Editors’ Picks for June 2021

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

Bartel, Christopher. Video games, violence, and the ethics of fantasy: killing time. Bloomsbury Academic, 2020. 224p bibl index ISBN 9781350121874, $115.00; ISBN 9781350121881 ebook, $103.50.

Much has been written, in popular media and in academia, about possible connections between violence in games and real-world human actions. Often such concerns are voiced by authors who have never played the games they describe most critically. By contrast, Bartel (Appalachian State Univ.) is an experienced player of a wide range of videogames expressing different genres. Adopting a highly nuanced approach, he specifically examines how participating in game violence might affect players on a moral and philosophical scale. He establishes the distinction between doing violent things in games unwillingly, whether because they are required by the mechanism or because they make sense for the character the player is inhabiting, and intentionally seeking to engage in such acts. He argues “that it is morally wrong for players to enact violent fantasies in games willingly because doing so contributes to the player’s cultivation of a vicious moral character.” This is a controversial proposition certain to generate debate. One of the pleasures of reading this book is found in Bartel’s rigorously researched and careful defense of his position on philosophical grounds. His use of scenarios from published games to illustrate ethical quandaries will make the book engaging and understandable for a range of readers. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals. —E. Bertozzi, Quinnipiac University

Bsheer, Rosie. Archive wars: the politics of history in Saudi Arabia. Stanford, 2020. 416p bibl index ISBN 9781503605183, $90.00; ISBN 9781503612570 pbk, $30.00; ISBN 9781503612587 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Archive Wars documents how the modern Saudi state shapes its history by manipulating its archives and built environment. Highlighting history’s materiality, Bsheer (Harvard Univ.) explores how material constraints make the past, present, and future subject to economic and political processes. A state’s curation of this archive—textual and spatial—entails making decisions about what is preserved, what is destroyed, and what is erected anew. Archive Wars underscores these battles over history as constitutive of modern statecraft, rather than indicative of Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian, nonmodern essence. In so doing, it uses a nation’s history making in progress to tell a larger story about knowledge production, urban (re)construction, and the power struggles that make up seemingly cohesive states. Drawing on ethnography, oral history, and a rich archive that works to trace, challenge, and analyze Saudi historiography (alongside a trove of secondary scholarship), the text‘s five thematic chapters follow various moments in Saudi history—from late Ottoman Mecca’s religious diversity to “bulldozing the past” as part of Mecca’s urban “renewal” today, and from Saudi struggles against Gamal Abdel Nasser’s pan-Arabism to the nation’s consolidation during and after the Gulf War. Archive Wars thus constitutes essential reading for any historian, but particularly those also interested in urban development, historiography, and the Arabian Gulf. Summing Up: Essential. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —J. Alkorani, University of Toronto

Confronting inequality: how policies and practices shape children’s opportunities, ed. by Laura Tach, Rachel Dunifon, and Douglas Miller. American Psychological Association, 2020. 231p index ISBN 9781433832666 pbk, $49.99; ISBN 9781433832925 ebook, contact publisher for price.

What a welcome contribution to the world of basic and applied developmental psychology research! What has been done, and what can be done to promote equality of opportunity in children’s lives? This volume is an edited set of papers from a 2018 conference dedicated to the legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917–2005) and ecological systems theory. Given the importance of the issues addressed, it is good to have this publication made available so quickly. The multidisciplinary papers are organized in four sections, covering research from psychology, sociology, and economics. The focus is on issues arising from policies designed to address inequality in children’s lives. This invaluable resource covers a lot of ground, beginning with a review of important biological issues such as stress; continuing through evaluation of various programs focused on children’s well-being; examining intertwined systems of education, parenting, and social support; and ending with commentary on the current state of affairs and future directions. There is a chapter for every form of the question “But how does the [environmental factor] play into the larger picture?” and each chapter provides new opportunities for a reader well educated in one area to learn more about another. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals. —J. F. Heberle, Albright College

De Grazia, Victoria. The perfect fascist: a story of love, power, and morality in Mussolini’s Italy. Belknap, Harvard, 2020. 528p index ISBN 9780674986398, $35.00; ISBN 9780674245471 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This study of the lives and extraordinary experiences of two individuals, and others with whom they interacted, in Fascist Italy offers uncommonly remarkable insights into Fascism, Mussolini and his regime, and culture and society more generally. Attilio Teruzzi, who was in the advance guard of the “New Man” of Italian Fascism, was the “perfect [F]ascist”: a veteran of many wars and a political henchman, he held multiple critical responsibilities in service of the Duce, including head of the Blackshirts, minister of Italian Africa, and service in the Spanish Civil War, in addition to regular public appearances with Mussolini. Lilliana Weinman of New York, a rising opera diva, fell in love with Teruzzi, married him, and was later renounced by him. Drawing on rich documentation, De Grazia (Columbia Univ.) analyzes their calamitous relationship while addressing key issues of the period and the Fascist regime, all with exceptional clarity. Especially significant is her interpretation of Mussolini’s actions, from the war in Ethiopia in 1935 to his defeat and removal in 1943. As for Teruzzi, he had “inflict[ed] incalculable harm on his nation, his family, and himself” (p. 427). This book has many rewards for all readers. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels. —N. Greene, Wesleyan University

Hammond, Kelly A. China’s Muslims and Japan’s empire: centering Islam in World War II. North Carolina, 2020. 314p bibl index ISBN 9781469659640, $95.00; ISBN 9781469659657 pbk, $29.95; ISBN 9781469659664 ebook, $22.99.

This well-researched study tells a hitherto little-known story, or “understory,” in East Asian history of the complex and challenging role the Muslim community in China played during the first half of the 20th century. It analyzes the difficult position that “Sino-Muslims” (Muslims living in inner China) took before and during WW II. From the 1880s when Japan shifted its attention from learning from the West to making itself an imperial power in Asia, it aspired to become the leader of the tōyō, or the East, vis-à-vis the West. Japan worked on winning the support of Sino-Muslims in China during the Meiji period (1868–1912), intensifying the effort after full-scale war broke out in 1937. Through painstaking research drawing on archival sources in five languages, Hammond (Univ. of Arkansas) presents the intricate and multifaceted Sino-Muslim responses to Japan’s imperial planning, epitomized in its construction of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. She also discusses how, in the process of working with the Japanese, Sino-Muslims finessed their relationship with Chinese nationalists and fostered their connections with other communities in the Muslim world. This is a fine and inspiring contribution. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty. —Q. E. Wang, Rowan University

Marquis, Christopher. Better business: how the B Corp movement is remaking capitalism. Yale, 2020. 312p index ISBN 9780300247152, $28.50; ISBN 9780300256154 ebook, contact publisher for price.

The role of private corporations in society is here subjected to lively discussion by Marquis (Cornell Univ.), packaged in terms of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) requirements with “sustainability” as an added concern. B Corporations are firms that have agreed to meet key benchmarks of what someone defines as ESG and sustainability compliance. This arrangement is presumably of benefit to society at large, as well as to boards of directors, management, suppliers, customers, communities, special interest groups, and other stakeholders. Meeting the requirements to qualify isn’t easy, and it is easy to overlook the sometimes serious differences among stakeholders. No doubt there are cases where certain stakeholders get railroaded to help satisfy the preferences of others. If there are financial costs associated with B Corporations, they may suffer in competition with rivals that are cost-free. Yet, B Corporations may be exposed to less regulatory and reputational risk than their non-compliant rivals, boosting valuation. Of course, criteria for judging corporate conduct can differ around the world and change over time. Marquis does a good job of laying out the complex arguments in favor of B Corporations. The work will be worthwhile reading for current and future pension beneficiaries with a lot of exposure to corporate stock portfolios. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students and professionals. —I. Walter, emeritus, New York University

Nowakowski, Alexandra C. H. Transformations in queer, trans, and intersex health and aging, by Alexandra C.H. Nowakowski, J.E. Sumerau, and Nik M. Lampe. Lexington Books, 2020. 100p bibl index ISBN 9781793616340, $85.00; ISBN 9781793616357 ebook, $80.50.

Authors Nowakowski (Florida State Univ.), Sumerau (Univ. of Tampa), and Lampe (Univ. of South Carolina) use autoethnography to illuminate the lived experience, health, and aging of queer, trans, and intersex individuals by detailing their challenges to seeking health care and navigating life and love. One chapter asks what sexuality means for one with cystic fibrosis (CF) and focuses on navigating safe sex and health care. Challenges include the stigma of chronic illness, the myth that aging involves losing sexuality, and the desexualization of disability. That chapter details how society may view someone with CF as “gross” and as hypervigilant to prevent genital and urinary infections during sex. A broader exploration of sexuality across life for previously desexualized groups is also needed. The second author highlights the impact of socioeconomic status and race on health care and the need for new models of health in the context of chronic illness, sexuality, or injury. She explores the life transformations of being assigned male at birth and using off-market female hormones, and painfully recalls being punished for referring to herself as female. The third author describes how learning of their intersex traits in young adulthood ushered the exploration of non-binary life. This is essential reading for health-care professionals and students of sexuality. Summing Up: Essential. All levels. —S. M. Valente, University of California, Los Angeles

Solórzano, Daniel G. Racial microaggressions in education: using critical race theory to respond to everyday racism, by Daniel Solórzano and Lindsay Pérez Huber. Teachers College Press, 2020. 176p index ISBN 9780807764398, $90.00; ISBN 9780807764381 pbk, $29.95; ISBN 9780807779095 ebook, $29.95.

Defining racial microaggressions as “as one form of systemic, everyday racism used to keep those at the racial margins in their place,” Solórzano (Univ. of California, Los Angeles) and Pérez Huber (Univ. of California, Long Beach) apply their definition to a critical race theory framework to create an excellent overview of the long-term, negative psychological and physiological effects of everyday racism that people of color experience. The authors further look at the types and contexts of racial microaggressions; macroaggressions; self-affirming responses to microaggressions; the roots of internalized racism; the ties between institutional racism, white supremacy, and racial microaggressions; and promising areas for future research. Racial Microaggressions in Education is a timely, well-researched book that draws on the works of other scholars in the field (notably Chester Pierce, who first coined the term microaggression) and provides vivid, real-life examples of racial microaggressions throughout the text. Readers, regardless of their background, will better understand racial microaggressions and be able to pinpoint them after reading this book, enabling them to disrupt the normalized existence of racism in everyday life. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels. —A. Sheppard, Arkansas State University

Toll, Ian W. Twilight of the gods: war in the western Pacific, 1944–1945. W. W. Norton, 2020. 944p bibl index ISBN 9780393080650, $40.00; ISBN 9780393651812 ebook, contact publisher for price.

Twilight of the Gods completes Toll’s outstanding “Pacific War” trilogy, which includes Pacific Crucible (CH, Jul’12, 49-6430) and The Conquering Tide (CH, Jan’16, 53-2306). Interweaving memoirs, diaries, documents, and secondary sources, Toll, a writer and military historian, covers in great detail all the major events of the last year of the Pacific war—the invasions of the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa; the Battle of Leyte Gulf; the kamikaze attacks off the Philippines and Okinawa; the fire-bombing of Japan; and ending with the dropping of the two atomic bombs. Engaging prose and astute analysis draw the reader into the action, be it on land, sea, or in the air, and impart a feel of the rigors and hazards of combat. Highlights include the critical analysis of the American and Japanese naval leadership at Leyte, the navigation between Japanese and US forces fighting on Iwo Jima, the strange and harrowing odyssey of Bockscar (the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki), and the critical debate among high-ranking Japanese leaders on how to end the war after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This work is enhanced by 32 pages of photographs and 20 maps. Summing Up: Essential. All levels. —W. T. Lindley, Union University

Wikipedia @ 20: a web of connection, ed. by Joseph Reagle and Jackie Koerner. MIT, 2020. 376p index ISBN 9780262538176 pbk, $27.95; ISBN 9780262360593 ebook, contact publisher for price.

This collection of essays, edited by Reagle (Northeastern Univ.) and Koerner (educator and Board Governance Facilitator, Wikimedia Foundation), is presented under three different themes: where Wikipedia started; where it stands now; and what needs to be done in the next decade. The first group of contributions provides the most comprehensive account of Wikipedia’s history this reviewer has seen. One essay in particular, looking at the role Wikipedia plays in breaking news events, will likely catch readers’ attention. The second section provides stories of the collection’s contributors. The essays are uneven here, some reading like personal memoirs and others like brainstorming session notes. The evolution of relationships and collaborations among academics, librarians, and subject experts is a memorable aspect. The final section includes some contributions that are critical of current Wikipedia content and practice, focusing on topics such as “Microaggressions,” “Diversity beyond Gender,” and “Knowledge Equity.” A short discussion about reliable sources as defined by Wikipedia, a problematic area for inclusiveness, is enlightening. What readers may find lacking is discussion about how Wikipedia’s educational efforts might include school-age children, who Wikipedia users and editors are, and recruitment of future editors. Overall this is a great collection in which most general readers will find something to enjoy. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —S. Marks, University of Massachusetts, Lowell