Editors’ Picks for February 2024

9 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

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These imprisoned women are willing, through advice and support, to sustain and support vulnerable others who might benefit from their painfully gained life lessons.

—R. D. McCrie, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

Benedict, Regina. Incarceration and older women: giving back not giving up, ed. by Lois Presser and Beth Easterling. Bristol University Press, 2023. 142p bibl index ISBN 9781529231618, $105.00; ISBN 9781529231670 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Incarcerated women have received more scholarly attention in recent years. However, the older segment of this population has generated scant research interest. For her doctoral thesis at the University of Tennessee, Benedict (formerly, criminal justice, Maryville College) interviewed 29 women prisoners between 2007 and 2009, most older than 40, at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women. Sadly, Benedict died in 2021, and her mentor, Lois Presser (Univ. of Tennessee), along with Beth Easterling (Mar Baldwin Univ.), edited the dissertation for publication. Benedict faced daunting obstacles in her research: she could interview each participant only once and for a maximum of two hours. Live recordings were prohibited. Despite these impediments, the researcher interacted with participants patiently, warmly, and respectfully. The result is a valuable, broad exploration of imprisoned older women’s experiences. This population often feels “degraded and discounted,” advanced age being the main contributing reason (p. 5). The surprise is that most of the participants see their lives—in prison and after reentry—as being opportunities for generativity, Erik Erikson’s term for giving back. These imprisoned women are willing, through advice and support, to sustain and support vulnerable others who might benefit from their painfully gained life lessons. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —R. D. McCrie, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY


Essential reading for students of the Court.

—P. Watkins, Purdue University

Boyd, Christina L. Supreme bias: gender and race in U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings, by Christina L. Boyd, Paul M. Collins, Jr., and Lori A. Ringhand. Stanford, 2023. 290p bibl index ISBN 9781503632691, $120.00; ISBN 9781503636880 pbk, $30.00; ISBN 9781503636897 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Supreme Bias describes how race, gender, and partisanship interact to produce a two-tiered confirmation process for individuals nominated to the Supreme Court. Drawing on theoretical literature on in-groups and out-groups, the authors mine an “original data set” gleaned from Judiciary Committee hearings that took place between 1939 and 2022. The results are stark. In contrast to other nominees, women and people of color are interrupted more often, engage with senators whose comments are less positive and tinged with doubt, and face a significant number of questions in areas of supposed expertise, such as abortion, gender discrimination, civil rights, and crime. Female nominees also face a disproportionate number of comments that question their competence to serve on the Court. The silver lining to the cloud that the authors investigate comes in their discussion of the increased sensitivity of questioning by senators who participated in the 2018 Blasey Ford–Kavanaugh special session compared to those who participated in the Thomas-Hill hearings in 1991. Their work also suggests that recent trends to diversify the membership of the Judiciary Committee might undermine the biases that infected past hearings. Essential reading for students of the Court. Summing Up: Essential. Undergraduates through faculty; general readers; professionals. —P. Watkins, Purdue University


This highly readable, informative perspective on neighborhood change makes a strong case for socially and economically diverse neighborhoods.

—R. A. Beauregard, emeritus, Columbia University

Mallach, Alan. The changing American neighborhood: the meaning of place in the twenty-first century, by Alan Mallach and Todd Swanstrom. Cornell, 2023. 396p bibl index ISBN 9781501770890, $125.00; ISBN 9781501771132 pbk, $31.95; ISBN 9781501770906 ebook, $20.99.

The hollowing-out of the middle class in the late 20th and early 21st centuries decreased the number of what Mallach (Center for Community Progress) and Swanstrom (Univ. of Missouri) call “middle neighborhoods”—i.e., residential areas occupied by people of varying economic means and cultural backgrounds who have easy access to “the things that are necessary for a good life” (p. 5). Additionally, these neighborhoods nurture human connections, trust, and tolerance. Becoming more numerous in cities and suburbs are gentrifying neighborhoods, neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, highly segregated Black neighborhoods, and elite enclaves. Viewing neighborhoods as dynamic feedback systems, Mallach and Swanstrom believe that with appropriate public policy, favorable demographic trends, continued attention to racism, and a decrease in economic inequality, the number of “good” neighborhoods can be increased, bridging the “intense polarization that bedevils our society and risks tearing it apart” (p. xii). The authors provide a history of neighborhoods from 1860 to 2020 and a thorough review—and critique—of the academic literature. This highly readable, informative perspective on neighborhood change makes a strong case for socially and economically diverse neighborhoods. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —R. A. Beauregard, emeritus, Columbia University


Historical nuggets such as German sources sometimes being more reliable than Allied sources, and analytic distinctions between narrative and interest-based journalism, add to its scholarly depth.

—J. Lembcke, emeritus, College of the Holy Cross

Reporting World War II, ed. by G. Kurt Piehler and Ingo Trauschweizer. Fordham, 2023. 304p bibl index ISBN 9781531503093, $105.00; ISBN 9781531503109 pbk, $35.00; ISBN 9781531503116 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This volume is a relief from the standard-fare narrative of intrepid reporters risking life and limb to bring WW II horrors home to stateside readers and listeners. Here, readers get a backroom glimpse, a how-the-sausage-was-made look at Pentagon censorship, the recruitment of war reporters, and the chemistry between military planners and news reportage. There are lesser-told stories like Ireland’s reluctance to join the anti-German cause lest its independence from England be compromised, and how the Allied press sought to undermine Ireland’s neutrality. Chapters on General Omar Bradley’s irritation with the way the Stars and Stripes newspaper represented him and his men and the role of the press in romanticizing the Army Rangers alone make this a recommendable read. Historical nuggets such as German sources sometimes being more reliable than Allied sources, and analytic distinctions between narrative and interest-based journalism, add to its scholarly depth. An excellent volume for historians of WW II and journalism. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —J. Lembcke, emeritus, College of the Holy Cross


His chapter ‘The Trumpocene’ should be required reading for everyone concerned about the future of democracy.

—J. Fischel, emeritus, Millersville University

Sharlet, Jeff. The undertow: scenes from a slow civil war. W. W. Norton, 2023. 352p bibl index ISBN 9781324006497, $28.95; ISBN 9781324006503 ebook, contact publisher for price.

The Undertow adds to the growing number of books examining the fractured nation that characterizes the present condition in American political and cultural life. Sharlet (Dartmouth College), the author or editor of eight books, attempts to understand how a large segment of Americans turned their distrust in the federal government into paranoia and fantasy. The author’s trek into the heartland of the US led him to interview MAGA followers at political rallies and religious revivals, ultimately alerting readers that the existing divisions in the US will not be readily resolved by convincing large bodies of Americans that what they believe is not subject to rational discourse. Rather, conspiracy theories and fantasies govern responses to a crisis that Sharlet warns is leading to a civil war. His chapter “The Trumpocene” should be required reading for everyone concerned about the future of democracy. In it, Sharlet shows that Trump’s followers see him as the instrument of God sent to cleanse the US from the “cannibalistic” Democratic Party and that Ashli Babbitt, an insurrectionist killed on January 6, 2021, is hailed as a martyr of white womanhood. This is crucial reading. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. —J. Fischel, emeritus, Millersville University


This collection of essays does an excellent job of moving the discourse forward and piquing the interest of space, technology, and legal enthusiasts alike.

—R. I. Saltz, independent scholar

Space law in a networked world, ed. by P. J. Blount and Mahulena Hofmann. Brill | Nijhoff, 2023. 296p bibl index (Studies in Space Law, 19) ISBN 9789004527263, $174.00; ISBN 9789004527270 ebook, contact publisher for price.

As technology evolves, it brings humans closer to the final frontier, allowing science fiction to become a reality. Space technology is here and becoming more accessible. To manage this high-tech reality, a legal framework is necessary. Blount (law, Cardiff Univ., Wales) and Hofmann (law, Univ. of Luxembourg) assembled an artful collection of essays to walk through the legal issues resulting from the risks and opportunities of the digital networking of space technologies. The work is organized into three sections. Section 1 focuses on issues of cybersecurity for space assets. Section 2 explores trends of connectivity and accessibility. Section 3 examines legal issues associated with data collection in space—which is extremely interesting because data collection, transmission, and processing are hot topics on the terrestrial level. Although there is a legal framework for space law that is largely based on the law of the sea, there is no international framework for the protection of personal data generated with space technologies. This collection of essays does an excellent job of moving the discourse forward and piquing the interest of space, technology, and legal enthusiasts alike. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. —R. I. Saltz, independent scholar


Overall, Strolovitch builds a strong case for how privileged communities use and usurp true crises in marginalized communities to gain resources and power.

—L. T. Grover, Southern University and A&M College

Strolovitch, Dara Z. When bad things happen to privileged people: race, gender, and what makes a crisis in America. Chicago, 2023. 420p bibl index ISBN 9780226700335, $95.00; ISBN 9780226798813 pbk, $30.00; ISBN 9780226798950 ebook, contact publisher for price.

What constitutes a crisis in public policy or the political arena? At the heart of this question is who gets resources and government intervention when crises occur? Moreover, it begs the question of what language is used around crises and how that leads to the distribution of resources. Marginalized communities and privileged communities definitely experience crises differently, and this book examines the politics of crises: the processes that structure the relationship between episodic hard times and ongoing hard times that affect the lived experiences of marginalized groups. Strolovitch (Yale Univ.) contends that these differences inform and comprise politics in the 21st century. She contends that the optimistic belief in the potential of major crises to increase the production of goods, services, and political relationships is what fuels this cycle of political activity. Overall, Strolovitch builds a strong case for how privileged communities use and usurp true crises in marginalized communities to gain resources and power. This is a must read for students of economics, public policy, race relations, political science, and sociology. Summing Up: Essential. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —L. T. Grover, Southern University and A&M College


It will be a reliable reference for postcolonial studies, Islamic studies, and comparative literature.

—H. Bahri, The City University of New York, York College

Wurr, Julia. Literary neo-orientalism and the Arab uprisings: tensions in English, French and German language fiction. Edinburgh University Press, 2022. 264p bibl index ISBN 9781474488006, $110.00; ISBN 9781474488037 ebook, $110.00.

This is a comparative study of fictional works in English, French, and German on the 2011 Arab uprisings (dubbed “the Arab Spring”) by Karim Alrawi, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Jochen Beyse, Mathias Énard, Jonas Lüscher, and Adam Thirlwell, among others. Wurr (Univ. of Oldenburg, Germany) holds that despite these authors’ best endeavors in delineating the Arab uprisings in a subtle and distinct way, their narratives remain partly mired in inconsistencies within the Orientalizing framework that they initially strove to avoid. The book describes how securitization and immigration have haunted the West, broadened the notions of othering, further racialized immigrants, and paradoxically created the adverse effects of the intended securitization. It also highlights how prominent European publishing houses fulfill the literary market’s desires, which are tailored for a Western readership, perpetuating tropes of undesirable representations of Arabs/Muslims as backward, anti-democratic, and a source of terror. Wurr’s commendable effort tells a story that needs to be retold numerous times to counter the “official” narrative. It argues timely themes: securitization, immigration, terrorism, Islamicate world, among others. It will be a reliable reference for postcolonial studies, Islamic studies, and comparative literature. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty. —H. Bahri, The City University of New York, York College


Zeitz traces Lincoln’s religious uncertainty that God was only on the side of the Union, feeling that God may have been punishing the Union for the times it also participated in slavery’s evils.

—A. W. Klink, Duke University

Zeitz, Joshua. Lincoln’s God: how faith transformed a president and a nation. Viking, 2023. 336p bibl index ISBN 9781984882219, $30.00; ISBN 9781984882226 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Zeitz (independent scholar) has writen an accessible biography of the theological influences on and the faith of Abraham Lincoln. The book carefully explores Lincoln’s religious upbringing, the various statements Lincoln made about God in his letters and speeches, and the way those close to Lincoln spoke about his faith. While Lincoln was raised Baptist, the book argues that he was never an orthodox Christian. However, Lincoln espoused a belief that a divine providence ordered the world, and as the Civil War progressed, saw himself playing a role in that order. Zeitz also sees Lincoln’s religious language as politically pragmatic: as evangelical northern Christians became increasingly opposed to slavery, Lincoln realized that it made political sense to frame the Civil War in religious terms to advance abolition and maintain Union morale. Zeitz traces Lincoln’s religious uncertainty that God was only on the side of the Union, feeling that God may have been punishing the Union for the times it also participated in slavery’s evils. This book also makes an argument that Lincoln was the first “evangelical president,” which was more persuasive than expected. General readers will find this an informative read on both Lincoln and the religious influences on the politics of the Civil War era. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduates and general readers. —A. W. Klink, Duke University