Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Paul L. Harris's "Trusting What You're Told"

Paul L. Harris is Victor S. Thomas Professor of Education at Harvard University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Trusting What You're Told: How Children Learn from Others, and reported the following:
If you open my book Trusting What You're Told you'll get a glimpse of some of the experimental questions that are tackled in the book. In particular, you'll learn how preschoolers don't listen to, and learn from, just anyone - they are sensitive to the fact that some claims are made by several people whereas some are made by a single person and they typically agree with the consensus. This is one illustration of a more general theme in the book: children are not indiscriminately credulous - they tend to accept information from some sources over others. Nevertheless, the book also underlines that children depend in a very deep way on what other people say in order to learn about the world. For example, children cannot observe the historical past for themselves - they learn about history from what other people tell them. Similarly, they cannot conduct scientific experiments for themselves - they learn that the mind depends on the brain, that the world is round, that man evolved from other species, or that the climate is changing - by listening to what other people tell them. Children also turn to others, and trust what other people say, when acquiring religious beliefs, whether concerning the power of prayer, the nature of God, or the possibility of an afterlife.

One common metaphor for thinking about early cognitive development is to think of the child as a little scientist, who gathers data and builds up theories and concepts on the basis of personal observation. However, this book argues that there are various domains in which this metaphor is inapplicable - children cannot gather the relevant data for themselves and so they end up trusting what other people tell them.
Learn more about Trusting What You're Told at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 28, 2012

Jesse H. Rhodes's "An Education in Politics"

Jesse H. Rhodes is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, An Education in Politics: The Origins and Evolution of No Child Left Behind, and reported the following:
An Education in Politics offers a new historical interpretation of the rise of federal standards, testing, and accountability policymaking in education. The book shows that these policies – including the highly controversial No Child Left Behind Act – emerged due to the advocacy of a strange coalition of corporate boosters who sought highly-educated workers and civil rights activists who wanted to hold schools accountable for the achievement of historically disadvantaged students.

Page 99 provides some of the back-story for a crucial – but little-remembered - federal education policy called the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994 (the precursor to No Child Left Behind). The page details education policymaking patterns in states and localities during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The purpose of this discussion is to provide context for understanding why business leaders and civil rights activists came to support more muscular federal government efforts to promote, standards, testing, and accountability in the nation’s schools during the 1990s. Basically, the conclusion drawn from the review of state policymaking patterns is that states moved very slowly in adopting school reforms during this period. As I show in the remainder of the chapter, states’ slow progress motivated business leaders and civil rights activists to push for federal policies that would effectively require states to adopt higher standards, more frequent examinations, and more consistent accountability for results. For better or worse, this is what the Improving America’s Schools Act – and, later, the No Child Left Behind Act – did.

The page is fairly typical of the book overall in linking patterns of state education policymaking to subsequent developments in federal education policy. However, other parts of the chapter – and (I hope) the book overall! – do a better job in introducing the reader to the major advocates for federal standards, testing, and accountability policies, explaining their motivations, and showing how they worked to translate their preferences into public policy. The book also explains the promise, as well as the pitfalls, of these policies, inviting readers to wrestle with the difficult tradeoffs between school autonomy and school accountability, creativity and consistency in the classroom, and equity and excellence in education.
Learn more about An Education in Politics at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Paul Thagard's "The Cognitive Science of Science"

Paul Thagard is Professor of Philosophy, with cross appointment to Psychology, Director of the Cognitive Science Program, and University Research Chair at the University of Waterloo. He is a graduate of the Universities of Saskatchewan, Cambridge, Toronto (Ph. D. in philosophy) and Michigan (M.S. in computer science). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Cognitive Science Society, and the Association for Psychological Science, and received a Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize. Thagard's books include The Brain and the Meaning of Life, Mind: Introduction to Cognitive Science, and Hot Thought: Mechanisms and Applications of Emotional Cognitions.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Cognitive Science of Science: Explanation, Discovery, and Conceptual Change, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Cognitive Science of Science is not very representative of the whole book, which largely concerns the mental representations and processes that enable people to develop scientific knowledge. The three parts of the book concern explanation, discovery, and conceptual change, combining psychological and neuroscientific perspectives with computational modeling. Page 99 occurs in the most philosophical chapter in the book, “Coherence, Truth, and Scientific Knowledge”.

The major point of this chapter is to argue that the adoption of scientific theories on the basis of their explanatory coherence sometimes leads to truth, especially when theories are deepened by finding mechanisms that provide much more detail concerning what makes the theory work. For example, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection had a great deal of explanatory coherence when he first proposed that species could evolve as the result of a struggle for existence among individuals subject to variation and transmission of characteristics to their offspring. The coherence of Darwin’s theory increased markedly decades after he proposed it, when genetics provided a mechanism of how transmission works.

