Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Carol Dyhouse's "Love Lives"

Carol Dyhouse is Professor (Emeritus) of History at the University of Sussex. She has written extensively about the social history of women, education and popular culture. Her publications include Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire (2017), Glamour: Women, History, Feminism (2011) and Girl Trouble: Panic and Progress in the History of Young Women (2013).

Dyhouse applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Love Lives: From Cinderella to Frozen, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my new book focuses on women getting more control over their bodies through contraception and legalised, safe abortion in the middle of the last century. It references Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl (1962) and Mary McCarthy’s The Group (1963) for changing attitudes to birth control. The idea of ‘premarital sex’, or Helen Gurley Brown’s suggestion that women should try men out, sexually, before marrying them was still acutely controversial and horrified conservative moralists.

Is this a useful insight into what the book is about? I think it is. The book explores the various ways in which twentieth century women achieved more control over their lives and how this affected their relationships with men.

I set out to investigate women’s changing expectations and dreams, drawing upon fairytale romance and popular culture. The story begins in the postwar years and analyses the huge appeal of Cinderella stories and particularly the popularity of Walt Disney’s animated screen version (1950) of the tale. The first chapter of the book has the title ‘When Men Were an Ending’. Girls in Britain and North America in the 1950s were encouraged by romance magazines and teenage culture to think of meeting and marrying man as their life project. The age of marriage plummeted, many married in their teens and it was common for young women to fear that they were ‘left on the shelf’ if they hadn’t met ‘Mr Right’ by the time they reached twenty-one years of age.

But the 1970s turned many trends around. Safe contraception had a massive effect on sexual mores. Educational and employment opportunities widened. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963) showed how lives of full-time domesticity could do terrible things to women. The women’s liberation movement both reflected and contributed to a reimagining of women’s dreams. By the 1980s some were arguing that feminism had ‘gone too far’, and there was a backlash of criticism of women for ‘wanting it all’. But the ground between men and women had shifted.

Disney heroines in recent animations have moved on. We are less likely to encounter helpless heroines needing bluebirds or forest creatures to help them with housework and princes to come to the rescue. Frozen (2013) featured bold heroines, sisterly love, scepticism about princes and a sense that men and women could share equally in the quests and adventures which give life purpose.
Learn more about Love Lives at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Heartthrobs: A History of Women and Desire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Michelle Nijhuis's "Beloved Beasts"

Michelle Nijhuis is a project editor at The Atlantic, a contributing editor at High Country News, and an award-winning reporter whose work has been published in National Geographic and the New York Times Magazine. She is coeditor of The Science Writers’ Handbook and lives in White Salmon, Washington.

Nijhuis applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction, and reported the following:
Readers who apply the Page 99 Test to Beloved Beasts will find themselves at a turning point in the life of Aldo Leopold, the American wildlife ecologist best known for his essay collection A Sand County Almanac. In the spring of 1924, after fifteen years in New Mexico and Arizona with the U.S. Forest Service, Leopold somewhat reluctantly accepted a more prestigious position with the agency in Madison, Wisconsin. Five days after leaving for Wisconsin, the district forester for the Southwest signed off on Leopold’s plan for the Gila National Forest, creating the nation’s first designated wilderness area.

In many ways, Leopold is the central character of Beloved Beasts, and while the events on page 99 are not particularly dramatic at first glance, they marked Leopold’s transition from a respected government official to the far-seeing writer and thinker he would become in later life. Within the Forest Service, he had already begun to agitate for policies designed to protect species from decline and landscapes from devastating erosion, and the Gila Wilderness was the enduring legacy of that work. After four restless years at the agency’s Forest Products Laboratory in Wisconsin, Leopold left the Forest Service, and in 1934, he joined the University of Wisconsin as a professor of game management—the first position of its kind in the country, and perhaps the world. At the university, he incorporated lessons from the relatively new science of ecology into his work, deepening his and his students’ understanding of the relationships among species and the relationships between species and their habitats.

Leopold’s vision of the relationship between humans and the rest of life, most fully expressed in A Sand County Almanac and his other late writings, was both rooted in the past and startlingly prescient. Unlike many conservationists before and since, Leopold understood that humans could and should play a constructive part in conservation—that they could cast off their role of “conqueror of the land-community,” as he called it, and accept the humbler responsibility of “plain member and citizen.” His departure for Wisconsin, recounted on page 99 of Beloved Beasts, was an important step in his own journey toward plain citizenship.
Learn more about the book and author at Michelle Nijhuis's website and the W.W. Norton website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Michela Wrong's "Do Not Disturb"

Michela Wrong is a writer and journalist with more than twenty years' experience of covering Africa. She joined Reuters news agency in the early 1980s and was posted as a foreign correspondent to Italy, France and Ivory Coast. She became a freelance journalist in 1994, when she moved to then-Zaire and found herself covering both the genocide in Rwanda and the final days of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko for the BBC and Reuters. Wrong later moved to Kenya, where she spent four years covering east, west and central Africa for the Financial Times.

She was awarded the 2010 James Cameron prize for journalism that combines "moral vision and professional integrity." She is regularly interviewed by the BBC, Al Jazeera and Reuters on her areas of expertise.

Wrong applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Do Not Disturb captures the suspicions Emile Rutagengwa, assistant to exiled former Rwandan intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya, began to harbour in 2013 towards Apollo Gafaranga, a businessman friend visiting the latter in South Africa. Emile took against Apollo, and since the book kicks off with Patrick's strangling in the Michelangelo Hotel in Johannesburg - an event Apollo organised - we know Emile's suspicions are justified.

Page 99 is not a bad introduction to the rest of the book. It uses first hand testimony to bring to life not only some key players in the story - Patrick, the laid-back spy chief; Apollo, the high-rolling Judas; Emile, the wary driver and bodyguard - but to highlight the predicament of any high-profile African who goes from being a presidential aide to an enemy of the state, trying to set up an opposition party while keeping out of the clutches of the killers sent by his old friend, President Paul Kagame. The phenomenon of the revolution eating its own is certainly not the only theme of my book. I also delve back into the recent history of Africa's Great Lakes to examine how the Rwandan Patriotic Front to which both Kagame and Karegeya belonged saw the light of day in Uganda and how it came to invade neighbouring Rwanda in 1990. But the moment in which former brothers in arms turn on one another is the climax to which the rest of the book builds. Do Not Disturb is, amongst other things, a story of personal betrayal, and the most egregious example of that toxic, fatal process was Patrick Karegeya's murder.

The test fails in that it gives no indication that only the first four chapters of the book are set in South Africa in the 2010s, amongst the fearful Rwandan diaspora based there. In the rest of the book the narrative shifts back in time to the Uganda of Idi Amin and Milton Obote, tracks the birth of Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Movement, explains how the Bush War gave birth to the RPF, and then moves with the RPF itself into neighbouring Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the end the book examines how and why the West has misunderstood Rwanda's recent history and turned an indulgent blind eye to Kagame's worst abuses, before returning to the story's point of departure: the Rwandan opposition in exile today.
Visit Michela Wrong's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Edward B. Westermann's "Drunk on Genocide"

Edward B. Westermann is Professor of History at Texas A&M University—San Antonio, a Commissioner on the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, and author, most recently, of Hitler's Ostkrieg and the Indian Wars.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Drunk on Genocide: Alcohol and Mass Murder in Nazi Germany, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my work examines the way in which geography and space played an important role in determining Nazi actions between the “soft West” (e.g., France, Belgium, etc.) and the “wild East” (i.e., Poland and the Soviet Union). Specifically, this page is part of a chapter focused on “Alcohol and Sexual Violence” that explores the integration of drinking ritual into acts of sexual humiliation and sexual assault. This page reveals the existence of a “double standard” concerning acceptable German behavior in the West and the East, and shows, that, in the latter, “physical conquest of territory, racial, and gender-based concepts of superiority, and perceptions of male camaraderie combined with excessive alcohol consumption to create a mind-set among the perpetrators in which the prohibition of acts of sexual aggression existed as ‘reality only on paper.’”

In this case, “the page 99 test” provides a representative and important reflection of the overall thesis and content of the work. First, it reveals the manner in which not only the act of drinking, but the spaces and places that it occurred proved important in determining the boundaries of appropriate conduct. Second, it highlights the manner by which the occupied eastern territories became “zones of exception” in which ideological beliefs in German racial superiority found expression in horrific acts of sexual and physical abuse.

Under National Socialism, intoxication in both a literal and metaphorical sense became part of a hypermasculine ideal in which manhood and male group solidarity was established and reaffirmed by the perpetrators in rituals of celebration, physical and sexual abuse, and mass murder. For Nazi Party bureaucrats, the men of the SS and police, and the German troops who set about the task of conquering and “civilizing” the occupied territories, feelings of colonial entitlement reflected elements of a militarized masculine ethos in which the conquerors became addicted to the intoxication of the East and became drunk with power. While the expression ‘drunk with power’ served a symbolic purpose, the use of alcohol among the perpetrators was a very real and prevalent fact of life and constituted an important ritual in the preparation, implementation, and celebration of acts of mass killing in the East. While the German home front experienced euphoria in mass public spectacles and military victories, the term “Ostrausch” (lit. intoxication of the East) emerged as a description of the “imperial high” that characterized the behavior and actions of those participating in the National Socialist conquest of Eastern Europe; a campaign in which “hedonism and genocide went hand in hand.”
Learn more about Drunk on Genocide at the Cornell University Press.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Benjamin R. Young's "Guns, Guerillas, and the Great Leader"

Benjamin R. Young is an Assistant Professor in Cyber Leadership & Intelligence at Dakota State University. He was a postdoctoral fellow in Strategy & Policy at the U.S Naval War College from 2018-2019 and received his PhD in 2018 from George Washington University. He was also a member of the 2018-2019 CSIS NextGen Korea Scholars Program. His research primarily revolves around East Asian studies, Cold War international history, security studies, and international relations.

Young applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Guns, Guerillas, and the Great Leader: North Korea and the Third World, and reported the following:
So if you open up to page 99 of my book, readers will come across a North Korean propaganda poster that celebrates the anti-colonial solidarity of the Third World (see attachment, inset below left). This image is my favorite in the entire book as it encapsulates several dimensions of North Korea-Third World relations. Firstly, the poster champions anti-imperialism and independence, which were pillars of Pyongyang’s foreign policy. Secondly, the poster features a multicultural and multiracial coalition of Third World youth. Despite North Korea’s information blockade, the government promoted the idea domestically that the DPRK was just one part of a global revolutionary movement that opposed capitalism, white supremacy, and colonialism. Finally, the image features Arabic writing, which was uncommon in North Korean propaganda posters. Overall, the page 99 test works well for my book because it reveals an aspect of North Korean history - the visual culture - that is often overlooked. Visual culture is an important element of North Korea’s political system and ideology. It was used to mobilize and motivate citizens in the construction of North Korean communism. In my book, I use a number of North Korean propaganda posters because they are important parts of the DPRK’s political culture.
Learn more about Guns, Guerillas, and the Great Leader at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's "When Women Invented Television"

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong is the New York Times bestselling author of Seinfeldia: The Secret World of the Show About Nothing that Changed Everything; a history of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and TedSex and the City and Us: How Four Single Women Changed the Way We Think, Live, and Love; and Pop Star Goddesses: And How to Tap Into Their Energies to Invoke Your Best Self. She spent a decade on staff at Entertainment Weekly and has since written for many publications, including BBC Culture, The New York Times Book Review, Fast Company, Vulture, and Billboard. She also speaks about pop culture history and creativity.

Armstrong applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today, and reported the following:
Page 99 of When Women Invented Television might just sum up my entire life’s work so far: It is a testament to the immensely personal power of television.

On this page, we see the triumph of TV’s first family sitcom, The Goldbergs, after its 1949 debut. This story of a Jewish family living in a Bronx tenement, created by and starring Gertrude Berg as matriarch Molly, has transitioned from radio to the new medium of television and shot to the top of the Hooper Ratings, the audience measurement service of the time. And viewers were going wild with a sensation we’ll never fully understand in our audio-visual-soaked era: They could not get over being able to actually see the Goldbergs rather than just hearing them, like they had for 17 years on radio. The Goldbergs were talking and laughing and moving in their very own living rooms, and it was mind-blowing.

A 67-year-old fan made Berg an apron and sent it to her; she cried when she saw Berg wearing it on TV, as she relayed to the star in a letter. Another fan, a Mrs. McInerney, wrote from Chicago, “A shut-in who wants to thank the Goldbergs for coming into our homes each Monday evening over WGNTV, surely the greatest thrill I have received was their friendly voices returning to us through television and seeing all of them was just so much more thrilling. … Little did we think we would get to see them on our television screen just one year after my husband got me the set to keep me company while he was away to work, and television has played a great part in my lonely life, for I have been a heart patient for the past six years.”

This was Gertrude Berg at the height of her powers. Unfortunately, as the book details, she didn’t stay there. The world, particularly as the 1950s progressed, was not welcoming to women as ambitious as Berg, and the Hollywood Red Scare ensnared her career. While she wasn’t personally blacklisted, her TV husband, Philip Loeb, was. Her sponsor, General Foods, asked her to fire him, and she refused. The decision got her show kicked off CBS, and while she eventually returned on NBC—without Loeb—The Goldbergs never recovered from the loss of momentum. I Love Lucy ran on CBS on the night once inhabited by The Goldbergs and became a lasting phenomenon for the ages.

But those early days of The Goldbergs, when fans were so entranced by the sight of their favorite characters, also show us something I’ve always tried to highlight in my work about TV history: Television isn’t some brainless trifle. It’s often brainless, sure. But the right show at the right time can affect us deeply. Its characters are people we know, and they change the way we feel and think. It’s easy to take that for granted in an age of streaming on demand, but it’s as true as ever.
Visit Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's website.

My Book, The Movie: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted.

The Page 99 Test: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted.

The Page 99 Test: Seinfeldia.

The Page 99 Test: Sex and the City and Us.

The Page 99 Test: Pop Star Goddesses.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 2, 2021

Glenn Stout's "Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid"

Glenn Stout wrote his first free-lance story in 1986 for Boston Magazine and since that time has never been without an assignment. A full-time writer and author since 1993 he has authored, co-authored, edited or ghostwritten 100 books for both general trade and juvenile audience, primarily focusing on sports and history.

Stout applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid: America's Original Gangster Couple, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid is the first page of Chapter Seven, “A Movie Thriller.” It begins: “Whittemore [AKA “The Candy Kid”] was white hot. Being wanted for murder gave him status in the underworld far above that of other two-bit stickup artists, bootleggers and hijackers. He was a somebody now, his picture in the papers and his name on everyone’s lips. Margaret [Whittemore, Richard’s wife, AKA “Tiger Girl”] was white hot too, and almost as well known as her husband. But notoriety didn’t pay the bills or fuel Whittemore's efforts to avoid arrest. They both needed money…” picking up the story just as America’s original crime couple were about to become nationally known figures.

The page 99 test fortuitously drops the reader right smack into the middle of the story of the Whittemores, two working-class kids from Baltimore who decided to reach for their vision of the American Dream without regret. Richard has just escaped from the Maryland State Penitentiary, killing a guard in the process. He is beginning a life on the lam, subject of a nationwide manhunt and preparing to rejoin his young wife, Tiger Girl, who has been waiting for her husband since he was arrested and jailed just a week after their wedding. Unable to find work, and enthralled by the excesses of the era, they decide its time to live like the swells they see partying non-stop in the speakeasies and cabarets of the Roaring Twenties. Together, they make the decision to put together a gang that in another year would embark on a crime spree that would see the crew steal over one million dollars in cash and jewelry – primarily diamonds – and make them famous from coast-to-coast, anti-heroes to a generation of Jazz-mad young Americans enthralled by their romance and bold reach for infamy. For a brief time, as they spent blood money like water, they lived life as if they were stars in their own movie, every desire fulfilled.
Visit Glenn Stout's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Jesse Wozniak's "Policing Iraq"

Jesse S.G. Wozniak is Associate Professor of Sociology at West Virginia University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Policing Iraq: Legitimacy, Democracy, and Empire in a Developing State, and reported the following:
Summary of page 99: Students and trainers alike at the Sulaimaniyah (Iraq) police training center discuss the high levels of education and physical fitness they believe are of central importance to those who would like to join the force. These interview excerpts are offered as evidence of the message police personnel are receiving regarding their role and the functions they are asked to fulfill. These desired recruit qualities speak to the powerfully originative role police play (and will continue to play) in the shaping of the young Iraqi state. Similar in many ways to American police training, where technical discussions are emphasized over basic principles of law, democracy, or basic human relations, this focus on the physical requirements and aspects of the job sends a clear message of what is considered “real” policing and serves to marginalize the myriad other activities police will be called on to perform.

In this case, the page 99 test is moderately successful. This page obviously omits a great deal of the study, but would give the reader a fairly accurate understanding of one key argument. The overarching argument of the book is that the United States did not even set out to create a democratic police force in Iraq, but instead one that would prove useful in their drastic restructuring of the Iraqi state and economy, most centrally ensuring continued access to oil and the forced implantation of extreme neoliberal economic reforms. The priorities offered by interview respondents demonstrate some of the central problems with both the design and implementation of the reconstruction of the Iraqi police force. While high educational standards sound great, the reality of policing in Iraq is that the job is more often seen as a last resort of desperation. So while there are some highly educated police, most are people who have no interest in being police officers but only joined to escape still-pervasive unemployment. One respondent argued that a common piece of advice given to the homeless is to go join the police because they’ll accept anyone. The emphasis on physical perfection and domination, while similarly as unmet among recruits as were ideal educational standards, reveal many of the problems with the very conception of policing found in the US-instituted training regime. In a democratic police force, physical abilities should be dwarfed in importance by interpersonal skills – the ability to talk to and understand a wide swath of community members, de-escalate situations, and the like. However, in the training of Iraqi police, such skills are virtually unheard of, as are any discussions of the plethora of new rights guaranteed by the new constitution or really any discussion of the rights and responsibilities of police in a constitutional democracy. Rather, police are clearly designed to be essentially an auxiliary army, rooting out subversives to prop up the fledgling, US-backed government and its dictates.
Visit Jesse Wozniak's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Megan A. Stewart's "Governing for Revolution"

Megan A. Stewart is an Assistant Professor at American University's School of International Service. Her research investigates how and why political actors create new social, economic and political orders, and the enduring consequences of these endeavors.

Stewart applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Governing for Revolution: Social Transformation in Civil War, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Governing for Revolution, I introduce my first case study: the Eritrean War of Independence. On that page, I talk about my main motivating puzzle: why do some rebel groups undertake costly or challenging governance programs during war? I also describe the methods and data I use in the chapter. To that end, the 99th page test is about 40% accurate: there is a taste of the motivating question and some description of the archival data I use in what is probably my most compelling case. But readers do not get an answer to my puzzle, and I'd like to hope that my answer is at least slightly more compelling than the question I pose.

What is my answer, then? I argue that to understand why rebels implement challenging governance programs during war, we have to first understand the actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the Chinese Civil War. During the war, the CCP invested heavily in transforming the social order, including attempting to fundamentally restructure status hierarchies, such as inequalities between classes, races and genders. To achieve such change, the CCP introduced certain governance programs that directly altered status hierarchies, such as land reform, but these programs were sometimes unpopular and met with occasional resistance. The CCP could have saved these programs until after war, when it would be easier to do, but the CCP did not. Throughout the process, the CCP also propagated their wartime governance strategy globally, referring to their experience as a model to be imitated by others.

Later rebel leaders emerged in a global context saturated with information about the CCP, but not all rebel leaders rely on this information. What determines the extent to which leaders use the information about the CCP’s experience are rebel groups’ long-term goals. Once rebel leaders decide what their goals are, they need to figure out how to achieve them. When rebel groups have revolutionary goals, they have similar ambitions to the CCP. These shared ambitions caused rebel leaders to decide to imitate the CCP’s model and they implemented the same governance strategies during war as the CCP did. Over time, rebel leaders with revolutionary goals sometimes even received material benefits by conforming to the CCP's model. When rebel goals are less revolutionary, however, they copy less of the CCP's governance strategies and they are less likely to implement the same challenging governance programs that the CCP did.
Visit Megan A. Stewart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Elesha J. Coffman's "Margaret Mead"

Elesha J. Coffman is an associate professor of history at Baylor University. Her first book was The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline (2013).

Coffman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Margaret Mead: A Twentieth-Century Faith, and reported the following:
All of the books in the Oxford “Spiritual Lives” series are compact, intended to introduce readers to the spirituality of figures who were famous for something other than being spiritual. Page 99 is almost exactly the midpoint of the book, and it finds Margaret Mead and the rest of the world at a crossroads.

The year is 1942. The United States has recently entered World War II, and the famous anthropologist has published And Keep Your Powder Dry, a book that she hoped would give Americans confidence to fight and help the British better understand the thousands of American servicemen arriving on their shores. Mead’s extended lecture tour of the UK that year kept her away from her third husband, Gregory Bateson, and their baby daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson. Referring to And Keep Your Powder Dry, page 99 notes,
The book is not remembered as one of Mead’s best, but its domestic focus and religiously tinged moral earnestness marked an inflection point in her life. Her years of traveling the world for new bits of information and developing her own personality through a rapid succession of relationships were mostly behind her. She was marshaling the resources of maturity, and she would need them all as the violent end of World War II birthed the challenges of the Atomic Age. Not everyone she was close to would accompany her through these transitions.
Page 99 represents the book in several ways. There’s a lot going on in just a few lines, as there had to be in a brisk biography of a woman who lived a very full life. The published bibliography of her work lists nearly 1,400 print publications, and her archive, with more than 530,000 items, is the largest in the Library of Congress. The pace of major events during her life span (1901-1978) was staggering as well.

While tensions were especially high in 1942, Mead was always trying to change the world while holding a few key relationships together. It was never easy. Lastly, although Mead insisted that she never lost her religion after choosing to be baptized into the Episcopal Church at age 11, for much of her career her faith was subsumed under moral earnestness. The missing half of the phrase in her book title exemplifies this hiddenness. Mead used the full quote only in the book’s last line: “Trust God—and keep your powder dry.”
Learn more about Margaret Mead: A Twentieth-Century Faith at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue