Editors’ Picks for October 2023
10 reviews handpicked from the latest issue of Choice.
Posted on October 12, 2023
Well written with an exhaustive number of footnoted sources, this is an important indictment of the Trump presidency.—J. Fischel, emeritus, Millersville University
Baker, Peter. The divider: Trump in the White House, 2017–2021, by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. Doubleday, 2022. 752p bibl index ISBN 9780385546539, $32.00; ISBN 9780385546546 ebook, $32.00.
It is often said that journalism is the first rough draft of history, and when it comes to the Trump presidency, there exists a plethora of books and articles by journalists about former president Donald Trump. Among the most important are Maggie Haberman’s Confidence Man (2022) and Bob Woodward’s Fear (2018). The Divider by Baker, the chief White House correspondent for the New York Times, and Glasser, a staff writer for The New Yorker, joins the ranks of the best of these publications. The authors have written a highly critical book about their subject based on hundreds of interviews, including two lengthy interviews with Trump. They conclude that Trump presided over one of the most unsuccessful presidencies in generations, describing him as an insecure president who stressed loyalty to himself as a paramount value. Of his many other shortcomings, Baker and Glasser also write about his lying, citing 30,573 false and misleading claims that Trump made during his tenure in office, leading up to the “big lie” about the 2020 election. Well written with an exhaustive number of footnoted sources, this is an important indictment of the Trump presidency. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty; professionals. —J. Fischel, emeritus, Millersville University
He [Baron] highlights areas of ongoing concern, such as the use of speech to silence the speech of others and the tradeoff between heightened modes of electronic communication and decreased privacy.—J. R. Vile, Middle Tennessee State University
Baron, Dennis. You can’t always say what you want: the paradox of free speech. Cambridge, 2023. 240p bibl index ISBN 9781009198905, $27.95; ISBN 9781009198875 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Baron (Univ. of Illinois), a well-published emeritus professor of English, presents a solid discussion of most First Amendment free speech and press issues and also examines some lesser-known First Amendment byways. These include the relationship between the First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble and protest and Second Amendment protections for the right to bear arms, which could intimidate and provoke violence on such occasions; speech, especially during wartime, that is believed to pose “a clear and present danger”; the difficulties of seeking to define and regulate obscenity; the regulation of threats issued over social media or directed at the US president; attempts to make English the official language of the US and/or limit uses of other languages; and cases of required speech, as in the Miranda warnings that police must give to criminal suspects. Baron’s own background in linguistics leads to some enlightening insights into the process of constitutional interpretation. He highlights areas of ongoing concern, such as the use of speech to silence the speech of others and the tradeoff between heightened modes of electronic communication and decreased privacy. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —J. R. Vile, Middle Tennessee State University
Mexican journalists are forced to exercise self-censorship to survive. Regina’s story is a painful reminder of this situation.—C. A. Hernandez, California State University, Northridge
Corcoran, Katherine. In the mouth of the wolf: a murder, a cover-up, and the true cost of silencing the press. Bloomsbury, 2022. 336p bibl index ISBN 9781635575033, $28.00; ISBN 9781635575040 ebook, contact publisher for price.
This volume considers the role of journalists and the perils they face in the process of chronicling the connection between corrupt politicians and drug traffickers. Corcoran, a former Associated Press bureau chief for Mexico and Central America, examines the case of Regina Martínez to illustrate the dangers confronting journalists in Mexico. Journalism, often considered “the first rough draft of history,” has proven to be a dangerous undertaking in Mexico, one of the most perilous countries for the profession. Martínez is part of a long list of journalists who believed in the utility of a free press and paid for this belief with their lives. Unfortunately, this list continues to grow. In the process of preventing the first rough draft of history to be published in Mexico, censorship is accomplishing something equally as sinister globally: posing a threat to basic protections and rule of law. In a country where freedom of the press has historically been elusive because of governmental control, it is now challenged even further by repression from the narcos. Mexican journalists are forced to exercise self-censorship to survive. Regina’s story is a painful reminder of this situation. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty; professionals. —C. A. Hernandez, California State University, Northridge
Fregoso masterfully and poignantly combines theory, scholarship, and activism in this volume, thereby bearing witness and accompanying others in their struggles for justice.—I. Coronado, Arizona State University
Fregoso, Rosa Linda. The force of witness: contra feminicide. Duke, 2023. 248p bibl index ISBN 9781478017103, $99.95; ISBN 9781478019817 pbk, $25.95; ISBN 9781478024385 ebook, contact publisher for price.
