Editors’ Picks for December 2020

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

book covers

Bonner, Christopher James. Remaking the Republic: Black politics and the creation of American citizenship. Pennsylvania, 2020. 246p index ISBN 9780812252064, $34.95; ISBN 9781350095939 ebook, contact publisher for price.

How can the meaning of American citizenship be understood? In this thought-provoking new work, Bonner (Univ. of Maryland) argues that the African American quest for freedom and inclusion involved a fight to define and defend the concept of American citizenship. He points out that the notion of citizenship was not clearly defined by the Constitution, which gave early Black political activists room to debate and analyze a set of ideas and strategies that helped form the basis of pre–Civil War Black political activity. The analysis in chapters on runaway slaves, the infamous Dred Scott case, and the politics of Reconstruction are detailed and illuminating regarding the difficulties of defining freedom and citizenship in a flawed but evolving democracy. This is a careful, incisive work that illustrates how the meaning of citizenship helped frame the African American quest for inclusion in American democracy and laid the foundations of African American politics. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —K. Anderson, Eastern Illinois University

Hartzband, David. Information technology and data in healthcare: using and understanding data. CRC Press, 2019. 190p index ISBN 9780367183790, $69.95; ISBN 9780429590269 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Hartzband (former consulting software engineer and research scholar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, now deceased) provides a thorough overview of data use and information technology in health care scenarios. The author succeeds in providing a broad understanding of data generated and consumed in modern health care, emphasizing how data quality impacts all services, and the opportunities to enhance and refine related practices and organizational function. The text includes tips on best practice accumulated during Hartzband’s career, offering practical examples and applications. The electronic health record (EHR) is a significant data source. Hartzband looks beyond the EHR and analyzes other types of health care data, such as financial system data. Overall, Hartzband stresses how analysis of health care data reveals complex trends across large groups that are not readily apparent. Oddly, the published book seems to leave a few sections unfinished at the end of the final chapter, disappointing for such a strong work. Back matter does include helpful references. This volume can serve as an excellent introduction for students preparing to enter health care careers and as an accessible overview for health care leadership. It will be welcomed by all who are interested in the role and quality of data in modern health care. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates. General readers. —K. J. Whitehair, independent scholar

Jenkins, Henry. Comics and stuff. New York University, 2020. 352p bibl index ISBN 9781479852741, $89.00; ISBN 9781479800933 pbk, $32.00; ISBN 9781479831258 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This is Henry Jenkins’s 20th book on media and popular culture; he has addressed comics before, most recently in the crucial essay that opens The Superhero Symbol: Media, Culture, and Politics, ed. by Liam Burke, Ian Gordon, and Angela Ndalianis(CH, May’20, 57-2858). In this new book, Jenkins (Univ. of Southern California) examines graphic novels with regard to patterns and values in material culture. His broad view of “stuff” encompasses possessions and objects and also cultural icons. The texts he examines are selected to broaden the academic canon: he avoids frequently studied works such as Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home in favor of less-familiar works by Seth, Kim Deitch, Bryan Talbot, Emil Ferris, C. Tyler, Joyce Farmer, Roz Chast, and Jeremy Love. Though its focus is on alternative comics, the book positions the medium as a whole within material culture. The first of the book’s two sections examines works portraying the behaviors of collecting; the second focuses on objects connected to family. Jenkins gives particular attention to how gender shapes relationships with possessions. In the epilogue, “Unpacking My Comics,” Jenkins discusses his own comic book collection. Including color illustrations and extensive references, this compelling exploration of comics will inspire readers to think about stuff. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers. —W. L. Svitavsky, Rollins College

Johnson, Walter. The broken heart of America: St. Louis and the violent history of the United States. Basic Books, 2020. 528p index ISBN 9780465064267, $35.00; ISBN 9781541646063 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Following Michael Brown’s killing by police in 2014, Johnson’s timely volume underscores St. Louis, Missouri, as America’s geocultural fulcrum on which the US capitalist enterprise developed, yielding enormous economic profits for corporate interests. Situating ancient Cahokia as the administrative site of Manifest Destiny logic, Johnson (Harvard Univ.) argues over 11 chapters that from Lewis and Clark’s mapping expedition begun in 1804 to Emerson Electric’s massive tax abatements obtained in 2009, restrictive quality-of-life policies coupled with hyper-policing of Black and brown communities have become a national model. As he writes, understanding St. Louis “requires understanding how business interests and municipal governments in the St. Louis metro region … have tried … to find ways to monetize a population of African Americans who were increasingly deemed surplus from the standpoint of capital.” Johnson also portrays localized resistance to racial oppression from enslaved explorer York’s years-long effort to get emancipated from William Clark and Dred Scott’s lawsuit for freedom (decided in 1857), to present efforts like Kalila Jackson’s Equal Housing Opportunity Council. Since George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, progressives, local and nationwide, are building on the author’s “measurelessly” imagined notions of equity-based recalibrations of American society. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels. —J. E. Johnson, independent scholar

Kim, Diana S. Empires of vice: the rise of opium prohibition across Southeast Asia. Princeton, 2020. 336p bibl index ISBN 9780691172408, $35.00; ISBN 9780691199696 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This book by Kim (Georgetown Univ.) presents an intriguing history about how the opium trade was taxed and regulated in colonial Southeast Asia, specifically in the British colonies of Burma and Malaya and the Straits Settlements, and in French Indochina. The introductory chapters in this clear and elegant volume pull together a wide range of scholarship on colonial governance in these places, offering a thorough and useful overview that is very much worth a read. The trajectory of Kim’s story though is about how these colonies slowly moved to abolish the sale of opium, even as they acknowledged that this trade was a major revenue source. Although it is a bit jarring to read that opium sales were officially countenanced, even through WW II in some places, considering how this drug is viewed today, Kim examines how local colonial officials became linchpins in arguing against government opium monopolies. Their efforts, she suggests, underline how new assessments of theories on the state and the bureaucracies that support them are needed. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through faculty. —S. Maxim, University of California, Berkeley

McCabe, Kimberly A. Acts of violence in the school setting: national and international responses, by Kimberly A. McCabe with Brianna Egan and Toy D. Eagle. Rowman & Littlefield, 2020. 256p bibl index ISBN 9781538125342, $85.00; ISBN 9781538125359 pbk, $40.00; ISBN 9781538125366 ebook, $38.00.

Lead author McCabe (criminology, Univ. of Lynchburg) has written a reader-friendly text for undergraduates in courses on criminology and criminal justice. She examines violent crimes within educational settings—from kindergarten to universities—as well as the foundational acts that led to these crimes. Taking a broad approach, she considers acts that range from bullying, gang violence, and sexual assault to hazing, cyberstalking, and sexting. Focusing primarily on school shootings, the author’s perspective is primarily national, centered on the US. She also includes current research and examples at the international level, looking at Canada, the UK, and Western European countries. In particular, the study uses the massacres at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech in the US and at Dunblane Primary School in Scotland as paradigmatic cases. Each chapter contains special features that include a listing of key words and key acronyms, shaded boxes with case examples, and chapter and discussion questions. This volume adds to the literature on school violence in several key ways, particularly by considering theoretical explanations, risk factors, mental illness, preventive measures, and victim assistance. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All undergraduates and professionals. —A. J. Trevino, Wheaton College

Naoi, Nozomi. Yumeji modern: designing the everyday in twentieth-century Japan. Washington, 2020. 300p bibl index ISBN 9780295746838, $65.00; ISBN 9780295746845 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Takehisa Yumeji (1884–1934) played a key role in the rapidly changing cultural milieu of 20th-century Japan. His illustrations, especially graphic designs, appeared in mass media, socialist bulletins, antiwar publications, and fashion magazines, making him an emblematic figure in the arts—a recognizable brand. Naoi’s book is the first full-length English-language study of Yumeji’s life and work. Five chapters discuss the artist’s style, his involvement with socialist groups and publications, his revival of the woodblock-print medium, and his development over a lifetime of arts, poetry, social awareness, and interaction with the world around him. Six appendixes provide translations of critiques and commentaries on Yumeji’s art, memorials on his death, and, most poignantly, translations and sketches of his observations on the devastating 1923 earthquake in Tokyo. Noai’s translations in the appendixes are accompanied by the original Japanese texts. A multitude of color plates illustrate the wide range of media in which Yumeji worked and his artistic gifts. Impeccably researched, with copious notes and an invaluable bibliography, this book is required reading for those interested in Japanese art and culture. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —S. C. Scott, McDaniel College

Walker, Aidan. Furniture in architecture: the work of Luke Hughes. Thames & Hudson, 2020. 256p ISBN 9780500022542, $75.00.

In a lavish production with some 400 color plates, black and whites, plans, and diagrams, this book describes the career and work of designer Luke Hughes (b. 1957) and the company he founded in 1981. Hughes’s business is chronicled as is his work in collaboration with artists, designers, and machinists. He is most famous for creative furnishing solutions for cathedrals and universities in England and the US. The book looks at designs for places of worship, places of work and leisure, and places of learning. Walker, himself an experienced cabinetmaker, provides detailed analyses of Hughes’s work with particular emphasis on chair making. Hughes uses 19th-century Arts and Crafts ideas, inspired by John Ruskin and William Morris, that expose details beautiful even though they are rendered in a modern, scientific setting. Though not handmade, Hughes’s work is precision crafted for each situation, using digitally controlled machines. His workers then assemble and finish each piece. The exquisite craftsmanship of Hughes’s furniture and interiors is shown in the book’s photographs and diagrams, all beautifully reproduced. The craftsmanship of the book itself matches that of the furniture. Furniture students and craftspeople will find this an invaluable resource. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —W. L. Whitwell, formerly, Hollins College

White, Graham. Indigenous empowerment through co-management: land claims boards, wildlife management, and environment regulation. UBC Press, 2020. 400p bibl index ISBN 9780774863025, $89.95; ISBN 9780774863032 pbk, $34.95; ISBN 9780774863056 ebook, $34.95.

Canadian policy with respect to Indigenous peoples underwent a paradigm shift in the 1970s to treaty federalism, which accepted Indigenous peoples’ participation in governance as sovereign equals and promoted their self-determination in many areas. In the Northern Territories thereafter, co-management boards combined provincial, state, and Indigenous representation to regulate use of land, wildlife, and resources. The central question White (emer., Univ. of Toronto) examines is whether Indigenous peoples have influenced decision making and whether traditional knowledge has affected decisions. This study concludes that Indigenous peoples do play an important, often decisive, role and that the roughly 30 co-management boards are important in determining general policy and specific regulation of wildlife and environmental resource usage. Summarizing 20 years of research (see Provincial and Territorial Legislatures in CanadaCH, May’90, 27-5356Made in NunavutCH, Sep’16, 54-0377), including literature reviews, interviews, and personal attendance at co-management meetings, White provides valuable description of the pitfalls joint committees pose, their evolving nature, and Indigenous pragmatism in working with other governing entities. His lucid treatment of critics and the continuing evolution of the boards up to the present is revelatory. This work is seminal for Canadians and instructive for states attempting to implement similar policies, an important contribution to the literature. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals. —G. Gagnon, emeritus, Loyola University of New Orleans College of Law

Zitkala-Ša. Help Indians help themselves: the later writings of Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Zitkala-Ša), ed. by P. Jane Hafen. Texas Tech, 2020. 400p bibl index ISBN 9781682830482, $33.79; ISBN 9781682830536 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (1876–1938), whose Lakota name was Zitkala-Ša, was a Yankton Dakota from Standing Rock Reservation. Educated at Earlham College, she was a gifted writer and speaker, devoting her life to advocating for America’s First Nations. Working with her was her husband, Raymond Bonnin, also Standing Rock Lakota. Gertrude taught for a few years at the Carlisle Indian School, worked as secretary to the Society of American Indians from 1915 to 1919, and from 1926 on was director of the National Council of American Indians, which she founded with her husband. This collection, drawn from archives of her essays, correspondence, and formal letters to members of Congress, depicts a brilliant, driven champion of First Nations’ rights, much more than an author of American Indian tales published in American magazines. Strongly yet gracefully worded, this wealth of documents reveals the Bonnins’ unceasing struggles against terrible injustices, including the fact that American Indians were not considered citizens until 1924. Testimony to the harshness of colonialism, this book also gifts readers with Zitkala-Ša’s lyricism in her essays. Her portrayal of the Missouri River at Standing Rock as a living being disturbed by unfeeling settlers, long before DAPL, is heartrendingly beautiful. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty; professionals. —A. B. Kehoe, emeritus, Marquette University