Social Sciences Reviews, December 2011

Decker, Jeni. I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames: My Insane Life Raising Two Boys with Autism. Skyhorse, dist. by Norton. 2011. c.288p. photogs. ISBN 9781616084851. $24.95. PSYCH
Decker, mother of two and an independent filmmaker, has found herself living a life she never imagined as a parent with both sons on the autism spectrum, wife of a husband who doesn’t know what to do with boys uninterested in Little League or Yankees games, and caretaker of a dog and albino frog. Decker’s memoir is a laugh-out-loud, though often unbelievable look at her daily life and the way she has chosen to embrace the unexpected each day brings. Decker focuses on her sons’ abilities and uniqueness rather than their differences. Short chapters by Decker’s oldest son, Jake, are included. In the final chapter, The Weight of Normal, she writes about accepting children for who they are, not who you thought they were going to be‚ the key to her enjoyment of her children and all the joy and laughter they bring to her life. VERDICT Brash, sarcastic, irreverent, heartfelt, and touching, Decker’s memoir is all this and more. Highly recommended.‚ Lisa M. Jordan, Johnson Cty. Lib., KS

Read, Piers Paul. The Dreyfus Affair: The Scandal That Tore France in Two. Bloomsbury Pr., dist. by Macmillan. Mar. 2012. c.416p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781608194322. $30. HIST
There are hundreds of books about the saga of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the wealthy Jewish military officer unjustly accused and convicted of selling French military secrets to the Germans in the aftermath of France’s ignominious defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870‚ 71. Informed by past scholarship as well as original sources, prolific fiction and nonfiction author Read (Alive) analyzes why the case has had such enduring appeal. Its applications to today are evident, unfolding as it did in the midst of a cultural war over a nation’s identity. While anti- Semitism played a part, the question of Dreyfus’s guilt also revealed an ideological rift between Right and Left, Catholics and secularists, reactionaries and progressives. L’affaire drew international attention because of the involvement of what we now call prominent public intellectuals. Novelist √âmile Zola became a hero in France for defending Dreyfus. VERDICT Enriched by glimpses into the captain’s personal life as well as by descriptions of his ordeal in the French penal colony at Devil’s Island, this book is highly recommended to general readers or undergraduates interested in French history, anti-Semitism, or church-state tensions in the modern period. [See Prepub Alert, 9/22/11.]‚ Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ

Smith, Jean Edward. Eisenhower in War and Peace. Random. Feb. 2012. c.944p. photogs. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781400066933. $40. BIOG
Smith (senior scholar, history, Columbia Univ; FDR) has produced another fine biography. He follows Eisenhower from his youth in Kansas through his education at West Point and his meteoric rise through the ranks to Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during World War II. Hundreds of historical tidbits (some that have nothing to do with Eisenhower) are sprinkled throughout the narrative, providing interesting information on almost every page. Smith continues with chapters on Ike’s time as president of Columbia University, NATO czar, and presidential candidate and commander in chief. He reminds us that Eisenhower was as widely popular when he left the White House as when he became President eight years earlier, a nearly inconceivable feat in this day and age. This is a birth-to-death biography, including well-known details of Eisenhower’s personal life, though relatively little space is devoted to the post-presidential years. VERDICT Smith gives a riveting account of one of the 20th century’s most important leaders. The book will have wide appeal for general readers and particularly for those interested in military, political, or presidential history. [See Prepub Alert, 8/22/11.]‚ Robert Bruce Slater, Stroudsburg, PA