict Anyone who fell in love with Strong’s The Laskett: The Story of a Garden (the tale of the couple’s marriage and their life at the estate) will definitely want to add this to their reading list. As well, those interested in British landscape design and armchair gardeners with a passion for English horticulture will also find plenty to savor.—John Charles, Scottsdale P.L., AZ
Telushkin, Joseph. Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History. HarperCollins. 2014. 624p. notes. ISBN 9780062318985. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062319005. REL
In episodic rather than chronological order, this book details the life of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson (1902–94), the seventh Rebbe of the Chabad-Lubavitch. The Rebbe, as Schneerson is still remembered by many Jews throughout the world, is widely acknowledged to be the most influential Jewish personality of his time. Because the leader believed very strongly in the Jewish dictum to “love your neighbor,” he was able to connect with a multitude of people on a wide range of topics, and the story of his life is also the story of his leadership. Telushkin (The Book of Jewish Values; Jewish Literacy) uses firsthand accounts of interactions with the Rebbe to highlight the man’s tenets and values, which are still prominent 20 years after his death. The Rebbe’s teaching is as central to the volume as it was to his life. This title’s format allows the reader the opportunity to see the man through the eyes of those who knew him, which lends sincerity to the material, yet a detailed time line is provided that puts his life in a chronological context.
Verdict Any reader of 20th-century history, particularly religious history, will find something interesting in this book.—Keri Youngstrand, Dickinson State Univ. Lib., ND
VanderVelde, Lea. Redemption Songs: Suing for Freedom Before Dred Scott. Oxford Univ. 2014. 336p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780199927296. $29.95. HIST
Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) has become a landmark case in the history of slavery, but VanderVelde (law, Univ. of Iowa; Mrs. Dred Scott) here shows that it overturned several decades of court rulings that recognized the legal rights of African Americans. The author has spent the past 20 years researching the hundreds of cases in which slaves sued for freedom in Missouri, and this thoughtful, well-researched volume carefully reconstructs the unique legal framework that helped 239 slaves throughout the 19th century file a Freedom Suit in that state. The book starts with the story of Peter McNelly, the first slave who sued for freedom for himself and his wife, Queen, in 1794. The ten chapters that follow explore the reasons slaves argued and often won freedom in the courts. The book’s rich bibliography includes works that cover several of the cases cited by VanderVelde. Similar to Judith Kelleher Schafer’s Becoming Free, Remaining Free, Redemption Songs presents a thorough history of legal casework that reveals an important facet of the slave experience in the American West.
Verdict Essential for legal and historical studies of slavery in America.—John Rodzvilla, Emerson Coll., Boston
VanderWal-Gritter, Wendy. Generous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church. Brazos. 2014. 288p. notes. ISBN 9781587433559. pap. $16.99. SOC SCI
When the subject of LGBT people and Evangelical Christians is raised, the automatic response of most people is to think oil and water; they just don’t mix. VanderWal-Gritter wants to change that perception, and as a former gay movement leader, she is uniquely placed to have witnessed the kinds of issues that have arisen among same-sex-attracted evangelicals. The book introduces evangelicals to concepts about the nature of sexuality they might not otherwise encounter, including the immutability of sexual orientation, and problematizes the interpretation of scripture. But this is primarily a pastoral book that emphasizes experiences in seeking to overcome enmity between gays and Christians. It focuses on people’s stories and looking for new ways of understanding them and is replete with examples of people the author has known and counseled. Where VanderWal-Gritter mostly breaks new ground is in applying her gentle spirit to developing her concept of generous spaciousness, which promotes openness to the human experience in theology.
Verdict Recommended for evangelical readers and LGBT readers who have grown up in that tradition.—David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia
Whitehead, Karsonya Wise. Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis. Univ. of South Carolina. 2014. 280p. bibliog. ISBN 9781611173529. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9781611173536. HIST
Whitehead (The Emancipation Proclamation: Race Relations on the Eve of Reconstruction) offers an annotated transcription of the pocket diaries of a freeborn “mulatto” woman, Emilie Frances Davis, who lived in Philadelphia during the Civil War. These diaries are valuable in that they portray the daily life of the free black community in this area as well as offer a rare glimpse into the life and perspective of a free, relatively educated black woman. As Whitehead writes, Davis’s diaries “allow the reader to view the Civil War from the perspective of someone who was living during the time of the war but who was not a participant or discussant.” The critical element added by Whitehead’s extensive annotations is context for the historical and social events surrounding the diary entries, which can occasionally be sparse. It cannot be emphasized enough how important Davis’s journals are to forwarding the study of 19th-century social history. Whitehead delivers a rare gem for readers in her well-written, well-researched work that will resonate with those interested in sociocultural history, Civil War–era history, African American history, women’s history, or diaries and autobiographies.
Verdict An absolute must-read.—Crystal Goldman, Univ. of California, San Diego, Lib.