Editors’ Picks for January 2021

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

book covers

Chung, Hye Seung. Hollywood diplomacy: film regulation, foreign relations, and East Asian representations. Rutgers, 2020. 243p bibl index ISBN 9781978801561, $120.00; ISBN 9781978801554 pbk, $32.95; ISBN 9781978801578 ebook, contact publisher for price.

In 2020, the South Korean film Parasite took the 2020 Academy Awards by storm as the first non-English language film to win best picture (and other Oscars); the award elicited a nasty response from the US’s current administration. Clearly Chung’s Hollywood Diplomacy is timely. It is also expertly researched. Chung (Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins) looks at how Hollywood produced, marketed, and sometimes reproduced films based on relationships—whether stable or strained—with China, Japan, and North and South Korea. Chung proceeds in chronological order, discussing such polarizing films as Welcome Danger (1929), Shanghai Express (1932), The Purple Heart (1944), Die Another Day (2002), and The Interview (2014), among others, focusing on each film without going on tangents. Some gaps in the timeline could have been filled, but that is this reviewer’s only complaint. The book provides a new and fresh understanding of how policies, censorship, and the propaganda machine can influence screenwriters, directors, and production companies. A deft combination of history and textual analysis, Hollywood Diplomacy provides insight into how Hollywood has often wrongly represented East Asian people and then attempted to save face and money by editing out those problematic representations. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —D. C. MacLeod, SUNY Cobleskill

Gellman, Erik S. Troublemakers: Chicago freedom struggles through the lens of Art Shay, photographs by Art Shay. Chicago, 2020. 258p index ISBN 9780226603926, $35.00; ISBN 9780226604084 ebook, $21.00.

In this beautifully produced and richly illustrated book, Gellman (history, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) offers a compelling history of political activism in Chicago during the early postwar decades. Focusing primarily on African Americans, he covers labor strikes, consumer boycotts, criminal (in)justice, police brutality, the war on poverty, political corruption, Black support of and white resistance to school and housing integration, youth gangs, the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, and anti-war protests. He laments the loss of opportunities for forging cross-class and multiracial activism and the many ways in which powerful people and institutions define urban disorder to suppress democracy, enhance the wealthy, maintain control of the government, and ignore deepening inequalities. What gives this wonderfully told history even greater impact is the inclusion of the photographs of Art Shay, a photojournalist who seemed to have attended every significant protest that occurred in Chicago from the mid-1940s to the late 1960s. Gellman treats Shay’s photographs as historical documents equivalent to the extensive archival and secondary sources he mined to research this text. The result is a significant contribution to urban history, presenting a creative model for how it can be written. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty. —R. A. Beauregard, emeritus, Columbia University

Goldstein, E. Bruce. The mind: consciousness, prediction, and the brain. MIT, 2020. 248p bibl index ISBN 9780262044066, $27.95.

There can be no doubt that Goldstein (emer., Univ. of Pittsburgh) relished the challenge of writing a short little book on the mind. How to introduce a reasonably intelligent audience to some of the biggest intersecting issues in philosophy, psychology and biology in under 50 thousand words? First, lure them in with seeming simplicity! Yet, chapter by chapter (six in all), Goldstein manages to convince that “the idea of the mind as amazing is not reserved for ‘extraordinary’ minds.” Effective sequencing and use of metaphor help scaffold readers’ understanding, while a historical overview of behaviorism helps explain why the biggest questions about consciousness have remained a puzzle until now. Stubborn scholars who insist that “brain equals mind” might be surprised by Goldstein’s introspective account of how ions and membranes translate into a memory of yesterday’s committee meeting. Younger students might find themselves less intimidated than before by the details of functional MRI studies illustrating neural pathways. The accessibility, clear writing, and friendly tone of this text make it a good choice for undergraduate upper-level courses and seminars, not to mention the “reeducation” of those among their instructors who may have become a bit more fossilized. Goldstein’s enlightening narrative is well supported by 38 pages of references inviting further exploration. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals. —J. F. Heberle, Albright College

Lalaurie, Louise Rogers. Matisse: the books. Chicago, 2020. 320p bibl index ISBN 9780226750545, $75.00.

A well-illustrated scholarly assessment of the books by artist Henri Matisse has long been overdue, but Lalaurie’s achievement makes the wait worthwhile. Lalaurie (a translator who specializes in art history translation from French) devotes each of the eight chapters to analysis of a single book illustrated by Matisse. With the exception of one, all the book projects’ timelines overlap with WW II, and Lalaurie analyzes these convincingly as a “display of creative resistance,” “the perfect wartime medium,” encoded through interwoven word and image (p. 18). Clear writing and argumentation, solid research, close readings of Matisse’s work, and elegant prose distinguish Lalaurie’s analyses, and these qualities are reinforced by a commendable book design that gives priority to multipage spreads from the original illustrated books. Lalaurie offers a rediscovery of Matisse to confirm his status at the heart of modern art. Early in his career, Matisse embraced music, dance, and decoration as themes of his creations and analogies for the experience of modern art. Lalaurie demonstrates that books, among these themes from the start, became powerful vehicles for Matisse at the height of his career. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals; general readers. —J. E. Housefield, University of California, Davis

Living culturally responsive mathematics education with/in indigenous communities, ed. by Cynthia Nicol et al. Brill, 2019. 268p index ISBN 9789004415751, $143.00; ISBN 9789004415744 pbk, $54.00; ISBN 9789004415768 ebook, $143.00.

This impressive volume edited by Nicol (Univ. of British Colombia) and colleagues exemplifies the best of qualitative research methodologies and the power they have to embody respect for indigenous ways of knowing and being. Each article offers a thoughtful literature review designed to inform further work and ground it in a broader theoretical context. The book repeatedly challenges the notion that mathematics is culturally neutral and empowers indigenous communities by making the case for tailoring mathematics education to the appropriate cultural context. An impressive representation of the range of mathematical fields of study is embedded in the cross-cultural context of these consistently thoughtful discussions, problematizing the role of power structures in traditional mathematics education. Weaving together social justice and educational concerns, the well-written and relatively short articles make the subject accessible to upper-level undergraduates who may be studying qualitative research or education generally, with a special focus on concerns for mathematics education. This volume would also be an excellent springboard for graduate work (perhaps undertaken by, for example, practicing teachers enrolled for continuing education) or for faculty wishing to dive more deeply into the literature on culturally responsive mathematics education. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and researchers. —R. M. Fischer, Montana State University

McAlpine, Erica. The poet’s mistake. Princeton, 2020. 298p bibl index ISBN 9780691203478, $99.95; ISBN 9780691203492 pbk, $29.95; ISBN 9780691203768 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This is the first book-length consideration of poets’ mistakes, and in it McAlpine (Univ. of Oxford, UK) insists that poetry is not invincible, that poets make mistakes in their poems, and that these errors must never be justified, much less denied. This applies whether it is Keats confusing Cortez with Balboa, or Wordsworth confusing verb tenses, or Browning not understanding that “twat” was a vulgarity (he thought it was part of a nun’s habit), or Dickinson confusing Mt. Vesuvius with Mt. Etna, or Bishop referring to incorrect issue dates of National Geographic, or Heaney misrepresenting lakes where Wordsworth skated. Though some of the examples McAlpine cites may seem less important than others (Hart Crane’s use of “wrapt” instead of “rapt” or John Clare’s use of “wonder” rather than “wander”), McAlpine’s point is that accuracy is as important in poetry as in fiction, that intentionality, however difficult that might be to determine, is a factor one must consider, and that unconscious mistakes differ from naïve errors. She also points out examples in which poets have embraced printers’ errors as better options than the original text. This study is convincingly argued, delightfully written, fascinating in its examples, and well worth a careful read. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. —J. P. Baumgaertner, emerita, Wheaton College (IL)

The Psychology of women under patriarchy, ed. by Holly F. Mathews and Adriana M. Manago. School for Advanced Research (SAR), 2019. 281p bibl index ISBN 9780826360830 pbk, $39.95; ISBN 9780826360847 ebook, contact publisher for price.

The introductory chapter of this very fine collection is alone worth the price of the book, if only for its definitions and descriptions of patriarchy, including how patriarchy reveals its persistent ability to respond to colonialism, capitalism, “father right,” “fraternal right,” and neoliberalism. The result is the patriarchal bargain, or how women worldwide navigate patriarchal oppression in creative ways. The text honors women’s agency, an important psychological point since second wave feminists tended to describe women who settle for the patriarchal bargain as women who have false consciousness or unawareness of their condition. This study does not promote psychological healing as a methodology for responding to global sexism, but is instead an examination of how women respond psychologically to that sexism. The major problem seems to be balancing emancipation while remaining loyal to patriarchal family and community systems. Perhaps the best example is found in the chapter on rape culture in the US as compared and contrasted to the practice of bride kidnapping in Central Asia. Shame is the weapon used to keep women from reporting rape and to ensure compliance by women who are kidnapped as brides. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty; professionals. —P. A. Murphy, emerita, University of Toledo

Roulin, Alexandre. Barn owls: evolution and ecology. Cambridge, 2020. 297p index ISBN 9781107165755, $59.99; ISBN 9781316731000 ebook, $48.00.

Barn owls, with their heart-shaped facial discs, are one of the most recognizable of owl species, although most people have probably seen them only in pictures. Along with a few other closely related species, they are cosmopolitan, found in many regions around the globe, and often associated with humans. Roulin (biology, Univ. of Lausanne) has conducted research on barn owls for 30 years, resulting in 240 published research papers. Here he examines what has made these owls so successful and discusses aspects of their biology, including morphology and physiology, natural history, behavior, conservation, and evolution of their plumage patterns. Barn owls have some unusual characteristics that make them attractive model organisms for research: acute hearing, ability to fly almost silently, high reproductive potential, asynchronous hatching of chicks coupled with peaceful sibling interactions, plumage variability, and high population fluctuations. This volume is profusely illustrated and includes reproductions of paintings and drawings, photographic images, and charts. A “Further Reading” section at the end of each division includes references to scholarly literature. Written in a less formal style than is typical of academic works without sacrificing the scholarly focus, this book will appeal to all readers and is essential for academic libraries supporting biology programs. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. —C. E. Buckley, Illinois State University

Sambaluk, Nicholas Michael. Myths and realities of cyber warfare: conflict in the digital realm. Praeger, 2020. 218p bibl index ISBN 9781440870804, $77.00; ISBN 9781440870811 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This book makes a simple yet compelling point: cyber warfare envelops us all. It is impossible for the innocent and unsuspecting to escape the deleterious effects of the new cyber technologies. Juxtaposing myths about this new domain against facts, military historian Sambaluk (The Other Space RaceCH, Aug’16, 53-5379) devotes the first four chapters to providing the reader with usable information. For example, deploying malware is not always an inexpensive way to attack nation-states. The Stuxnet worm or virus said to have brought down Iran’s centrifuges was half a megabyte in size and cost millions to develop. Furthermore, unraveling the source of cyber attacks doesn’t help much. Malevolent states employ “patriotic hackers” living abroad to create mischief. Chapters 5 and 6, devoted to social media, constitute an original and innovative contribution to the cyber literature, effectively arguing that Facebook and Twitter are successfully militarized platforms. Terrorists use these platforms not only to communicate with each other but to identify and trace prospective victims. Gone are the days when civilians could bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the spectacle of a major battle. Cyber technology draws unsuspecting spectators into the battle. This is the grim reality that 21st-century citizens must face. Credit Professor Sambaluk with having made the case. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —J. A. Stever, emeritus, University of Cincinnati

Wanjek, Christopher. Spacefarers: how humans will settle the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Harvard, 2020. 389p bibl index ISBN 9780674984486, $29.95; ISBN 9780674983410 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Space journalist Wanjek (also the author of Bad MedicineCH, May’03, 40-5249) here soberly assesses what it will take for humankind to survive off the Earth, both nearby and in interstellar space: “There can be nothing instant or magical in the establishment of space infrastructure.” This reader readily agrees: leaving the Earth will be difficult. Not only must humans overcome technical difficulties (radiation exposure and low gravity among the most challenging), they also must have good reasons to spend the enormous amounts of money and time required. Comparing the potential hardships to those faced in previous human endeavors (e.g., explorations in Antarctica), Wanjek examines both technical challenges and motivations, and projects what will be needed to sustain life in specific space environments. His text is backed up by formal references to state-of-the-art knowledge (in 20 pages of notes). Wanjek concludes that while life on Earth may have its problems, living elsewhere is not necessarily going to be better. But what we learn in space can make our lives better here on Earth. For alternative views, readers may compare The First Space War, by J. Furman Daniel and T. K. Rogers (CH, Jun’20, 57-3476). Wanjek’s engaging style makes this a must-read for space enthusiasts, and for anyone who ponders our place in the universe. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —M. A. Reynolds, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University