Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, April 4, 2014

Week ending April 4, 2014

Flynt, Suzanne L. Poetry to the Earth: The Arts & Crafts Movement in Deerfield. Hudson Hills. 2013. 240p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781555953836. $60. DEC ARTS
The arts and crafts movement—a reaction against the production of “soulless factory goods” that originated in England in the 1860s—spread through Europe, and then came to the United States in the late 1880s, finding expression in workshops and homes around the country in the decades that followed. There was Stickley furniture made in New York; Newcomb pottery from New Orleans; Greene & Greene bungalows built in California. In Deerfield, MA, a small town north of Springfield, the movement blossomed in needlecraft, basketry, earthenware, and metalwork—items that “championed” the town’s Colonial past. Women, who played a role in the movement from early on, dominated the activity here, and Flynt (curator, Memorial Hall Museum, Deerfield, MA) writes about these influential figures, including needlework designer Margaret Whiting and metalworking pioneer Madeline Yale Wynne, among others. She details the work of the village industries considered distinctive in both design and workmanship and discusses the philosophy of the Deerfield group. Carefully labeled color photos of handicrafts are offered as well as archival sepia images of the artists and the homes and community events at the center of this town’s activity, which, in full force, was contemporaneous with the rise of modernism in the United States and Europe.
Verdict Recommended for large art and local collections.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

Guterl, Matthew Pratt. Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe. Belknap: Harvard Univ. 2014. 288p. notes. ISBN 9780674047556. $28.95. BIOG
josephine baker040414A current trend in biography is that of the “partial life” or “event” biography, in which a single era or occasion becomes the focus rather than the subject’s entire history. Guterl (Africana studies, American studies, Brown Univ.; Seeing Race in Modern America) builds on this theme with his focus on American-born French singer and actress Josephine Baker’s second reinvention. The persona with which Baker (1906–75) captivated the world had already been retooled once by her manager Giuseppe Pepito Abatino. Following World War II, Baker transformed herself again, this time into a universal mother presiding over a dozen children of every race on permanent display at her castle in France’s Dordogne. The book is scholarly in tone and presumes a certain level of prior knowledge (especially about French history and politics), but the story is rendered compellingly enough to draw in the casual reader in spite of the author’s style.
Verdict This work will be enjoyed by all readers and is recommended for libraries where there is an interest in large or adopted families, civil rights history, or Jazz Age nostalgia.—Jenny Brewer, Helen Hall Lib., League City, TX

Miller, Richard J. Drugged: The Science and Culture Behind Psychotropic Drugs. Oxford Univ. 2013. 384p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780199957972. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9780199321964. MED
Miller (Alfred Newton Richards Professor of Pharmacology, Northwestern Univ.) here explores psychotropic drugs, their history, and how they work, though not in an expected, purely scientific way. Psychotropic medications are defined as “chemical substances that change the way the brain operates.” Both legal substances—such as nicotine, caffeine, and prescription drugs—as well as illegal ones, like cocaine and marijuana, are discussed. All alter how brain neurotransmitters work, though via different methods. Miller combines historical treatments with scientific and cultural considerations. Unanticipated historical stories are brought in throughout. For example, a young Sigmund Freud—not typically associated with this area of science—expressed an interest in cocaine’s use as a local anesthetic. Though its side effects ultimately rendered cocaine unusable in this arena, other scientists later developed medicines (such as lidocaine) based on the benzoic acid portion of cocaine’s molecule. Drugged places a particular emphasis on drugs’ use in mental illness and how its discoveries waned in the latter half of the 20th century. Miller ends by forecasting developments in neuroinflammation—increased activity of the immune system in the brain.
Verdict Best suited for those looking for a nontraditional discussion of psychotropic drugs.—Leigh Mihlrad, FDIC Lib., Washington, DC