Social Sciences Reviews | November 15, 2012

”LibraryCoe, Michael D. (text) & Barry Brukoff (photogs.). Royal Cities of the Ancient Maya. Vendome, dist. by Abrams. 2012. 224p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780865652842. $50. HIST

The history of Mayan civilization as seen through the development and decline of its many impressive city-states is effectively presented here through brilliantly crafted text by Coe (anthropology, emeritus, Yale Univ.) and stunning photographs by Brukoff (Temples of Cambodia). There are fascinating glimpses, through dated stone monuments, into the hereditary lines of dynastic kings who ruled Mayan city-states and frequently did battle with each other. Coe and Brukoff briefly cover Mayan origins then seamlessly trace a succession of cities from the Late Preclassic Period (400 B.C.E.–250 C.E.), e.g., San Bartolo and El Mirador in present-day northern Guatemala, through Classic Period (250–925 C.E.) sites such as Tikal, Calakmul, Palenque, Copán, and Uxmal, sites from the Early Postclassic Period (925–1200 C.E.), which saw the invasion of the Toltecs from central Mexico and the flourishing the Toltec-influenced Mayan city of Chichén Itzá. Finally, the Late Postclassic Period (after 1200 C.E.) is represented by the small coastal city of Tulum, which may still have been occupied when the Spanish arrived in Mexico in the early 1500s. ­VERDICT The complex political and cultural dynamics of the entire span of Mayan history vividly come to life through this beautiful book. An outstanding and luminous work that will be enjoyed by anyone pursuing a greater understanding of Mayan history and culture.—Elizabeth Salt, Otterbein Univ. Lib., Westerville, OH

”LibraryLingeman, Richard. The Noir Forties: The American People from Victory to Cold War. Nation: Perseus. Dec. 2012. c.432p. photogs. index. ISBN 9781568584362. $29.99. HIST

Lingeman (senior editor, Nation; Sinclair Lewis: Rebel from Main Street) shows his skills in this cultural history of the years just after World War II and into the 1950s (in spite of the title). Hollywood films serve as his anchor, and his thesis is that the real America was not MGM but film noir. Some films Lingeman refers to are well known, e.g., Double Indemnity, but he examines plenty of B films. His wide-ranging book moves beyond mere film studies to take in such markers of the era as radio’s Your Hit Parade, the Korean War, the House Un-American Activities Committee, the labor troubles of 1946, and Henry Wallace’s 1948 presidential campaign. Despite the breadth of topics, nothing here feels shallow or rushed. Particularly good is the author’s parallel discussion of The Best Years of Our Lives, the 1946 Best Picture Oscar winner, and the real-life struggles of returning veterans—the shortages of housing and jobs, class issues, and the difficulties many had readjusting to peace. Likewise, he sees The Day the Earth Stood Still as a prism for examining fears of nuclear war. VERDICT There’s a lot of material here and it all flows together seamlessly. This is a great book for buffs of both film and history persuasions.—Michael Eshleman, Hobbs, NM

”LibraryWilentz, Amy. Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti. S. & S. Jan. 2013. c.352p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781451643978. $27. SOC SCI

Haiti has been marked by colonial oppression, revolution, dictators, and foreign occupation by American imperialism—to say nothing of widespread poverty, social and political turmoil, disease, and the crippling earthquake in 2010. Caught in the remarkable prose of Wilentz (The Rainy Season) the tragedy is told through the eyes of Fred Voodoo, Haiti’s fictional everyman, a figure who fits invisibly in Haitian society but whose insight is unmatched. The author’s fluid and engaging narrative delves into Haiti’s history and focuses on the current plight of a nation of ten million living in stark poverty. Sean Penn, “Papa Doc” Duvalier, Jimmy Carter, and dozens of other personages appear across her pages, as do the voodoo priests and the Tonton Macoutes, Duvalier’s personal police force. VERDICT Tragic, ironic, humorous, scary, and fascinating, the book is a remarkable achievement and a must read for those interested in Caribbean affairs. An overwhelming positive recommendation.—Boyd Childress, formerly with Auburn University Libs., AL

The following titles are reviewed in the November 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Lunardini, Christine. Alice Paul: Equality for Women. Westview: Perseus. (Lives of American Women). Nov. 2012. c.192p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780813347615. pap. $20. BIOG

Potter, David. Constantine the Emperor. Oxford Univ. Dec. 2012. c.368p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199755868. $34.95. BIOG

Utley, Robert M. Geronimo. Yale Univ. (Lamar Series in Western History). Nov. 2012. c.376p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300126389. $30. BIOG


Kidder, Tracy & Richard Todd. Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction. Random. Jan. 2013. c.240p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781400069750. $26. COMM


Knoedelseder, William. Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America’s Kings of Beer. HarperBusiness: HarperCollins. Nov. 2012. 416p. index. ISBN 9780062009265. $27.99. BUS

Leighton, Wayne A. & Edward J. López. Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers: The Economic Engine of Political Change. Stanford Univ. Nov. 2012. c.240p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780804780971. $29.95. ECON


Bully: An Action Plan for Teachers and Parents To Combat the Bullying Crisis. Weinstein. 2012. c.294p. ed. by Lee Hirsch & others. ISBN 9781602861848. pap. $15.99. ED


Holt, Frank L. Lost World of the Golden King: In Search of Ancient Afghanistan. Univ. of California. (Hellenistic Culture and Society). 2012. 375p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780520273429. $39.95. HIST

Lawrence-Mathers, Anne. The True History of Merlin the Magician. Yale Univ. Nov. 2012. c.256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780300144895. $40. HIST

”LibraryOakes, James. Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861–1865. Norton. Dec. 2012. c.384p. illus. index. ISBN 9780393065312. $29.95. HIST

Samuel, Lawrence R. The American Dream: A Cultural History. Syracuse Univ. 2012. c.256p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780815610076. $24.95. HIST

Wilson, Lindy. Steve Biko. Ohio Univ. (Ohio Short Histories of Africa). 2012. c.164p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780821420256. pap. $14.95. HIST


Wheeler, Leigh Ann. How Sex Became a Civil Liberty. Oxford Univ. Dec. 2012. c.352p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199754236. $34.95. LAW


Cortens, Theolyn. Your Guardian Angel Needs You!: How To Step into a Remarkable Future. Piatkus: Little, Brown UK, dist. by Trafalgar Square. 2012. c.232p. index. ISBN 9780749953263. pap. $17.95. PARAPSYCH


Biggers, Jeff. State Out of the Union: Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream. Nation: Perseus. 2012. c.288p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781568587028. $25.99. POL SCI

Yazbek, Samar. A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution. Haus, dist. by Consortium. 2012. c.265p. trans. from Arabic by Max Weiss. ISBN 9781908323125. pap. $18.95. INT AFFAIRS


Vaillant, George E. Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study. Belknap: Harvard Univ. 2012. c.448p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780674059825. $27.95. PSYCH


Shelton, Michael. Family Pride: What LGBT Families Should Know about Living in Isolated, Unwelcoming, or Hostile Communities. Beacon, dist. by Random. Jan. 2013. c.240p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780807001974. pap. $16. SOC SCI


Harrington, Candy B. (text) & Charles Pannell (photogs). 22 Accessible Road Trips: Driving Vacations for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. Demos. 2012. c.336p. illus. index. ISBN 9781936303267. pap. $21.95. TRAV

Starks, Richard & Miriam Murcutt. A Room with a Pew: Sleeping Our Way Through Spain’s Ancient Monasteries. Lyons: Globe Pequot. 2012. c.256p. illus. maps. ISBN 9780762781454. pap. $16.95. TRAV