Page 99 discusses the prospect of the same kind of deepening occurring in the social sciences, arguing that it is already happening in some areas. Many areas of psychology are currently being enriched by rapid increases in understanding the neural processes responsible for mental processes in all kinds of thinking. At the same time, economics is benefitting from psychological and neural critiques of the inaccurate models of rational choice that have dominated the field for decades. Sociology and political science have not yet taken much advantage of the enriched explanations of human social behavior based on psychological and neural mechanisms, but I am optimistic that a full fledged cognitive social science will arise.
Learn more about The Cognitive Science of Science at The MIT Press website.

Visit Paul Thagard's University of Waterloo faculty webpage and blog for Psychology Today.

The Page 99 Test: The Brain and the Meaning of Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sherry L. Smith's "Hippies, Indians and the Fight for Red Power"

Sherry L. Smith is University Distinguished Professor of History and Associate Director of the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University. She is the author of Reimagining Indians: Native Americans through Anglo Eyes, 1880-1940; The View from Officers' Row: Army Perceptions of Western Indians; and Sagebrush Soldier: William Earl Smith's View of the Sioux War of 1876.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Hippies, Indians, and the Fight for Red Power, and reported the following:
On December 12, 1969, the Indians of All Tribes held a benefit concert at Stanford University’s Memorial Chapel. The purpose was to raise awareness, sympathy, and financial support for their recent takeover of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.

Page 99 takes the reader to that concert and encapsulates one of the central themes of my book: Native American activists needed non-Indian support to realize their demands for observance of treaty rights, tribal sovereignty, and cultural revitalization. Occupying Alcatraz symbolized those demands. Indian activists particularly targeted liberals, leftists and counter-culture types. But they also knew such supporters could be problematic assuming that such allies’ understanding of Indian affairs was likely to be superficial and fleeting. As Cree folksinger Buffy Sainte-Marie, headliner of the evening saw it, fans would listen to her music but not actively support Indian political demands.

The rest of the book challenges Sainte-Marie’s skepticism and reveals that non-Indian support proved not only beneficial but essential to the Red Power movement. Hippies were among the first non-Indians of the post World War II generation to seek contact with Indians. The counterculture saw Native Americans as genuine holdouts against conformity, inherently spiritual, ecological, tribal, communal – the original “long hairs.” Searching for authenticity while trying to achieve social and political justice for minorities, hippies as well as progressives and even radicals of various stripes and colors were soon drawn to the Indians’ political cause. Black Panthers and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), for example, took part in Pacific Northwest fish-ins, designed to bring attention to state violations of fishing rights. The Quakers published an influential book that explained the history of these treaties. Actor Marlon Brando and black comedian Dick Gregory spoke out about the issue, as well. As the movement for Indian rights spread to California and Alcatraz, the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Building in Washington, D.C., and eventually to Wounded Knee, support for Indian demands spread, as well, to a plethora of church groups, civil rights advocates, housewives, and blue collar unions.

Indians understood they could not achieve political change without this help. Non-Indians had to be educated and enlisted. They found in this hodge-podge of Americans willing recruits to their campaign for renewal of tribal power, sovereignty, self -determination, and protection of reservations as cultural homelands. These partnerships led to political reforms of lasting value.

The cast of characters in this book is wide-ranging: from Stewart Brand of The Whole Earth Catalog fame, counterculture figure Wavy Gravy, and actor Peter Coyote to Ralph Abernathy, Reies Tijerina, Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Hank Adams, Russell Means, Dennis Banks, and Richard Nixon. It moves across the continent and back, tracking the amazing story of how Indians captured the nation’s attention in the late 1960s/early 1970s and strengthened their position as a result. It is also a story of non-Indians who listened, learned, and helped.
Learn more about Hippies, Indians, and the Fight for Red Power at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

André Millard's "Beatlemania"

André Millard is a professor of history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is the author of several books, including The Electric Guitar: A History of an American Icon.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Beatlemania: Technology, Business, and Teen Culture in Cold War America, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book on Beatlemania focuses on an important turning point in the career of the Beatles. Some people think that their big break came on the Ed Sullivan Show during their first American tour but the event I wrote about was way more important because it marked not only the beginning of Beatlemania, but also the maturity of an amateur garage band into something we could recognize as the Beatles.

Litherland Town Hall is situated in a grimy suburb north of Liverpool. It was a long bus ride from the city center on 27 December 1960. Although their recent stay in Hamburg had been a great success the Beatles were still broke The promoter, Brian Kelly, paid them only about $10 to play for the night! He wasn’t expecting much. He billed them as ‘Direct from Hamburg’ because there wasn’t much else to say about them: no record, no manager and no fans.

It was a bitterly cold night and (contrary to many reports) there weren’t that many in the hall. The Litherland audience was not easy to please and it had a nasty reputation for drunken brawls, but as soon as the Beatles hit their first power chord the audience rushed to the front of the hall and the excitement never let up. They had once struggled to stand out in the crowded Liverpool ‘beat’ scene where hundreds of guitar bands competed for gigs and girls, but they came back from Hamburg transformed: one envious fellow musician in the crowd noted that they “wore black leather, had brand new instruments and played brilliantly.” They were now a hard-rocking, loud and aggressive group, and as John Lennon proudly remembered when it came to ‘straight rock’ there was nobody on Merseyside who could touch them.

They were so different from the other groups, and their previous incarnations as the Quarry Men and Silver Beatles, that many in the audience were convinced they were a German band! They tore the house down and had a hard time getting out of the hall and catching the last bus for home. From this point onwards they started to attract fans—kids who went specifically to see the band rather than just dance and drink. The Beatles were on their way....
Learn more about Beatlemania at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Nancy K. Bristow's "American Pandemic"

Nancy K. Bristow is Professor of History at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of Making Men Moral: Social Engineering during the Great War. Bristow is the great-granddaughter of two of the 1918 influenza pandemic's fatalities.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic, and reported the following:
American Pandemic explores the American people as they weathered the worst health crisis in recorded history, the 1918 influenza pandemic. Focused especially on the range of Americans as they confronted the catastrophe—doctors, nurses, public health officials, patients, and the families and communities that surrounded them—the book attempts to give voice to the diversity of their experiences while acknowledging the powerful role played by social identity in shaping them. Men and women viewed the events through gendered lenses and responded in ways that fit with expectations about their masculine or feminine identity, a tendency that had a profound impact on the perspective of health care professionals, volunteers, families and patients. Race and class hierarchies, in turn, shaped the behaviors of those who most benefited from them, ensuring that some people in the country suffered from not only influenza but also the indignities and inequalities of the American caste system.

Page 99 entirely misses this theme, but picks up, instead, on another important subject, the conundrum public health experts encountered as they faced the pandemic—how to mobilize the citizenry to observe new hygienic standards and public health restrictions while keeping them calm. The influenza scourge had proven a shock to Americans, both because influenza had been domesticated by its familiarity and because of the growing belief among the populace that medical and public health experts could protect them from outbreaks of infectious disease. Such a circumstance called for care on the part of public health officials. As I explain on page 99,
It is clear that the effort to minimize public fear was a central feature of public health work during the epidemic. In their educational work, health leaders balanced the need to alert citizens with a determination to avoid frightening them. This strategy is very clear in the USPHS pamphlet “Spanish Influenza” “Three-Day Fever” “The Flu.” The pamphlet began by asking simply, “What is Spanish Influenza?” The answer was at once familiar and direct: “The disease now occurring . . . resembles a very contagious kind of ‘cold’ accompanied by fever, pains in the head, eyes, ears, back or other parts of the body, and a feeling of severe sickness.” Having compared the epidemic disease to the common cold, the pamphlet went on to describe a sickness little different from the yearly flu. “He [the patient] feels weak, has pains in the eyes, ears, head or back, and may be sore all over,” it noted.“Many patients feel dizzy, some vomit. Most of the patients complain of feeling chilly, and with this comes a fever in which the temperature rises to 100 to 104.”Put simply, “The patient looks and feels very sick.” The USPHS conceded, too, “in some places the outbreak has been severe and deaths have been numerous.”At the same time, the pamphlet carefully introduced such potentially frightening information alongside descriptions of a more pedestrian outcome. “Ordinarily,” it suggested, “the fever lasts from three to four days and the patient recovers.”And further, “When death occurs it is usually the result of a complication.” The pamphlet reassured readers that epidemic influenza was nothing new and had “visited this country since 1647,” in “numerous epidemics of the disease.” While these descriptions made clear that this was a potentially dangerous disease and epidemic, they also adopted the traditional strategy of domesticating influenza.
As the example of the USPHS pamphlet makes clear, in their efforts to prevent panic the public health forces sometimes erred on the side of caution. This unwillingness to admit the scale of the pandemic had dramatic consequences. Some communities and citizens were slow to recognize the extent of the danger influenza posed to them, a disaster given that quick and comprehensive action proved the only possible, if limited, protection. As significant, perhaps, the tendency to understate the power of the pandemic persisted well after its passing. In the aftermath of the tragedy, American public culture quickly forgot the scourge, a dynamic encouraged by medical, nursing and public health officials anxious to restore the chorus of scientific dominance they had sung prior to the outbreak. This public amnesia only heightened the suffering of those who had experienced the trauma of loss, forcing them to live quietly and alone with their private pain.
Learn more about American Pandemic at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 18, 2012

Jon T. Coleman's "Here Lies Hugh Glass"

