Outstanding Academic Titles 2021: Top Read 2021 OAT Reviews Part 2

Enjoy these five selections from the Choice Reviews 2020 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight part two of the most read 2021 OAT reviews.

1. No kids allowed: children’s literature for adults
Abate, Michelle Ann. Johns Hopkins, 2020

This is the first book-length study of a literary genre Abate (Ohio State Univ.) has coined “children’s literature for adults.” Author of several books on children’s literature—recent among them The Big Smallness (CH, Dec’16, 54-1509)—Abate dates this new genre to the late decades of the 20th century. Written exclusively for adults, titles in this genre are published in physical formats (board books, picture books) or have narrative styles (ABC texts, bedtime stories) traditionally associated with young readers. Abate writes that the line between childhood and adulthood has blurred and the “appearance of picture books, alphabet texts, and bedtime tales for grownups marks the moment when these literary schools, narrative styles, and material formats are no longer confined to a specific period in the human life cycle” (p. 191). Abate analyzes American books that have significantly impacted the genre, Dr. Seuss’s You’re only Old Once! (1986)—which Abate credits with launching this genre—Mable Maney’s The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse (1993), Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers (2004), David and Kelly Sopp’s Safe Baby Handling Tips (2005), and Barbara Parks’s Ma! There’s Nothing to Do Here! (2008). View on Amazon

2. Apocalypse man: the death drive and the rhetoric of white masculine victimhood
Kelly, Casey Ryan. Ohio State, 2020

The current culture and recent events bear out the need for greater attention to the study of white masculinity in the US. This book adds to the small but increasing number of important studies of this topic. Kelly (communication, Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln) performs deft rhetorical analyses of texts (in a variety of media) associated with white, male communities that seek to return to an imagined Eden of European male power in the US. Specifically, these texts include doomsday-prepper reality shows, online incel networks (typically comprising heterosexual men), public appearances of open-carry activists, and the presidential discourse of Donald Trump. Framed by Freud’s concepts of the death drive and melancholia, Kelly’s analyses are compelling. Like many psychoanalytically grounded studies, Apocalypse Man omits the crucial issue of social class as a necessary lens for understanding wounded white masculinity. Still, Kelly is perceptive in identifying the rhetorical power of victimhood as the central trope of white masculinist discourse, and in detailing the extent to which these movements have co-opted the language of identity politics for their own benefit. The chapter on presidential discourse is particularly relevant and insightful.

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3. Why we act: turning bystanders into moral rebels
Sanderson, Catherine Ashley. Belknap, Harvard, 2020

Why do people “stand by” and allow bad things to happen to others? Why do bystanders remain silent? Sanderson (Amherst College) makes a persuasive argument about moral courage, building the case that this quality is not innate. In this three-part text she presents relatable examples of bad behavior (part 1: “The Silence of the Good People”), case histories of institutionally supported misbehavior (part 2: “Bullies and Bystanders”), and detailed accounts of training programs and studies designed to elicit ethical behavior given a choice (part 3: “Learning to Act”). In so doing, Sanderson provides not only an answer to the age-old mystery of why so many of us fail to intervene when we should, but also a demonstration of how to support and practice intentional resistance instead of looking away. Although good people can be complicit in behavior they know is wrong, to change this dynamic, Sanderson challenges readers to become moral rebels, foster empathy, and practice supporting others to do the same. Crucially, she recommends building alliances so that we do not have to enact change alone. View on Amazon

4. Transforming history: a guide to effective, inclusive, and evidence-based teaching
Festle, Mary Jo. Wisconsin, 2020

Despite never having been an undergraduate history instructor, this reviewer would recommend this book to anyone who teaches any subject at the secondary, post-secondary, or even graduate level. Why? Transforming History seamlessly melds the science of learning with discipline-specific content in an engaging and intelligent way. Each chapter provides practical, concrete, and evidence-based ideas for organizing some important components of instruction, including syllabi, lectures, discussions, assignments, evaluations, relationships with students, and mentorships with other professionals. Most important, these suggestions can be adapted to the online environment, which seems to be the hub for education for the foreseeable future. Rarely in life does this reviewer find a resource so well-composed that it seems to have the power to reawaken intellectual life if it is widely used.
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5Cops, cameras, and crisis: the potential and the perils of police body-worn cameras
White, Michael D. by Michael D. White and Aili Malm New York University, 2020

White (Arizona State Univ.) and Malm (California State Univ., Long Beach) examine the topic of body-worn cameras (BWC) from many different angles. Media coverage oversimplifies this subject in addition to presenting seemingly contradictory stories. The authors methodically explore the scholarly, evidence-based literature to create a more holistic picture of the situation and promise of BWCs. Nearly half of the text is consumed by this systematic review, with particular focus on twenty major studies, some of which have had media exposure. The authors assess the strengths and weaknesses of these studies and extrapolate general conclusions. They argue that most of the touted benefits of BWCs are plausible. But there are many pitfalls, including the fact that each police department’s starting point or baseline for improvement is unique. Defining improvement or success, maintaining cybersecurity and privacy, and managing public expectations are all problematic. The authors also discuss the rapid diffusion of BWCs, reviewing the perspectives of the various stakeholders. The book concludes with a chapter on emerging challenges.
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