Editors’ Picks for April 2018

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

Bateman, Benjamin. The modernist art of queer survival. Oxford, 2017. 158p bibl index ISBN 9780190676537, $65.00; ISBN 9780190676551 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Queer in the title The Modernist Art of Queer Survival means much more than the sexual orientation of the authors and works Bateman (California State Univ., Los Angeles) discusses: Henry James (The Beast in the Jungle), Oscar Wilde (De Profundis), E. M. Forster (Howard’s End and A Passage to India), and Willa Cather (Lucy GayheartThe Professor’s House, and “Consequences”). Queer is the center around which life, and art, must be negotiated. In five connected essays (two on Forster), Bateman explores literary presentations of the necessarily precarious paths to queer survival from a time when homosexuality was publicly condemned (at best). How does one decide to go on, and why, when the very heart of one’s being is unspeakable in the culture outside? A significant contribution to new modernist studies, this volume continues the integration of queer studies into discussion of the four modernists, attempting not to reshape understanding of their work but rather to expand it. Bateman is convincing in seeing these modernists as articulating “tactics for survival, for accessing the surplus within life that, far from eschewing death drives and utopian hopes, bring them alongside and into the promiscuous mix of queer existence.” Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —A. J. Barlow, New York City College of Technology (CUNY)

Coghlan, Nicholas. Collapse of a country: a diplomat’s memoir of South Sudan. McGill-Queen’s, 2017. 283p index ISBN 9780773551268, $34.95; ISBN 9780773551800 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Coghlan served as Canada’s first ambassador to South Sudan. He analyzes the country’s breakdown with exceptional insight. South Sudan received independence from Sudan in July 2011, its government a shaky alliance among leaders of rival militias. They were supposedly linked within the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and its movement. The SPLA was “a fragile coalition of unintegrated militias … without enough knowledge and experience.” Ethnic tensions quickly erupted. Outside powers, notably the “triumvirate” (the US, the UK, and Norway), as well as international groups (the UN, the African Union) and scores of NGOs, pressed for national unity. Their efforts collapsed. The Dinka followed the president, the Nuer allied with the vice president, and other groups were caught in between. In a fateful decision less than two years after independence, President Kiir fired Vice-President Machar. Corruption spiraled. More important, violence erupted. More than 50,000 people died in civil war, and 2 million were forced to leave their homes. Coghlan observed these horrendous events with growing horror. Collapse of a Country draws from the author’s special perspective as an ambassador who traveled widely through the South Sudan, from 2001 to 2016. His writing is vivid and detailed. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students through faculty. —C. E. Welch, emeritus, University at Buffalo, SUNY

Evolution of the modern sports fan: communicative approaches, ed. by Andrew C. Billings and Kenon A. Brown. Lexington Books, 2017. 255p bibl index ISBN 9781498546270, $100.00; ISBN 9781498546287 ebook, $95.00.

Editors Billings and Brown (both, Univ. of Alabama) have assembled a collection of essays from young scholars exploring various facets of sport fans and fandom. From communication and psychological perspectives, the work includes both reviews and original empirical research. Beginning with topics related to aspects of sport fans, such as the association between team identification (i.e., a psychological connection to a sport team) and personality dimensions, experiences of team identification, and the concept of “Basking in Reflected Glory,” the authors then examine applications of fanship to areas including the relationship between identification and nationalist attitudes. Later chapters explore outcomes of sport fanship such as deviant behaviors, reactions to team and athlete scandals, and possible future areas of sport fan research including uses and gratifications, technology usage, and virtual reality. Altogether the work is a much-needed update and review of empirical fan research for social scientists. Although the book is geared toward sport fans, it is strongly recommended reading for researchers exploring fans of all interests. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, and professionals. —S. Reysen, Texas A&M University-Commerce

Flores-González, Nilda. Citizens but not Americans: race and belonging among Latino millennials. New York University, 2017. 177p bibl index ISBN 9781479825523, $89.00; ISBN 9781479840779 pbk, $27.00.