Jon T. Coleman is an associate professor of United States history at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Vicious: Wolves and Men in America, which won the W. Turrentine Jackson Prize and the John H. Dunning Prize.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Here Lies Hugh Glass: A Mountain Man, a Bear, and the Rise of the American Nation, and reported the following:
Open Here Lies Hugh Glass to page 99 and you find the sentence: “Bears and Americans suffered porous boundaries.” While the quip doesn’t explain the entire book, it does capture the central notion of environmental Americanism. Horribly mauled by a grizzly bear in 1823, Hugh Glass caught the attention of the American public because he represented the “new race” of men being created on the frontier through violent encounters with nature and Natives. When nineteenth-century Americans retold the bear story, they often ditched Glass. His animal attacker transfixed them instead. The bear and the man bled together, and Glass crossed over into animal territory. This was crucial to his celebrity because he modeled America best when he resembled a human least. To claim the continent, Americans needed representatives who merged with the western landscape. The bear naturalized Glass, made him more western and therefore more American. The bear also obscured him, revealing the tension in environmental Americanism. The public admired men remade by nature of the frontier, but they didn’t want to live near them. Thus, western heroes rode off into the sunset, or in Glass’s case, got buried under the girth of a grizzly.
Learn more about Here Lies Hugh Glass at the Hill and Wang website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Paul Seabright's "The War of the Sexes"

Paul Seabright is the author of The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life. He is professor of economics at the Toulouse School of Economics and has been a fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford, and Churchill College, University of Cambridge.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The War of the Sexes: How Conflict and Cooperation Have Shaped Men and Women from Prehistory to the Present, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The War of the Sexes turns out to pass the Ford test reasonably well. It talks about how the twentieth century saw a massive movement by women into occupations previously dominated by men – a movement that nevertheless came up against some surprising obstacles. It has a few statistics, but not too many. It talks about some of the technological changes that shaped this momentous economic shift, like the pill and the vacuum cleaner. It looks at political reasons too: “It’s not a coincidence that this change came soon after women gained the vote, which in most of the industrialized countries occurred after the First and Second World Wars, the first conflicts in which women’s contributions in previously male occupations such as munitions manufacturing had proved essential to the war effort. (Famously neutral Switzerland was the last republic in the western world to grant women the vote in national elections, in 1971).”

Page 99 also has a joke (I won’t spoil it by telling you what it is). By Ford’s criterion that means the book as a whole has 181 jokes, not including those in the footnotes (yes, there are some). I won’t claim they all work, but I hope that some do. What you won’t find any mention of on page 99 is the large amounts of material in the book, mainly in the first half, drawn from biology and evolutionary anthropology. These range from the mating habits of dance flies and praying mantises to the evidence about the character of human polygamy from the testicular proportions of chimpanzees. This material is definitely not a joke, and I am deadly serious in thinking it has a message for how human men and women interact today. You won’t find that message on page 99, though – you need to read about twice as far ahead for that. I’m hoping you’ll find it an agreeable task.
Learn more about the book and author at Paul Seabright's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 14, 2012

Duncan Barrett & Nuala Calvi's "The Sugar Girls"

Duncan Barrett studied English at Cambridge and now works as writer and editor, specializing in biography and memoir. He most recently edited The Reluctant Tommy (Macmillan, 2010) a First World War memoir. Nuala Calvi also studied English and has been a journalist for eight years with a strong interest in community history pieces. She took part in the Streatham Stories project to document the lives and memories of people in South London. They live in South London.

Barrett applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Sugar Girls: Tales of Hardship, Love and Happiness in Tate & Lyle's East End Factories, and reported the following:
The Sugar Girls tells true stories of women who worked at Tate & Lyle’s sugar and syrup factories in the East End of London, in the years following the Second World War. Based on interviews with over fifty women, it is written in a mainstream, novelistic style, and focuses primarily on the lives of four key women, while drawing on anecdotes and details garnered from all our interviews.

Page 99 [below left, click to enlarge] is quite typical of our approach in writing the book. It is part of a chapter about a girl called Gladys Taylor – one of our core characters – but weaves in anecdotal material from other interviews. At the top of the page, the ‘man in an old-fashioned uniform who stalked around with an umbrella and walking stick’ is in fact a ghost – one of many factory legends that we heard about in our interviews. We were keen to find an appropriate place in the book to mention such a juicy nugget, and Gladys’ chapter – which details some of the injuries (occasionally fatal) suffered by workers at the factory – provided a good excuse to drop it in.

Many of the small details of East End life mentioned in the book were described over and over again in our various interviews. For example, at the bottom of the page, the key dangling on a piece of string inside the letterbox was common practice at the time, and many interviewees referred to it as a sign of how different things were in the 1940s and 1950s – an era when people knew their neighbours and had no fear of being robbed. Gladys’s story of waking up her orphaned colleague Betty in the morning provided the perfect opportunity to drop in this historical detail.

