Outstanding Academic Titles 2023: Women’s History Part Two

Enjoy these five selections from the Choice Reviews 2023 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight, Outstanding Academic Titles from the past year to commemorate Women’s History Month. A hearty congratulations to the winning authors, editors and publishers!

1. Three women artists: expanding abstract expressionism in the American West
Von Lintel, Amy. by Amy Von Lintel and Bonnie Roos Texas A&M, 2022

This meticulously produced, handsomely illustrated, sensitively documented volume carefully analyzes how Eastern avant-garde artists Elaine de Kooning, Jeanne Reynal, and Louise Nevelson were influenced by their experiences of and artistic reactions to the wide-open, randomly populated, sun-scorched High Plains of Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma and how they processed and incorporated these experiences into their particular artistic visions. Von Lintel and Roos (both, West Texas A&M Univ.) contextualize the interest in abstract expressionism developing in this region and the role these artists played in nourishing this interest through their paintings. Of particular note is Von Lintel’s careful delineation of the profoundly significant role art dealer Dord Fitz had in advancing and promoting modern art, women painters, and abstract expressionism. Fitz was, as this volume shows, a talented and committed advocate for modern art, a friend and energetic supporter of women artists, and a significant voice in the development of art and painting on the High Plains of Texas and Oklahoma. This carefully composed work illuminates the vibrant relationships among these women, their art, and the region. View on Amazon

2. Mutinous women: how French convicts became founding mothers of the Gulf Coast
DeJean, Joan E. Basic Books, 2022

DeJean (Univ. of Pennsylvania) examines 132 French women who were jailed in 1719 based on trumped-up charges ranging from sedition to counterfeiting, theft, murder, and prostitution. Primarily, these working-class and poor women were imprisoned to supply labor to John Law’s proprietary scheme surrounding the multiple follies during the early years of French colonization of the central Gulf Coast. DeJean uncovers an elaborate conspiracy involving the Parisian police, the French government, and Law’s company in an attempt to supply the Louisiana colony with cheap labor. Ultimately, Law’s company’s demand for labor to support the Louisiana colony compelled the criminalization of these women. Banished to the fledgling colony aboard the ships La Mutine and Les Deux Frères, only 62 women managed to survive, helping to build nascent communities in New Orleans and Natchitoches, LA, and Mobile, AL. This book assembles an array of impressive primary sources from various archives and research facilities along the Gulf Coast and in France. The author’s efforts to redeem and historically pardon these women guide the overarching theme of this groundbreaking study, revealing the importance of these women in the early years of French colonization of the Third Coast. View on Amazon

3.Graciela: one woman’s story of war, survival, and perseverance in the Peruvian Andes
Kellett, Nicole Coffey. by Nicole Coffey Kellett with Graciela Orihuela Rocha New Mexico, 2022

Graciela examines the long-term impact of war and political violence in Peru, particularly in rural Andean communities, and the traumatic legacy of the Maoist guerilla group Sendero Luminoso. Drawing from extensive interviews with Graciela Orihuela Rocha, an Indigenous woman and war survivor, Kellett (anthropology, Univ. of Maine, Farmington) comprehensively analyzes how systematic inequality and barriers—present since the Spanish conquest and colonization—led to a brutal conflict throughout the 1980s and 1990s. She addresses her positionality and privilege in the introduction, acknowledging Orihuela Rocha as a “co-storyteller, co-researcher, and co-interpreter” (p. 16). This collaboration remains consistent throughout the subsequent chapters that detail Orihuela Rocha’s life story chronologically, interweaving Kellett’s voice with Orihuela Rocha’s and other relevant sources. Intimate ethnography and testimonio influence the narrative style and translation, thus contextualizing personal narratives with historical, political, and sociocultural context. Of particular interest is the focus on postwar experiences and how survivors, particularly women, reconcile with a traumatic past. Other key themes include human rights, postwar trauma, and healing. Most importantly, the narrative centers Orihuela Rocha, representative of an Indigenous female voice that is often silenced or marginalized in official government reports and history. This must-read book is accessible to both academics and non-specialists. View on Amazon

4. Geek girls: inequality and opportunity in Silicon Valley
Twine, France Winddance. New York University, 2022

Geek Girls is a critical, significant sociological work on structural inequality in technology occupations. Drawing on her extensive ethnographic interviews and framing those experiences within an intersectional lens, Twine (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) provides a multi-vocal account of the sexism and racism present in Silicon Valley and contributes a seminal book that will advance readers’ understanding of occupational inequality beyond the technology industry. Twine uses her deep ethnographic data from women across the spectrum of gender, racial, and ethnic identities and countries of origin to illustrate nuanced concepts—e.g., the glass wall, bonding capital, geek capital, and first- and second-generation technology workers—that reproduce systemic inequities pertaining to gender and race. The author carefully demonstrates how “myths,” such as leaky pipelines and meritocracy, can obscure the larger systemic inequality at play and how social capital and networks reinforce that same inequality. She also shares insights into ways to address this inequity based on her interviews with women in Silicon Valley. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in systemic inequality in work and occupations. View on Amazon

5Women and musical salons in the Enlightenment Cypess, Rebecca. Chicago, 2022

Few music books can be considered revelatory, but Cypess’s volume earns that accolade because it exposes vital activity in 18th-century Europe (and America) that has been all but ignored by most musicians. This was the world of the musical salon, known vaguely only in later versions as havens for Chopin and others. A striking feature of musical salons was their level of influence in myriad facets of contemporary culture: all manner of engagement with the Enlightenment was happening right outside. Salons were liminal spaces, existing between domestic life and public life, and the centrality of women to the endeavor was unquestioned. A salon may have been the only place outside the home where a female artist could engage in music. The book is rife with score samples—audio excerpts are available on a website—supporting the notion that salons were teeming with musical life, but Cypess (Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers) has applied a genuinely transdisciplinary lens to this hidden world. Although the book classes as music, it will be perfectly accessible to readers beyond the music discipline. Fascinating and compelling. View on Amazon

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