Editors’ Picks for December 2021

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

Biogeochemical cycles: ecological drivers and environmental impact, ed. by Katerina Dontsova, Zsuzsanna Balogh-Brunstad, and Gaël Le Roux. Wiley, 2020. 336p bibl index (Geophysical monograph series, 251) ISBN 9781119413301, $160.00; ISBN 9781119413318 ebook, $160.00.

This volume seeks to inform readers on biogeochemical cycles with respect to global change, and succeeds resoundingly. Although the book grew out of a Goldschmidt Conference (annual meeting of the Geochemical Society), contributing authors and volume editors went well beyond what a typical conference volume would produce, and the result is an extremely thoughtful reference that will no doubt be much used for years to come. The book’s 15 chapters are distributed across 3 parts: “Biological Weathering,” “Elemental Cycles,” and “Frontier and Managed Ecosystems.” The breadth of contributions is outstanding, spanning unique case studies, “how-tos” for exploring mineral/biological interactions, reviews of environmental processes, chemical pathways, the role of plants, and more. Some of the included tables provide great summaries, such as the table in chapter 4 condensing micro- and nanoscale techniques for exploring bacteria and fungi interactions and their limitations. But scales from micro to macro are covered equally well, including data collected from satellite remote sensing. The illustrations (presented as gray scale) are of high quality and will be of great interest to students and practitioners, as many of them provide graphical keys to processes discussed. This volume would make very suitable material for a semester-long upper-level course. The index is extensive, and production quality is good. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals. —I. D. Sasowsky, University of Akron

Conchas, Gilberto Q. The Chicana/o/x dream: hope, resistance, and educational success, by Gilberto Q. Conchas and Nancy Acevedo. Harvard Education Press, 2020. 256p bibl index ISBN 9781682535127, $62.00; ISBN 9781682535110 pbk, $33.00.

Part of the “Race and Education” series, this monograph explores the personal experiences and systemic structures navigated by first-generation Chicana/o/x college students, fitting well within the current interest in diversity, inclusivity, and understanding the lived experiences of people of color. Conchas (Pennsylvania State Univ.) and Acevedo (California State Univ., San Bernardino) introduce two frameworks to help readers comprehend the intersectional identities of Chicana/o/x students at both community colleges and four-year institutions. The atravesado framework encompasses students “who were not meant to belong in the US education system,” while the nepantlera framework includes individuals who are able to navigate higher education. Through students’ narratives, or testimonios, participants discuss their belief in the American Dream and their experiences in improving themselves and their communities, while still being aware of inequities and marginalization. The book delves into such topics as representation of Chicana/o/x college students in STEM, student and parent experiences navigating the college system, and understanding the male and female journeys of four-year college students and what success means to them. The information presented here is exceptionally valuable for faculty members looking for insights into pedagogical approaches, practices, and policies vital to serving Chicana/o/x students. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —J. E. Perez, Florida International University

Critical directions in comics studies, ed. by Thomas Giddens. University Press of Mississippi, 2020. 322p bibl index ISBN 9781496828996, $99.00; ISBN 9781496829009 pbk, S30.00; ISBN 9781496829023 ebook, contact publisher for price.

The originality of this 13-chapter edited volume lies first in the diverse background of the contributors, and is enhanced by the introductory strips that announce the three “interludes” thematizing the chapters, providing, first, “An Origin Story,” then inviting readers to participate in “Let’s Get Critical,” and finally introducing “The Nested Text.” The point of this structure is to emulate the eclectic nature of the field of comics studies, encompassing gender and race and jumping from law to literature, heteroglossia to thanatopolitics, even including health humanities and Christian iconography. The strips analyzed also vary widely to include classics like “Daredevil” as well as lesser-known though equally deserving “women’s cartoons.” Though generally adept at summarizing the stories they analyze, most contributors assume prior knowledge of the subgenre they present. Their eclectic approaches and stories include helpful illustrations and accomplish the welcome task of blurring the boundaries between comics and graphic novels, all the while demonstrating the essential, rich mix of intersectionalities. Specialists will enjoy the variety of analyses included here, but students new to the field may feel uncertain about the more complex analytical approaches. Still, this volume successfully demonstrates that comics studies deserves, to paraphrase editor Giddens (Univ. of Dundee), consideration as a discipline in its own right.–G. P. de Syon, Albright College
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students and faculty.