Flores-González (sociology, Univ. of Illinois Chicago) uniquely tackles classic questions in sociology on race, identity, and belonging by focusing on Latina/o millennials—Latinas/os born between 1980 and 1995. In the context of demographic shifts where Latinas/os are the second largest racial/ethnic group in the US, and of blatantly anti-Mexican and anti-Latina/o immigrant campaigns, this study is especially timely. Working with a team of undergraduate research assistants who used their networks to identify participants, Flores-González bases her study on nearly 100 in-depth interviews with second- and third-generation Latinas/os in Chicago. By exploring experiences in everyday places such as restaurants, stores, worksites, and public transportation, these interviews provide a rich account of the multiple factors—including hypervisibility and invisibility—shaping Latina/o millennials’ sense of selves as “citizens but not Americans.” Flores-González not only considers important differences according to gender, language, and skin color but also provides compelling examples of how participants in her study challenge exclusionary practices and constructs by exerting what she refers to as “ethnoracial citizenship.” Informed by these results and relevant scholarship, Flores-González concludes with a clear call to reconceptualize racial categories and the racial order. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. —G. L. Ochoa, Pomona College

Johnson, Joan Marie. Funding feminism: monied women, philanthropy, and the women’s movement, 1870–1967. North Carolina, 2017. 303p bibl index ISBN 9781469634692, $39.95; ISBN 9781469634708 ebook, $29.99.

Focusing exclusively on the wealthy women who wielded their money to promote, develop, and support suffrage, women’s education, reproductive rights, and assistance for working-class women, Johnson (history, Northwestern) argues that these society women’s financial contributions fundamentally altered the trajectory of the women’s movement at large and significantly impacted the movement’s strategies, priorities, and victories. The author details both the successes attributed to the contributions of monied women and the challenges their philanthropy posed to the early women’s movement, arguing that stark class differences bred resentment among women’s organizations and undermined cross-class coalition. Deliberately addressing a gap in the literature, Johnson takes women seriously as philanthropists and re-charts the trajectories of women’s suffrage, access to higher education, reproductive rights, and campaigns for women’s workers’ rights, demonstrating that society women’s philanthropic giving was substantial, influential, and an intentional expression of wealthy women’s recognition of the importance of education and financial independence for women. Johnson explicates many class and some racial divisions in the women’s movement, but this reviewer would argue that the author pays too little attention to the eugenic roots of the reproductive rights movement. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. —S. L. Vandermeade, Arizona State University

Office hours with a geometric group theorist, ed. by Matt Clay and Dan Margalit. Princeton, 2017. 441p bibl index ISBN 9780691158662 pbk, $55.00; ISBN 9781400885398 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Geometric group theory is a manner of studying the properties of groups by considering the action of a group on a geometric object. The representations of a group appear as permutations of a set (group actions), as operators on a vector space (representation theory), and as geometric transformations on a space (geometric group theory); these have provided tools that lead to deep and unexpected results in group theory. This volume developed from “an invited paper session” for a broad audience, and the editors’ desire to make this vibrant area of research accessible to worthy undergraduates and beginning graduate students. The organizing conceit is the “office hour,” where students might ask their professors about their research. The casual tenor is inviting and without loss of depth or coverage. The essays are gathered into parts, introducing the subject and then treating free groups, large-scale geometry, and particular examples. The breadth of geometric objects (from the Cayley graph to mapping class groups and braids) and methods (from hyperbolic geometry to dimension theory and asymptotics) reveals the riches of the subject. Every undergraduate and graduate mathematics library should have this book available for its readers. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates and above; faculty and professionals. —J. McCleary, Vassar College

Rensmann, Lars. The politics of unreason: the Frankfurt School and the origins of modern antisemitism. SUNY Press, 2017. 583p bibl index ISBN 9781438465937, $95.00; ISBN 9781438465951 ebook, contact publisher for price.

The Politics of Unreason reveals how the struggle against anti-Semitism became a central focus in the analytical and interpretative innovations the Frankfurt School contributed to critical theory’s development. The blindness to the centrality of this concern in the Institute’s analysis of capitalism, authoritarianism, and totalitarianism produced several problems this work seeks to address. Since racism and anti-Semitism are central tendencies in modernity and its authoritarian reaction, the book argues that the problem of the reversion to barbarism after the Enlightenment cannot be understood without centering the role racism and anti-Semitism played in that descent. Furthermore, this blindness renders our understanding of their assessment of authoritarianism incomplete. Perhaps the most controversial of the book’s claims involves the assertion that the Institute’s theoretical and philosophical focus on and conclusions about anti-Semitism deeply and productively influenced their approach to empirical study. Finally, the book argues that the critical theory that emerged from the Institute has been unfairly criticized as “particular” and fundamentally apolitical or unhelpful in real, agonistic politics. The book’s analysis and reassessment of the Frankfurt School are important contributions to its enduring significance, and they further our understanding of the Institute immeasurably. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —A. B. Commissiong, West Texas A&M University

Salisbury, Martin. The illustrated dust jacket 1920–1970. Thames & Hudson, 2017. 199p bibl index ISBN 9780500519134, $39.95.

