Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Judith Giesberg's "Army at Home"

Judith Giesberg is assistant professor of history at Villanova University and author of Civil War Sisterhood: The United States Sanitary Commission and Women's Politics in Transition.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front the reader of will come to know Charlotte Brown, a woman whose brave stand against San Francisco’s streetcar segregation helped to end the practice. When Charlotte Brown ignored company policy and insisted on riding the city’s streetcars alongside white passengers, she helped to inspire a local movement to reverse the racist and humiliating policies that excluded black passengers from riding inside cars carrying white passengers. Brown even managed to capture – if only briefly -- the attention and imagination of Washington lawmakers, when Senator Charles Sumner referred to Charlotte Brown’s court case in his arguments in support of legislation that would have integrated streetcars in the nation’s capital. Most astounding of all, Charlotte Brown was making her stand in 1863 – almost 100 years before Rosa Parks would fight the same battle, all over again!

Page 99 sets the stage for the legal battle Brown fought against the streetcar company that ejected her. It lets readers know that Charlotte Brown was willing to stand up not only to white San Franciscans’ racism but also to pleas for patience and conciliation from the black community:

There was much to celebrate in the 1863 campaign to overturn California’s discriminatory court testimony law, but the editors of the Pacific Appeal advised African American readers to be “patient and conciliating” and to avoid “all causes of passionate resentment” from whites. Above all, the editors cautioned against readers “resorting to the law,” for not “every offence that may be committed against us is altogether in consequence of our color.” Black elites did not want to jeopardize their business connections with the white community with a rush to litigate; such a strategy could do more harm to the cause of civil rights than good.

As a member of an activist family, Charlotte Brown was aware of her new legal status. Charlotte’s father, James, was active in California’s black convention movement which had led the testimony law campaign.

This is a good spot to reflect on the meaning of the book, for in Charlotte Brown’s story – and that of the many other women highlighted in the book – the reader is encouraged to rethink what s/he thinks of as the northern home front. Whereas most histories of the Civil War treat the battlefield and the home front as separate issues, in particular when it comes to the North, Army at Home looks at how the home became a battlefield of its own – how working-class women struggled to make ends meet, how they worked in munitions factories, sewed uniforms, and pieced together bits of aid to support themselves while the men were gone. And, it tells the stories of women who sought to make meaning of the war at home, like when Charlotte Brown – and other women of color in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati – decided that segregation was a civil rights issue directly related to the purpose of the war or when white women in New York City, Boston, and Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal communities decided that emancipation was not a worthy wartime goal and attacked draft marshals.

But maybe the best example of the war coming home to northern women is in the last chapter of Army at Home, when the reader follows women as they make sad journeys onto quieted battlefields to retrieve the bodies of loved ones and to bring them home for burial.

I hope as readers learn about Charlotte Brown and the other women in Army at Home they will look at the history of the Civil War with fresh eyes. Brown’s story reminds us that the civil rights movement has a long(er) history, one that women played key roles in from the beginning. The stories of the other women featured in the book should remind readers to look beyond the battlefield to the home front when we consider war’s consequences – or, better yet, to see the home front as a battlefield of its own. For, as one Civil War American put it, there is another army that must be sustained and supported and that is the army at home -- the relatives of service men (and now women) and the many civilians who do the work of war at home.
Learn more about Army at Home at the publisher's website.

Visit Judith Giesberg's faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mitch Horowitz's "Occult America"

Mitch Horowitz is the editor-in-chief of Tarcher/Penguin. He has written for Esopus, Parabola, Fortean Times, and Science of Mind.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation, and reported the following:
I wrote Occult America to shed light on the little-known people and ideas – specifically of an occult or esoteric bent – that have impacted our history, religion, and culture. For example, the therapeutic tone of so much of today’s spirituality, from New Age bestsellers to the pulpits of evangelical media ministries, got started in America in the mid-19th century with the advent of the “mental healing” movement, the spread of Mesmerism (or hypnotism), and some aspects of Transcendentalist thought. The same is true for many elements of today’s natural or alternative medicine. America is not exactly an “occult nation” – it’s many things – but occult or arcane ideas do underscore a very wide range of how we see ourselves.

In that respect, I face a lively challenge with “the page 99 test.” My page 99 is actually a widowed page at the end of a chapter. It contains the seven closing lines of a story about how the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale – the famous minister and mega-bestselling author of The Power of Positive Thinking – owes a great intellectual debt to a little-known California mystic named Ernest Holmes. Holmes’s 1919 book, Creative Mind and Success, was a very early source of inspiration to Peale, the positive-thinking icon, just before he entered seminary school. My seven lines on p. 99 conclude:

While Peale was gracious in tone and lavish in praise when asked about Holmes in 1987, the minister otherwise appeared to go little out of his way to credit the California mystic. Biographies of Peale, including his personal memoirs, make no mention of Ernest Holmes. Ten years after Peale’s death, a staff member conducting a tour of the minister’s headquarters in upstate New York had never heard the name.

If you’re interested in that kind of elegiac tale, then you’ll probably enjoy the rest of the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Mitch Horowitz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Miriam Forman-Brunell's "Babysitter: An American History"

Miriam Forman-Brunell is Professor of History at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. She is the author of Made to Play House and general editor of ABC-CLIO’s Girlhood in America. She is also co-director of Children and Youth in History.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Babysitter: An American History, and reported the following:
Page 99 focuses on the short-lived emergence of babysitter co-ops formed by suburban mothers in postwar America. What led young mothers to organize co-ops in which they took turns babysitting for each other’s children, had been a scarcity of sitters, a new reality unforeseen by those riding the wave of suburban expansion. Grandparents with increasingly active lives of their own more frequently declined requests to spend an evening with Junior and Jane. Among the few household workers who frequented the postwar suburbs, most preferred to take care of the house rather than look after the kids. Although babysitting had become the key source of employment for teenage girls after World War II, there were too few around. Plunging birth rates during the Great Depression followed by the baby boom after the war had created a demographic imbalance between babies and babysitters that was especially acute in new suburban communities typically settled by young parents.

What also caused parents to exchange sitting services with neighbors, however, was a less practical and more profound reason. Ever since the emergence of babysitting and the advent of the modern American teenage girl in the 1920s, there had been a growing distrust of female adolescents increasingly represented in the popular culture as irresponsible, unreliable, and unpredictable caretakers. What fueled adults’ suspicions of babysitters back then—and ever since—have been apprehensions about the unprecedented possibilities of girls’ autonomy and empowerment. Widely suspected of damaging property, ruining marriages, endangering children, and destroying families in the popular imagination, the babysitter has served as a lightning rod for a long-standing critique of female adolescents and their pursuit of independence set into motion by inexorable gender and generational changes.

The underlying problems with parent-run co-ops and the long-term needs for accessible and inexpensive caretakers has led to unending attempts to transform the widely imagined disruptive teen into a disciplined sitter. This underlying (albeit unstated) purpose of babysitter training has taken place across a vast domain that spans from classrooms to comic books to horror movies. Manuals, magazines, and other sources have long served to modify the disruptive behavior that has kept girls from satisfying the needs of parents and the society for sitters. Experts, educators, writers, and other cultural producers of the ideal babysitter today continue to contribute to the long-standing social imperative: to alloy female adolescent autonomy with feminine accountability.

From page 99:

Over backyard fences and during coffee klatches, suburban mothers shared their predicaments about the “baby-sitting bugaboo.” The new domestic rituals of suburban women’s lives provided them with opportunities to share perspectives, offer support, and explore alternatives while reinforcing family norms and cultivating cohesion. One suggestion current among suburban mothers was to create child-care organizations to provide relief from the unyielding domestic routines. “Do-it-together, rather than do-it-yourself, is the answer to many young mothers,” the Ladies Home Journal would report enthusiastically about women’s attempts to arrive at a practical solution to a persistent problem. “The age-old technique of ‘you mind my baby and I’ll mind yours sometime’ needed only organization to become the sort of boon thousands of home-bound young parents dream of,” reported the New York Times about the babysitter co-ops that sprang up in places like St. Paul, Minnesota. Young mothers there formed one of the many babysitter co-ops that emerged in suburban neighborhoods from coast to coast.

Parent-run sitter “exchanges” or “co-operatives,” largely staffed by mothers “like ourselves,” succeeded in formalizing the “old-fashioned good-neighbor swap.” Typically, the officer or “sitretary” coordinated cooperation by bringing together a neighborhood mother who needed a sitter with one willing to babysit. In return, the sitter received a credit upon which she could draw when she needed a babysitter. Rather than keeping up with the Joneses, then, neighbors who shared child-care responsibilities cooperated with them. In Levittown, New York, neighbors formed a Jewish-Christian sitters’ exchange service in keeping with the postwar trend that deemphasized sectarian differences and stressed common needs.

For housewives and mothers seeking to push “horizons beyond nursery walls,” regular interactions with neighborhood women made suburban life less isolating. “I particularly enjoy the companionship of the other mothers,” said one mother. “We’ve found our meetings most helpful,” said another. For another young parent, the co-op helped combat her anxieties about motherhood because the women provided assistance and support. “In the absence of our husbands, it has been a real help for each of us to have an interested and informed friend with whom to talk over anything that has been worrying us about our children.” Since most postwar suburban mothers raised their children without the steady assistance of kin, many sitter exchanges provided anxious young women with opportunities to learn from more experienced ones.
Read the introduction to Babysitter: An American History, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Larissa Juliet Taylor's "The Virgin Warrior"

Larissa Juliet Taylor is Professor of History at Colby College, with affiliations to the departments of Religious Studies and French. Her publications include the award-winning Soldiers of Christ: Preachers in Late Medieval and Reformation France; Heresy and Orthodoxy in Sixteenth-Century Paris; Preachers and People in the Reformations and Early Modern Period; and numerous chapters, articles and co-edited works.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Virgin Warrior: The Life and Death of Joan of Arc, and reported the following:
On page 99, Joan of Arc began an assault on Paris, only a few months after her military successes in the Loire Valley and the king’s coronation. Paris proved a turning point in Joan’s short career. Without insurrection from within, the city could not be taken. Yet Joan had so convinced herself that she was the invincible Maid that she was blinded to reality. The heavy casualties on the French side did not deter Joan from continuing the attack until the king ordered a halt to the fighting.

The author of the Journal of the Bourgeois of Paris described Joan as “[a] creature in the form of a woman who was with them and whom they called the Maid, [but] what it was God alone knows.” Although a hostile source, the Bourgeois captured what many had been saying in 1429. Chroniclers throughout Europe marveled at the spectacle of a woman leading an army of men and winning.

Joan’s character had evolved after each victory. Her unofficial motto ‘go boldly!’ exemplified her willfulness, pride, and belligerence. Even as the Bourgeois questioned ‘what it was,’ modern writers have often distorted the historical Joan of Arc to fit a personal, saintly, or sentimental model. The Virgin Warrior attempts to see beyond the legends that have grown up around Joan to understand how she viewed herself, how others within her party saw her, and why she inspired such fear among the English that their leaders faced desertions and problems funding the war.

Joan had help from the beginning at the highest levels. I argue that the king’s mother-in-law brought Joan to the notice of the court. After Joan passed muster, she was trained in warfare and prophecies were adapted to fit her mission. But as she came to see herself as a knight with a role transcending gender and dynastic politics, Joan sowed the seeds of her downfall. After the failure at Paris, she increasingly relied on her own beliefs about what was good for ‘France,’ becoming a liability to a court that sought a political rather than a military solution. Captured in May 1430, she was sold to the English and executed a year later. Joan played a part in her capture and execution by never realizing the limits that had been placed on her from the start as the Virgin Warrior.

P. 99, Chapter 6: “The King and the Maid”

The assault on Paris was doomed to failure, not only or even mainly because of Charles’s reluctance to fight. Joan probably assumed that, like so many towns had before, Paris would embrace Charles, willingly or after a show of force. But Paris was heavily fortified with 30-foot high walls and two moats surrounding the city. The one closest to the walls was filled with water, while the outer moat was dry, more like a trench. The Bastille was stocked with arms and gunpowder, and cannon and large crossbows atop it made defense of the city relatively easy. The captain of Paris and the Bastille had prepared his men for the assault, stockpiling weapons and supplies to hold them through the winter if necessary. Joan and Alençon sent out scouts each day after their arrival, which led to numerous skirmishes around the gates of the city. She frequently rode to the walls trying to assess the best means of attack. Finally, Alençon was dispatched to bring Charles to Paris. The king eventually arrived at Saint-Denis on Wednesday, September 7.

The anonymous author of the Journal of the Bourgeois of Paris, whose notes cover the years from 1405 to 1449, was a churchman affiliated with the cathedral of Notre-Dame or the University of Paris rather than a merchant. His descriptions of living conditions in Paris, including harvest failures, omens, and the cost and quality of wine, offer a vivid inside look at the city before and during the brief siege. The Parisians had learned to fend for themselves, viewing the dukes of Burgundy, whom the Bourgeois characterizes as neglectful to a fault, as only slightly better that then despised Armagnacs and English. According to him, the king’s faction does “nothing day or night but lay waste all his father’s land with fire and sword and the English on the other side do as much harm as Saracens.” Because of his distrust of all sides, his year-by-year accounts are especially valuable. He relates that earlier the duke of Alençon had sent letters to the city’s leaders, hoping to divide the people and instigate a popular uprising. Exaggerating the size of the French army at 12,000 men, the Bourgeois exclaims that they were “so full of foolish belief that on the word of [a] creature in the form of a woman who was with them and whom they called the Maid, what it was God only knows, that the day of the Nativity of Our Lady they formed the resolution to attack Paris.” The feast of the Nativity of the Virgin, one of only three birthdays celebrated in the liturgical year – the others being those of Jesus and John the Baptist – was an important holy day. On September 8, between eleven and twelve in the morning, the large French army arrived at the moats
Learn more about The Virgin Warrior at the Yale University Press website.

Visit Larissa Juliet Taylor's faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sheldon D. Pollack's "War, Revenue, and State Building"

Sheldon D. Pollack lives in Merion, Pennsylvania, on the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia. He is professor of law and legal studies at the University of Delaware and is the author of The Failure of U.S. Tax Policy: Revenue and Politics (1996) and Refinancing America: Republican Antitax Policies (2003). In addition, Pollack has written numerous articles in scholarly and popular journals such as Tax Notes, Society, Polity, The New Republic, Legal Affairs, and The American Prospect.

The result of the “Page 99 Test” applied to his latest book, War, Revenue, and State Building: Financing the Development of the American State:
In the United States, where social welfare programs were introduced relatively late, the demand for revenue has mounted steadily since the 1960s. In recent decades, the rising cost of the social welfare programs of the American state has even outstripped spending for the military. At the same time, changing demographics has undermined the financial integrity of Social Security, the national income-maintenance program for the elderly. The financial position of the American state has been strained by the so-called entitlement programs (especially, Social Security and Medicare). Entitlement spending is outside the control of the normal congressional budget and appropriation process. Whether state officials can continue to raise enough revenue through taxes and borrowing to finance both the expensive military and social welfare programs of the United States remains to be seen. The continued development of the American state depends on it. p. 99.

Remarkably, page 99 of my book summarizes many of the themes of the book. Perhaps because this is the concluding paragraph of chapter 3. Overall, the book describes how the weak fiscal powers of the American national government of the late eighteenth century initially inhibited institutional development of the national government, while the creation of a powerful extraction system for extracting revenue facilitated the expansion of the federal government. This all happened in a relatively short time. The American state quickly developed from a weak, highly decentralized confederation composed of thirteen former English colonies into the foremost global superpower—stronger even than the monarchies of Europe that the founders feared and wished to avoid. This remarkable institutional transformation would not have been possible without the revenue raised by a particularly efficient system of public finance, first crafted during the Civil War and then resurrected and perfected in the early twentieth century—namely, the federal income tax. This revenue financed America's participation in two global wars as well as the building of a modern system of social welfare programs. The gloomy conclusion of the book is that the great expansion of the U.S. military as well as increased spending on domestic entitlement programs now threatens the continued viability of the American state as spending outstrips revenue.
Learn more about War, Revenue, and State Building at the Cornell University Press website.

Visit Sheldon D. Pollack's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Timothy Longman's "Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda"

Timothy Longman serves as Director of the African Studies Center and is Visiting Associate Professor of Political Science at Boston University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda, and reported the following:
My book, Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda, seeks not only to describe how Christian churches became deeply implicated in the 1994 genocide of Rwanda’s Tutsi ethnic minority but also why the churches in this heavily Christian country ended up condoning violence. Based on both national- and local-level research, I argue that the explanation lies in the histories of church alliances with the state and engagement in ethnic politics. In addition, I contend that churches are inherently political institutions in which various groups and individuals compete for access to resources and power, including spiritual power.

On page 99, I describe some of the theological ideas that inspired progressive challenges to the power of entrenched conservative officials in Rwanda’s Catholic and Protestant churches in the 1980s and 1990s. Specifically, the page discusses Latin American Liberation Theology and theologies of inculturation in Africa. The fact that jumps out at me is that the page does not mention Rwanda. In this chapter alone, the word Rwanda appears 149 times – but not on page 99. From this page, a reader would correctly assume that the book is about religion and might guess that it is about religion in Africa, but she would have no idea that the book is about Rwanda. I also note that the page is almost half taken up with footnotes, which makes the book seem particularly academic. Hopefully this does reflect the thorough research that went into the book, but it does not particularly reveal the degree to which I hope the text is accessible and readable.
Read more about Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda at the Cambridge University Press website.

Visit Timothy Longman's Boston University faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Steve Pincus' "1688: The First Modern Revolution"

Steven Pincus is professor of history at Yale University. He is the author of The Politics of the Public Sphere in Early Modern England, Protestantism and Patriotism: Ideologies and the Making of English Foreign Policy, 1650-1668, and England’s Glorious Revolution: A Brief History with Documents.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, 1688: The First Modern Revolution, and reported the following:
From p. 99 of 1688: The First Modern Revolution:

“Although James II’s Catholicism at his accession raised some concerns, they were initially limited among the English population…. The experience of the previous century and a half had apparently diminished the religious prejudices of the English people while at the same time enhancing their commitment to their laws in church and state. By the accession of James II identity politics played only a limited role in shaping English political culture.”

The central claim of 1688: The First Modern Revolution is that the English people in 1688-89 fomented a revolution every bit as radical in intension and consequences as the revolutions of 1789 in France or 1917 in Russia. This revolution was radical because it transformed England from an agrarian to a manufacturing society, it reoriented English foreign policy away from territorial Empire in the Atlantic towards political engagement with continental Europe, and it reshaped the Church of England, away from an intolerant and persecuting church into one that, at least at the highest levels, valued religious difference as a possible means to arrive at religious truth. The revolutionaries who brought about such radical changes were unsurprisingly compelled to resort to violence to achieve their ends. The revolution was therefore popular rather than aristocratic, violent rather than bloodless, and divisive rather than consensual.

The book challenges two established views of the Glorious Revolution that rely in different ways on the concept of identity politics. Both views that I challenge insist that the Revolution of 1688 was an unrevolutionary revolution, one which emphasized continuity rather than transformation. The first view, normally associated with the Whig interpretation of history, insists that the English possessed a unique commitment to political moderation. So, when James II tried to impose a foreign Catholic and absolutist monarchy on the English people, they united against him to restore the ancient constitution. The second interpretation I challenge, maintains that English identity was fundamentally a rigidly intolerant Protestant one. So, when James II tried to impose religious toleration by royal fiat, the English, led by the intolerant Church of England men threw him out. In both views the English defended their identity against innovation.

My claim in 1688 is that James II was a successful political modernizer. James centralized, regularized, and politicized the English political bureaucracy. He created a modern, efficient standing army and with the help of his chief naval administrator, Samuel Pepys, transformed and modernized the English navy. James was also committed, like his cousin and political ally Louis XIV, to an intolerant and absolutist form of Roman Catholicism. So, he hoped to turn England into a Catholic absolute monarchy. All of this spawned resentment. But those who overthrew James, the Whigs, did so not in defense of the ancient constitution or religious intolerance, but in the hopes of creating a modern state of their own. They wanted to transform English society from an agrarian into a manufacturing one, the English state from an absolutist regime into a politically pluralist one, and the English church from an intolerant and repressive one into one which was committed to the notion that religious truth could best be discovered through religious dialogue generated by a pluralist religious atmosphere.
Read more about the book at the publisher's website.

Learn more about Steven Pincus at his Yale faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ron E. Hassner's "War on Sacred Grounds"

Ron E. Hassner is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, War on Sacred Grounds, and reported the following:
Sacred sites are both awesome and awful; the most beautiful and yet the most dangerous places on earth. Why do groups fight over holy places, like Jerusalem, Mecca or Ayodhya (India), and how can these conflicts be resolved? These are the two questions that War on Sacred Grounds sets out to answer.

My goal in writing this book was to offer an alternative to many contemporary analyses in which religion is seen as a mere pretense for conflict. Although I am a political scientist by training, I wanted to start my exploration of sacred places from the believers’ point of view to understand why believers are willing to kill to protect their sacred places. Throughout the book, I describe the extraordinary places that are holy to Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Native Americans, Jews, and Buddhists, among others.

I found that believers value sacred sites because they offer an opportunity for direct contact with the divine. But because they perceive these places to be abodes of the gods, religious communities have to protect them ferociously against desecration. Outsiders, both secular rulers and competing religious movements, have an equal interest in controlling these sites. The resulting conflicts are difficult to resolve because holy sites are indivisible: believers are not willing to share even the smallest part of these shrines.

On page 99, halfway through the book, I turn to examine options for managing these disputes. The key lies in religious leaders who have authority to reshape the rules that govern sacred sites.

“Can these actors redefine existing sacred space in a manner supportive of dispute management or resolution? Could religious leaders reduce the significance of contested sacred sites or relax the rules constraining worship so that groups in conflict might coexist peacefully at these sites?”

In multiple case studies throughout the book, ranging from Saudi Arabia to California, from Europe to India, I show that efforts at resolving these conflicts by ignoring their religious dimension have ended in disaster. At times, religious actors can mitigate these disputes by reconfiguring the meaning of a sacred place to their followers. Left out of the picture, as in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over Jerusalem, religious leaders are likely to scuttle peacemaking efforts.

In conflicts over sacred places, politics and religion are inextricably intertwined. We cannot hope to understand -- let alone resolve -- these disputes unless we are willing to take religion seriously.
Read an excerpt from War on Sacred Grounds, and learn more about the book and author at Ron E. Hassner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wendy Walker's "Social Lives"

Wendy Walker is a former commercial litigator and investment banker who now works at home in Connecticut writing and raising her children. She is the author of Four Wives, the editor of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms, and is currently working on her third novel.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her second novel, Social Lives, and reported the following:
The page begins with a not-so-nice word, then goes on to describe a confused, angst-ridden teenage girl wondering about a boy in a car. The girl, protagonist Caitlin Barlow, is obviously obsessed with this boy, Kyle, and desperate for his attention. The page ends with her wondering if she will ever be able to figure him out.

As a matter of style, this page definitely represents the book. In order to move the plot forward but cover a lot of ground, my characters often reflect on things that have happened in the near and distant past, and reveal their state of mind as they confront the present.

As a matter of content, what we are seeing here is one of three main plot lines that intersect and collide throughout the book. Caitlin is the daughter of Rosalyn and billionaire Ernest Barlow, a couple in the midst of marital turmoil. When Caitlin becomes involved in a sexual scandal at her school, their relationship and family is put to the test. Rosalyn is friends with Jacqueline Halstead whose husband has set them on a course of financial ruin. What she does to save her family represents the complete lack of power she feels after two decades of dependency on her husband. Newcomer Sara Livingston is beginning to understand the social structure around her and it makes her terrified to have a second baby that will further entrench her within this world. All of these stories tie into the role of women in wealthy suburbia, from teenage years through adulthood. There is a definite cycle at work. In many ways then, page 99 shows us the beginning of that cycle - the teenage girl who sees herself only through the eyes of men.
Watch the video trailer for Social Lives and read an excerpt.

Learn more about the author and her work at Wendy Walker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ken Bruen & Reed Farrel Coleman's "Tower"

Reed Farrel Coleman's sixth novel, The James Deans, won the Shamus, Barry and Anthony Awards for Best Paperback Original, and was further nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, and Gumshoe Awards. Ken Bruen's many novels include The Guards, the book that introduced Jack Taylor, which was a finalist for the Edgar, Barry, and Macavity Awards, and winner of the Shamus Award for the Best Novel of 2003.

Coleman applied the “Page 99 Test” to Tower, their brilliant new collaboration, and reported the following:
Man, does pg 99 of Tower pass the Ford Madox Ford test. More than any of my other works, this page features all the elements of the book and, not coincidentally, showcases the three characters—Nick, Todd, and Leeza—whose narrative voices are heard in the book. Leeza, a US Marshal working undercover as Todd’s girlfriend, Nick, Todd’s best and oldest friend, and Todd go out for a night of drinking and pool in a Brooklyn bar. Here are just a few lines from pg 99:

Leeza wasn’t Nick’s type. Well, to fuck maybe, but not to love. Had trouble picturing her not being anyone’s type… Then why the fuck was I sick with jealousy at watching Leeza and Nick shoot a game of Eight Ball? For fuck’s sake, was this what pure rage was like? If it was, then God had put his finger on my shoulder. Knowledge was revealed.

Then Todd, who has always been the calmer of the two friends riffs on his new found rage.

Rage got me as high as I’d ever been. It was coke and crystal meth cooked until it turned black and thick as breakfast syrup. Excuse me, waiter, can I have some rage for my pancakes? Christ, I tell you I could have killed them both and myself in that brief second.

“Watch out for that one,” Nicky said…

My heart jumped into my throat, but I managed a question, “How so?”

“She loves you. Love’s trouble.”

Neither one of them nor Leeza could have possibly envisioned just how much trouble.
Learn more about Tower.

Visit Reed Farrel Coleman's website and Ken Bruen's website.

The Page 69 Test: Tower.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Marc Wortman's "The Bonfire"

Marc Wortman is the author of The Millionaires’ Unit: The Aristocratic Flyboys Who Fought the Great War and Invented American Air Power, now in development as a feature film. An award-winning freelance writer, his work has appeared in numerous national magazines. He has taught literature and writing at Princeton University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Bonfire gives us a taste of the increasingly rancorous and violent “inner” Civil War brewing in the “instant” city of Atlanta long before the first Yank or Reb fired a shot in anger. But this Civil War wasn’t just North vs. South; it was Atlantan vs. Atlantan, and even a split within many minds, including some who were among the most ardent, fire-breathing, soon-to-be Confederates. The Bonfire depicts the rise and fall of Atlanta during the Civil War through the interwoven lives of some of its most exemplary residents, white and black, slaveholder and slave, Confederate soldier and secret Yankee. Rather than just recount the fight for the city, I aimed to write an intimate epic that reveals and narrates the often conflicting thinking, feelings and actions of those struggling within the hurricane of war sweeping the land.

The page describes how the politically powerful Ben Yancey, plantation owner and large slaveholder, urged his fellow townspeople, as the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln loomed, “to unite our people as a band of brothers in resistance to Northern aggression, and in defense of ourselves, our property and our firesides.” The voters of Atlanta spurned his call initially, voting for the anti-secession Democratic candidates.

Yancey’s and other slaveholders’ own acts underlay the rejection: he had recently released his “property,” bondsman Bob, to hire his time and live virtually a free man, even as Yancey and others called upon their neighbors to ready themselves to go to war over the eternal, unbreakable master-slave relationship. Illegally trading currency between Union prisoners and Confederate citizens, Bob grew rich in the booming city that war made essential to the Southern cause. At great risk to his own life, he also helped Union prisoners escape and cared for the wounded among them during the fighting that would eventually devastate the city.

Although born a slave, at the end of the siege of Atlanta Bob joined the party of surviving leading citizens who surrendered their city to General Sherman. After that, Bob insisted people address him using his real father’s name.

The seeds of the Confederacy’s defeat were sown in the contradictions and paradoxes of Atlanta. Those same contradictions and paradoxes, though, would eventually help the destroyed city rebuild and become the beacon of the New South.
Learn more about The Bonfire and its author at Marc Wortman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 14, 2009

Alexandra Horowitz's "Inside of a Dog"

Alexandra Horowitz holds degrees in philosophy and cognitive science. She teaches in the Department of Psychology at Barnard.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, and reported the following:
By the time you get to page 99 of my book, if proceeding linearly, you'll already have been through a guided tour of the dogs' olfactory system, and here you find yourself in the middle of a chapter about dogs' hearing abilities and the sounds they make. Even if you start reading on page 99, it's still chock-full of information and tales--something I hope is true of nearly any page of the book.

This chapter is titled "Mute" because of some writers' reference to the "muteness" of non-human animals--or to literally "dumb" animals. These characterizations seem to me wrong in a couple of ways. First, animals, are not, in fact, mute or dumb: dogs, for instance, whimper, growl, squeak, yelp, loudly yawn, bark, howl, and make many other utterances. They also communicate with eyes, ears, scent, whiskers, body, and tails. Second, it is not they who desire to talk, but cannot; it is that we desire them to talk and cannot make out (or cannot be bothered to make out) what they are actually saying.

Page ninety-nine, and this chapter, are quite representative of much of the book insofar as I'm trying to get inside the dog's experience, using research about the animals and a bit of imaginative liberty. The tone of the page would probably be considered characteristic, too. The phrases "the way they wield these noises"; "sultry whisper"; "wagging merrily"; and "seeming non sequitur" all appear. On the other hand, this page contains no anecdotes of the behavior of my own dog and no dog sketches: both things you'll find on many other pages.

Finally, a frequency count of words on the page finds that the most common content words include "meaning", "sound", "discovery", "social", and "sexual". Is the book generally about discoveries of meaning in sound and about social and sexual behavior? Yes. Among other things.
Read an excerpt from Inside of a Dog and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Watch the Inside of a Dog video.

Visit Alexandra Horowitz's dog cognition website and her quasi-academic website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Joanne Rendell's "Crossing Washington Square"

Joanne Rendell's debut novel, The Professors’ Wives’ Club, was published in 2008.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her newly released second novel, Crossing Washington Square, and reported the following:
Crossing Washington Square tells the story of two very different women and their very different love of books. Rachel Grey and Diana Monroe are professors at the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds. Rachel is young, emotional, and impulsive. She wrote a book about women’s book groups which got her a slot on Oprah and she uses “chick lit” in her classes. Diana is aloof, icy, and controlled. She’s also a scholar of Sylvia Plath who thinks “beach” fiction is an easy ride for students. They really do not get along!

Page 99 of the novel only contains a few lines, but concludes a very dramatic scene and offers turning point in the novel for the character Diana. Although she is rigorous in her work and has great poise, control, and grace as a teacher, Diana is also hurting, vulnerable, and confused. Five years ago her wealthy blue-blood husband left her for a younger woman and since then she’s vowed to leave men out of her life. The only thing is, in recent months, she’s allowed herself to get involved with the English department’s computer technician, Mikey. They have nothing in common. She has a season ticket to the opera, while he loves Johnny Cash. Yet she can’t seem to stop their secret and very loving affair. And then, to make things worse an old grad school friend, the brilliant, sophisticated, and handsome Carson McEvoy, is visiting from Harvard. In his usual flirtatious manner, he is trying to woo Diana. Never before has she succumbed to Carson’s charms, but her life seems such a mess at the moment that she ends up going out with Carson, drinking too much (very rare for Diana), and then heading back to Carson’s place. When she gets there however, she’s in for a shock. Outside his door, she spots Mikey. Not just Mikey, but Mikey in the arms of Rachel Grey – the new professor in her department who she really doesn’t like.

From p.99:

“No one spoke until Diana pulled her hand from Carson’s grasp, turned on her heel, and began striding away.

“Diana!” two male voices called out.

But she didn’t stop. If Diana stopped, her stomach – which suddenly felt as if it had been turned inside out and pummeled with a huge fist – was sure to spill its wine-soaked contents onto the sidewalk. She had to keep walking.”
Learn more about the book and author at Joanne Rendell's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Professors' Wives' Club.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jenny Diski's "The Sixties"

Jenny Diski was born in 1947 in London, where she has lived most of her life. She is the author of eight novels and two books of travel/memoir, two collections of essays and a volume of short stories. Her journalism has appeared in the Mail on Sunday, the Observer and the London Review of Books, among other publications.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, The Sixties, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Sixties looks like a pretty reasonable precis of the whole. It certainly describes the engagement and the innocence (we were young, it turns out) of the time. I started a free school over a weekend to prevent a family of 9 children being taken into care for truanting and generally being the local criminal element. It was a practical solution arising out of theoretical reading and the fact that it seemed, back then, and now, that teaching the young was the most important thing to do. The question was how and in what conditions. It was an small adventure (we were bourgeois adventurers) that had no effect on the direness of how we teach our kids. The state of education now is if anything worse than in the early 1970's. But the kids stayed out of care and had an experience of attention (for better and worse) that was new for them.

From page 99:

A friend in California offered us $100 dollars a month to keep us going with outings, equipment and lunches while we sorted out funding, and my flat was available, as was the virtually derelict basement of the family council house the kids lived in just off Camden Square. Getting the basement ready, and planning, shopping-for and preparing lunch every day were part of the curriculum (Home Economics), so was attending meetings to discuss the running of the school (Current Events - citizenship, we’d call it now). The day started at 10.30, giving the virtually unparented, bedtime-less kids a chance to get up — after I had battled with the total-freedom fraction of the by-now sizeable Free School Committee for any start time at all. At least, I insisted, the kids would be able to practice getting up if any of them ever wanted to hold down a job. Autocrat, they murmured. How many of them were committing time to the free school, aside from coming to meetings, I asked. Fascist, they muttered, but almost all of them faded away their time almost entirely devoted to political meetings of one sort or another. Roger had just discovered that the editorial board of Children’s Rights, which consisted of a Reichian analyst and several of his patients, was more interested in the encouragement of active childhood sexuality than rights as such. He resigned, went on the dole (that, again) and became the school’s first full-time teacher.
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Diski's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lori D. Ginzberg's "Elizabeth Cady Stanton"

Lori D. Ginzberg is professor of history and women’s studies at Pennsylvania State University. She has written several books on women’s history, including Untidy Origins: A Story of Woman’s Rights in Antebellum New York.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life places the reader just where Stanton herself would have wanted: smack in the middle of a controversy she had just, with characteristic hubris, provoked. Specifically, we are in New York City in the anxious spring of 1860 (a few days later, Abraham Lincoln would be nominated for president), at the Tenth National Woman's Rights Convention. Many issues vexed reformers, but for Stanton this seemed the perfect time to throw the "bombshell" of divorce reform into the clamor about women's rights she had helped ignite at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Stanton was, in her time, a dangerous radical, who threatened men's control over politics, the stability of marriage, and the sanctity of religion. The controversy on page 99 reminds us that she was willing to appall even her closest allies with her own "settled maxim" "that the existing public sentiment on any subject is wrong," and to remind them that, in countless ways, women had been denied the "pursuit of happiness" that was their right as American citizens.

Brilliant, self-righteous, charismatic, intimidating, and charming, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the founding philosopher of the American movement for woman's rights. Although she is associated with the demand for woman suffrage, she was always searching for, and finding, yet another "one true cause" of women's degradation and she could hardly contain her glee at her own radicalism: "My feeling," Stanton informed her friend Susan B. Anthony at seventy five, "is to tone up rather than down." For eighty seven years, she did exactly that, happily "hurling my thunder" at opponents and friends alike. This biography, while deeply critical of the impact Stanton's racism and elitism on her legacy, acknowledges that women's rights are ordinary, commonsense ideas in large part because of her life work.
Learn more about Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life at the publisher's website, and visit Lori D. Ginzberg's faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hallie Rubenhold's "The Lady in Red"

Hallie Rubenhold was born in Los Angeles to a British father and an American mother. She is a young British art historian and writer whose first book, The Covent Garden Ladies, created a small sensation when it was published in the UK in 2005.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Lady in Red: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce, and reported the following:
‘Two young ladies are gone off – no, this is a wrong term for one of them, for she is just come to town and drives about London, for fear her adventure should be forgotten before it comes to the House of Lords, it is a Lady Worseley, sister of Lady Harrington.’

Curiously, few among these busybodies could claim to have personally spotted the runaways. Contrary to Walpole’s letter, Seymour and Bisset were not only careful to hide themselves but by early December, had fled London altogether, and retreated to Bisset’s house at Southampton. Within a matter of weeks the story had blown like a storm through London before heading southward through Hampshire and across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. Even in the countryside avoiding encounters with those ready to gawp and scorn was difficult. ‘Yesterday afternoon I was surprised at the appearance of Lady Worsley and her Gallant Mr. Bisset who were together at the Swan in this Town’, wrote one of the baronet’s neighbours from an Inn at Alresford, ‘They came on horseback and set out after dark for Farnham. I pity poor Sir Richard and hope he will never consent to live with such a damn’d bitch. She seemed very shy at seeing me but I did not take the least notice of her as I knew she had elop’d from her husband by a gentleman who brought the news from London’.

As his wife and her lover took shelter in Southampton, Worsley’s period of internment at John Hesse’s home continued. Unwilling to risk a similar chance-meeting with acquaintances, he did little more than stare through the windows, paralysed by his distress. The blow of his wife’s elopement and the ensuing anxiety of initiating legal proceedings had debilitated him entirely. His suit for a separation had been filed by the close of Saturday the 24th , a situation which enabled the baronet to resign himself to sleep that evening in the belief that his crisis had been contained. Regrettably, within a matter of hours misfortune would double back on him with another heavy strike.

As it always did on a Sunday, morning broke to a rising chorus of church bells. While the tolling echoes rolled through the capital’s narrow lanes and squares, a sea-worn frigate dropped anchor along the Thames. The ship had left the American colonies thirty-eight days earlier burdened with a weighty cargo. A letter was handed to a messenger who tore through the Sabbath streets with an urgent delivery. At mid-day, Lord North, the Prime Minister was handed the news: General Cornwallis had surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown on the 19th of October. As suggested by the title of the tune played on that historic occasion, the world had turned upside down.

This is an interesting experiment, if not for the reader, than certainly for the author! If anything, the process sheds a light on the book’s quick pace and readability, which is something I was very mindful of while writing it.

The Lady in Red (or Lady Worsley’s Whim, as its known in the UK) was created as a very approachable, informative and highly entertaining work of historical non-fiction. The book focuses on one of the greatest scandals of the late 18th century; the divorce and criminal conversation trial of Sir Richard and Lady Worsley, a story which made headline news in its era, but which had been all but forgotten with time.

Under 18th century law, a husband could sue his wife’s lover for ‘criminal conversation’, or basically for soiling his property. The jury would hear the sordid details of ‘what the butler saw’ and then, in most cases, a sum would be decided upon and awarded to the injured husband. The salacious trials were heard in open court and therefore made great fodder for the gutter press.

Sir Richard Worsley’s case against George Bisset, with whom his wife ran off, looked like a fairly straight forward instance of adultery, but by the time the defence called their first witness, the entire courtroom was left in a state of shock. The tables were turned on Worsley quite dramatically…but you’ll have to read the rest of the book to find out what happened.

In fact, page 99 presents a good insight into the book’s dramatic flavour. The strange twists and turns in this story even managed to amaze me as I was researching it! As you can see on page 99, there’s even a connection with the events of American Independence, which, believe it or not, were very nearly altered as a result of Worsley’s criminal conversation trial in February 1782.
Read an excerpt from The Lady in Red, and learn more about the book and author at Hallie Rubenhold's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 6, 2009

James Livesey's "Civil Society and Empire"

James Livesey has taught at Trinity College Dublin and Harvard University and is Reader at the University of Sussex.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Civil Society and Empire: Ireland and Scotland in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Civil Society and Empire I am in the middle of describing a debate between Cornelius Nary and Edward Synge. The page speaks to the heart of the book. The two, Catholic and Anglican clerics writing in Dublin in 1725, were arguing about toleration. Synge wanted to extend toleration to Catholics on the grounds of individual conscience and Nary wouldn’t accept its extension on those terms. Nary demanded that Catholics be allowed re-enter public life in Ireland still adhering to their commitment to a continuous interpretation of tradition as the valid norm justifying individual and collective action. He would not accept the primacy of individual conscience as the price for repeal of the Penal Laws.

On this page I pay a lot of attention to the detail of their disagreement. I passionately believe that this kind of detailed reconstruction is one of the most important things that historians do. When we succeed at this work we reveal the geology that underpins the landscape of contemporary political and moral debate. We recover the process that defined the intellectual territory on which we move and work. In this case Catholics and Protestants who could not agree on the most fundamental conditions for living together, the very conditions under which they could discuss objects of public concern, were driven to invent a new context that allowed them to shelve their profound differences in order to respond to pressing problems of politics and economics. They named that new space civil society.

In the book I explain what made that move possible and compelling. I argue that in the eighteenth century elites in the provinces of the emerging British Empire had to explain how they continued to enjoy liberty without citizenship. As political control came to be centred on London, provincials, particularly Irish and Scots, replaced the political community with civil society as the context for liberty. Civil society idealised associations as a counter-weight to the power of the state. Sharp thinkers, and especially David Hume, recognised that when you redefined the context of liberty you redefined its nature. He asserted that the old categories of moral excellence, such as courage, loyalty and justice, were in fact simply habits generated by enlightened self-interest. Much contemporary discussion of civil society confuses all these categories and attempts to integrate civil society with ideas of political independence. Empire and Civil Society remain paired terms.
Read more about Civil Society and Empire at the Yale University Press website.

Learn more about James Livesey's scholarship at his University of Sussex faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ann Cleeves' "Red Bones"

Ann Cleeves' Raven Black, the first volume in the Shetland Island Quartet, received crime fiction’s highest monetary honor, the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award. Booklist called White Nights, the second installment in the series, “[g]ripping from start to finish.”

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to Red Bones, and reported the following:
Red Bones is the third book in the Shetland quartet. Set in the spring, it explores ideas of money, of envy and greed. I’d found myself unpopular in the small island of Whalsay: in Raven Black I’d made Sandy Wilson, my detective’s not very smart side-kick, come from there. I wanted to write the action from Sandy’s point of view because obviously he doesn’t consider himself stupid! Most of Shetland’s deep-sea trawlers are based in Whalsay, making it a wealthy place. So theme and character came together.

The story starts with the discovery of a skull in an archaeological dig on Sandy’s grandmother’s land. Soon after, Mima the old woman is found dead apparently shot in a tragic accident by Ronald, a young islander. Both Perez, my hero, and Sandy come to believe the incident was more complicated and that Ronald might not have been involved. The investigation of the case uncovers family secrets, which go back to the second world war.

On page 99 there’s a conversation between Ronald and his English wife Anna, who has just had a baby. It’s a peaceful interlude, but even here we have a sense of the tension between them. It isn’t essential to the plot but something about the tone: reflective and sad, and the emphasis on family, reflects the rest of the book.

Perhaps it would be better to have company tonight. Otherwise she and Ronald would spend all evening going over the incident and she might say something unwise, something she’d really regret.

She heard Ronald open the door into the house.

‘We’re in here,’ she said.

Outside the light seemed to have faded early and she only saw him as a shadow standing just inside the room.

‘Look at you two,’ he said. He was still wearing his jacket, but he’d loosened his tie at the neck. She hardly recognized him in his smart clothes. He was speaking to himself and his accent was more pronounced than when he talked to her.

How can we get on? she thought. We don’t even share the same language. We come from different worlds. I don’t know him at all.

‘Have you been to see the Wilsons?’ she asked.

‘No. I bumped into Sandy but I wouldn’t know what to say to Joseph.’

‘You look so smart,’ she said. ‘All dressed up like that.’

He paused, then shrugged. ‘A gesture of respect maybe. It didn’t seem right to be wearing my working clothes today.’

He came further into the room and squatted beside her chair. He stroked her hair and watched while she prised the baby’s mouth from her nipple with her little finger. She lifted James on to her shoulder and rubbed his back, then held him out to her husband.
Read an excerpt from Red Bones, and learn more about the novel and author at Ann Cleeves's website and online diary.

The Page 99 Test: Raven Black.

The Page 99 Test: White Nights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Paul Davidson's "The Keynes Solution"

Paul Davidson is Holly Chair of Excellence in Political Economy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He has previously held Professorships at the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University. He is editor of the Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, a former member of Brookings Economics Panel, and is the author, co-author or editor of more than twenty books and over 200 articles.

The result of the “Page 99 Test” applied to his latest book, The Keynes Solution: The Path to Global Economic Prosperity:
"Unfortunately page 99 of the book is the middle of a discussion of innovative policies to avoid the creation of future TOXIC ASSETS," Davidson reported. "This page, in isolation, will not make much sense to a reader who has not already read the previous 98 pages."
More about the book:
“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else.”--John Maynard Keynes.

Economist Irma Adelman has labeled the quarter a century after World War II “the Golden Age of Economic Development... an era of unprecedented sustained economic growth in both developed and developing countries.” Keynes’s philosophy guided governments’ policies during this “golden age.”

In the 1970s, the ideas and philosophy of economists who claimed government interference caused economic problems and free markets solved all economic problems captured the minds of policy decision makers. Keynes’s view was relegated to the dustbin of history. The result was high inflation in the 1970s, a significant recession in 1979-81, smaller recessions in 1990-91 and 2000-01 - -and overall lower economic growth globally than during the “golden age.” This free market philosophy culminated in our current greatest global recession since the Great Depression.

This book explains the differences in the assumptions underlying free market theorists’s ideas vis-a-vis Keynes’s philosophy. It explains why the fundamental assumptions underlying the free market ideas are, as Nobel Prize winner and free market advocate Robert Lucas boasted, “artificial, abstract, patently unreal.” This book shows why these absurd assumptions condemn capitalist systems to recurring economic crises.

The book then explains why the axioms underlying Keynes’s analysis realistically reflects the characteristics of our monetary market economy. Consequently, Keynes’s philosophy suggests policies where goverment actions in cooperation with private initiatives and markets can create a prosperous civilized society. Topics cover in the book include (1) what programs are necessary to restore a global golden age, (2) why any necessary increase in the national debt that is required to restore prosperity will not burden future generations but will instead improve our children and grandchildren’s living standards, (3) how we should deal with “toxic assets” on financial institution’s balance sheets and resolve the housing problem while avoiding massive foreclosures, (4) reforming international trade policies including what should be done about “outsourcing” of good paying jobs to cheap labor nations, and (5) reforming the international payments system to assure global full employment and prevent financial problems occurring in any one country creating contagion across the globe.
Read more about The Keynes Solution at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Robert Kunzman's "Write These Laws on Your Children"

Robert Kunzman spent ten years as a high school teacher, coach, and administrator and is currently an associate professor in the Indiana University School of Education. He is the author of Grappling with the Good: Talking about Religion and Morality in Public Schools.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Write These Laws on Your Children: Inside the World of Conservative Christian Homeschooling, and reported the following:
Homeschooling in the United States has grown nearly 75% in the last decade, more than twelve times the increase of public school enrollments. Most observers agree that conservative Christians comprise the largest subset of homeschoolers, and their advocacy organizations wield tremendous political influence. Drawing on five years of intensive research, this book explores the world of conservative Christian homeschooling, both in the day-to-day lives of families and in its broader aspirations to influence American culture and politics. What do homeschoolers do all day, and why do they do it? Do children learn to think for themselves? What do they learn about the relationship between faith and citizenship? And how, if at all, should homeschooling be regulated?

With less than five lines of text on page 99, Write These Laws on Your Children fails Ford's test. On it, I wrap up a brief discussion of homeschooler academic achievement and socialization, but this research summary doesn't reflect the flavor of the book as a whole.

Instead, at its heart are the stories of six homeschool families whom I visit repeatedly over two years, spending time in their homes and churches, interviewing parents and children, and observing their homeschool practices and related activities. Ranging in size from one child to ten, they hail from different parts of the country, and the shape and quality of their homeschooling differs dramatically as well: among them, an Oregon family who learns biology by butchering elk on their ranch; a young Los Angeles girl whose learning disability is overlooked by her mother; a Vermont teenager who memorizes entire books of the Bible verbatim; and a twelve-year-old from Tennessee who still does simple math on his fingers.

Regardless of whether homeschooling continues its rapid growth, the ongoing shift toward school-choice policies more broadly compels all of us to confront fundamental questions about the purposes of education: What knowledge and skills are essential? What virtues and commitments can and should we instill? What kind of people do we want our children to become? How do we learn to live together amidst disagreement about social and political issues? What role should religion play in our public square? And who decides the answers—each community, each family, or all of us together as a larger public?
Learn more about Write These Laws on Your Children at the publisher's website.

Visit Robert Kunzman's Homeschooling Research and Scholarship website.

--Marshal Zeringue