De Koninck, J.-M. The life of primes in 37 episodes, by Jean-Marie De Koninck and Nicolas Doyon. American Mathematical Society, 2021. 329p bibl indexes ISBN 9781470464899 pbk, $65.00; ISBN 9781470465377 ebook, $65.00.

While most books are written to be read, this book is meant to be experienced, investigated, and extended. Admitting that other good texts on number theory exist, this author pair openly embraces how their text differs and is designed to attract readers. While providing a historical journey through number-theoretic ideas that arose via problems involving prime numbers, the text touches on all of the key ideas—counting primes, determining if a number is prime, finding prime factors, and using primes in cryptography. Each historic episode includes key theorems, many proofs, insightful commentary, brief biographies and historical anecdotes about people associated with the problems and results, and an attractive set of problems ranging from the possible to the challenging to the even more challenging. When computer investigations are warranted, brief Mathematica programs are included. Three appendixes complement the book, providing respectively a historic time line of “prime” results, hints and solutions for selected problems, and an overview of mathematical prerequisite knowledge to help readers with varying backgrounds. An extensive bibliography and two indexes conclude the book (one providing pointers to biographical information in the text, the other pointing to mathematical subjects). Authors of other mathematical texts would do well to adopt and model the approach used in this text. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students and faculty. —J. Johnson, emeritus, Western Washington University

Environmental issues today: choices and challenges: v.1: The United States; v.2 International, ed. by Robert J. Duffy and Susan M. Opp. ABC-CLIO, 2020. bibl index ISBN 9781440859847, $204.00; ISBN 9781440859854 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This well-organized overview of current environmental issues and policy in the US and worldwide provides concise summaries of many key environmental challenges and what is being done to address them. Volume 1 focuses on the US, while volume 2 looks at the world as a whole, often through the lens of the United Nations and other global entities. Both volumes explore the same set of issues, e.g., environmental policy and justice, the impacts of environmental issues on humankind, land use and the conservation of natural resources, and the effects of energy production and consumption. The text of each volume is divided into a series of 15- to 20-page chapters written by academics and other experts, including editors Duffy and Opp (both, Colorado State Univ.). Throughout, the wide-ranging discussion is engaging and relatively jargon-free, making it suitable for a general audience. Each chapter could serve as a stand-alone introduction to the topic discussed, particularly for undergraduate students in search of background information on a paper topic. Key issues and policies are often highlighted in sidebars. The chapters include lists of recommended further reading, including many sources freely available online. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates. Students in two-year technical programs. —A. Kingston, Monroe Community College

Gender violence: interdisciplinary perspectives, ed. by Laura L. O’Toole, Jessica R. Schiffman, and Rosemary Sullivan. 3rd ed. New York University, 2020. 600p bibl index ISBN 9781479843923, $99.00; ISBN 9781479820801 pbk, $29.00; ISBN 9781479801817 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This impressive collection powerfully illustrates just how far-reaching and deeply embedded the problem of gender violence is, transcending cultures, nations, and continents. A clear and consistent conceptualization of gender violence emerges across all essays, presented primarily from a sociological perspective. This complex conceptualization is based on the social construction of patriarchy (male control over and coercion of women for social and economic power) and an inclusive intersectionality perspective, which frame the problem of gender violence as a human rights issue, a public health issue, and a social justice issue. Contemporary content includes discussions of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and rape culture, sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement, sexual violence in elementary and secondary schools, sexual abuse by clergy, sex trafficking and sex work industries, street harassment, workplace violence, bullying, toxic masculine subcultures, online gender violence, and institutional and systemic violence against women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and other diverse and marginalized groups across cultures and around the globe. Contributors present recommendations and strategies for meaningful changes to social forces and structural patterns with specific ideas on how to diminish, prevent, and ultimately end gender violence. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —L. J. Rubin, Texas Woman’s University

Gilbert, Claire M. In good faith: Arabic translation and translators in early modern Spain. Pennsylvania, 2020. 320p bibl index ISBN 9780812252460, $69.95; ISBN 9780812297393 ebook, contact publisher for price.

After some seven centuries of control, Muslim influence in the Iberian peninsula was obviously vast. This impact included political and legal practices that would carry over following the fall of Granada and the subsequent reign of Ferdinand and Isabella. While multilingualism prior to 1492 was common, in 1502 it became Hapsburg policy, as it was throughout much of Europe, to promote “national vernaculars.” As a result, spoken Arabic was prohibited. In this study, Gilbert (St. Louis Univ.) examines the fascinating dilemma in which Arabic-Spanish translators found themselves. While their translations of Arabic legal and political documents were still vital regarding the development of Hapsburg administrative policies, the translators were in a precarious position because of the anti-Arabic cultural policies being promoted. Using a number of case studies, Gilbert lays out a remarkable history. This is a very well-written and thoroughly researched work that all Iberian scholars of the early modern period should read. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty. —D. L. Tengwall, Anne Arundel Community College

Hallock, Thomas. A road course in early American literature: travel and teaching from Atzlán to Amherst. Alabama, 2021. 232p bibl index ISBN 9780817320836, $49.95; ISBN 9780817393403 ebook, $49.95.

The journey Hallock (Univ. of South Florida, St. Petersburg) takes is less a road trip than a series of inquiries into the contested metaphorical and geographic landscapes of early American literature. Loosely structured around key texts from an American literature survey course, the book takes Hallock from the marshes of Georgia to the Pacific Northwest, and from Mexico City to Salem, Massachusetts. The book’s generic hybridity—part travelogue, part literary analysis, part pedagogical reflection, part memoir—manifests Hallock’s commitment to an “enlightened belletrism,” a scholarship that is embodied and subjective as well as academic. The book is thus intentionally digressive and recursive, interweaving Hallock’s personal experiences—including his peripatetic early career, navigating the “two-body” hiring problem and family issues—into the larger political and professional challenges that confront literary studies. Amidst the multiple crises literary studies faces—from the adjunctification of the professoriate to reckoning with the ongoing consequences of a racist and oppressive past to the potential cataclysm of climate change—Hallock asks what it might mean to teach early American literature. He provides no easy answers, but he models the kind of curiosity, erudition, and humility that continue to expand the pedagogical terrain. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —A. T. Hale, University of Puget Sound

Jenkins, Paul H. Understanding mental health and mental illness: an exploration of the past, present, and future. Routledge, 2021. 346p bibl index ISBN 9781138340664, $160.00; ISBN 9781138340756 pbk, $44.95; ISBN 9780429440526 ebook, $44.95.

As a teacher of both forensic psychology (where the concepts of defining competency and understanding mental illness are a crucial component of the course) and the history of psychology, this reader found Jenkins’s historical look at mental health and mental illness especially intriguing. In his “exploration of the past, present, and future” Jenkins articulates the history with poise and clarity. Covering not only key schools of thought in the changing views of mental health and mental illness but important historical thinkers as well, Jenkins puts the history into context and illuminates the “good” and the “bad” in past and present views. More importantly, he uses the analysis of past and present perspectives to prognosticate about future directions for psychology and psychiatry in their ongoing attempts to comprehend the complexities of mental health and mental illness. All this is clearly done with an eye toward fostering appropriate understanding and treatment. This volume would make an excellent core source in a history of psychology course emphasizing the development of clinical psychology and psychiatry. It should be considered a must for practitioners. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students and professionals. —R. E. Osborne, Texas State University

Magaña, Maurice Rafael. Cartographies of youth resistance: hip-hop, punk, and urban autonomy in Mexico. California, 2020. 234p bibl index ISBN 9780520344617, $85.00; ISBN 9780520344624 pbk, $29.95; ISBN 9780520975583 ebook, $29.95.

Within the context of the enduring afterlife of the renowned 2006 Oaxaca teacher’s strike, Magaña (Univ. of Arizona) presents an extraordinarily well-informed ethnographic account, using his 10 years of fieldwork to document an “experiment in radical direct democracy” perpetrated by marginalized urban indigenous and migrant youth of Oaxaca who create decolonizing artistic expressions. Influenced by the international youth subcultures of street art, punk, and hip-hop, the seemingly powerless Oaxaca youth create their own avenues of “rebel aesthetics” in music, murals, and dance, performed continually as forms of revolutionary activism and effective forms of expressive resistance, challenging the status quo from the bottom up. Skillfully using performance venues and their own networks, these young people remake urban spaces, construct new identities, and actively participate in addressing local cultural and political issues, becoming transformative agents of productive change. By “listening to the stories” of the most marginalized—”the [i]ndigenous, racialized, urban, migrant, poor[,] and working-class youth”—and also by “taking them seriously,” Magaña portrays and corroborates Oaxacan youth as “agents of change” and “dreamers of liberatory and dignified futures,” offering a counter-reality to the prevalent negative stereotypes of the Mexican underclass. This is an excellent book for both its methodology and content. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers, advanced undergraduates through faculty, and professionals. —P. Passariello, emerita, Centre College