Page 99 is also typical of Gladys’s chapters in The Sugar Girls, in that it is the beginning of a short amusing anecdote: Gladys arrives at Betty’s house to find her still in bed, and despite her best efforts to rouse her and get her dressed, the two of them miss their bus to work and are docked pay for arriving late. Of all the women we interviewed, Gladys and her friends had the funniest memories to share with us, and often it was the small ups and downs of everyday life as much as the big dramas – family suicides, unwanted pregnancies – that provided the heart of the book.
Visit the official blog of The Sugar Girls for pictures, excerpts, reviews and more.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Jimmy Maher's "The Future Was Here"

Jimmy Maher is an independent scholar and writer living in Norway.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Future Was Here: The Commodore Amiga, and reported the following:
When I was asked to write about page 99 of my new book for this blog, I of course eagerly turned the pages to find out what lay there. My heart fell when I found a fairly deep-in-the-weeds discussion of Sculpt-Animate, an application that pioneered 3D modeling on the personal computer. On page 99 I'm in the middle of walking the reader through a simple sample project, showing how an artist circa 1988 would have used the Amiga's hardware and software in her practice. Why, I wondered, couldn't I have placed something more immediately obvious, quotable, and pithy there?

But as I thought about it more I realized that page 99 might just provide a good illustration of what sets my book apart. One thing I wanted to do with the book was to not neglect the technology in writing technological history. To understand what allowed the Amiga to, say, pioneer the field of desktop video (something that has become so ubiquitous in this era of YouTube that, like “desktop publishing,” the term has ceased to be a useful signifier), one has to understand a bit about its design, even about how the Amiga got its picture to the screen and how this differed from other contemporary computers. So, and while I don’t neglect culture and sociology, I do delve quite deeply into the inner workings of the machine. At the same time, I keep the jargon to a minimum and, when I do indulge, make it a point to explain it carefully beforehand. I thoroughly believe that any patient and interested reader is capable of understanding this stuff if the author just shows a little bit of care, and that’s the assumption that guided me throughout the writing. In other words: no computer science degrees are required.

The stories of lots of people are also in the book, from that of the kid who created one of the first widespread computer viruses to that of Eric Graham, the sometime astronomer who created the aforementioned Sculpt-Animate. Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry even make cameo appearances. By telling the stories of the artists and programmers who built the Amiga's legacy without neglecting to detail the technological affordances and constraints under which they worked, I hope their achievements shine all the brighter -- for the story of the Amiga is ultimately the story of these folks who foresaw the future in which we now live.
Learn more about the book and author at The MIT Press website and Jimmy Maher's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Judith Lynne Hanna’s "Naked Truth"

Judith Lynne Hanna is an anthropologist and dance critic who has served as an expert court witness in more than one hundred exotic dance cases nationwide. She is Affiliate Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland, and has written hundreds of articles and numerous books, including To Dance Is Human: A Theory of Nonverbal Communication; The Performer-Audience Connection; Dance, Sex, and Gender; Dancing for Health: Conquering and Preventing Stress; and Partnering Dance and Education.

Hanna applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Naked Truth: Strip Clubs, Democracy, and a Christian Right, and reported the following:
Taking an unprecedented, counterintuitive look at America’s conflict over sexuality, I reveal how the attack on the exotic dance industry by the activist Christian Right threatens the separation of church and state and undermines our civil liberties. My 15 years of research led to surprises: Across America, a politically aggressive segment of the Christian Right uses plausible-sounding but factually untrue arguments about the harmful effects of strip clubs on their communities. This Christian Right stokes public outrage and incites local and state governments to impose onerous restrictions on the clubs with the intent of dismantling the exotic dance industry. The attack on exotic dance is part of a “grand design” to supplant constitutional democracy in America with a Bible-based theocracy.

I take readers onstage, backstage, and into the community and courts to reveal the conflicts, charges, and realities that are playing out at the intersection of erotic fantasy, religion, politics, and law. I explain why exotic dance is a legitimate form of artistic communication.

Page 99 is a photo that illustrates a dancer preparing to go onstage where she performs for the entire audience. She is showcasing for individual patrons who pay fees for “private dances,” special attention. Dancers have diverse backgrounds: some were professional ballet dancers and other learned to dance by watching and being coached.

I debunk the many myths and untruths that the Christian Right uses to fight strip clubs. Moreover, I demonstrate that while the fight happens at the local level, it is part of a national campaign to regulate sexuality and punish those who do not adhere to Scripture-based moral values. The naked truth is that democracy is under siege and our civil liberties—free speech, women’s rights, and free enterprise—are at stake.
Learn more about the book and author at Judith Lynne Hanna's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gary Krist's "City of Scoundrels"

Before turning to narrative nonfiction with The White Cascade and the newly released City of Scoundrels, Gary Krist wrote three novels--Bad Chemistry, Chaos Theory, and Extravagance--and two short-story collections--The Garden State and Bone by Bone.

Krist applied the “Page 99 Test” to City of Scoundrels and reported the following:
Page 99 of City of Scoundrels describes an escalation of the tensions and conflicts that have been roiling Chicago throughout 1919—a situation that will culminate in July with a 12-day crisis that brings the city to the brink of civic collapse and martial law. On this page, we find Carl Sandburg (already somewhat famous as a poet but still working as a labor reporter for the Chicago Daily News) warning that a major confrontation between workers and employers in many industries is all but inevitable. We also get a glimpse of the city’s worsening ethnic strife, as various groups of Chicago’s Jews and Polish Catholics clash in several ugly incidents. These episodes presage the much more serious interracial conflict ahead, when the city will witness one of the worst race riots in American history. So Page 99 helps to underline one of the book’s major themes: namely, that great cities may be built by the combined energies and ambitions of a large variety of races, ethnicities and economic classes, but those same energies and ambitions can easily turn around and work to tear a city apart.
Learn more about the book and author at Gary Krist's website.

The Page 69 Test: The White Cascade.

Writers Read: Gary Krist.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 7, 2012

David Vogel's "The Politics of Precaution"

David Vogel is a professor in the Haas School of Business and the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. His books on business-government-society relations include The Market for Virtue: The Potential and Limits of Corporate Society Responsibility and Trading Up: Consumer and Environmental Regulation in a Global Economy.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Politics of Precaution: Regulating Health, Safety and Environmental Risks in Europe and the United States, and reported the following:
Page 99 describes the politics surrounding the passage of the Food Quality Protection Act of 1966. This is one of the few pieces of regulatory legislation passed by Congress since the early 1990s and represents a modest exception to the broader claim of my book, namely that since the early 1990s, the number of new health, safety and environmental laws approved by the federal government has markedly declined.

The central finding of my book is that the last two decades have witnessed a notable shift in the relative stringency of consumer and environmental standards in Europe and the United States. Chapter 3, which includes page 99, illustrates this shift with respect to food safety regulation. Between 1960 and 1990, many American food safety standards were more stringent than those adopted in Europe. But more recently, the European Union has banned beef and milk hormones as well as antibiotics in animal feed – all of which are permitted in the US. Genetically modified agricultural products are widely used in the US, while their introduction has been heavily restricted in Europe.

The next three chapters of the book further document these policy shifts by comparing changes in the relative stringency of European and American regulations for air pollution, chemicals and hazardous materials, and cosmetic safety.

In the (more interesting) earlier and later chapters of the book, I develop an explanation for these important transatlantic shifts in regulatory stringency. I argue that they are due to three inter-related factors: transatlantic differences in public demands and pressures for more risk averse regulations, transatlantic differences in the preferences of policymakers, and changes in the legal and administrative criteria for assessing and managing risks. As the title of book suggests, I highlight the importance of the EU’s embrace of the precautionary principle, which has led European policymakers to become more risk averse than their counterparts in the United States.
Learn more about The Politics of Precaution at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Alan Gilbert's "Black Patriots and Loyalists"

Alan Gilbert is a John Evans Professor in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. He is the author of Marx’s Politics: Communists and Citizens, Democratic Individuality, and Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy?

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence, and reported the following:
After the battle of Yorktown, Georg Daniel Flohr, a German private fighting with the Patriots, walked around the field of battle. Most of the corpses, both Redcoat and Whig, he wrote in his diary, were “Mohren” [Moors]. In school, I never learned this central fact about the Revolution.

The Crown liberated a great number of blacks and took free blacks with them to Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone. But page 99 explores the greatest realization of freedom on the American side during the Revolution: the recruitment of the first Rhode Island regiment composed of freed blacks and Narragansett Indians.

In 1778, Rhode Island was short of white recruits to fight. General Varnum wrote to George Washington, requesting to recruit blacks to answer the British. Washington feared that Lord Dunmore's black troops would grow “like a snowball in rolling.” But his desire to win the war now overcame his zeal for bondage. Military competition for recruits in exchange for freedom propelled the gradual emancipation of slaves in the North during and after the Revolution and might have led to gradual emancipation in the South.

Most white Patriots enlisted as militiamen for 10 months. In contrast, the first Rhode Island regiment fought throughout the war in all the major battles. One in five were killed. At the battle of Fort Oswego, poorly dressed blacks froze (many lost toes). They fought to make American freedom real.

Samuel Johnson mocked the Declaration of Independence: “How come we hear the greatest yelps for liberty from the drivers of slaves?” One is amazed to discover, David Cooper, a New Jersey Quaker, wrote, that by the natural rights of all men, the Patriots mean only white men, and fight over a three-penny tax on tea but not the bondage of a human being for her entire life.

This second Revolution for emancipation, long hidden, is thus the greatest fight for freedom in the American Revolution. That a “gigantic number” of blacks were freed by the Empire compromises the cause of American liberty. But against this, the first Rhode Island regiment represented the Revolution’s integrity and aspiration:
The resolution [that created the Regiment] recalled that the Roman Republic freed slaves to defeat Hannibal, stating that “history affords us frequent Precedents of the wisest, freest, and bravest nations having liberated their Slaves, and enlisted them to fight in Defence of their country.” In Rhode Island, imperial forces had conquered “the Capital…and a great part of this State,” and the legislature declared that “every able-bodied Negro, mulatto, or Indian man slave…may inlist into either of the said battalions,” It said that “every slave so inlisting shall be entitled to and receive all the bounties, wages, and encouragements allowed by the Continental Congress.” (p. 99)
Baron von Closen was a military advisor to Washington. On his way to Yorktown, he met black troops from Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. A quarter of the troops, they were the most cheerful, sturdy and disciplined, he recorded. At Yorktown, the Regiment marched to take the two crucial British redoubts, under the leadership of John Laurens and Alexander Hamilton. They fixed bayonets to make no sound.

With fifteen minutes walk, Captain Stephen Olney empathized, many must have thought, the journey of life would end with them. The others stood there, in silence, listening. Shots rang out. But black Patriots won the day.

How deep does racism run in the United States? This great story of heroism has been buried for nearly two centuries. It is perhaps not surprising that a very moderate President is today attacked as an “other” or that we have the largest prison system in the world - 2.3 million prisoners, 25% of the world’s prisoners - of whom a majority are black and brown. Those who fought then for freedom need to be recognized and honored. Black Patriots and Loyalists tells their tale.
Learn more about Black Patriots and Loyalists at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Yael A. Sternhell's "Routes of War"

Yael A. Sternhell is Assistant Professor of History and American Studies at Tel Aviv University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Routes of War: The World of Movement in the Confederate South, and reported the following:
In some ways, Routes of War is a peculiar book. Its focus is neither the battlefield nor the homefront, it does not revolve around any specific subset of the South's population, and it cannot be properly defined as a work of political, social, cultural, or military history. Rather, this book aims to zero in on one basic, universal, experience of life during wartime, spatial mobility, and reveal its significance to several key elements in the history of the Confederate South. Principally, Routes of War is interested in the rise and fall of the Southern nation, the transformation of white Southerners into a people at war, and the social revolution that destroyed slavery and opened the path for the rise of black freedom. Bodies in motion, my book argues, played a variety of instrumental roles in launching, perpetuating, and embodying these vast processes of change.

Page 99 plunges the reader into the last theme. The page begins with the tail end of a discussion about the role of the Union army in instigating flight from the plantations, but quickly moves to describe other conditions that pushed slaves to take the risk and abscond:
While the arrival of the Federal army in slave territory provided bondspeople with the initial opportunity to leave, there were other factors encouraging their flight. The first and most critical threat to their fragile existence was compulsory removal in an attempt to prevent either their confiscation by the soldiers or their own escape. “Dey shifted niggers from place to place to keep de Yankees from takin’ ’em,” recalled Dilley Yellady, who was enslaved in North Carolina. “When dere got to be too many Yankees in a place de slaves wus sent out to keep ’em from bein’ set free.” By the second half of 1863 this practice, which contemporaries named “refugeeing,” had become commonplace in plantations along the coastline from Virginia to Florida and in the Mississippi Valley.

Blacks dreaded and despised these forced relocations that stripped them of any stability and comfort they had achieved. Refugeeing meant disintegration of families and communities, as well as abandonment of the little property accumulated in their cabins and of carefully cultivated plots. It also meant a harsh journey, harder labor, and scarcity of food. A former Louisiana slave who was compelled to leave his home remembered the journey as “the awfullest trip any man ever make”: “We had to hide from everybody until we find out if dey Yankees or Secesh, and we go along little old back roads and up one mountain and down another, through de woods all de away.”
As the following page explains, African-Americans who refused to undergo these forced relocations wasted no time and capitalized on the confusion of departure to hide in the woods, run to the nearest Union camp, or simply stay behind. It is one example among many of how wartime movement challenged the social order of black slavery and white freedom, and contributed to the upending of the customary relations of power as both blacks and whites were thrust on the road. Later on I complicate things by discussing the relationship between runaway slaves and the movements of deserters from the Confederate army, refugees from Union-occupied areas, as well as other white folks who struggled to retain the right to move freely. So if you happen to open the book on page 99, I hope that you'll continue reading (at least) until the end of the chapter, and see how the history of slavery's collapse fits into a larger story about wartime flight and its impact on the Confederate South.
Learn more about Routes of War at the Harvard University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Jeff Wilson's "Dixie Dharma"

Jeff Wilson is assistant professor of religious studies and East Asian studies at Renison University College, University of Waterloo.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Dixie Dharma is not the most representative, or compelling, excerpt from the book. The book is about applying a regional lens to the examination of Buddhism in the United States. Essentially, it grows out of my observation that it is often very different to practice Buddhism in the South compared to on the West Coast. This should be obvious, but it’s a topic that’s never been systematically explored before. And as we become ever more globalized, some people think that regions are being eroded to the point where they no longer matter at all. Maybe that’s true for some people in some situations, but it certainly wasn’t the case for the religious minorities in the South whom I worked with. The dominant religious and political conservatism of the region was a reality they struggled with in ways that California Buddhists (or those in the Northeast, another hotbed of American Buddhism) just didn’t have to worry about.

I did fieldwork in many parts of the South (and beyond), but most of my attention is focused on a temple in Richmond, Virginia that houses five different types of Buddhist groups. On page 99 I’m explaining the practice of the Tibetan group at the temple. That’s important to do, since comparing the various groups and analyzing how their proximity results in hybrid Buddhist practices is one major topic for the book. But it’s a bit dry, and doesn’t speak to the regional concerns of the project. Other parts of the book are much juicier, with Buddhists clashing with their Southern Baptist relatives, the city trying to secretly auction the temple off for unpaid property taxes, a public meditation vigil designed to help heal the region’s legacy of slavery, and Buddhist priests who traverse massive areas like the itinerant Methodist circuit riders of yore. When my informants start talking about how they’ve come out of the closet to their Christian family as gay but will never admit to being Buddhist, you start to get a sense for the sort of evasions and false fronts that some Southern Buddhists have to engage in. But there isn’t a hint of that sort of conflict on page 99.
Learn more about Dixie Dharma at the University of North Carolina Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Paul Reitter's "On the Origins of Jewish Self-Hatred"

Paul Reitter is associate professor of Germanic languages and literatures at Ohio State University. He is the author of The Anti-Journalist: Karl Kraus and Jewish Self-Fashioning in Fin-de-Siècle Europe.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, On the Origins of Jewish Self-Hatred, and reported the following:
I like to think that the book stands up to the test pretty well. On the Origins is an attempt to understand how the particular concept “Jewish self-hatred” got its start. Its first chapter is a broad-ranging discussion of the long build-up to the birth of that category, in 1921. The next two chapters focus on the colorful, paradoxical figures who, respectively, coined and popularized “Jewish self-hatred”—Anton Kuh and Theodor Lessing. Page 99 falls about mid-way through my account of how it was that Lessing came to write his book Jewish Self-Hatred (1930), which is the work through which the concept gained prominence. The page tracks Lessing’s commitment to progressive education and his emerging opposition to antisemitism in German culture.

One reason why the history of “Jewish Self-Hatred” has been widely misrepresented is that Lessing has been widely misunderstood; and one reason for that is Lessing’s paradox-laden attitude toward his fellow German Jews. Lessing resisted antisemitism. And he was also a Zionist who called, in the years between 1901 and 1914, for Jews to be proud of themselves and their heritage. Yet Lessing often did so in terms that sound (and sometimes are) antisemitic. He was hardly unique in this. But even in a rough context of debate, the harshness of Lessing’s writings about German Jews stood out. As a result, scholars have tended to treat his book Jewish Self-Hatred as an expression of nothing other than, well, his Jewish self-hatred. Picking up on this line of interpretation, critics of the concept “Jewish self-hatred” have argued that the concept’s (persistent) original meanings are deeply problematic. Lessing’s book is, according to one scholar, a “worse instance of Jewish self-hatred than any of the authors it discusses.”

I don’t try to make Lessing out to be a misunderstood genius or saint. What I attempt to do, rather, is show that in his book Jewish Self-Hatred the progressive Lessing gets the upper hand. That is, I try to show that Jewish Self-Hatred is very different from the earlier writings with which it is usually lumped together—from writings where Lessing heaps scorn on what he calls German Jewry’s “self-contempt.” Indeed, I argue that Lessing turned to the particular concept “Jewish self-hatred” (for the first time) in Jewish Self-Hatred precisely because he wanted to do something very different there. Which brings me to the hook of my own book. My big claim is that thanks to Kuh, the real coiner of the concept, “Jewish self-hatred” actually had positive connotations when Lessing came to it. Read Lessing’s book closely, and you’ll see that it builds off of Kuh’s work. Rather than delivering a “Zionist polemic,” Lessing offers plenty of uplift in Jewish Self-Hatred. Like Kuh, he uses “Jewish self-hatred” in such a way that it refers to a problem that will heal itself, and even help save the world!
Learn more about On the Origins of Jewish Self-Hatred at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue