Editors’ Picks for March 2021

10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.

book covers

Byrd, Brandon R. The Black republic: African Americans and the fate of Haiti. Pennsylvania, 2019. 312p index ISBN 9780812251708, $39.95; ISBN 9780812296549 ebook, contact publisher for price.

How important was Haiti to the ideological development of African American politics? Byrd (Vanderbilt Univ.) argues that the history, politics, and evolving example of the Haitian revolution proved influential to both whites and African Americans in the 19th century. In this incisive and innovative work, he illustrates that the politics of Haiti both inspired and troubled Americans: African Americans saw the possibilities and problems of political power, while white Americans perceived the threats that a functioning Black-led government held for the ideological argument of Black inferiority and the future of slavery. The analysis in chapters on imperialism, Jim Crow, and Black internationalism clearly illustrates how Haitian politics helped shape each of those concepts in African American perceptions of power and the possibilities of change in the US. This is an illuminating work that helps build a foundation of scholarship important for understanding ideological development and governance in African American politics both within and beyond US borders. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —K. Anderson, Eastern Illinois University

Crossroads of cuisine: the Eurasian heartland, the silk roads and food, by Paul D. Buell et al. Brill, 2020. 340p bibl index (Crossroads–history of interactions across the silk routes, 2) ISBN 9789004432055, $159.00; ISBN 9789004432109 ebook, $159.00.

This engaging, detailed, beautifully illustrated, and quite honestly unputdownable volume presents an ethnographic history of food culture in Central Asia. The high quality of the research is sure to engage anyone with a personal connection to the region, but the addition of etymological asides, connections beyond the region, historical narratives, and the copious and mouthwateringly practicable recipes make this a book that could well spend more time in the kitchen than on the desk. The five sections address the place of foodways in Central Asian culture, the prehistory and history of foodways in the region, historical interactions between travelers and ideas (including food as medicine) from outside the region, a regional overview of contemporary food and foodways, and the foods of individual countries. The four editors employ their diverse fields—food history, ethnography, medicine, human ecology, art, and cultural studies—to offer a multilayered exploration of how food is used in different ways across Central Asia, as well as the historical and cultural contexts that surround individual foods. The illustrations are many, the bibliography is broad and deep, and the index is comprehensive. A delicious book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels. —S. Wickhamsmith, Rutgers University

Imagining queer methods, ed. by Amin Ghaziani and Matt Brim. New York University, 2019. 336p bibl index ISBN 9781479821020, $89.00; ISBN 9781479829484 pbk, $30.00; ISBN 9781479821020 ebook, contact publisher for price.

In Imaging Queer Methods, editors Ghaziani (Univ. of British Columbia, Canada) and Brim (College of Staten Island, CUNY) bring together cutting-edge scholars and activists from several disciplines to interrogate the operationalization of queer theory, namely, queer methods. Answering the fundamental question of how queer theory can be applied, a nuanced topic given the field’s focus on “ephemeral subjects,” contributing authors take the reader through a variety of methodologies and methodological approaches to answering empirically based questions in both the humanities and the social sciences. Each author also offers behind-the-scenes glimpses of their published research, pulling back the curtain to demonstrate their own applications of queer methods, though this is certainly not a how-to book. This volume is highly recommended for graduate students and scholars who seek to understand queer methods and apply them in their own work. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students and faculty. —A. J. Hattery, George Mason University

Longair, Malcolm. Theoretical concepts in physics: an alternative view of theoretical reasoning in physics. 3rd ed. Cambridge, 2020. 662p bibl index ISBN 9781108484534, $59.99; ISBN 9781316999318 ebook, $48.00.

This third edition of a brilliant exposé of theoretical reasoning adds discussions on properties of fluids and more concepts related to gravitational waves and cosmology, while expanding and revising chapters of previous editions. The additional emphasis on historical development will be welcomed by physicists in training because they add to the excitement and beauty of each subject area. One learns how areas of physics developed, from mechanics to Maxwell’s equations of electrodynamics, from thermodynamics and statistical mechanics to quantum mechanics, and from special and general relativity to gravitational waves and cosmology. The only major physics discipline not covered is particle physics. Students will get real pleasure following the critical reasoning of physicists through the centuries because they then learn how to think about physics. Even if readers have enjoyed a previous edition of the book, this latest edition adds significant historical insight and new material, and should be added to their library. The numerous references to the original papers, reviews, and other books connect readers directly to the intellectual history of physics, condensed matter, relativity, astrophysics, and cosmology. Excellent indexing, including an author index, along with many helpful diagrams and useful chapter notes, add utility and charm. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals. —F. Potter, formerly, University of California, Irvine

Research handbook on gender, sexuality and the law, ed. by Chris Ashford and Alexander Maine. E. Elgar, 2020. 552p index ISBN 9781788111140, $290.00; ISBN 9781788111157 ebook, $65.00.

Ashford (Northumbria Univ.) and Maine (Univ. of Leicester) have edited a timely collection that offers a global perspective on “the current gender, sexuality, and law research landscape.” The resulting volume explores the attendant issues in seven parts: “New Boundaries and Activism,” “Identity and State,” “Lived Societies,” “Bodily Autonomy,” “Violence and Vulnerability,” “Deviancy and Illicit Constructions,” and “Transgressive Boundaries.” Contributors and editors deftly navigate complex sets of issues in a global context (including marriage and trans rights), yet they neither universalize the experiences discussed nor force readers toward consensus. As caveated in the introduction, this book’s “authors will often not agree with one another, let alone the editors, but we feel this is critical for the development of the field to enable a rich engagement with the research in this area by those new to [it].” While this handbook is not appropriate for use in community colleges or introductory-level undergraduate courses, it will be a great reference resource for advanced undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and practitioners engaged in legal and gender studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals. —C. Pinto, Mount Holyoke College

Smith, Bonnie G. Women in world history: 1450 to the present. Bloomsbury Academic, 2019 (c2020). 329p bibl index ISBN 9781474272926, $95.00; ISBN 9781474272933 pbk, $30.95; ISBN 9781474272957 ebook, contact publisher for price.

College instructors looking for a decent textbook that includes a strong perspective on women’s roles throughout history for an undergraduate world history survey course will find that Smith’s Women in World History is a great selection. Widely celebrated as a leading scholar in women’s and gender history, Smith (Rutgers Univ.) does a superb job of balancing theoretical concerns with historical inquires in this global study of women’s history over the past 500 years, written primarily for an undergraduate audience. To many, this is an impossible task to achieve, but Smith has accomplished it triumphantly. Not only does she provide a concise and accurate narrative of historical events, she also celebrates women’s agency in the globalized past. Even more impressively, the author is highly conscious of the contributions of women in non-Western societies to the formation of the modern world, making this a truly global world history book. The glossary at the end of each chapter is an effective guide for teaching and review, and the lists for further reading are particularly helpful for students who want to explore each topic in greater depth. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through graduate students. —X. Fan, State University of New York at Fredonia

Strobel, Christoph. Native Americans of New England. Praeger, 2020. 211p bibl index ISBN 9781440866104, $50.00; ISBN 9781440866111 ebook, contact publisher for price.

In this excellent book Strobel (Univ. of Massachusetts, Lowell), who previously wrote The Global Atlantic: 1400–1900 (CH, Aug’15, 52-6528) and The Testing Grounds of Modern Empire (2008), has collected, researched, and interpreted the history of the first peoples of the northeastern US, focusing especially on what is now New England. He investigates the archaeological evidence from the earliest known excavations to present-day digs, as well as all written historical records. He includes all possible sources from these records, even many previously labeled as hoaxes or untruths, and also incorporates the oral traditions of existing Native groups and federally recognized tribes. This synthesis provides a much more complete accounting of the first 10,000 years of New England history. Additionally, such a complete record of survival in great climate swings (from near ice age to moderate warmth) and countless natural disasters serves as a lesson of hope and persistence for the current day. Though the title sounds like another ho-hum history of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, this reviewer was enthralled from the first page until the last. Illustrations and maps would have been helpful, but even without them this is a must-have purchase for any library and any institution that teaches US history. Summing Up: Essential. All levels. —A. Wirkkala, New England College

Supporting and educating traumatized students: a guide for school-based professionals, ed. by Eric Rossen. 2nd ed. Oxford, 2020. 411p bibl index ISBN 9780190052737 pbk, $45.00; ISBN 9780190052751 ebook, contact publisher for price.

The past 20 years have witnessed an expansion of interest in children’s traumatic experiences that result in severe disruptions to caregiver relationships and threats to emotional and physical safety. Since education is a universal component that binds together disparate elements of society, this movement represents an impressive and much-needed corrective. Rossen, a certified educational psychologist and director of professional development and standards for the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), has compiled 21 essays organized in 3 sections that cover the impact of trauma on schools, potential sources of trauma (e.g., immigration), and administrative and policy considerations (e.g., screening and assessment). This highly relevant and impressive volume covers a full range of issues and incorporates both theory and professional practice for trauma-informed classrooms. It will be particularly relevant to teachers, students, counsellors, support staff, administrators, politicians, and board members. Even parents who are overwhelmed by circumstances, and who can acclimate to the book’s scholarly language, will find hope in learning about the caring and supportive work being done on behalf of affected children and other concerned parties. The text is supplemented by chapter references and appendixes in most cases. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels. —D. Sydiaha, emeritus, University of Saskatchewa

The Wicked problem of forest policy: a multidisciplinary approach to sustainability in forest landscapes, ed. by William Nikolakis and John L. Innes. Cambridge, 2020. 400p bibl index ISBN 9781108471404, $84.99; ISBN 9781108636865 ebook, $68.00.

This volume edited by Nikolakis and Innes (both, Univ. of British Columbia) explores a range of policies in use around the world to sustainably manage forests. While developed countries are mentioned at points, the focus is on tropical forests in the Global South. The book is divided into two sections: “Wicked Problems and Policies” (part 1) and “Tools to Address Wicked Problems” (part 2). The first part introduces policies that have been implemented in many different places, including REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries—a policy approach incorporated into the Paris Agreement), payments for environmental services, and forest certification. Most chapters in part 2 are case studies of policy implementation in different geographic areas, e.g., Indonesia, Liberia, and Peru. This book achieves far better cohesion than many edited volumes involving multiple contributors. While authors employ different terminology from one chapter to the next, the links between key ideas become clear as they address the complexity of their respective topics. The chapters can be selectively read as stand-alone resources, if desired. All chapters in part 1 would be suitable introductions to their topics for readers new to forest policy. Most chapters are amply referenced, further supporting readers new to the field. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and professionals. —B. D. Orr, Michigan Technological University

Wolff, Larry. Woodrow Wilson and the reimagining of Eastern Europe. Stanford, 2020. 304p index ISBN 9781503611184, $90.00; ISBN 9781503611191 pbk, $30.00; ISBN 9781503611207 ebook, contact publisher for price.

In designing a map of post–WW I Eastern Europe, Woodrow Wilson’s idealism was a central factor. He wanted to extirpate old empires and also assure justice for small nations and ethnic minorities. The problem was that Wilson’s mental map, forged in part out of youthful reading and sentimental premises, collided with demographic complexities and realpolitik. That is the burden of this meticulously researched and compelling book. Wolff (New York Univ.) sheds new light on the deliberations at Versailles, which notably focused on the future of the defeated Ottomans and Habsburgs and their subject constituencies. Wilson had long detested Ottoman tyranny, but by fall 1918 he concluded that the Habsburg Empire also needed to be “effaced.” He was determined to create a new Czech and Slovak republic, Czechoslovakia, and to create a viable Polish state, encouraged by their politically nimble leaders. The plight of substantial ethnic minorities in both countries was not ignored, but neither was it satisfactorily resolved. Making use of a wide range of original sources, including transcripts of conversations among the leaders of the “Big Four” at Versailles, this work enriches the understanding of Wilsonian statecraft. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —M. J. Birkner, Gettysburg College