Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Nancy Sherman's "Afterwar"

Nancy Sherman, University Professor at Georgetown University and Guggenheim Fellow (2013-2014), served as the Inaugural Distinguished Chair in Ethics at the United States Naval Academy. A philosopher with research training in psychoanalysis, she lectures worldwide on moral injury, the emotions, resilience, and military ethics.

Sherman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Afterwar: Healing the Moral Wounds of Our Soldiers, and reported the following:
Page 99 expands on Afterwar’s unifying theme of moral injury and delves into how empathy (or more specifically self-empathy) can aide the moral recovery of our soldiers. While physical trauma creates external scars, the moral injuries of war can leave veterans with internal scarring that can be just as devastating. Feelings of guilt and shame can compound to the point where soldiers hold themselves culpable for experiences outside of their control. One example is army Major Jeffrey Hall, who in 2003 saw members of an innocent family killed by crossfire in Baghdad, Iraq. Hall was charged with making amends with the surviving family members. After finding them, the family made it clear that what they wanted most was the return of the bodies of their loved ones. However, due to bureaucratic incompetence, he had to wait over a month for the bodies.

During the wait, he was ordered to deliver the solace money, a pittance of $750. The uncle rejected the money and threw it in the dirt. When Hall finally received the bodies, they had rotted. He had to deliver them unembalmed and cooked by the desert heat beyond recognition. The family’s last request was for Hall to obtain their death certificates for a proper funeral. When he obtained them, they were marked, in bold red letters, “ENEMY.”

The moral injury Hall felt ran deep to the point where suicidal feelings emerged, but, thanks to an attentive commander, he received the help he needed. Part of his help involved evaluating himself through self-empathy. The goal of self-empathy was to look back on his past memories not as the subject, but as an objective observer. Self-empathy allowed Hall to deal with his shame by viewing himself not as the transgressor, but as the victim and, consequently, granted himself a newfound sense of mercy and compassion.

Afterwar seeks to better understand the moral injuries that our soldiers face through a lens both philosophical and personal. It bridges the divide between civilians and veterans and, in doing so, fosters moral healing that soldiers desperately need.
Visit Nancy Sherman's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 29, 2015

Amanda M. Czerniawski's "Fashioning Fat"

Amanda M. Czerniawski is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Temple University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Fashioning Fat: Inside Plus-Size Modeling, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Beauty is a social construction, but these women were not the ones in charge of its construction. Plus-size models must conform to an image created by fashion’s tastemakers—agents and designers. Their bodies need to fit within narrowly defined parameters, often within a fraction of an inch. Ultimately, they mold their bodies to fit an image, instead of being empowered in a way that allows them to mold the image to fit their bodies. These women were not challenging a contemporary definition of beauty. They were changing their bodies into shapes and sizes that were predetermined by others to be acceptable.
Fortuitously, this paragraph, which concludes the chapter on the various forms of bodily labors adopted by plus-size models, summarizes a critical argument in my book. Plus-size models want to change the way people think about beauty, diversifying its definition to include curvy bodies. They champion for size acceptance. Ultimately, they remain voiceless dolls, dependent on agencies to direct their careers and clients to mold their image. Instead of challenge a social system that perpetuated preoccupation with the body, plus-size models reify it. In order to succeed, they alter their bodies according to others’ specifications. So, if we want to seek out those with the power to challenge hegemonic beauty standards, we must look beyond plus-size models. Instead of the objects in the billboards, we must look to the designers of those billboards.

That being said, we must applaud the use of a variety of looks and bodies in fashion. Plus-size models, in particular, should be acknowledged for their courage to withstand fat stigma and bare their flesh for all to see. Plus-size models fight to get out from the margins and into the mainstream fashion market. Their challenge, however, is to maintain their authentic voice amidst a stream of voiceless bodies that flow in and out of fashion’s ranks.

To effectively alter contemporary bodily aesthetics, these models need to go beyond achieving increased visibility in the field and also take ownership of those images. Instead of conforming to fashion’s demands, they need to direct them. Their sheer visibility in the fashion marketplace is not enough because of the engendered nature of bodies and the threat of disembodiment. Unfortunately, models, no matter their size, are simply bodies. Fashion still judges them on the basis of their looks. Modeling reduces them to curves and numbers on a tape measure. They are not women but breasts, bums, and hips. After all the work they do, plus-size models are still objectified and sexualized bodies.
Learn more about Fashioning Fat at the NYU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Alexander H. Harcourt's "Humankind"

Alexander H. Harcourt is Professor Emeritus in the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Davis. He is the coauthor of Gorilla Society and Human Biogeography and co-editor of Coalitions and Alliances in Humans and Other Animals.

Harcourt applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Humankind: How Biology and Geography Shape Human Diversity, and reported the following:
The whole human species, all seven billion plus of us, varies less genetically than does a single population of gorillas or chimpanzees. And yet just a glance at a stranger, and we can often tell what continent they come from. Go a little deeper, look at the right genes, and you can even tell if the person is originally from France, or Britain, or Germany, or Spain, or pretty much anywhere else in the world.

Not only do the people of different regions differ, but they differ for the same Darwinian reasons that species of animals and plants differ. As a sentence on page 99 of Humankind states, “Humans are mammals, and follow the same rules regarding shape and size of body in relation to temperature as do other animals.”

The rules concern more than just shape and size and temperature. Other rules, biological rules interacting with geographical rules, determine where we are, and physiologically what sort of person we are there. Yet other biogeographical rules determine the variety of cultures in different regions - yes cultures, products of the human mind - just as they determine the variety of species in different regions of the world.

No man is an island, as the saying goes, and indeed what we are where we are affects other species and is affected by them. And of course, throughout history and surely before, we have affected where we are and others of us are. In the great cities of the world, we now see some of the densest concentrations ever of human regional diversity.
Learn more about Humankind at the publisher's website.

Writers Read: Alexander H. Harcourt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hugh Aldersey-Williams's "In Search of Sir Thomas Browne"

Hugh Aldersey-Williams is a writer and curator based in Norfolk, England. An art exhibition based on his best-selling Periodic Tales: The Cultural History of the Chemical Elements opens at Compton Verney, Warwickshire, in October 2015.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, In Search of Sir Thomas Browne: The Life and Afterlife of the Seventeenth Century's Most Inquiring Mind, and reported the following:
It may seem odd, though really it is not odd at all for this book, but my page 99 is about unicorns. My hero and subject, Sir Thomas Browne, is preoccupied with the existence or not of these fabled creatures. As well he might be. Looking at the cover of my own British passport, I find they are still among us. The beast was incorporated into the royal coat of arms during the 17th century in which Browne lived.

Browne was a physician, philosopher, writer and myth buster. He rounded up dozens of urban myths and old wives’ tales of his age, and debunked them one by one in a vast tome which he called Vulgar Errors.

People believed that unicorns might truly exist because they had seen them in pictures. Pictures in the 17th century were things to be trusted, as photographs were during the 20th century, perhaps. They were trusted because of the places where people saw them, chiefly in church, in biblical illustrations in stained-glass windows for example, and in the heraldic emblems of powerful families, including of course the royal one.

Browne is a leading rationalist of his time. He debunks ‘vulgar errors’ by citing learned authorities and occasionally by doing his own scientific experiment, which he reports. He appeals to sense and reason – he wants his readers to use their eyes and brains when they consider whether, for example, a badger has its legs shorter on one side than the other, or whether a dead kingfisher would make a good weathervane. But he is also extraordinarily forgiving of his credulous readers. Throughout, he treats them with wit, kindness and tolerance. In this I believe he has lessons for today’s popularizers of science, who often seem to have lost this lightness of touch.

Anyway, back to the unicorn. You are expecting of course that Browne will say there is no such thing. Far from it. ‘We are so far from denying there is any Unicorn at all, that we affirm there are many kinds thereof,’ he writes. What can he mean? He uses his vast knowledge to explain to his untravelled readers that there is indeed more than one species with a unique horn – a unicorn. There is the rhinoceros. There is the narwhal, new to science thanks to Arctic explorers. There is even, perhaps, the oryx, glimpsed from side on and then unreliably reported as having a single horn rather than two. After itemizing so many unicorns, Browne then does cast doubt on the familiar creature from myth and fable. After all, he points out, such a horse-like animal with a long horn pointing straight out from its forehead would have the greatest difficulty in simply grazing.

Browne is perhaps not an entirely reliable opinion on the subject, though. In Vulgar Errors, he dismisses various other fabulous creatures – the griffin, the sphinx, the chimera – on the grounds that their body parts don’t really hang together properly. The griffin has the head and wings of an eagle but the body and tail of a lion, for example. But he defends certain other fanciful creatures, such as the basilisk and the satyr, simply because they offer such good story value.

I myself would begin to doubt Browne’s analysis, but for the fact that I myself have seen a living unicorn. For among the deer that from time to time wander up under cover of the barley growing in the neighboring fields to help themselves to the contents of my garden, I occasionally see a young stag that has lost one of its antlers.
Learn more about the book and author at Hugh Aldersey-Williams's website.

The Page 99 Test: Anatomies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

William E. Mann's "God, Modality, and Morality"

William E. Mann was a professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Vermont from 1974 to 2010.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, God, Modality, and Morality, and reported the following:
Here is a passage that begins at the bottom of page 98:
Traditional theology has a remarkable strategy for characterizing God’s sustaining function. The strategy involves two maneuvers. The first is to distinguish generation and corruption from creation and annihilation. Reserve the [p. 99] term “creation” for the bringing of things into existence out of nothing. Then the term for the action opposite to creation is not “destruction” or “corruption” but “annihilation,” the returning of a thing to nonbeing. It is easy enough to destroy a bicycle—by hydraulic press, oxyacetylene torch, or teenage children. These are familiar types of corruption. To annihilate a bicycle, in contrast, would entail the elimination, not just the transformation, of a certain amount of the universe’s mass/energy. Just as no natural agent can build the bicycle out of nothing, so no natural agent can annihilate it.

The second maneuver is to insist that despite the apparent inviolability of the universe’s mass/energy, it has no inherent potentiality to continue to exist from one moment to the next. This claim has sometimes been put forward as a consequence of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo: anything having its origin in nonbeing will, left to its own devices, collapse back immediately into nonbeing. Alternatively, the claim has sometimes been defended by arguing that although the laws of nature along with the initial conditions of things at an instant may entail (in a suitably deterministic universe) what will occur at a future instant, since every instant of time is logically independent from every other instant, the laws and initial conditions are insufficient to guarantee that the future instant will exist. It is compatible with this claim that created things have the power to bring about changes both in themselves and among other created things. What created things cannot do, however, is continue to exist without God’s ever-present conserving activity.
What unifies the essays in this book is that they address the question, "What differences would God's existence make to the world and its inhabitants?" I'd say that the passage is representative of the quality of the whole.
Learn more about God, Modality, and Morality at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Brandon R. Brown's "Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War"

Brandon R. Brown is a Professor of Physics at the University of San Francisco. His writing for general audiences has appeared in New Scientist, SEED, the Huffington Post, and other outlets. His biophysics work on the electric sense of sharks, as covered by NPR and the BBC, has appeared in Nature, The Physical Review, and other research journals.

Brown applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War, and reported the following:
I’m surprised to find that this test works well for my little book, Planck. On page 99, we find the friendship of Max Planck and Albert Einstein in play, and we find the structural calling card of the book: a frothy blend of history, physics, personality, and politics. On page 99, the narrative is fixed in 1920. As Germany wobbles in the aftermath of WWI, Einstein finds for the first time that his emerging worldwide fame will have a real cost. Right-wing factions are merging with certain disgruntled scientists to start the Deutsche Physik movement, aligning themselves against what they now label “Jewish Physics,” an allegedly misleading, confusing, and overly-mathematical brand of science emerging from people like Einstein and his elder, Planck.

A conservative industrialist and proto-Nazi Paul Weyland organizes the first major anti-Einstein event, and as I write on page 99...
Against the advice of friends, Einstein decided to attend, thinking it might be worth a laugh. But he was shocked at the vitriol, as he heard himself alternately described as a plagiarist, a seeker of fame, and a purveyor of scientific Dadaism.

Planck made no public statements after the event, but he wrote to Einstein that Weyland had spewed “scarcely believable filth.”
This is a pivotal moment in the book, as Germany has set course for 1933 and the ugly rise of Hitler, while the great Max Planck, defender of Einstein, sets his policy moving forward: fighting the good fight privately, but keeping mostly quiet in public.
Visit Brandon Brown's website.

My Book, The Movie: Planck.

Writers Read: Brandon R. Brown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 22, 2015

Stephen Macedo's "Just Married"

Stephen Macedo is the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and the former director of the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. His many books include Liberal Virtues and Diversity and Distrust. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Macedo applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Just Married: Same-Sex Couples, Monogamy, and the Future of Marriage, and reported the following:
From page 99:
So far we have focused on the symbolic dimension of marriage as a distinctive form of commitment. The symbolism of marriage has been most central to the very public political debates over same-sex marriage, which is understandable. Focusing only on the symbolic meaning provides only a partial picture of the institution. This chapter fills in the picture by furnishing an overview of three important subjects.

I first describe the specific benefits, responsibilities, obligations, and protections that are associated with marriage by law. These are complex but extremely important. This overview of the various legal implications of marriage will help make clear that marriage as it exists today is well suited to same-sex couples and their relationships. The way for same-sex couples has been cleared by the women’s movement and sex equality in marriage. Entering into marriage does not, however, involve simply the acquisition of special marital benefits, as critics of marriage often argue. Wedlock also brings with it a variety of “special” marital obligations and restrictions. This balance of rights and responsibilities is crucial to the fairness of the institution: marriage is not simply a “reward” or an honorific. The law is designed to recognize, facilitate, and assure (to some degree) the fulfillment of the distinctively marital commitment, and that involves the assumption of special responsibilities as well as benefits.

The second task of this chapter is to summarize the benefits that flow to spouses, children, and the wider society as a consequence of marriage. This is highly controversial terrain but an important part of what is at stake in today’s debates.

The third task is to uncover the huge class divide that has opened with respect to access to marriage….
Page 99 is the very beginning of chapter 5, which sets out the specific legal entitlements and obligations of married couples, arguing that these are already well designed for same-sex couples. This is owing to the spousal equality in marriage: a historic achievement of the women’s rights movement.

The book, it may be helpful to know, asks and answers three broad questions: Why same-sex marriage? Why marriage, as a special relationship recognized and supported by law? And, why monogamy? I argue in favor of all three – same-sex marriage, the institution of marriage, and monogamy – on the basis of justice, the Constitution, and the good of society, families, and individuals.

The argument is a direct response to the conservative warning, voiced by Justice Antonin Scalia and countless others on the political right, that same sex marriage places us on a “slippery slope” to polygamy, incest, bestiality, etc. The argument also responds to those many critics of marriage on the left who, in effect, embrace the slippery slope by calling for the abolition of marriage as a special status in law, the public recognition of polygamous unions, or even, according to some, acceptance of consensual adult incest (when there is no danger of producing children with genetic defects).

The book is a defense, in other words, of the moderate middle. It invites readers to take the historic occasion of publicly recognized marriage equality to re-appreciate the virtues of marriage and monogamy.
Learn more about Just Married at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Dirk Philipsen's "The Little Big Number"

Dirk Philipsen is a professor of economic history and a senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Little Big Number: How GDP Came to Rule the World and What to Do about It, and reported the following:
For the last seventy years, major economies around the world have defined their primary goal as growth of GDP. But GDP is merely a measure of quantity, not quality; of output, not development. It counts weapons as much as toys, pornography as much as education, the crippling accident as much as the healing surgery. It never asks after the purpose of economic activity, much less measures its effectiveness – cars, not destinations; computers, not quality of education.

The basic premise is that the more we turn life into commodities — trees into two-by-fours, fossils into fuels, atmosphere into carbon dumps, lakes into resorts, land into parking lots, human skills into labor, conversation into chats, childhood into advertising bonanzas, education into investments — the better.

As a measure, GDP was generated in response to crisis (Great Depression) and conflict (World War II). Its primary architect, Simon Kuznets, struggled with the question of what to measure in an economy, and how best to measure it. For him, the ultimate purpose of economic activity was to enhance the well-being of people, not just the volume of output.

Trying to prevent the misuse of his national accounts, Kuznets warned, as we can learn on page 99 of The Little Big Number, that “the welfare of a nation can … scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income.” Yet today, GDP is the yardstick of success and progress in every major economy around the world. Collectively, we’re racing, with exponentially accelerating speed, toward the cliff of climate change, resource depletion, community disintegration, escalating inequality, and endless resulting conflict.

Growth should define purpose of an economy as much as, but no more than, getting enough to eat should define purpose of life. One would hope, with all the great economists and moral philosophers of the last two centuries, that the direction of economic activities would point toward development, not just output; quality, not just quantity; better, not just more. And, perhaps above all, toward a future that will provide opportunities to our children and grandchildren that will at least equal our own.

For that to happen we have to break the spell of GDP.
Learn more about The Little Big Number at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 19, 2015

K. David Jackson's "Machado de Assis: A Literary Life"

K. David Jackson is professor of Portuguese and director of undergraduate studies of Portuguese at Yale University. He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Machado de Assis: A Literary Life, and reported the following:
On page 99 we are deep into the ways that Machado makes fun of methodical books: "...without going back to Cervantes or Rabelais, we have enough with Fielding and Smollett, many of whose chapters get read only through their summaries." Machado borrows particularly from Sterne's Tristram Shandy and Maistre's "Voyage autour de ma chambre" for fragmentation and perspective. His picaresque narrator, Brás Cubas, who is already dead, begins a digressive story nevertheless full of his disdainful and comic observations on life, derived from the great aphorists. Machado converts a world literary library into his own particular fiction, making it all his own, such that the illusion of imitation is one of the keys to his modern writing. My book shows why Machado is a great world author and one of the inventors of literary modernity, thus why he deserves readership alongside James, Proust, even Nabokov and Saramago. He analyzes the city-universe of Rio de Janeiro with subtle wit, comic humor and innovative narrative strategies.
Learn more about Machado de Assis at the Yale University Press website.

Writers Read: K. David Jackson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rebecca M. Herzig's "Plucked"

Historian Rebecca M. Herzig is Christian A. Johnson Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Bates College. Her books include Suffering for Science: Reason and Sacrifice in Modern America and, with Evelynn Hammonds, The Nature of Difference: Sciences of Race in the United States from Jefferson to Genomics.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Plucked: A History of Hair Removal, and reported the following:
Landing on the first page of the book’s fifth chapter, “Glandular Trouble,” Page 99 introduces us to a young woman “of the bearded lady type,” whose doctors tried to treat her unwanted facial hair by surgically removing her adrenal glands. The surgery triggered a swift decline in the young woman’s mental health. She began to suffer debilitating hallucinations and was able to recover only after extensive psychiatric treatment. Still, the physicians declared the surgery a success: the patient emerged “with only slight hairiness of her face.”

The passage announces the main topic of the chapter (the rise of hormone-based therapies for unwanted hair growth), while encapsulating several of the book’s larger themes, including the surprising invasiveness, even violence, of practices of hair removal; the astonishing range of medical and scientific professionals’ investment in “excessive” body hair; and the ongoing preoccupation with evaluating and tinkering with women’s bodies. In its brevity, the passage also necessarily leaves out some of the book’s key themes, such as the centrality of ideas about race to scientific and medical studies of body hair: the experts who preceded these glandular surgeons were obsessed with racial variations in hair growth. Plucked traces those interlocking themes, while remaining centered—like the opening paragraphs of the fifth chapter—on particular experiences of suffering and hope.

But back to the test: does this single page reveal the “quality of the whole”? Yes and no. Page 99’s account of the young woman’s terrifying hallucinations after her experimental surgery does provide a clear glimpse of the broad, unsettling consequences of seemingly insignificant acts of separating flesh from hair, self from other. Yet the very subject of hair removal also presents a more general challenge to the “Page 99 Test,” in that hair removal (I have learned) strikes many readers as a topic unworthy of sustained attention: “Wait, hair removal? Seriously?” Only once readers move beyond that first look, from page 99 to page 100 and 101 and so on, do the more fascinating and consequential features of the subject begin to emerge. So with respect to Plucked, I might reverse Mr. Ford’s sturdy adage: read the whole book, and the quality of page ninety-nine will be revealed.
Learn more about Plucked at the New York University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Kevin P. McDonald's "Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves"

Kevin P. McDonald is Assistant Professor of Colonial America and Atlantic World History at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves: Colonial America and the Indo-Atlantic World, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Chapter 5
Seafaring Slaves and Freedom in the Indo-Atlantic World

Sometime in 1694, a “very tall” and “remarkable” mulatto named Calico Jack, a seafaring slave, slipped away from his owner’s plantation on the Upper Mills at Philipsburg Manor. Jack initiated his escape on the Pocantico, a tributary of the Hudson River just north of New York City, and traveled eastward along the Long Island Sound. Jack’s owner, Frederick Philipse, tracked him to Stratford, Connecticut, a small port town on the northern coast of the Sound, where the trail disappeared. Philipse was convinced that Jack had continued navigating to Rhode Island, where he would have utilized his considerable maritime knowledge and language skills—he was said to speak English as well as Dutch. According to his master and corroborated by the fragmentary record, Jack found his way to Newport and enlisted as a privateer on one of four ships, possibly Captain Tew’s, that were fitting out to pillage the Red Sea region. Years after Jack’s escape, Philipse, the wealthiest merchant in New York, was so intent on recapturing this slave that he ordered two of his captains and trading factors to “make a strict inquiry after him” at Madagascar and, if found, to “take him up.” Philipse instructed his captains that if they were unable to apprehend the slave, he would “stand to whatever agreement you make with him, of which you may assure him.”

This account of a runaway slave, brief yet rich in detail, reveals a number of surprising facets of a global trade network as remarkable and audacious as Calico Jack himself...
I am pleased to proclaim that page 99 in Pirates is one of my favorite passages in the book. It is the first page of chapter five, "Seafaring Slaves and Freedom in the Indo-Atlantic World." Slaves rarely left documents behind, so one of the most significant challenges in studying slaves and slavery is trying to uncover their hidden lives. The book, which examines an illicit informal trade network connecting the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds, argues that pirates played a significant yet misunderstood role in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and that slaves were not just commodities but integral components of maritime trade networks.
Learn more about Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Richard Alston's "Rome's Revolution"

Richard Alston is Professor of Roman History at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the author or editor of over a dozen books on ancient Rome.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Rome's Revolution: Death of the Republic and Birth of the Empire, and reported the following:
And on page 99, the story turns.

We are after the second battle of Mutina. In Rome, the senators were celebrating their victories in North Italy. In March 44, they had staged a conservative coup, murdering Julius Caesar in the fond hope of restoring the Republic, by which they mean government by a small, aristocratic elite. Their plans were upset but his acolyte, Mark Antony. But by the Spring of 43, Antony seemed lost. He had been defeated twice outside the Italian city of Mutina and had retreated hastily northwards and away from Rome. Many in Rome believed the war was at an end. For 98 pages, we have had conservative Republican triumph.

But on page 99, we find that Antony, who had indeed lost the battle, was still fighting. He was marching in search of allies. By contrast, the victorious Republicans were in disarray. Both their leading generals were dead. They were not ready to pursue Antony. What turned out to be far, far worse, was that half of the Republican armies were under the control of the youthful Octavian, nephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar, and an unreliable ally.
The aftermath of the battles was chaotic. Although the senatorial side were loud in their proclamations of victory, the battles had been hard-fought. There were undoubtedly many injured, and in the disorder after the battle it would be difficult to gather fit troops ready for a rapid pursuit. More crucially, even with the siege lifted Decimus Brutus was in dire need of supplies and would not have the animals necessary to transport his men and equipment. But even if the military and logistical issues could be quickly solved, the armies faced questions of leadership… as Antony headed away from Mutina, Octavian turned in the opposite direction and marched to Bononia. There he met the ailing Pansa…. Pansa was the senior magistrate in the field, and his authority was crucial. Octavian was the junior figure, yet it was likely that he would have views, and these would need to be addressed. They needed to decide how to pursue the next stage of the war. But before Decimus Brutus reached Bononia, Pansa died.
Over the pages that follow, Republican successes unravel. Defeat is plucked from the jaws of victory. The revolutionary elements capture Rome.

Rome’s Revolution is the story of a transformation in Roman history when the Republic ended and the Empire began. The revolution was unexpected. For generations, the aristocratic elite had fought out their political battles on the streets of Rome and in the fields of Italy. The old elite knew that their system was corrupt, and worried about it, but they could not imagine that it was really threatened. The Republic had brought great wealth and success. It was unthinkable that it could be overthrown. Like powerful elites throughout history, they believed that there was no alternative to their rule. But within months of the battles of Mutina, that alternative stood before them in the shape of Rome’s legionaries: poor, heavily armed, and very dangerous. At that moment, the old Republic, emulated and admired throughout history, faced its calamitous end.
Learn more about Rome's Revolution at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's "The Story of Alice"

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst is Professor of English Literature and a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. His publications include Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland, and reported the following:
Lewis Carroll (the pen name of Rev Charles Dodgson) was a mathematician as well as an author, and certain numbers had a special place in his heart. For example, long before Douglas Adams chose 42 as the answer to ‘Life, the Universe, and Everything’, it was making frequent guest appearances in Carroll’s writing. Thus there are 42 illustrations in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, where Alice also learns that ‘Rule 42’ is that anybody more than a mile high has to leave the courtroom, and further mysterious uses of this number appear in The Hunting of the Snark.

There’s no evidence that Carroll was equally addicted to the number 99, but he might have paused over this page in The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland. In this book I trace the complicated relationship between him and Alice Liddell, the little girl for whom he originally created his most famous story, and on page 99 I describe two of the early photographs he took of her.

In the first, she is dressed as a child beggar, in artfully torn rags that have slipped off her shoulder to reveal a nipple. In the second, she is wearing her best outfit: a frilly dress featuring complicated ruffled sleeves, with white ankle socks and shiny black shoes. Together these photographs create a ‘before’ and ‘after’ sequence like that made famous by the fairytale of ‘King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid’, in which the king marries a poor girl he has spied out of his palace window. Inevitably they live happily ever after. Did Carroll have similar ambitions for his relationship with Alice Liddell, or were the photographs just an innocent record of the fun she had dressing up?

Drawing on previously unpublished family papers, my book offers the fullest account yet of their relationship – a story that for many years has been every bit as mysterious as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in which ‘Alice’ was transformed into a feisty heroine who asks herself ‘Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle’. It is this puzzle that my book sets out to solve.
Learn more about The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland.

My Book, The Movie: Becoming Dickens.

The Page 99 Test: Becoming Dickens.

My Book, The Movie: The Story of Alice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 12, 2015

Konrad H. Jarausch's "Out of Ashes"

Konrad H. Jarausch is the Lurcy Professor of European Civilization at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His many books include Reluctant Accomplice: A Wehrmacht Soldier’s Letters from the Eastern Front and After Hitler: Recivilizing Germans, 1945–1995.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Out of Ashes: A New History of Europe in the Twentieth Century, and reported the following:
The first paragraph of page 99 presents a passage from Wilfred Owen’s moving poem on gas warfare. In powerful words he describes the ugliness of human suffering from the effect of chemical poison on the lungs. The British poet uses this shocking image to warn against the heroic injunction to sacrifice one’s life gladly for the fatherland. Contrasting sharply with patriotic rhetoric, this poem exemplifies the pacifist response of an entire generation that became disenchanted with war.

The second paragraph explores the effects of mechanized warfare that made World War One more deadly than any prior military conflict. As products of modern machine technology, the weapons had become more destructive, triggering a desperate effort of soldiers to hide in trenches. The result of artillery barrages was a moonscape at the battlefront, full of craters, ruined buildings and carcasses of horses. As a result the death toll rose to about 17 million soldiers and civilians, with an equal number of wounded and psychologically traumatized.

The entire page is part of the conclusion of a discussion about the nature of modern warfare that became ever more total and all-consuming. It was a wonder that soldiers could be motivated by patriotic appeals, ties of comradeship and liberal doses of liquor to continue to fight for years, even though the odds of their survival steadily deteriorated when confronted by technological monsters such as battlefield tanks. At the same time industrial warfare also involved the home front far more than ever before, drawing many women into arms factories, and creating propaganda machines to keep up morale.

The thrust of this reflection underlines George F. Kennan’s claim that World War One was “the great seminal catastrophe of the twentieth century.” Devastating many regions and costing untold lives, the fighting broke the back of notions of human progress through the advance of modernity. Drawing in Japan and the US, the world-wide struggle toppled the Russian, Ottoman, Habsburg and German Empires, destroying European hegemony in the process. Finally, it set in motion the struggle between Bolshevik, Democratic and Fascist ideologies of modernity that dominated the rest of the century.
Learn more about Out of Ashes: A New History of Europe in the Twentieth Century at the Princeton University Press website.

Cover story: Out of Ashes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

David Commins's "Islam in Saudi Arabia"

David Commins is Professor of History at Dickinson College. He is the author of The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia, The Gulf States: A Modern History, and Islamic Reform: Politics and Social Change in Late Ottoman Syria.

Commins applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Islam in Saudi Arabia, and reported the following:
From page 99:
National Dialogue

The first national dialogue on the theme of ‘Reinforcing National Unity’ brought together leaders of the kingdom’s different Muslim tendencies: Wahhabis, Twelver and Ismaili Shiites, Sufis, and non-Wahhabi Sunnis (Malikis from the Eastern Province and Shafiis from Hijaz). While plans for the experiment in intra-faith dialogue were moving forward, the United States’ invasion of Iraq exacerbated sectarian tensions in the Gulf, and al-Qaeda terrorists struck the Saudi capital. The need for religious toleration was more compelling than ever. In June 2003, the first national dialogue session convened for three days in Riyadh. Public recognition of Shiites and Sufis as fellow Muslims alongside Wahhabis was an important step. In fact, it was too big a step for the prominent Sahwa Sheikh Safar al-Hawali, who could not bring himself to accept the invitation to mingle with men he considered infidels. On the other hand, Sheikh Salman al-Awda, another Sahwa leader, not only attended but engaged directly with Shiite leader Sheikh Hasan al-Saffar. In symbolic terms, the session ruptured the two-hundred-year-old Wahhabi monopoly on religious representation. In concrete terms, the main impact was to break the ice for subsequent intra-faith encounters. Two months after the session, Crown Prince Abdullah established the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue to plan future meetings.

At the end of 2003, the second national dialogue session was held in Mecca to discuss extremism and moderation. Participation was expanded to include members of the business community as well as ten women, who gathered in a separate room and followed the proceedings via closed-circuit television.
On page 99, readers get a glimpse of political dynamics surrounding religious life in Saudi Arabia in the wake of Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack on the United States, which stirred a national debate over whether the country’s official Wahhabi doctrine fostered extremism and terrorism. We see the Saudi monarchy staging interaction between spokesmen for the country’s official religious establishment and representatives of Muslim minorities that have survived decades of discrimination and persecution. Royal control over public assembly and Wahhabi domination of public morality meant that men and women participating in National Dialogue sessions could not sit together. Sheiks from the “Sahwa,” or Awakening, tendency also attended. They share the Wahhabi establishment’s theological outlook but part ways in espousing political activism. In doing so, the Sahwa sheiks represent the evolution of religious thought as the country became a refuge for Islamists from Arab countries and underwent rapid social change.

In keeping with page 99’s sketch of multiple forces in play, other parts of the book take stock of how the today’s conservatism breaks with traditional ways. It was commonplace for women to ride animals before the automobile age, so why is there a ban on women driving? Women used to participate in the old agricultural, nomadic, and commercial economies, so why is there now a debate over women working? In addressing these and other questions about the role of religion in daily life, the book dismantles the common narrative that presents religion in Saudi Arabia as a monolith immune to change. Instead, the reader discovers how ordinary Saudis juggle personal convictions with the temptations of sudden affluence and the opportunities afforded by recent advances in communications technology to dodge surveillance by agents of puritanical doctrine.
Learn more about Islam in Saudi Arabia at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

James Boyce's "Born Bad"

James Boyce is the multiple award-winning author of 1835 and Van Diemen’s Land. He has a PhD from the University of Tasmania, where he is an honorary research associate of the School of Geography and Environmental Studies.

Boyce applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Born Bad: Original Sin and the Making of the Western World, and reported the following:
From page 99:
[For this reason, the question of what] happened when a suddenly old-fashioned religious dogma was replaced by secular thought requires more scrutiny than rational people have wanted to believe.
Page 99 of Born Bad might be only 23 words, but they are some of the most critical words in the book. This sentence concludes the case for carrying on with the exploration of the influence of the idea of original sin beyond the end of Christendom. The first half of Born Bad explores the origin and power of what I call the creation story of the western world from the fifth century to the Enlightenment (the era when Christianity was the taken for granted world view of peasants and philosophers alike). The second half of the book explores original sin’s fate in the modern world. I argue that while relatively few people, inside or outside the Church, still believe that every human being has inherited the sin of Adam (and thus faces the wrath of God until they receive the salvation of Christ), might have declined as a religious dogma, the essence of the creation story – that people are born with a broken human nature that requires some form of external salvation – has prospered in modernity. The sentence on page 99 bridges the two parts of the book. It suggests that the assumption that we could end the influence of what was the defining perspective on the human condition in the West for over a thousand years by simply deciding it wasn’t true might have been another example of Western arrogance. For better and for worse, none of us have the capacity to reinvent ourselves totally free from cultural inheritance. We can no more become totally free of the influence of culture than we can of our family of origin. Both legacies are innate to consciousness itself.
--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 8, 2015

W. Paul Reeve's "Religion of a Different Color"

W. Paul Reeve is Associate Professor of History at the University of Utah. He is the author of Making Space on the Western Frontier: Mormons, Miners, and Southern Paiutes and the co-editor of Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia and Between Pulpit and Pew: The Supernatural World in Mormon History and Folklore.

Reeve applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Religion of a Different Color offers readers a glimpse into the ways in which Mormons were racialized in the nineteenth century as less than white. In this case, the accusation explored on page 99 is that Mormons dressed as Indians to kill people in what came to be called the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Mormons did, in fact, murder 120 innocent overland migrants in 1857. That much is not in dispute. Whether or not Mormons disguised themselves as Indians to commit this bloody deed is contested.

Religion of a Different Color situates the accusations of Mormons dressing as Indians within a broader historical framework. Very early in their history Mormons were suspected of conspiring with Indians, of marrying Indians (something they did do), and sometimes of becoming Indians. In some cases, outsiders claimed that Mormons descended below the level of Indians to become more savage than the savages. If fact, the accusation that Mormons dressed as Indians to kill people on the overland trail predated the massacre by at least seven years. It was one of the many ways in which Mormons were racialized as less than white in the nineteenth century, especially as they were conflated with a variety of other marginalized groups: Indians, immigrants, blacks, and Chinese.

Mormons were certainly aware of the ways in which their status as white people was challenged. One Mormon leader acknowledged, “we are not accounted as white people,” while another complained that Mormons were treated “as if we had been some savage tribe, or some colored race of foreigners.”

Mormons responded to the various accusations leveled against them out of a desire to claim whiteness for themselves. The book follows that trajectory as Mormons went from being considered not white enough in the 19th century to too white by the 21st century. They had become so white by 2012 that one political pundit called Mitt Romney the “whitest white man to run for president in recent memory.” Religion of a Different Color considers this stunning historical evolution from the perspective that race is both something ascribed from the outside and something aspired to from within.
Learn more about Religion of a Different Color at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Mark Stoll's "Inherit the Holy Mountain"

Mark Stoll is Associate Professor of History and Director of Environmental Studies at Texas Tech University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Inherit the Holy Mountain: Religion and the Rise of American Environmentalism, and reported the following:
Environmentalists tend to venerate Emerson and Thoreau, so it did not surprise me to find that just about everyone involved with the early parks movement of the mid-nineteenth century was a New Englander. Why was it, then, that hardly any of them ever mentioned Emerson and no one mentioned Thoreau? Their common New England background pointed instead to different influences. All of them -- Emerson and Thoreau included -- had Calvinist and Puritan ancestors. So I dug into parks’ counterintuitive link to Calvinism and Puritanism. In fact, Calvin sent his followers to nature to get closest to God. Moreover, Puritans had an obsession with Eden and Edenic landscapes -- think of Puritan poet John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Lastly, New England Puritans lived in communities that reserved commons for the use of town residents. After 1800, New Englanders transformed those commons into the town greens and parks that inspired the movement for city, state, and national parks. On page 99, I discuss New Englanders and Calvinists in Yosemite, the first park established to preserve natural beauty. It begins with Frederick Law Olmsted of Connecticut, the world’s first “landscape architect” and designer of New York’s Central Park, which set off the nationwide city parks movement.
Through New Englanders like Olmsted, the Reformed Edenic landscape manifested itself in state and national parks, beginning with the first park, Yosemite in 1864. Yosemite park was the creation of New Englanders. Israel Ward Raymond, representative of the Central American Steamship Transit Company of New York born in New York to former Connecticut Congregationalists, wrote the letter to Senator John Conness in early 1864 that instigated creation of a park at Yosemite. The Yosemite commission headed by Olmsted included Raymond, Josiah Dwight Whitney, William Ashburner, and Galen Clark, as well as two local businessmen and an attorney. Whitney, a native of Northampton, relative of the Dwights, and former student of Silliman at Yale, headed the California Geological Survey. Stockbridge native Ashburner was a mining engineer on the California Geological Survey. Former New Hampshire Congregationalist Galen Clark owned a tourist station near the Mariposa Big Trees on the southern route into Yosemite and was appointed Guardian of the Yosemite Valley and the Big Tree Grove, his title for most of the rest of his long life.

New England Congregationalists, Universalists, and Unitarians publicized Yosemite. Congregational minister John Calvin Holbrook preached the first sermon in the valley in 1859. Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King brought Yosemite to the attention of New Englanders with a series of letters from the valley to a Boston newspaper in 1860 and 1861. George Fiske, son of a New Hampshire Congregational deacon, was the early Yosemite photographer whom Ansel Adams ranked first among his predecessors and whose photographs illustrated Clark’s The Yosemite Valley of 1910.

From the day white Americans discovered it in 1851, Yosemite had inspired Reformed Protestants to religious reactions. Yosemite represented the holiest “church” of nature, the very “Rome” of Reformed nature pilgrimage, a notion popularized in Bryant’s oft-quoted “Forest Hymn” of 1824, which proclaimed, “The groves were God’s first temples,” and Ruskin’s comparison of the Alps to cathedrals and temples in the fourth volume of Modern Painters of 1856. Jonathan Edwards’s great-granddaughter Sara Jane Clarke Lippincott, editor of the children’s magazine Little Pilgrims, wrote an account of the trip she and “fellow-pilgrims to the sacred Sierra” took in 1872 to Yosemite, “the temple of [Nature’s] ancient worship, with thunderous cataracts for organs, and silver cascades for choirs, and wreathing clouds of spray for perpetual incense, and rocks three thousand feet high for altars.” Josiah Letchworth, a Presbyterian from Buffalo, New York, in a letter described his entry into Yosemite in 1880 as “a pilgrimage to some vast cathedral shrine of Nature” where he was “baptized” in the spray of Bridal Veil Fall; the valley was “Nature’s own great cathedral, where her votaries come from all lands to wonder and admire -- whose cathedral spires point to Heaven, whose domes have withstood the storms and tempests of all the ages, seem set apart from all the world to show forth the mighty works of Omnipotent Power, and you feel as did the Apostle of old. What you have seen are ‘unspeakable things,’ which no pen or pencil can describe.... A dream, more of Heaven than of earth, has been revealed to you.”
Over the next century, New Englanders campaigned for the creation of many of the national parks, from the first, Yellowstone, in 1872, to Everglades in 1947. But in the 1880s, their Calvinist cousins, the Presbyterians, took the leadership of the parks movement. The second half of Inherit the Holy Mountain shows how people raised Presbyterian, among them John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, and Gifford Pinchot, multiplied parks, created the Park Service, established national forests, and founded the Forest Service. In addition, they made conservation a major national political idea.

Children of the Calvinist tradition continued to dominate conservation and early environmentalism until the 1960s. Inherit the Holy Mountain ends by describing how the vanishing of Congregationalists and Presbyterians from the environmental movement coincided with a broadening of its agenda but also with a decline of its national political power. As they declined, a certain passion for nature has cooled.
Learn more about Inherit the Holy Mountain at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 5, 2015

Elijah Millgram's "The Great Endarkenment"

Elijah Millgram is E. E. Ericksen Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah. The author of Practical Induction (1997), Ethics Done Right (2005), and Hard Truths (2009), he has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Millgram applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Great Endarkenment: Philosophy for an Age of Hyperspecialization, and reported the following:
If we’re testing the “Page 99 Test,” this data point makes it look pretty good. Here’s the middle of that page in The Great Endarkenment:
University presses do not like to pay for four-color cover art. I suspect that [Bernard] Williams made the case for using a Gauguin on the jacket of Moral Luck because the title of that painting… asked the questions that Williams found he was trying to answer: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

The questions were well-chosen; as the title of his next collection put it, what philosophy is in the business of is making sense of humanity. But if my argument to this point has been on target, Williams’s answers were not his alone…

Analytic philosophy has done something that is quite peculiar: instead of making sense of humanity, we have been philosophizing for the inhabitants of a romantic fantasy of traditional peasant life—or, bearing in mind Williams’s choice of illustration, a European fantasy of life on a South Pacific island—and not for the sort of creatures any of us are, with the lives any of us have. …It would not be overstated to say that we professional philosophers have misidentified the very species for which we have been philosophizing.
Part of getting a sense of what Ford Madox Ford is calling “the quality of the whole” is knowing pretty much what it’s about, and that passage encapsulates one of the themes that runs through the book from beginning to end, namely, that philosophers have formulated both their problems and their solutions to those problems as though we weren’t the sort of creatures that get trained up into highly specialized trades and disciplines. What’s missing from the passage is the flip side of the challenge to the philosophers: that because there is now a qualitatively new kind of barrier to understanding other, differently trained people, the Great Endarkenment is a very practical, very immediate problem for everybody. Once you see how pervasive and how difficult the problem of communicating with people who have different expertise is, you’ll start to wonder how planes stay up in the air and why, when you get in a car, you still expect it to get you where you’re going.

Getting a fast sense of the quality of a book isn’t just a matter of knowing what it's about. But the writing here is a fair sample of the prose; a book about the pitfalls of specialization would be a failure if only specialists could read it, and I’ve tried to keep the writing clear and straightforward. While you’re also getting a sense of how Big Picture The Great Endarkenment is, the Page 99 Test doesn’t hit one of those stretches where I try to convince you that some philosopher or another’s view is a bad fit for how we have to live our lives. There are quite a few of those, but still, the discussion is pretty much of a piece with what you see above.
Learn more about the book and author at Elijah Millgram's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Susan Pedersen's "The Guardians"

Susan Pedersen is Professor and James P. Shenton Professor of the Core Curriculum at Columbia University. She specializes in British history, the British Empire, comparative European history, and international history. She is the author of several books, including Eleanor Rathbone and the Politics of Conscience.

Pedersen applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire, and reported the following:
Page 99 falls at the end of chapter 3, titled “A Whole World Talking.” That chapter shows how different nationalist and humanitarian movements sought to use a new petition process established by the League of Nations to challenge the imperial powers governing the territories under League oversight. The chapter discusses a number of such mobilizations. Page 99 is about how a “Syro-Palestinian Congress” set up by prominent Arab nationalists petitioned to challenge British support for the Zionist project. The Permanent Mandates Commission of the League found those criticisms persuasive enough to express some doubts about the wisdom of Jewish immigration to Palestine – a development that shocked Chaim Weizmann and that spurred a counter-mobilization by the Zionist Organization.

The second paragraph on page 99 concludes:
This incident reveals much about how the mandates system ‘internationalized’ both imperial and national projects. Years of protests and work by Arab organizations had finally borne fruit, with the Mandates Commission submitting the only report they ever wrote skeptical of the Palestine mandate. The Zionist Organization, secure in British support, had (as Weizmann acknowledged) paid Geneva less mind. Yet, once alerted to the existence of pro-Arab sympathies on the PMC, the Zionists countered quickly and effectively, taking advantage of their contacts within the Colonial Office, the network of representatives across Europe, and confidants within the Secretariat itself to have the Commission’s judgments overturned. They then moved swiftly to establish a Permanent Office in Geneva, appointing Victor Jacobson and then Nahum Goldmann to handle relations with the League. [The paragraph goes on to detail that office’s work.]
This is only one instance of nationalist movements turning to Geneva to promote their political aims. This book isn’t about the conflict over Palestine in particular; Palestine was only one of 14 territories under League mandate. But it does try to show what difference international oversight and the establishment of an arena for debate and contestation made. It made the most difference in Palestine.
Learn more about The Guardians at the Oxford University Press website.

Writers Read: Susan Pedersen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Angela Woollacott's "Settler Society in the Australian Colonies"

Angela Woollacott is the Manning Clark Professor of History at The Australian National University. She teaches and supervises in the fields of Australian and British Empire history, gender, settler colonialism, transnational history, and biography. Her books include On Her Their Lives Depend: Munitions Workers in the Great War (1994); To Try Her Fortune in London: Australian Women, Colonialism and Modernity (2001); Gender and Empire (2006); and Race and the Modern Exotic: Three 'Australian' Women on Global Display (2011).

Woollacott applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Settler Society in the Australian Colonies: Self-Government and Imperial Culture, and reported the following:
As luck would have it, page 99 is the second of Chapter 4, ‘Responsible Government in an Imperial Context’ which constitutes the core of the book in arguing that the gradual achievement of self-government in the Australian colonies in the mid-1850s has to be seen in its imperial context. The Australian colonies looked to Canada for their model. Page 99 also points out that, at least as importantly, settlers’ claims to political rights were directly tied to their land grabbing and indigenous dispossession. So often portrayed as progressive urban movements, settlers who pushed colonial governors and London for representation and democracy often had links to frontier warfare. Further along, Chapter 6 explores dimensions of these connections, and their significance for settler manhood.

Settler Society looks anew at the 1820s to the 1860s as a foundational period of Australian history, the era when free settlers overtook convicts but the colonies were pre-industrial. Chapter 1 traces an intermarried network of settler families to reveal settlers’ imperial and global knowledge, familiarity with systems of slavery and indentured labour elsewhere, and their romantic and religious aspirations to land ownership. Settlers’ voracious appetite for land led to the rapid spread of aggressive pastoralism, and experiments in Wakefieldian systematic colonization with disparate results in South and Western Australia. Widespread importation of Indian and Chinese indentured labourers combined with the exploitation of underpaid Aboriginal workers, and the assignment of convicts, to give settlers considerable power as masters and mistresses.

Chapter 5 surveys the widespread 1850s debate about the gender of citizenship. Men’s debating clubs canvassed but refuted the idea of women also being enfranchised under responsible government, when adult male suffrage made the Australian colonies global democratic leaders. But numerous articulate women objected, demanding representation and access to more professions and jobs. The final chapter returns to the theme of imperial links by demonstrating Australians’ passionate racial and religious investments in the British imperial wars in 1857-58 India and 1860s New Zealand. Settler Society draws on the life stories of a range of women and men to weave together these economic, political, racial, social and cultural aspects of colonial Australia.
Learn more about Settler Society in the Australian Colonies at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 1, 2015

Christina McDowell's "After Perfect: A Daughter's Memoir"

Originally from McLean, Virginia, Christina McDowell currently resides in Los Angeles with her dog, Zelda Fitzgerald. She volunteers for InsideOUT Writers, a nonprofit for children impacted by the criminal justice system.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, After Perfect: A Daughter's Memoir, and reported the following:
From page 99:
“No one is going to hire a fifty-year-old woman who’s been out of the workforce for nearly twenty years. No one,” she said despairingly.
This is the first sentence on page 99 of my memoir After Perfect. My mother says the words to me before we meet Arianna Huffington (founder of The Huffington Post) for tea at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills with high hopes that Arianna might help find my mother a job. This is a major turning point in the book because it represents a much larger picture—the façade of how I was raised begins to unravel. I see how my mother doesn’t want to tell the truth to Arianna—how bad things have gotten at home ever since my father left for prison. Having previously set up IPO’s as a securities lawyer with Stratton Oakmont Inc, the brokerage firm founded by Jordan Belfort, (portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street) and another deal that ultimately led to his imprisonment after creating what looked like the ultimate American dream. But, shortly after my father surrenders, I discover he has taken out numerous credit cards in my name leaving me in nearly $100,000 worth of debt and never tells me. After Perfect is the story of how my mother, my two sisters and I are left to survive after losing everything in a world among the one percent, where everything we ever knew to be true has been built on lies. I struggle as a young woman to find my emotional and financial independence while simultaneously struggling to find any identity of my own (was I from a wealthy family or a poor family? Did it matter?). The setting at the Peninsula hotel sheds light on my growing understanding of classism today. Having lost our place in the community back home in Washington, DC, and having already faced ostracism because of my father’s imprisonment, I feel I neither belong to “the haves” nor “the have nots.” However, it is Arianna’s kindness along with our family friend, Nancy Palmer, who had put Arianna in touch with us, that remains the constant thread in my life tying me to my privileged past as I go in search of the truth.
Visit Christina McDowell's Facebook page and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue