Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Susan J. Matt's "Homesickness: An American History"

Susan J. Matt is Presidential Distinguished Professor of History at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. She is the author of Keeping Up with the Joneses: Envy in American Consumer Society, 1890-1930.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Homesickness: An American History, and reported the following:
Page 99 captures some of the central questions about homesickness in America: How should it be regarded—as a virtue or a weakness? Is it possible to truly return home once one has left?

It comes from the chapter on the Civil War, and describes the ways that officers, doctors, and nurses treated homesickness. During the conflict, 74 Union soldiers died of homesickness, or nostalgia as it was then called; 5000 more were treated for severe cases of the illness. Some observers maintained that the homesick should be treated sympathetically, for the emotion reflected men’s honorable affection for domestic life. They often suggested that acutely homesick soldiers be sent home, since that was the only cure for what could become a deadly disease. When that was not possible, nurses tried to create a homey atmosphere in hospitals to assuage soldiers’ yearnings. Many military officers, however, had less patience for the afflicted, perceiving the condition as an emasculating character flaw.

The sympathetic approach to homesickness was influential for a time, but by the turn of the century, many came to regard the feeling more critically. When adults displayed the emotion, their homesickness was seen as a weakness, inappropriate in a mobile, capitalist nation. In a society where social Darwinist philosophies held sway, the homesick were seen as incapable of adapting to new environments, as lacking ambition and drive, and, therefore, unfit for the conditions of American life. Consequently, by the twentieth century, the emotion became a sign of immaturity and maladaption.

The second half of page 99 explores another important dynamic in the history of homesickness—whether it is even possible to go home again. Soldiers who survived the war returned to their farms and families but found they were not as they remembered. Neither were they the same men who had left home four years previous. As a result, many who lived through the conflict came to be afflicted by a new mood—a longing not just for a lost home, but for a lost era. In war’s aftermath, soldiers and civilians alike concluded that to truly return home was impossible, for while they could travel across space, they could not go back in time. Their idealized home was lost, somewhere in the past. This sense of homelessness gradually became endemic to modern life.
Learn more about Homesickness at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 29, 2011

Erik Bleich's "The Freedom to Be Racist?"

Erik Bleich is Professor of Political Science at Middlebury College. He writes on issues of race and ethnicity in European and American politics for both scholarly and public outlets.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Freedom to Be Racist?: How the United States and Europe Struggle to Preserve Freedom and Combat Racism, and reported the following:
One of the most important challenges in politics involves reconciling incompatible goals. My book examines how the political process in the United States, Britain, France, Germany and other European countries sifts through the competing values of preserving as much individual freedom as possible and countering insidious forms of racism. How do we balance these values when confronted with those who insist on using liberal democratic freedoms to engage in overt racism?

The final paragraph on page 99 captures this dilemma well with respect to Germany’s struggle to contain the far right National Democratic Party (NPD) by threatening to ban it altogether from the political arena:
Pursuing the NPD was a hotly contested strategy. On the one hand, many public commentators had long argued that significant political parties should not be hounded into submission by the state—that this was a counterproductive strategy that would limit democratic freedom and that would disaffect far right sympathizers, potentially driving them underground and into more dangerous activities. On the other hand, media hype about the growth of “national liberated zones” in the East (where minorities were said to go at their physical peril) suggested that the far right in Germany was taking on new dimensions that tested the ability of the country to tolerate organized racist activities.
In most scenarios like this one, there is no clear-cut answer to the dilemma. My book examines racist speech, racist associations, and racist opinions when used as a motive to action (such as in cases of racial discrimination, or in hate crimes). I show that countries’ positions have evolved over time, and that they are often inconsistent across these different dimensions. The United States, for example, stands up more strongly for the freedom of racist speech than any other country in the world. However, it has been quickest to punish people for relying on their racism to make decisions about whom they choose to work with, or for speaking racist words while committing a crime.

In the end, I argue that we as individual citizens have to make our decisions about how much to restrict freedom in the name of fighting racism based not only upon our abstract principles. We also have to take into account national and historical contexts and the likely effects of the policies we advocate with respect to each individual case. In the end, I also suggest that it is not enough for citizens to figure out where they stand when confronting these major value clashes. We also have to ensure that our elected representatives—rather than our courts—are the primary institutions responsible for determining where our country stands in these grand democratic debates.
Learn more about The Freedom to Be Racist? at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jeff Sharlet's "Sweet Heaven When I Die"

Jeff Sharlet, a contributing editor for Harper's Magazine and Rolling Stone, is the bestselling author of The Family, C Street, and, with Peter Manseau, Killing the Buddha. He's Dartmouth College's first tenure track professor of creative nonfiction.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Sweet Heaven When I Die: Faith, Faithlessness, and the Country In Between, and reported the following:
Sweet Heaven When I Die is a collection of portraits of people who walk a tightrope between despair and desire, a cross-section of self-invented men and women -- prophets, promoters, revolutionaries, and other restless souls. I like p. 99 because it's right in the middle of the story of Brad Will, a man who was a little bit of each.

I first learned of Brad the night he died. I was in a bar with friends when we noticed first one person, then another crying, until soon the whole bar was in open mourning. Brad had a lot of friends. He'd been on the anarchist activist scene for years, but he'd recently found a kind of groove as a video journalist. He was covering an uprising in Oaxaca, Mexico, when he was killed: He filmed a policeman taking aim, then -- bang, Brad falls down. You can see it on Youtube, a few brutal moments that made Brad a kind of martyr, a folk hero.

I'm interested in folk heroes, but I want to know who they really are. I spent months talking to Brad's friends and family and traveling to some of the important places in his life. Page 99 shows us Brad some 15 years before his death, studying poetry at the Naropa Institute in Boulder. It begins with one of his teachers there, the anarchist poet Hakim Bey, best known for his idea of "Temporary Autonomous Zones," little personal pirate islands of absolute liberty. Brad loved that and decided to live it.
Brad stopped paying rent. “My crazy poet roomies fled the scene,” he later wrote of his accidental introduction to squatting. “I stayed and didn’t even have the phone number of the landlord.” That suited Brad—cash, he was beginning to believe, was a kind of conspiracy, a form of control he was leaving behind. He became a dumpster diver, a moocher, a liberator of vegetables. He wanted to write poems, but even more he wanted to become one, a messy, ecstatic, angry, sprawling embodiment of Bey’s Autonomous Zone.
That he managed to do, through a life of increasingly grand political theater, a performance that ultimately led to his murder. But such tragedies are not the inevitable result of walking that tightrope between desire -- personal, political, spiritual -- and despair. I wrote the stories in Sweet Heaven When I Die during the ten years I spent on my last two books, The Family and C Street, both about politicized Christian fundamentalism. They're the stories that kept me sane, stories of holy fools and almost-saints who took great leaps of faith, even knowing they might fall.
Learn more about the book and author at Jeff Sharlet's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 26, 2011

David Stasavage's "States of Credit"

David Stasavage is professor of politics at New York University. He is the author of Public Debt and the Birth of the Democratic State.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, States of Credit: Size, Power, and the Development of European Polities, and reported the following:
At first blush, applying the page 99 test to my book may result in puzzled looks. Page 99 of States of Credit refers to the breakdown of the Carolingian Empire. What does this have to do with public debt? In fact, this brief excursion into Carolingian history provides an illustration of one of the main goals of my book - peering deeper into history to reassess received wisdom.

There is a long standing claim that precisely because they were more democratic, European republics such as Venice tended to have better access to credit than did large monarchies such as France. Republican institutions, it is said, placed institutional checks on rulers who might otherwise choose arbitrary actions such as default. We might conclude then that European history demonstrates how democratic institutions have beneficial economic effects. If you want to ensure access to credit, then choose a more democratic set of political institutions. A deeper look at the historical evidence suggests a different conclusion.

First, those European states with the most active representative assemblies almost invariably were small in size. In an era before modern means of communication and travel it was possible to have an active representative assembly in a small city-state, but it was much more difficult to do so in a large monarchy. So institutions were determined by geography; you couldn’t choose them.

Second, among the city-states of Europe, those that had the best access to credit were actually the most oligarchic, and not the most democratic, in character. When a city was dominated by the same rich merchants who also lent to the state, then access to credit tended to be good, precisely because the merchants knew they would get their money back. When a city had broader political participation, credit was less secure. In the long run, however, oligarchic rule may have had significant costs as city-states became rentier republics resistant to the arrival of new economic innovation.

Finally, I have yet to explain what any of this has to do with the breakdown of the Carolingian Empire. In fact, it helps suggest why city-states emerged in some areas of Europe but not others. As the empire fragmented, some of the successor kingdoms proved more durable than others. Through an accident of history, city-states subsequently emerged in a central band within Europe precisely because this was the area subject to the most political fragmentation after the empire’s collapse.
Learn more about States of Credit at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cathy N. Davidson's "Now You See It"

Cathy N. Davidson is Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, and reported the following:
I spent eight years, from 1998-2006,as the first full-time Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University, the first that we knew of anywhere, with the delicious informal job description of "breaking things and making things." More formally, I was charged with innovation across all of Duke's nine undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools. One particular charge was innovative new ways to do research and teaching in a digital world. Most of the structures and requirements of the contemporary research university were devised specifically for the requirements of the industrial age, from the late nineteenth century forward. What’s the best way to restructure higher education for a digital age? If the Enlightenment and the industrial age emphasized hierarchy, specialization, attention to task, progress, quantitative assessment of discreet abilities and skills, testing of all sorts, and formal credentialing, what would the Information Age education look like to help prepare people for a world where you could, as YouTube says, "Broadcast Yourself." No one--not even the most outlandish science fiction writer--predicted that people from all over the world would voluntarily contribute to the largest and most complex encyclopedia the world has ever known, would do it for free and anonymously, allow others to edit their work, and then would use it as a basic reference tool that, eventually, would be as reliable as any other general reference book available. Wikipedia? It turns out humans love to teach what they know and learn from one another, but our educational system is still based in Ichabod Crane-ish ideas that learning is like cod liver oil, unpleasant but good for you in the end.

Page 99 of Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn marks my foray back into the classroom after eight years of thinking and creating new programs dedicated to innovative learning and research. "Project Classroom Makeover" is the title of that chapter and I hope you enjoy the report of what I and my students learned from calculated lessons in the fine art of distraction and disruption.
Learn more about Now You See It at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Joshua Rovner's "Fixing the Facts"

Joshua Rovner is Associate Professor of Strategy and Policy at the U.S. Naval War College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Fixing the Facts: National Security and the Politics of Intelligence, and reported the following:
The Nixon administration spent the better part of 1969 trying to secure funding for a new missile defense system. It claimed that the Soviet Union had made a major technical breakthrough by successfully attaching multiple independently targeted warheads to a gargantuan new missile. If this was true, then Moscow might be able to launch a knockout blow against U.S. missile silos and bomber bases before Washington could respond. Deterrence might be impossible if the Soviets could destroy the American deterrent force in one swift strike.

But the Senate wasn’t crazy about missile defense, and many Senators were skeptical about the president’s dire warnings. To overcome this opposition, “Nixon also cited ‘new intelligence’ that appeared to support his own conclusions about Soviet capabilities and intentions” (p. 99). The president was no fan of the CIA, believing it to be a bastion of northeastern liberals who were out to undermine him. Nonetheless he knew that citing intelligence was a good way to sell policies, because intelligence agencies carried the aura of secrecy. Persuading Congress to invest in missile defense would be much easier if he could attach the imprimatur of intelligence to his claims about the Soviet threat.

“Despite repeated references to new intelligence,” however, “the president’s primary sources of analysis were not from the intelligence community” (p. 99). In fact, the White House relied heavily on analyses of Soviet missile tests performed by the TRW Corporation. Many intelligence officials disagreed with their conclusions, and the “CIA continued to dispute administration claims during the spring of 1969” (p. 99). This created a real problem for the president. Not only did he risk losing the support of the intelligence community, but he faced the very real possibility that opposition Senators would use the same intelligence to embarrass the administration and demolish one of its first major national security policy initiatives.

The White House acted swiftly, putting pressure on intelligence leaders to stifle their opposition and ensure that official estimates were consistent with administration statements on the Soviet Union. “Look,” Henry Kissinger told them, “the president of the United States and the secretary of defense have said the following. Now, are you telling me that you’re going to argue with them?” Under the weight of sustained pressure from the administration, the intelligence community ultimately reversed its conclusions about Soviet capabilities and intentions. The White House had successfully politicized intelligence, and used it win a narrow vote to begin funding missile defense.

Replace “President Nixon” with “President Bush” and change the dates, and you’ll get an idea about what happened to intelligence before the war in Iraq in 2003. Both administrations were dubious of the intelligence community. Both faced intelligence estimates that challenged their assumptions and beliefs. Both manipulated those estimates so they lined up with their own public statements about national security threats. And both relied on the peculiar qualities of secret intelligence to win domestic political battles. Page 99 provides a glimpse of some of the major themes in Fixing the Facts, and it also offers some disturbing historical foreshadowing.

(Chapter 7 of the book tells the story of intelligence and Iraq for interested readers. They can decide if I pass the Page 137-184 test.)
Learn more about Fixing the Facts at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Prabha Kotiswaran's "Dangerous Sex, Invisible Labor"

Prabha Kotiswaran is lecturer in law at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Dangerous Sex, Invisible Labor: Sex Work and the Law in India, and reported the following:
Prostitution may well be the oldest profession in the world but every few decades, it becomes the focus of considerable social, policy and legal attention. We are today in the midst of such a phase; some feminists would call it a global sex panic. After all, not a day goes by without mention in the media of trafficking, which is invariably conflated with sex trafficking and prostitution or sex work. Trafficking thus conjures up the image of a minor sex slave with garish make-up soliciting in a filthy back-alley of some third world city. Increased criminalization of the sex industry, particularly of customers, is advocated in an endeavour for eradicating prostitution once and for all.

My book Dangerous Sex, Invisible Labor complicates this simplistic narrative of the third world sex slave. Based on empirical work in India, I offer an account of the political economy of two sex markets, namely, of the biggest red light area in Kolkata, i.e. Sonagachi and of Tirupati, a large temple town in Southern India, where the pilgrim population far exceeds even that of the Vatican. Page 99 of the book in fact takes us straight to the heart of the book’s argument, namely, that not all sex workers are trafficked into sex work, that they occupy a range of social and class positions and that the increased criminalization of sex work in fact reduces sex workers’ bargaining power within the industry and adversely affects them. On page 99, I speak of the increasing phenomenon across India of ‘secret’ sex workers or ‘floating’ sex workers; these women are housewives who resort to sex work on the side, often without their husbands’ knowledge. The sex worker I interviewed on this page spoke of how constant sexual harassment in a garment factory led her to take up sex work and get paid at least for the sex. This is sadly the predicament of thousands of sex workers whose lives in the sex industry are closely inter-related to the institutions of the informal economy as well as marriage. Little wonder then, that Indian sex workers’ groups demand workers’ rights on par with workers in the informal economy. While sex work thus continues to be ‘dangerous’ in policy terms, I interrogate the labor inherent in it and how criminal law renders it ‘invisible’ while interrogating demands for workers’ rights.
Learn more about Dangerous Sex, Invisible Labor at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lindsay Harrison's "Missing"

Lindsay Harrison was born in 1985 and grew up in Massachusetts. She attended Brown University and Columbia School of the Arts. Missing is her first book. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she is currently at work on a novel.

Harrison applied the “Page 99 Test” to Missing and reported the following:
If one were to follow Ford Madox Ford’s advice and flip to page 99 of Missing, he or she would witness my twenty-year old self desperate to escape an unbearable reality by smoking weed on the night of my mother’s memorial service.

Page 99 serves as a turning point between two halves of the book. The opening chapters chronicle my family’s frantic search for my mother, who disappeared one morning in the spring of 2006. For forty days, my two older brothers and I met with detectives, hung missing person flyers, chased false leads and questionable sightings, and hoped against hope for a happy reunion. Page 99 concludes the fifth chapter and embodies our heartbreak: our mother’s lifeless body had been found in circumstances far worse than anything our darkest fears had prepared us for.

After packing up our mom’s apartment and weathering her memorial service, my brothers and I stood in our father’s kitchen, wondering what we were supposed to do next. As a daughter and a young woman, I am grateful to have survived the events leading up to page 99 of my memoir. As the author of an unwieldy narrative, I was daunted by writing page 100 and all that would follow. Shaping the narrative of grief and recovery proved much harder than relaying the opening story of a missing person search.

While the first half of the book centers on the search for a missing woman, the second half tackles a more nebulous kind of search: how to cope with the loss of a parent while standing on the verge of adulthood. Page 99 marks the end of one life-altering search and the beginning of one that proves to be more terrifying, yet ultimately more satisfying, to both the daughter and the writer in me.

Page 99 Excerpt:
After most of the guests had left, I went down to the beach with a few friends who were spending the night. We sat on the overturned hull of a dinghy and smoked pot. Cassidy abstained, but she blocked the wind and lit the bowl for me. The horizon disappeared in the dark and the stars jagged into the water. I got to that place—if only for a second—where the past forty days became a figment of my warped imagination. And then someone said she was freezing, and it was real again, and we went back to the house, my bare feet tracking sand all over the floor. Chris, Brad, Dad, and Michele were all standing in the kitchen. The room swayed as if I were standing on a dock. My friends went up to bed. The only fixed points were my brothers—both of them crying for the first time—and my dad, leaning against the refrigerator with his hands jammed in his pockets, his tie loosened, and his sleeves pushed up. I thought I saw him crying too, or maybe it was just that everything was reeling as I started to come down from my high.

“You’ve been smoking pot,” Dad said.

“No I haven’t.”

“I can smell it.”

“Okay, I have.”

He kneaded his hands together. I’d let him down but I didn’t care. All I wanted to know was when I could get my mom back and make all this go away. And if that weren’t possible, getting stoned and pretending I’d hallucinated this whole nightmare struck me as the least of our worries.
Learn more about the book and author at Lindsay Harrison's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Erica Chenoweth & Maria J. Stephan's "Why Civil Resistance Works"

Erica Chenoweth is an assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University. Previously she was a fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and a visiting fellow at the University of California at Berkeley's Institute of International Studies.

Maria J. Stephan is a strategic planner with the U.S. Department of State. Formerly she served as director of policy and research at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) and as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and American University. She has also been a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, and reported the following:
In Why Civil Resistance Works, we tell the story of how hundreds of resistance campaigns have overthrown oppressive regimes or expelled foreign occupiers by relying almost entirely on nonviolent methods of resistance. In fact, we find that between 1900 and 2006, nonviolent resistance campaigns were about twice as effective as violent insurgencies seeking similar objectives. Promisingly, over the past few decades, nonviolent resistance campaigns are more common around the world—and they are becoming more successful too.

These figures are true even when we look at places where nonviolent resistance would be expected to fail—such as in Iran. On page 99 of our book, we discuss some of the obstacles that nonviolent activists had to overcome in facing down the brutal regime of Shah Reza Pahlavi. We write:
The Shah’s security forces launched a massive crackdown on the protestors a couple of weeks after the mourning ceremonies began. Yet this crackdown failed to deter the Islamists, who began to mobilize seminary students in Qom for even larger mourning ceremonies…. But the real awakening would not occur until late summer 1978, when masses of Iranians began to participate in revolutionary protests.
These passages describe the fact that the nonviolent opposition activists in the 1977-1979 Iranian Revolution were confronted with brutal repression, but that repression backfired. As happens in so many cases of nonviolent resistance, even the most brutal regimes find it difficult to justify to their populations, and in particular, to members of their security forces, why the regimes must crack down so violently against unarmed civilians (they have an easier time justifying repression when the protestors are armed). Often, such repression leads to backfire—a paradox in which increased repression results in increased mobilization. Page 99 of our book describes some instances of backfire, and the subsequent “awakening” of Iranian society that ultimately brought down the Shah’s entrenched power. Interestingly, a broad-based coalition of Iranian civic groups engaged in prolonged civil disobedience, notably a nationwide strike that paralyzed the economy, achieved in only a few months what the anti-Shah Marxist and Islamist guerilla factions failed to achieve during years of armed struggle. This underlies a main point of our book: that even the most repressive regimes cannot sustain repression forever if large numbers of people sustain their refusal to obey.

Our book does not make the argument that resistance campaigns succeed just because they are nonviolent. Unarmed insurrections require strength in numbers, strategic planning, tactical innovation and leverage in order to up-end the status quo. But our ultimate aim in this book is to show that nonviolent resistance is a powerful force for change in our world, and to confront the conventional wisdom that violence is necessary to confront oppressive regimes. It is our hope that the historical record—and our descriptions of several cases of successful nonviolent resistance—will give pause to apologists of violence, and hope to those using civil resistance to struggle against intolerable circumstances.
Learn more about Why Civil Resistance Works at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stephen Pemberton's "The Bleeding Disease"

Stephen Pemberton, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in the Federated History Department at New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, Newark, and a historian of medicine, biomedical science and technology, and public health. He is author, most recently, of The Bleeding Disease: Hemophilia and the Unintended Consequences of Medical Progress (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011) and co-author with Keith Wailoo of The Troubled Dream of Genetic Medicine: Ethnicity and Innovation in Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis, and Sickle Cell Disease (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). The Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers recognized The Troubled Dream of Genetic Medicine as the best scholarly book in the history of science for 2006.

Pemberton applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Bleeding Disease and reported the following:
The 1980s witnessed the tragic coupling of hemophilia—the archetypal hereditary bleeding disorder—with the newly emergent AIDS epidemic. The vast majority of Americans with hemophilia contracted HIV from their blood plasma treatments. By 1996, most of these approximately 10,000 boys and men had succumbed to complications of AIDS, a tragic outcome by any measure.

What does it say about “modern” medicine and society that one of our most advanced, technology-intensive efforts to manage disease and promote health actually facilitated the opposite—greater debility and premature death? The Bleeding Disease addresses this question by detailing the decades-long therapeutic and social transformations that rendered hemophilia into a manageable disease in twentieth-century America.

Page 99 of The Bleeding Disease discusses the discovery of hemophilia B (factor IX deficiency) while exploring a critical era in the 1950s when modernizing physicians utilized the science of hematology to revisit the problem of hemophilia and redefine it in light of a growing spectrum of bleeding disorders beyond “classical hemophilia” in the male (factor VIII deficiency). Prior to these post-WWII discoveries of atypical forms of hereditary bleeding, hemophilia was defined as “an inherited tendency in males to bleed.” It was, in short, a male disease. New blood tests and growing awareness of the clinical varieties of hereditary bleeding led, in 1950-53, to the first bona fide cases of “female hemophiliacs,” followed over the next decade by a medical redefinition of hemophilia that again limited its diagnosis almost exclusively to males.

The therapeutic culture surrounding hemophilia from the 1950s through the 1970s focused on the male pediatric patients who had the severest, most intractable forms of the bleeding disorder. Yet, as the The Bleeding Disease attests, the gendered dimensions of this evolving therapeutic culture had profound ramifications, and not only for Americans with bleeding disorders. In the 1980s, for instance, the enormous attention directed at the gay community and its struggles with HIV/AIDS brought the nation’s predominantly male hemophilia population—with its history of embracing mainstream masculine norms—into sudden and close identification with stereotyped perceptions of homosexual men and gay lifestyles. The social convergence of hemophilia and AIDS was problematic for both gay Americans and Americans with hemophilia. Indeed, the FDA’s ongoing ban on gay blood donors and other feuds regarding the nation’s blood resources since 1982 cannot be understood apart from the peculiar history of hemophilia management in America.
Learn more about The Bleeding Disease at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Deborah Valenze's "Milk: A Local and Global History"

Deborah Valenze is professor of history at Barnard College. She is the author of three books and the recipient of numerous research awards, including a Fulbright Scholarship.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Milk: A Local and Global History, and reported the following:
When my editor and I discussed possible titles for Milk, she made one request: no puns, please. Since the publication of the book, reviews and interviews have smuggled them in: “Quart of Public Opinion” and “Breast Friends” are two examples. Page 99 happens to occur at the end of the only chapter that carries a pun in its title: “Cash Cows and Dutch Diligence.” I knew I had to make this chapter a little entertaining, given the grittiness of the subject matter and also the fact of seventeenth-century Holland as a critical turning point in the history of milk. The story of how the Dutch tapped into the bounty of the cow offers a key to the big picture of milk in food history.

When we think of diets of the past and staple foods, we usually focus on bread, meat, and beverages like ale and beer. But what about milk? Geography had much to do with where dairy products were consumed, and if we’re tracing the appearance of milk as an actual beverage (something rather uncommon outside of rural areas until this time), we must look to the Low Countries to see how city inhabitants came to depend on the cow as a source of provender. There, for the first time in modern history, a large urban region came into being that required inexpensive and nutritious food on a massive scale. The Dutch landscape provided just the right arrangements to tend cows, recycle their manure in fields of clover, and draw unprecedented quantities of milk from one of the most cooperative and productive mammals on earth. It’s no accident that major Dutch painters lavished attention on contented bovines, or that still life paintings were filled with cheeses stacked alongside bread. These images offer important evidence of how people of all classes in the Low Countries came to value milk and dairy products as centerpieces of their daily life.

Page 99 ends this story of agricultural improvement by pointing the way to how the English (and eventually, North American colonists) would adopt the same practices with success. “The next century would witness a phenomenal rise in the productive power of England, as the northern nation strove to outdo the Dutch miracle. Milk and the dairy, as food commodity and laboratory, were now permanently installed as participants in the race.”
Learn more about Milk: A Local and Global History at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ralph LaRossa's "Of War and Men"

Ralph LaRossa is Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University. He has written extensively on the topic of fathers and families, and is the author of several books, including The Modernization of Fatherhood: A Social and Political History.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Of War and Men: World War II in the Lives of Fathers and Their Families, and reported the following:
Of War and Men tells the story of America's fathers and their families in the throes and aftermath of World War II, covering the period from 1941 to 1960--from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the election of John F. Kennedy. The book digs deep into the terrain of fatherhood and explores the nature and aftereffects of combat, the culture of fear during the Cold War, the ways that fear altered the lives of racial and sexual minorities, and how the Civil Rights Movement affected families both black and white. Overturning some calcified myths, the book also analyzes the impact of suburbanization on fathers and their kids, discovering that living in the suburbs often strengthened their bond. And looking beyond the idealized dad enshrined in TV sitcoms, Of War and Men explores the brutal side of family life in the postwar years.

A central theme of the book is that war produces a myriad of effects and that social change proceeds in incremental steps. Thus, in examining the impact of the war, I emphasize not only that the war years were different from the postwar years, but also that wartime and post wartime are not undifferentiated wholes. This may seem obvious when we talk about the war (clearly it had a beginning, a middle, and an end), but the principle also applies to what happened after the war. Although fatherhood between 1945 and 1960 (also known as the fifties) is often talked about as if it were a single historical moment, in actuality it is best understood as a complex of moments. Noteworthy, too, is that when all the moments are closely examined, the moment that is the most traditional, with greater socially constructed distinctions between fatherhood and motherhood, is not the first moment but the last. Contrary to what some scholars have suggested, fatherhood in America did not become more modern in the fifties; it became less.

Here is where the Page 99 test comes into play. The only words on page 99 in Of War and Men are "Part Three." On the face of it, this would seem to belie the notion that the quality of a whole book can be revealed in a single page. If we wanted to give the test the benefit of the doubt, however, we would ask why the book is divided into parts (besides the chapters, which also are "parts"). The answer is connected to the central theme of subperiodization. Of War and Men is divided into parts to underscore the concept of incremental change, with the first two parts devoted to the war (Part One) and its immediate aftermath (Part Two), and the second two parts devoted to the late 1940s and early 1950s (Part Three) and to what happens between 1955 and 1960 (Part Four).
Learn more about Of War and Men at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lisa D. Brush's "Poverty, Battered Women, and Work in U.S. Public Policy"

Lisa D. Brush is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. Her first book, Gender and Governance, analyses states and social policies through a gender lens. She is an award-winning editor and plays the French horn in the East Liberty Community Engagement Orchestra.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Poverty, Battered Women, and Work in U.S. Public Policy, and reported the following:
In this book, I use three types of data on poverty, battering, and work in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: interviews with welfare-to-work program participants; administrative records from welfare cases, protective order petitions, and earnings reports; and narratives and analyses that current and former welfare recipients developed in a community literacy project. These data give me leverage to understand a major development in U.S. welfare and law-and-order policy and practice: Conventional wisdom holds that women’s employment is the cure for both poverty and battering.

Page 99 falls part way through the chapter in which the women who participated in the community literacy project “talk back” to the damaging myths they encounter in real and imagined conversations with welfare and law-and-order bureaucrats, politicians and pundits, neighbors and relatives. On p. 99, I write about their evidence and arguments rebutting the old chestnut that welfare recipients are bad mothers.
The participants in the community literacy project … made the point that in the unstable and dangerous neighborhoods where low-income parents often live, it can be important for mothers to stay home and care for their children, as Jule, Robin, and Takina tried to do. For example, Jule notes the importance—and undeniable pleasures—of being able to give her children some semblance of a steady family life.
I enjoyed being a stay-home mother. The house was clean, dinner was ready when they got home from school, and I was there to help them. I was able to help out at their school—taking field trips with the class and helping with projects. In my extra time, I was able to be active in church; I sang in the choir and had my Bible study group to the house for dinner.
It took Jasmine time and energy to fight for the appropriate services and programs to care for her son, who has a diagnosed disability (as does Jule’s oldest son). For Jasmine, being a good mother was much higher on her agenda than conforming to work requirements. Nikki notes the dangers of public housing projects for children and youth. From a somewhat different perspective, Robin wrote about the prospect of being a good mother and worried about caring for her first child as a teenaged high school graduate.
Making the Decision: Should I Go to School?

I didn’t want to be a drop-in parent. If I took the scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to take my son to school with me. I knew there were not good accommodations for young parents on most college campuses. I would have had to leave him home with a family member. I would only get the chance to see him on Holidays and during breaks. I would miss his first steps, first words, all of those utterly important firsts that can never be recaptured.
Robin makes it poignantly clear that mothers’ desires to experience the milestones of their children’s development are not limited to White, married, middle-class women.
Page 99 is representative of the ways the book consistently engages with the experiences and analyses of poor and battered women, in the service of challenging the conventional wisdom about the causes and consequences of poverty and partner-perpetrated abuse. However, it doesn’t deliver other important empirical findings, such as the evidence from the interviews about the ways poor women cope with conflicts about work, conflicts that interfere with work, and conflicts that actually follow women from home to the cubicles, cash registers, and steam tables where they go to fulfill the work requirements instituted when Congress rescinded benefit entitlements in 1996 (the focus of the first empirical chapter). It doesn’t present the results from the new methods I propose for calculating the costs of taking a beating (the culmination of the second empirical chapter). It doesn’t capture the changes envisioned by the community literacy project participants (offered in the conclusion). Nor does it convey the book’s central findings about the ways abusive partners use words, fists, cell phones, jealous rage, and many other means to sabotage women’s employment and welfare eligibility and to destroy their solvency, safety, integrity, and dignity.

Still, page 99 gives readers a sense of the ways poor women are taking a beating at the low end of the service economy, now that having a job is the only way to be eligible for welfare.
Read more about the book at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Katharine Weber's "The Memory of All That"

Katharine Weber’s novels include Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear, The Music Lesson, The Little Women, Triangle, and True Confections.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new memoir, The Memory Of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Memory of All That is a fractal of the first section of my book, which, while not heralded in the book's subtitle, is focused on my father, an unreliable and mysterious filmmaker. The page begins with a quote from some of the material in the hundreds of pages of FBI records on my father, amassed at taxpayer expense between 1936 and 1973. (My birth was noted in a Bureau memo to J. Edgar Hoover.) This paragraph is a mention of the Communist activities of my father's first wife, the actress Fran Heflin.

It also covers a bit of my father's history teaching film courses at The Dramatic Workshop, a theater program at The New School For Social Research, and I describe how my father must have stolen quantities of Dramatic Workshop letterhead, because: my baby book there are notes on how many ounces of formula [and, bizarrely, orange juice] I was given in my fi rst weeks of life in November 1955 —I was a colicky baby, and the scribbled schedule is a diary of sleepless nights punctuated by 1½ ounces here, ½ an ounce there—all written on Dramatic Workshop stationery. Some of the drawings I made with Harold Weisberg’s stolen OSS waxpencils were on Dramatic Workshop letterhead as well.)
The page ends with the beginning of a description of a 1954 article in the New York Times Magazine about a course he taught called "Show Business: Work in Progress" which calls Sidney Kaufman a "modified hipster."

So there you have it: FBI records about my father's first wife, a secret marriage I didn't learn about until I was a teenager; stolen stationery (from the New School), and stolen pencils (from the OSS); and a mocking characterization of my father who took himself oh-so-seriously. While having nothing on George Gershwin or Kay Swift, whose romance is at the heart of my story, page 99 is a good core sample of the first part of my book.
Learn more about the book and author at Katharine Weber's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 8, 2011

Robert A. Pastor's "The North American Idea"

In his seventeenth book, The North American Idea: A Vision of a Continental Future, Robert A. Pastor, a noted policy-maker and analyst, who founded and directs the Center for North American Studies at American University in Washington, D.C., offers a rationale, a vision, and a blueprint for a more prosperous, secure, and dynamic North America.

Few in the United States realize that the two most important markets for U.S. exports are not China and Japan, but Canada and Mexico, and the two most important sources of energy imports are not Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, but Canada and Mexico. Canada and Mexico certainly understand the importance of the United States to their economies and societies, but the United States seems unaware of their importance. From the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1992 to 2001, trade among the three countries of North America tripled, intra-regional integration soared, and the North American share of the world's product increased from 29 percent to 36 percent. Since 2001, integration has declined, and the share of world product has returned to where it begin in 1992. Pastor's book explains why and how we can re-energize North America.

Pastor applied the “Page 99 Test” to The North American Idea and reported the following:
Page 99 makes two points of special relevance to the book's thesis. The idea of North America generated fears among some in each of the three countries. In the United States, some feared a loss of sovereignty or jobs; neither occurred. The U.S. became stronger, and the surge in trade coincided with the largest expansion of job creation in American history. Some in Canada and Mexico feared that NAFTA would permit American companies to acquire and control their economies, but the figure at the top of p. 99 shows those fears were also groundless. Both countries experienced a rapid growth in foreign investment, but the figure shows that the percentage of that owned by Americans actually declined. And indeed, the page describes the extraordinary growth of Mexican and Canadian multi-national corporations.

The second point made on p. 99 was that despite the talk about globalization, most multinational corporations (MNCs) are actually regionally-based. Of 348 of the 500 largest MNCs in the world, 154 firms are North American with 75 percent of their sales in North America and only 15.6 percent are based in Europe and 7.5 percent are in Asia. So the world economy is increasingly shaped by the three regions, and the capacity of each region to compete in the future will depend on the degree to which the governments in each region can find new formulas for cooperation and integration.

North America has not begun to search for these formulas because its leaders have not even grasped the "North American idea" - that the power of the region in the future will depend on a new level of cooperation and coordination.
Learn more about The North American Idea at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Preston Lauterbach's "The Chitlin’ Circuit"

Music journalist Preston Lauterbach lives with his wife and children in Memphis, Tennessee.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Chitlin' Circuit and the Road to Rock 'n' Roll, his first book, and reported the following:
I hope that my book passes the “open to any page” test. Writing history, I try to evoke a lost world, and page 99 happens to be a dandy. Some imagery: “‘…the orchestra is screaming like a bunch of freight trains,,,boy what a time! Lights blue and green flickering on a lake of whiskey, a sea of wine, and an ocean of beer….’”

It’s not my writing, but a piece of especially vivid source material that accomplishes what I’m after, bringing the reader to another place. In this case, a Houston, Texas nightclub called the Harlem Grill, in 1938. My book The Chitlin’ Circuit and the Road to Rock ‘n’ Roll illuminates the neon signs outside places like the Harlem for one more night.

Places like the Harlem were part of an economically and artistically vibrant black subculture known as the chitlin’ circuit. They were the homebases for old school music business hustlers like Don Robey, who ran the Harlem, and they incubated the sounds of swing, rock ‘n’ roll, and soul. Despite their critical contribution to American culture, virtually all of the chitlin’ circuit clubs of this era are gone without a trace.

Memories of nights at the Harlem still crackle in the minds of the people that partied there, and the energetic black journalism of the day recorded the outsized exploits of the kingpins who ran bootlegging rackets, gambling ventures, and prostitution rings on the circuit while financing upstart entertainers from Jimmie Lunceford to Little Richard and James Brown.

Page 99 of The Chitlin’ Circuit goes behind the scenery at the Harlem and details the fast-paced, inventive scheming that advanced the circuit across America, describing the dance promotion ring that Don Robey used to elevate Louis Jordan, Johnny Ace, and Ike and Tina Turner to stardom.

Though page 99 offers just a taste of vulgar glory, it represents the mystique that lingers around the chitlin’ circuit as well as the visionary planning that made it go.
Learn more about the book and author at Preston Lauterbach's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 4, 2011

John McWhorter's "What Language Is"

John McWhorter is a lecturer at Columbia University, specializing academically in language change and language contact. The author of the bestseller Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language, and other books, he is a contributing editor to The City Journal and The New Republic. He has been profiled in the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and has appeared on Dateline NBC, Politically Incorrect, and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

McWhorter applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, What Language Is (And What It Isn't and What It Could Be), and reported the following:
Page 99 of What Language Is happens to pretty well encompass what the book is all about. Most of the physical page is taken up with a map showing where a very obscure language called Akha is spoken, in Southeast Asia. Akha is rarely known to anyone beyond there, is spoken by indigenous peoples, and is rarely written down.

As such, one might assume that it was a less complex language than ones spoken by people with tall buildings and clinical depression given to talking about things like Zeitgeists. Yet in fact, small languages like Akha have “grammar” just as rich as languages like English and Russian -- and generally more, not less.

As such, page 99 gives the words you would need to fashion the simple sentence “He gave me one fruit” in Akha. In subsequent pages, I show how we would build that sentence step by step, and we see that it is anything but a matter of just stringing those five words together, despite that Akha is a language without prefixes or suffixes. Example: you need a little separate word just to show that the “I” did something to something else (!).

The book is not a textbook, however: this passage is just one illustration of a general theme: that all fluently spoken language is “real” language, complex and nuanced, even when never written – which all but 200 of the world’s 6000 languages almost never are. One may suppose that there are perhaps some dozens of “real” languages like English and then a big bunch of “dialects,” somehow lesser than “languages.”

The truth is much more interesting than that – even the obscurest language of an unknown tribe is typically so complex we might wonder how people could speak it. Moreover, there is complexity even in humble nonstandard varieties of languages. I use Black English as one example, where things like the “yo” particle you hear young blacks put at the ends of sentences are actually as subtle as very similar particles in Chinese.

In the book I “spell out” that all languages are Ingrown, Disheleved, Intricate, Oral, and Mixed, making an acronym IDIOM. The main message is that all languages are magnificent messes: weirdly complicated, shot through with illogicalities that leave communication unimpeded, and more alive in mouths than in the artificial representation of writing. What Language Is essentially shares what I love about being a linguist, and I was happy to be allowed to put that between two covers.
Learn more about What Language Is at the publisher's website.

See John McWhorter's top ten list of books on race that should be more widely read.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Steven J. Tepper's "Not Here, Not Now, Not That!"

Steven J. Tepper is associate professor of sociology and associate director at the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University. He is coeditor of Engaging Art: The Next Great Transformation of America's Cultural Life.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Not Here, Not Now, Not That!: Protest over Art and Culture in America, and reported the following:
From Page 99:
At first glance there appears to be strong evidence to support our thesis; demographic changes, in particular the rate of growth of foreign-born residents, are associated with greater frequency of protest over art and culture. The influx of new immigrants is not associated with more protest over immigrant art but rather with a wide range of presentations, most of which have nothing to do with immigrants — violent lyrics on the radio, sexually explicit books, anti-religious music concerts, and R-rated films in schools. To be clear, I am arguing that the rate of immigration is a measure of underlying social unease.
The page 99 quote sums up one of the most important findings in Not Here, Not Now, Not That! Protest Over Art and Culture in America — protest over art and media are rooted in the struggles of citizens to debate the boundaries of permissible expression in the face of disruptive and disorienting social change. When things are up for grabs in a community, people grab onto symbols (like art and culture) as a way to affirm their place in an otherwise dizzying sea of change and social flux. When citizens argue that a certain book doesn’t belong in the library, or a play is inappropriate for the community, or a film should not be shown in the local cinema, they are in effect arguing for their own place and relevance in their communities. By fighting over art, people are affirming their own values and lifestyle; they are saying to neighbors and officials that their voice and opinion matters and that they intend to be part of discussions about the future of their community. Arts protests fundamentally affirm the democratic process and give priority to “voice” rather than “exit.” In other words, it is the process of speaking out and debating our public culture -- “the ritual of protest — that affirms public life.
Learn more about Not Here, Not Now, Not That! at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 1, 2011

Faye E. Dudden's "Fighting Chance"

Faye E. Dudden is Professor of History at Colgate University. Her books include Serving Women: Household Service in Nineteenth-Century America and Women in the American Theatre: Actresses and Audiences, 1790-1870, which won the George Freedley Memorial Prize.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Fighting Chance: The Struggle over Woman Suffrage and Black Suffrage in Reconstruction America, and reported the following:
How could she do it? Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the founding mothers of the U.S. women’s movement, a friend of Frederick Douglass, and a vigorous advocate of equal rights regardless of sex or race. And yet in the late 1860s she descended into appalling racism. Why did this former heroine of equal rights, in company with her friend and fellow agitator Susan B. Anthony, develop such feet of clay? There is no one-word answer, though if I had to pick two words they would be “politics” and “money.” I tell a story that reflects Stanton and Anthony’s belief that they really did have a “fighting chance” to win votes for women at that historical moment—if only they could put together the resources to campaign, and if only they could take advantage of the fluid politics of Reconstruction.

Page 99 falls in the midst of describing a contentious meeting of activists in May 1867 when Stanton was attacked by the African-American leader George Downing for failing to concede that black men‘s voting rights should take priority over those of women. Stanton had long argued that activists should claim equal rights for all and not fall into the mistake of prioritizing, but at this point she abandoned the high ground and made a nasty crack about the freedmen’s “ignorance, poverty, and vice.”

The backstory about politics and money helps explain what was happening. Downing was feeling testy because black men had just been enfranchised in the South under Radical Reconstruction, but in the North black men like himself were still disenfranchised. And Stanton was feeling testy about money. The abolitionist Wendell Phillips controlled a bequest designed to support agitation for abolition and women’s rights, and the donor’s will stipulated that, if slavery was abolished, the remaining funds went to women’s rights. Though slavery had been abolished, Phillips was ignoring the will and withholding money from women’s rights, directing it instead to agitation for black men’s voting rights. Of course Stanton and Anthony resented this shabby behavior and eventually their resentment about resources began to spill over from Phillips to the black men whose cause he championed.

Later, after the women lost their best fighting chance to win woman suffrage in Kansas, Stanton and Anthony would compromise more and more on their egalitarian principles in order to accept funding from a new (racist) donor and to seize the moment before Reconstruction’s window of political opportunity closed. Page 99 cannot stand in for the full story of their bitterness, frustration, failure, and betrayal, but it does gesture toward its most important elements—politics and money.
Read more about Fighting Chance at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue