Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ann Twinam's "Purchasing Whiteness"

Ann Twinam is a Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Miners, Merchants and Farmers in Colonial Colombia and Public Lives, Private Secrets: Gender, Honor, Sexuality and Illegitimacy in Colonial Spanish America.

Twinam applied the “Page 99 Test” to Purchasing Whiteness: Pardos, Mulattos and the Quest for Social Mobility in the Spanish Indies, and reported the following:
The key quote on page 99 is:
Even though outlawed, slaves found ways, either supervised by masters or not, to carry weapons. It would not be until the next generation that their freeborn descendants would open the door wider, seeking the privilege to carry arms as whites, opening the door to militia service and eventual status as royal vassals.
This citation on page 99 falls in a chapter entitled “Interstices.” It explores how Africans and their mixed descendants (castas) searched for openings over the generations that permitted the movement from slavery to freedom and from freedom to status as vassals of the Spanish Empire. Once the castas achieved the rank of vassals, they enjoyed the traditional benefits of reciprocity: those who performed services had the right to request favors; the duty of the monarch was to reward them. This included the Council of the Indies that would---for that reason---seriously consider those casta petitions that arrived in the late eighteenth century requesting the privilege (gracias al sacar) of purchasing whiteness.

The quote on page 99 identifies an earlier and fundamental part of that process. It tracks how in the early colony it was not uncommon for imperial officials and elites to enhance their status by surrounding themselves with armed slave footmen. This practice accustomed the populace to seeing those in bondage with arms, even though this was a privilege legally reserved for whites. In succeeding generations the free mixed descendants of these slaves would also receive permission to carry weapons and to serve in pardo and mulatto militia units. As the castas participated in the defense of the empire against foreign invaders, they legitimated their status as loyal vassals, worthy of royal favors, including not only the acquisition of whiteness by a privileged few, but also official reconsideration of the discriminatory regime directed against them.
Learn more about Purchasing Whiteness at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 27, 2015

Paul Sullivan's "The Thin Green Line"

Paul Sullivan writes the Wealth Matters column for The New York Times.

From 2000 to 2006, he was a reporter, editor and columnist at the Financial Times. His first big story for the FT was a profile of the author Kurt Vonnegut based on a train ride they took from Springfield, Massachusetts to New York City. His last piece for the FT was Vonnegut’s obituary.

His first book was Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t.

Sullivan applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Thin Green Line: The Money Secrets of The Super Wealthy, his second book, and reported the following:
I’m not sure if you get the quality of the whole book by reading page 99 of The Thin Green Line: The Money Secrets of the Super Wealthy. But you certainly get a good feel for what my closet looks like.

Page 99 is a few pages into the first chapter in the book’s Spend It section. I’m writing about some pants that do not fit me and are no longer in style. The waist is three inches too small, which makes the out-of-style pleats billow like a coffee filter. Yet these pants hang in my closet because I bought them at Burberry nearly 20 years ago. It was a time when their price, which I can no longer remember, was astonishingly high. I loved those trousers, but then my post-college waist gave way to the stomach of a man with a desk job, and I haven’t been able to force the button closed since my 30s. If you turn the page, you’ll get to the very expensive Ferragamo shoes that cut up my feet whenever I wear them, which I haven’t in years. These, too, I can’t part with. Same reason. The price.

Why does any of this matter in a book with a subtitle that promises money secrets revealed? Because understanding how we spend money on individual things is essential to determining whether we’ll be wealthy – and be able to make the decisions we want to make no matter how much money we earn – or rich or poor, when decisions get made for us. In my book, I use the image of the thin green line – think a 50-year chart of stock returns, rising and falling and rising some more – to delineate the difference, between those comfortably on top and those barely hanging on to the line.

Those pants in my 20s and those shoes in my 30s were choices. They remind me of decisions I made that I shouldn’t have made with the salary I had. Both were beyond my budget, way beyond. And that is why they take up space in my closet to this day. Now that I earn more I could afford a new pair of Burberry trousers and a more comfortable pair of fancy shoes. But they sit there to remind me of the importance of small decisions and overall behavior to being wealthy. And when I think about those pants and shoes, I chose not to stretch myself to buy something I want but don’t need.
Visit Paul Sullivan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

David S. & Jeanne T. Heidler's "Washington’s Circle"

David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler have collaborated on books about the early American republic, the Antebellum period, and the Civil War, including Encyclopedia of the War of 1812 and the award-winning Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Social, Political, and Military History, which received the Society for Military History’s Distinguished Book Award. They are the authors of Henry Clay: The Essential American; Old Hickory’s War: Andrew Jackson and the Quest for Empire; The War of 1812; Manifest Destiny; Daily Life in the Early American Republic: Creating a New Nation, 1790-1820; and The Mexican War.

Jeanne Heidler is Professor of History at the United States Air Force Academy where she is the senior civilian member of her department.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Washington’s Circle: The Creation of the President, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Washington’s Circle, the occasion is George Washington’s first annual message, an event now called the State of the Union. As with everything under the new constitutional government, we see a precedent-setting situation: the act of delivering the annual message and the congressional reaction to it. Readers have a brief contextual explanation of the changing protocols for this occasion over a long span of different presidencies, but mainly they have the tangible example of how everyone was trying to balance the ideal of republican government with the necessity of creating viable executive authority. Here is how that is treated:
Washington did not relish having to deliver the speech, but he wanted to communicate his views to Congress in person. He did so every year of his presidency and his successor John Adams continued the practice. The third President, Thomas Jefferson, preferred to send his message in written form to Congress, but only partly because he loathed public speaking. By the time Jefferson was president, the annual message had fallen into disfavor for resembling the king’s address from the throne to Parliament, and every president after Jefferson followed his precedent until Woodrow Wilson revived the personal appearance. Wilson saw nothing untoward in addressing Parliament from the throne.

Washington did, but he was working from a different set of circumstances, one of which was the need to establish his office as a coequal branch of government. At 11:00 AM on January 8, with considerable ceremony, the President of the United States left his residence in his cream colored carriage. At its front rode two secretaries atop Washington's matching white stallions. Tobias Lear sat in the carriage with Washington, and the President's nephew Robert Lewis rode his horse behind it. Chief Justice Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and Henry Knox followed, each in a separate carriage. When Washington arrived at Federal Hall, the doorkeepers of the House and Senate escorted him into the Senate chamber. Members of the House and Senate stood when he entered and remained standing until he sat down in John Adams’s ornate chair. Washington's retinue filed in to stand at the rear of the chamber throughout the address. Washington stood to give his speech. Congressmen and Senators stood as well. In a departure from their behavior at the inaugural address, they remained standing throughout the address. The government was changing before their very eyes.
This description illustrates at least two main themes developed throughout the book, and we tried to do this by showing the situation rather than telling about it. Washington’s effort to enhance the prestige of the presidency with the appurtenances we describe becomes controversial as the narrative progresses. The peculiar change marked by the legislature standing during Washington’s address is noted as a break from the first inaugural when members had taken their seats after the president’s entrance. That had been done to drive home the point that the man coming before them was at most a chief among equals. The conflicts developing both within and between the branches of government are foreshadowed, and the depth of the disagreement is only thinly veiled as it emerges over matters of principle as well as policy in the pages that follow.
Learn more about the book and author at David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler's website.

My Book, The Movie: Washington’s Circle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mary Patrice Erdmans and Timothy Black's "On Becoming a Teen Mom"

Mary Patrice Erdmans is Associate Professor of Sociology at Case Western Reserve University. She is the author of Opposite Poles: Immigrants and Ethnics in Polish Chicago, 1976-1990 and The Grasinski Girls: The Choices They Had and the Choices They Made.

Timothy Black is Associate Professor of Sociology and Faculty Associate of the Social Justice Institute at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of When a Heart Turns Rock Solid: The Lives of Three Puerto Rican Brothers on and off the Streets.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, On Becoming a Teen Mom: Life before Pregnancy, and reported the following:
“…requires breaking the silence.” These are the first four words on page 99 and while they refer specifically in this chapter to the silence surrounding child sexual abuse it is an appropriate metaphor for what we are trying to do in this book based on 108 life stories of teen mothers. By telling the backstory to their early pregnancies, we break the silence that dominates the narratives about teen mothers, narratives that shame teen mothers and blame them for such things as the breakdown of the traditional family, urban decay, bloated government spending, and increased incarceration rates.

Most studies looking at the consequences of early childbearing find that teen mothers are more likely to use state assistance, to not graduate from high school, and to be single parents. What these studies remain silent about is the reality that teen mothers are more likely to live in impoverished neighborhoods, to attend inadequate schools, and to suffer the indignities of gender violence long before they become pregnant. And yet – policy makers, media pundits, and even some social scientists blame teen mothers for larger social problems inflicted on them, not caused by them.

Page 99 [inset left, click to enlarge] is in the chapter “What They Tell You To Forget.” The relation between child sexual abuse and early childbearing was one of our sobering findings. Over one-quarter of the teen mothers in our study had been raped or molested when they were children, and most of them did not tell anyone about the abuse while it was happening. Despite 40 years of activism to reduce violence against women, sexual assault continues, not only in homes, but also on college campuses, in the military, and by prominent sports figures. While some adult women are speaking out, many teenagers and children are still hiding the abuse, and institutions are still trying to cover it up.

In this book we expose the violence – structural, symbolic, and interpersonal -- that is caused by economic inequality, gender disparity, and persistent racism. It is time to break the silence; we must not forget that teen mothers are not “the problem," social injustice is the problem.
Learn more about On Becoming a Teen Mom at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 23, 2015

James Garbarino's "Listening to Killers"

James Garbarino holds the Maude C. Clarke Chair in Humanistic Psychology and was Founding Director of the Center for the Human Rights of Children at Loyola University Chicago. He was formerly Professor of Human Development at Cornell University, and he is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. He has served as an adviser to the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, the National Institute for Mental Health, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, and the FBI. He is the author of Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them.

Garbarino applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Listening to Killers: Lessons Learned from My Twenty Years as a Psychological Expert Witness in Murder Cases, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Listening to Killers touches on several themes that pervade the book. First and foremost, it includes a “case,” the story of a particular individual (in this case a 19 year old named James). I have served as a psychological expert witness in more than 70 murder cases in the past 20 years. But what makes the book more than just a compilation of cases, is the fact that in the book I link the stories of individuals to research findings from psychology, sociology, anthropology, biology, and even history and political science. This is at the core of the book—inviting compassion by illuminating the humanity of individual killers through grounding their stories in an appreciation for the adversity and suffering of their lives that gives rise to their violent behavior. The facts of race loom large throughout the book, and page 99 is no exception (including the fact that some one in three Black men will be imprisoned at some point during their lifetimes). Page 99 also considers the important ways in which individual “choice” (the foundation of the criminal justice system) is always conditioned by the social realities in which these “choices” are made. This includes, for example, the very desperately bad choices that confront a young male inmate who is faced with the alternative of submitting to sexual assault or fighting back and being battered or even killed for his resistance. Often this terrible choice is wrapped up in a “code of honor,” in which experiencing “disrespect” and “humiliation” is experienced as the prospect of psychological annihilation. Whether it be in prison or in the outside world, many killers are driven to commit violent acts to avoid what they perceive to be the shame of being disrespected. Add guns into this equation and the result of often lethal. The book focuses upon the emotional and moral damage that shapes many killers, so much so that it offers the proposition that the best way to understand them is as “untreated traumatized children who control the scary men whose minds and bodies they inhabit.”
Learn more about Listening to Killers at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Michael Morse's "Mr. Wilson Makes it Home"

Michael Morse is a retired firefighter who received the Robert and Margaret MacColl Johnson Fellowship from the Rhode Island Foundation this past year. He is the author of Rescuing Providence and Responding as well as numerous essays. He is a monthly columnist on the websites Fire Engineering and EMS World. He resides in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Morse applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Mr. Wilson Makes It Home: How One Little Dog Brought Us Hope, Happiness, and Closure, and reported the following:
From page 99:
…Fred’s mission is to create one-acre pens in which to introduce wolf-dogs and let them form their own packs, and establish their own order within the pack. These dogs all came from people who had no use for them and who had abandoned them. A wolf pack is a strong family unit, with an alpha male and alpha female in charge. The rest of the wolves are members of the pack. If they are not accepted by the pack for whatever reason, the rest of the wolves ostracize the one that doesn’t fit until he slinks off and becomes a lone wolf or finds a different pack to be a part of. It’s a tough world, but it works, and wolves have survived some of the world’s harshest environments for thousands of years.

Zimba was the alpha male in our house, or at least he thought he was. I thought I was too, but it was really Cheryl. It made for a difficult hierarchy. When we arrived at the Wolf Refuge it was clear that it was neither Zimba, me, nor even Cheryl was the alpha anything. Fred was the head honcho, and that was that. We city folk, as he liked to call us, had brought poor Zimba to the hairdressers before his journey-Cheryl and Danielle’s idea, not mine-and he sure did look pretty when we arrived. No wolves were in sight, and nobody howled, but I could sense wildness in the air. Fred and his partner, Amy lived in a mobile home on the outskirts of his land and had all the necessities and a little more. It was comfortable.

We tied Zimba to a tree outside and went in, all six of us, and told Fred our story. He didn’t say much, listened well and made his decision quickly. He agreed to take Zimba and thought he knew the perfect pack to introduce him to. We went outside, and Fred approached Zimba, who rolled onto his back in the submissive pose, just like the books said he would, though this was something he never even considered doing at home. Fred looked at his teeth, felt the top of his head, and shook his own head when he smelled the lovely perfumed soap the groomer had used, but ultimately gave Zimba permission to stand, not by saying so, but…
I had no idea what I would find on Page 99. When I first read it I was disappointed, certain that it would fail the Page 99 test. Then I thought about the words, and the meaning behind them, and how in their own way they convey the sense of family, and order, love and trust that is the heart of the book. Page 99 details the inner workings of a wolf pack. It hints at the close resemblance to the pack that a house full of humans has taken on. Our home was no different than a pack of wolves, each of us finding our place in the unit, contributing our strengths and letting those with different strengths find their place.

Everybody can’t be in charge. It is okay to not be. But even in the most well-run packs, or homes, problems develop, and somebody has to go. Or come. Mr. Wilson came just at the right time, and his presence in our “pack” was just the ingredient that was missing.

Zimba was a wolf-dog. He was a great wolf, but a pretty bad dog. Our time at the Loki Clan Wolf Refuge taught us that even the most different kinds of people can find their place, and when proper pack order is in place, harmony at home need not be a distant dream, but a reality. Mr. Wilson is a dog. He is a great dog. All dogs are potentially great, the same as all humans. It is up to us humans to see just how great, and nurture that innate ability in all living beings to heal, teach, love and enhance each other’s lives.
Visit the Mr. Wilson Makes it Home blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Michael Morse & Mr. Wilson.

My Book, The Movie: Mr. Wilson Makes It Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 20, 2015

James J. O'Donnell's "Pagans"

James J. O'Donnell is a classicist who served for ten years as Provost of Georgetown University and is now University Librarian at Arizona State University. He is the author of several books including Augustine, The Ruin of the Roman Empire, and Avatars of the Word. He is the former president of the American Philological Association, a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, and the chair of the Board of Directors of the American Council of Learned Societies.

O'Donnell applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity, and reported the following:
Pagans is about traditional ancient religion and what became of it. By page 99, we’ve seen the ruler of the world butchering cows by moonlight and are into a time when upstarts had to be dealt with. A serene philosopher named Celsus writes: “If you shut your eyes to the world of sense and look up with the mind, if you turn away from the flesh and raise the eyes of the soul, only so will you see god. And if you look for some one to lead you along this path, you must flee from the deceivers and sorcerers who court phantoms.” The shammers and scammers he has in mind at that moment are the people who worshipped – we’re in the second century, in the reign of Marcus Aurelius – the petty and shabby new deity called Christ. His dismissal of Christ and his followers is well-informed, intelligent, and sounds an awful lot like the things Christians soon would be saying at great length about their opponents.

If you land in Pagans by helicopter, as it were, that’s a good place to catch your breath and look around. For I mean to make that old world Celsus lived in look and feel normal to the reader – because of course it was utterly normal to all who lived in it. I hope I can wrench readers’ expectations around to the point where they can see Christianity, when it looms up, with fresh eyes, untouched by any sense of inevitability, half-formed, hard to understand, full of inconsistencies. My ultimate question is “how normal was Christianity in that world?” – and then where was it abnormal and how did it get that way? In short, I want to mess with readers’ heads long enough to help them look at things we think are familiar and see them with real curiosity and surprise. I’ll tell a lot of curious and surprising stories along the way.
Learn more about Pagans at the publisher's website.

Writers Read: James J. O'Donnell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Matthew Parker's "Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born"

Matthew Parker's non-fiction books include Monte Cassino: The Hardest-Fought Battle of World War II; the Los Angeles Times bestseller Panama Fever, which was one of the Washington Post’s Best Books of the Year; and The Sugar Barons, which was an Economist Book of the Year.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming in Jamaica, and reported the following:
Well, this is a little awkward. Page 99 happens to be a discussion of Ian Fleming’s attitude to the United States. It’s not that complimentary.

My new book is about the huge influence, in many different ways, that Jamaica had on the creation of James Bond. It also traces Fleming’s life on the island, where he spent two months every year from 1946 to his death in 1964 (and wrote all the Bond stories). Page 99 finds us in 1950, and Ian has just had a huge row with his lover (and later, disastrously, wife) Ann Rothermere: he was supposed to accompany her to New York, but at the last minute decided he wanted to stay in his beloved Jamaica a little longer instead, rather than travel to what he called the ‘land of Eldollarado’.

Part of the attraction of Jamaica for Fleming was that it seemed to be in a different time, a throw-back to the glory days of the British Empire. It offered the perfect combination of old-fashioned imperial values, alongside the dangerous and sensual: the same curious combination that made his novels so appealing and successful. Fleming was appalled and bewildered by the British Empire’s spectacular collapse after the end of World War Two. Bond, the imperial hero who still projects British power across the world is in many ways a reaction to this.

Fleming resented Britain’s humiliating new financial and military dependence on the United States, and also the pressure exerted by Washington on Britain to divest itself of empire as quickly as possible. At the same time, he knew deep down that the United States represented the future, and Britain the past.

From page 99:
Certainly Fleming loved the country’s speed, its scale, its service and its food. He had huge admiration for its technical know-how and muscle. In From Russia, with Love, for instance, we learn that the Americans, in ‘such matters as radio and weapons and equipment, are the best’. Even the Russians use American knives of ‘excellent’ manufacture and American Zippo lighters. But at the same time, Fleming despaired of what he called, in a letter to Ann in 1947, ‘their total unpreparedness to rule the world that is now theirs’.

Scottish novelist Candia McWilliam identifies as part of the appeal of the Bond books their ‘continual homeopathic doses of Anti-Americanism’. It is striking how, with the exception of Felix Leiter, almost all the Americans Bond meets are surly, uncooperative and jealous of his success and panache. In From Russia, with Love, praise of American technical skill is countered by the criticism that ‘they have no understanding of the [espionage] work … they try to do everything with money’. And quickly acquired wealth has poisoned the country. In Diamonds are Forever, the Chief of Staff briefs an incredulous Bond on America’s appalling murder rate and ‘ten million’ drug addicts, and how gambling, controlled by the Mafia, is the biggest business, ‘bigger than steel. Bigger than motor cars.’ In his travelogue Thrilling Cities, having beaten the ‘syndicates’ of Las Vegas, Fleming goes to bed ‘after washing the filth of the United States currency off my hands’.

Elsewhere, we learn that Las Vegas is ‘ghastly’, New York is obsessed with ‘the hysterical pursuit of money’, and Chicago has ‘one of the grimmest suburbs in the world’. In all, the country is crime-ridden and in crisis, thanks to consumerism and the breakdown of the traditional family in a ‘society that fails to establish a clear moral definition of right and wrong’.

Fleming’s attitudes to the United States were shaped not only by his own experiences there, but also by the situation in Jamaica. One of the reasons Bond loves the country on his earlier trips is that it is British space, where, for once, he is not dependent on American resources or approval.
Visit Matthew Parker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Martha Hodes's "Mourning Lincoln"

Martha Hodes is Professor of History at New York University and the author of The Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century and White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South.

Hodes applied the “Page 99 Test” to her recent book, Mourning Lincoln, and reported the following:
Page 99 begins with the word “grief.” It’s the last word of the last sentence on page 98, and a perfect lead-in to the story told in Mourning Lincoln--but only part of that story. Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., five days after Union victory, and the sorrow was profound among African Americans. Page 99 captures those feelings:
Everywhere, children cried audibly and grown-ups wept bitterly. Some cried all night, others just felt numb. One woman described herself as “nearly deranged” with grief. Black soldiers were utterly bereft. Edgar Dinsmore of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts felt “a loss irreparable.” One man compared the circumstances to a horrific scene he had witnessed as a slave: a mother whipped forty lashes for weeping when white people took away her children. The violence had traumatized him, “but not half so much as the death of President Lincoln,” he confessed. Some white officers in black regiments felt the sense of loss magnified. “Oh how Sad, How Melancholy,” James Moore wrote to his wife. Such intense sorrow overcame him that it seemed “an impossibility to rally from it.”
But Mourning Lincoln tells a more complicated story, too. We often think of the assassination as a moment of universal and collective grief. Yet by moving beyond headlines, sermons, and public condolences, by encompassing North and South, Union and Confederate, black and white, men and women, soldiers and civilians, the book reveals a much wider array of responses. The nation’s first presidential assassination, coming as it did at the end of a four-year civil war, also prompted fear, fury, and glee. While mourners wept, the vanquished Confederates expressed satisfaction at Lincoln’s death, as did the president’s northern antagonists.

On page 99, as in other parts of the book, the experiences of Lincoln’s black mourners are centered.
African Americans claimed for themselves a special place in the outpouring of sorrow, and the prayers and sermons of Easter Sunday magnified Lincoln’s role as the Great Emancipator. A New Orleans minister asserted that his people felt “deeper sorrow for the friend of the colored man,” and black clergymen in the North allowed that their people felt the loss “more keenly” and “more than all others.” Journalists singled out the “dusky-skinned men of our own race” as the “chief—the truest mourners,” and black soldiers maintained that “as a people none could deplore his loss more than we.” Frederick Douglass, speaking extemporaneously in Rochester on Saturday, told the overflowing crowd that he felt the loss “as a personal as well as national calamity” because of “the race to which I belong.”
In fact, African Americans skillfully invoked Lincoln to further their post-war quest for equality, fashioning the martyred president into a radical who, had he lived, would have enacted voting rights for black men.

Page 99 comes in the chapter called “God,” focusing on how the bereaved struggled with the mysteries of divine will, asking why God would take Lincoln away just at the moment of victory. The last full sentence paints a portrait of a weeping world.
From the moment the news arrived, Lincoln’s mourners cried as they recorded their emotions, smudging the ink in their journals and letters.
To Lincoln’s mourners, their sorrow felt universal, even though they knew it was not--and Lincoln’s black mourners understood this most acutely. Mourning Lincoln ultimately demonstrates how clashing visions of the nation’s future reverberated through Reconstruction and far beyond--indeed, into the present day.
Learn more about the book and author at Martha Hodes's author website.

Cover story: Mourning Lincoln.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pat Shipman's "The Invaders"

Pat Shipman is retired Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University. Her books include The Animal Connection: A New Perspective on What Makes Us Human.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction, and reported the following:
Page 99 holds up pretty well to the test. There are two main themes in this book, both attempting to explain why Neanderthals went extinct. The first theme is that modern humans are an invasive species and, in fact, an invasive predatory species. In order to understand what this means, I often use the results of studies arising from the reintroduction of gray wolves to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 1995-6. That is the major topic of page 99, which discusses the effects of the return of wolves to Yellowstone, where they had been absent since about 1920, thanks to the killing propensities of humans. Thus, the “normal” ecosystem that had reigned in Yellowstone for many decades was in fact depauperate. When wolves came back, their closest competitor – coyotes – suffered. Wolves targeted coyotes for hunting and, as coyotes tried to scavenge from wolf kills, wolves killed them. Coyote populations dropped by 50 percent overall and those remaining started avoiding wolf-rich areas.

The analogy to modern humans invading Eurasia and meeting Neanderthals suggests that Neanderthals, as the indigenous predator closest to modern humans, would suffer the most precipitate drop in population and the most severe competition from the human invasion.

Where page 99 fails to capture the main point of the book is in terms of the second theme, how modern humans outcompeted Neanderthals. Later in the book I argue that there is good evidence for the existence of a unique group of large canids which I call wolf-dogs. It has been suggested that these animals were a first attempt at domesticating wolves into dogs. The second theme of the book explores evidence for these wolf-dogs – morphological, genetic, and dietary – and what having even partly domesticated wolf-dogs might have meant to hunting success among modern humans. I shape and present a novel – and controversial – hypothesis that these animals were wolf-dogs and worked with humans to explain their unprecedented success in hunting.

Only time and more evidence will reveal whether this domesticated dog hypothesis is correct, but the ideas in the book are new and thought-provoking.
Learn more about The Invaders at the Harvard University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Animal Connection.

--Marshal Zeringue