This book documents the horrors of feminicide and the disappearances of women on the US-Mexico border and highlights spirited resistance to gender violence in the region. Fregoso (emer., Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) states, “I decided to dedicate my research to the fight against gender and sexual violence in Mexico as a way to contribute to social change and social justice work” (p. 20). She articulates the different modalities of feminist witnessing: activist mothers bearing witness to the memories of their daughters, her serving as a judge on the Hearing on Feminicide and Gender Violence for the Permanent People’s Tribunal in Chihuahua City, listening to witnesses whose family members had disappeared or been murdered, and rendering the decision that “the Mexican state is guilty of the feminicides and gender violence, for failing to guarantee the life, dignity, work, and liberty of women” (p. 155). Throughout the book, Fregoso considers the role of artists as witnesses, demonstrating how art and film can inspire people to act. Chapter 6 focuses on her role as a country expert on gender asylum cases. Fregoso masterfully and poignantly combines theory, scholarship, and activism in this volume, thereby bearing witness and accompanying others in their struggles for justice. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —I. Coronado, Arizona State University
His [Horowitz] gaze remains consistently sharp and thoughtful, teasing out questions about agency, knowledge, and responsibility across this vast landscape of pain.—G. W. McDonogh, Bryn Mawr College
Horowitz, Daniel. American dreams, American nightmares: culture and crisis in residential real estate from the Great Recession to the COVID-19 pandemic. North Carolina, 2022. 318p bibl index ISBN 9781469671499, $99.00; ISBN 9781469671505 pbk, $34.95; ISBN 9781469671512 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Many reading this review will have experienced the Great Recession of 2008 firsthand, and in many ways the US continues to live with its fallout. Moreover, myriad political and economic analyses, both academic and popular, have shaped understandings of these events and the personalities that have changed the world. Horowitz (emer., American studies, Smith College) instead asks how people know what they know through his critical, varied meditations on this period and the reflections that follow. His focus is wide: from voyeuristic home remodeling shows to the evangelistic crowds of real estate success seminars and close readings of old and new media. His gaze remains consistently sharp and thoughtful, teasing out questions about agency, knowledge, and responsibility across this vast landscape of pain. His dissection of the gender dynamics of knowledge—including the marginalization of women as commentators and their importance as ethnographic interpreters of the social processes of capital manipulation—guide readers through especially compelling readings. Meanwhile, his thoughts on new social media and real estate should be a bracing chapter for seminars. A good and provocative read. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduates through faculty and general readers. —G. W. McDonogh, Bryn Mawr College
Macrakis believed that while the US has vast quantities of data that it has collected from these technological advances, it has not become any safer and that it has become far too reliant on these technologies.—S. R. DiMarco, Commonwealth University of PA
Macrakis, Kristie. Nothing is beyond our reach: America’s techno-spy empire. Georgetown University, 2023. 280p bibl index ISBN 9781647123239, $29.95; ISBN 9781647123246 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Before her death, the late Macrakis (history, George Institute of Technology) added this thought-provoking entry into the field of technology and espionage with this title. Nothing Is beyond Our Reach claims that from the earliest days of the Cold War, American technology has created the ability to spy: from satellites in space to drones hovering in the skies to submarines in the depths of the deepest oceans to enhanced interrogation techniques that sift through the human mind to create a vast amount of raw data that may be used for national security. Macrakis believed that while the US has vast quantities of data that it has collected from these technological advances, it has not become any safer and that it has become far too reliant on these technologies. The examples are well documented, and the history makes a good deal of sense in proving her point that, from the U-2 incident to Havana syndrome, the daily flood of data is truly fantastic, but it takes people and analysis to use the data correctly and wisely. The chapters are easy to understand, and the bibliography is excellent. Overall, this book is recommended for anyone who wants to understand espionage and technology. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduates through faculty; professionals; general readers. —S. R. DiMarco, Commonwealth University of PA
The author’s encouragement provides a path for psychologists to rethink what they bring to their research and to their advocacy.—R. E. Osborne, Texas State University
Moghaddam, Fathali M. How psychologists failed: we neglected the poor and minorities, favored the rich and privileged, and got science wrong. Cambridge, 2022. 200p bibl index ISBN 9781316513019, $89.99; ISBN 9781009069915 pbk, $29.99; ISBN 9781009081283 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Moghaddam (Georgetown Univ.) offers a slim but powerful volume. As a psychologist this reader would love to say that the author got it wrong, that psychology has not failed, and that psychologists instead have made an impact. In reality, the book’s title and all of the preceding statements can be true and even seem to be true at the same time. In this text, Moghaddam makes the case for how psychology and psychologists can have more of an impact, be less prone to the same biases as the rest of society, and do a better job of research-based advocacy and decision-making. The volume works primarily because Moghaddam is not trying to lay blame and run. Instead, his approach is one of clarity and encouragement for where psychology has gotten it wrong—this is the clarity component—and how psychology can rethink itself (especially in the areas of mental health, prisons, thinking about non-Western societies, and in thinking ahead). The author’s encouragement provides a path for psychologists to rethink what they bring to their research and to their advocacy. For those in their early career who want to chart a path forward that has a significant potential for positive impact, this book is essential reading. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals. —R. E. Osborne, Texas State University
This highly theoretical work will interest students and scholars of social philosophy, social theory, and the history of social thought.—A. J. Trevino, Wheaton College
Neuhouser, Frederick. Diagnosing social pathology: Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, and Durkheim. Cambridge, 2023. 386p bibl index ISBN 9781009235037, $39.99; ISBN 9781009235044 ebook, $39.99.
In this weighty, erudite volume, Neuhouser (philosophy, Barnard College; Columbia Univ.) makes a case for employing the idea of pathology or illness in understanding societies as functionally organized systems. Since antiquity, a tendency to conceive of social problems—e.g., crime, poverty, drug abuse—and their solutions in terms of a vocabulary appropriated from medicine has persisted. Framing social problems as pathologies helps people understand these issues in ways unavailable to political philosophies that rely on the language of legitimacy, justice, or moral rightness. Diagnosing and combating social pathologies remains a legitimate aim of social theory. Indeed, all the classical theorists examined in this book—Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, Durkheim— understood social reality as social life, with life being the domain within which the concept of illness originally resides. In the concluding chapter, Neuhouser argues that the social pathological approach views healthy societies as carrying out various functions—the main function being allowing members the freedom to engage in their own self-determination. This highly theoretical work will interest students and scholars of social philosophy, social theory, and the history of social thought. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students and faculty. —A. J. Trevino, Wheaton College
Oatsvall makes a strong case that many advances in the environmental sciences were made because of the efforts to understand nuclear technologies.—R. E. O’Connor, National Science Foundation
Oatsvall, Neil S. Atomic environments: nuclear technologies, the natural world, and policymaking, 1945–1960. Alabama, 2023. 264p bibl index ISBN 9780817321468, $49.95; ISBN 9780817394349 ebook, $49.95.
Oatsvall (independent scholar) offers a fresh history of how policy makers at the dawn of the nuclear age (1945–60) dealt with the interconnections between nuclear technologies and the environment in their decisions involving the testing of nuclear weapons. Using archival collections, published primary sources, websites, and secondary sources, he thoroughly explores how officials of the Truman and Eisenhower administrations understood their responsibilities to secure the national defense by producing better atomic bombs while also protecting public health through limiting the amounts and occurrences of fallout. At the same time, these policy makers were assessing the limits and capabilities of nuclear technologies for civilian uses. Oatsvall makes a strong case that many advances in the environmental sciences were made because of the efforts to understand nuclear technologies. Yet the degree to which decision-makers put citizens at risk from dangerous levels of fallout in order to advance nuclear technologies will likely be disturbing to many readers. Nevertheless, Oatsvall is convincing in arguing that nuclear weapons stimulated the advent of ecology as a coherent field because advances in nuclear weapons required new understandings of Earth systems. The book represents solid scholarship with thorough documentation (50 pages of notes), and is well written. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. —R. E. O’Connor, National Science Foundation
Using stories to connect to readers and help them engage with and reframe concepts, Wright argues for a reformulation of traditional discourse around trauma.—Z. Price, Towson University
Wright, Travis. Emotionally responsive teaching: expanding trauma-informed practice with young children. Teachers College Press, 2023. 224p bibl index ISBN 9780807768358, $105.00; ISBN 9780807768341 pbk, $34.95; ISBN 9780807781722 ebook, $34.95.
Wright (Univ. of Wisconsin) has created a timely and useful work on trauma-informed practices in the early childhood field. The compact volume focuses on practitioners. Wright breaks down his arguments into eight succinct chapters on interacting with children with messy lives, identifying the elements of an emotionally responsive teaching approach, teaching from hope instead of fear, using resilience to help children, redefining trauma, understanding the impact of fear on development, cultivating an emotionally responsive teaching approach, and embracing the courage to care. Trauma is a complex issue, which the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the forefront of educational discourse. Using stories to connect to readers and help them engage with and reframe concepts, Wright argues for a reformulation of traditional discourse around trauma. Wright’s work is an excellent addition to other books in the field, such as Alex Shevrin Venet’s Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education (W. W. Norton, 2021) and Sarah Erdman, Laura J. Colker, and Elizabeth C. Winter’s Trauma and Young Children: Teaching Strategies to Support and Empower (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2020). Summing Up: Highly recommended. Undergraduates and professionals. —Z. Price, Towson University