Salisbury (Anglia Ruskin Univ., UK) interprets the history of dust jackets from the perspective of a working artist. His book is a catalog, and its strength lies in the large number of color illustrations showing the best book jackets made from 1920 to 1970 in the English-speaking world. The immense variety of beautiful jackets will enchant bibliophiles and designers. The contents are arranged alphabetically by artist, and included among the them are such well-known figures as Duncan Grant, Ben Shahn, and N. C. Wyeth. Some books featured are by major authors, such as Ernest Hemmingway, Virginia Woolf, and Jules Verne. Each entry is accompanied by a descriptive paragraph and a biography of the artist. Barbara Jones’s concept art for her own jacket is reproduced along with the final product. An introduction traces the history of jackets, related terminology, and the design process. Salisbury attributes the success of illustrated book jackets to the Bloomsbury group. Realism, Romanticism, neo-Romanticism, and Art Deco are identified as stylistic categories. This volume will be of interest to professional designers and illustrators; collectors of American ephemera; and anyone interested in or studying illustration, graphic design, or American visual culture. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; students in technical programs; professionals; general readers. —T. Nygard, Ripon College

Sumantran, Venkat. Faster, smarter, greener: the future of the car and urban mobility, by Venkat Sumantran, Charles H. Fine, and David J. A. Gonsalvez. MIT, 2017. 326p index ISBN 9780262036665, $29.95; ISBN 9780262341868 ebook, $20.95.
This very important book by three auto industry experts describes how shifts the digital revolution caused in people’s values and lifestyles lead them to expect very different mobility solutions than car dependency. The constant personalization of information from smart phones, etc., connecting individuals, is happening as technology enables vehicles to connect to each other and to the infrastructure, enabling vehicle automation. These developments will shift the focus from cars and transit vehicles to mobility as a system. In the short term, the book describes personalized, multimodal trip planning apps incorporating autos, rail, bus, walking, biking, etc. (enhanced GPS). In the slightly longer term, vehicle automation can make personal car ownership an anachronism to digital natives who can rent or share anything, reducing automobile sales and enabling flexible use of any size vehicle to enhance personal mobility. Another strength of the book is its excellent industry-focused chapters on automobile technology developments, the personalization of industry products to improve performance and user experience, current and future business models for mobility (e.g., Uber, etc.), and work to achieve energy consumption and environmental goals with these new technologies. The references and index are excellent. Summing Up:Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —D. Brand, formerly, Harvard University

Tirole, Jean. Economics for the common good, tr. by Steven Rendall. Princeton, 2017. 563p index ISBN 9780691175164, $29.95; ISBN 9781400889143 ebook, contact publisher for price.

The disparate chapters in this volume represent the author’s testimonial to economics as a beneficial force in shaping contemporary public policy. Technically, the common thread uniting these essays is information theory: the effects of information limitations on decision making. More evident, however, is the personal element uniting the chapters. Tirole (a 2014 Nobel Prize winner) is a passionate advocate of economics. Early chapters explain his embrace of the discipline, the nature of the profession, and its importance to society. Modern economists are less the intellectual hedgehogs of old, promulgating the singular virtues of market capitalism, than social science foxes offering useful, nuanced insights into an array of public problems. Markets often fail to achieve the common good. The role of government, and economists, is to correct these market failures. Chapters are devoted to climate change, unemployment, the 2008 financial crisis, and several ongoing and future issues as instances in which economic insights can contribute to the common good. Unfortunately, expert information often falls prey to skillful political manipulation of voters’ biases. Ultimately, in the author’s view, citizens get the policies they deserve. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —R. S. Hewett, emeritus, Drake University