Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Frank C. Keil's "Wonder: Childhood and the Lifelong Love of Science"

Frank C. Keil is Charles C. & Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of Psychology at Yale University, where he is also a member of the Cognition and Development Lab. He is the author of Developmental Psychology: The Growth of Mind and Behavior and other books.

Keil applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Wonder: Childhood and the Lifelong Love of Science, and reported the following:
From page 99:
… children, are wizards with computers in ways that I will never know. In a few minutes they are immersed in novel video games while I am still trying to move my agent. They figure out how to use new apps or software without reading any instructions and can seamlessly blend many software programs together to accomplish a task. I surrender completely to their greater abilities in this area. But what have they mastered? If today’s computers were cars, have they learned how they work or have they merely learned how to drive them? They seem to have become experts at learning user interfaces, not at how the underlying code or physical components work.

Perhaps twenty-first-century children are learning a higher level of “mechanism” covering how programs and apps causally interact, but that isn’t how they usually talk about their skills. Their knowledge resembles procedural routines more than programming skills. If you ask a teenager to give examples of how loops, queues, stacks, and arrays interact in simple programs, you may be met with a blank and sometimes hostile stare. Most teenagers’ coding skills don’t seem to be symbolic equivalents of advanced mechanical understanding. If they were, companies would not be madly scrambling to find even marginally competent programmers. Today’s youth, the so-called digital natives, often seem to be gliding along on the surface of a vast system that they do not understand at all. They may have remarkable “native” skills at using and learning to use software-intensive interfaces, but if the real programmers have done their jobs well, the actual workings of those devices may be not at all transparent to those mastering the user interface. Software- shuffling skills at the user level may be completely different from knowing how and why. Teens may know that graphics processing unit chips are better for machine learning but not how they speed up processing. These gaps in understanding will only get worse as deep learning systems solve more and more problems for us. If a company comes up with an improved facial recognition system, people are unlikely to ask how its mechanism has changed. Even experts in the area just assume it arises from a more powerful deep learning system, which is a black box resistant to any useful interpretable explanation of how it works.

In short, the world of artifacts has been radically transformed in the past fifty years. Readily apparent underlying mechanisms have vanished into mazes of circuits and blocks of silicon with millions, and often billions, of transistors. I remember when my father brought home a ten-transistor portable radio, describing it as a huge technology leap over our prior six-transistor… “
Above is the full text from page 99 of Wonder. It resonates surprisingly well with several of the core messages of the book: Well before children start formal schooling, they reveal a drive to uncover the mechanisms that underlie and give rise to all that they encounter. I describe this drive as a joyous urge to wonder “why” and “how”. Page 99 relates to this early emerging passion to know more about mechanisms. This passage links to another central theme – wonder becomes suppressed in most children around age five or six; and the decline of wonder may be worsening as fewer and fewer devices have revealing innards. Page 99 asks whether today’s children inhabit “mechanism deserts,” where insides no longer readily reveal how devices work. This is part of a broader discussion how wonder becomes stifled in children and may stay suppressed for a lifetime, resulting in disengagement from science and susceptibility to misinformation. But that future is not inevitable. Wonder illustrates how to avoid lives of impoverished understanding with barely any sense of the remarkable causal underpinnings of all that is around us. A large body of recent empirical research tells us what we can do as individuals and as groups to maintain and revive wonder at any age. Page 99 may not be the very best page for capturing the whole book, but it is certainly a good one.
Learn more about Wonder: Childhood and the Lifelong Love of Science at The MIT Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 30, 2022

Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan's "Streets of Gold"

Ran Abramitzky is professor of economics and the Senior Associate Dean for the Social Sciences at Stanford University, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, and a former co-editor of Explorations in Economic History. Leah Boustan is professor of economics and director of the Industrial Relations Section at Princeton University. She is also co-director of the Development of the American Economy Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and serves as co-editor of the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. Her prize-winning scholarly book, Competition in the Promised Land, examines the effect of the Great Black Migration from the rural South during and after World War II.

Boustan applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Streets of Gold: America's Untold Story of Immigrant Success, and reported the following:
As it turns out, page 99 in our book is focusing on the exceptions, not the rule. Most of Streets of Gold tells the optimistic story of the upward mobility of immigrants to the US – and especially their children – over more than a century of American history. We compare immigrants from the Ellis Island generation 100 years ago, most of whom hailed from Europe, to immigrants from around the world today.

What we find surprised us: the children of immigrants from nearly every country, especially those from poor families, do better economically than the children of U.S.-born residents. This pattern has held true for more than a century.

However, there is one group that we worry about, and that is children who arrive to the US without papers. These undocumented children can face numerous barriers is trying to gain an education and find a job. In the past, nearly all immigrants entered the US legally, whereas today around one-quarter of immigrants are undocumented.

Yet, the number of children of immigrants who are undocumented is far smaller (only around five percent) because any child who is born on US soil is automatically a US citizen. Page 99 in Streets of Gold picks up the story of this small but disadvantaged group and emphasizes that they might not enjoy the same upward trajectory as their peers.

One element of this page that is consistent with the rest of the book is the way that we weave together data and story-telling. Many of the findings in the book are based on ‘big data’ from millions of immigrant families. But we also introduce stories of immigrants whose experiences illuminate these broader trends. For example, on page 99, we tell the story of Margarita, an undocumented high-school graduate whose immigrant parents only received a fourth-grade education. Yet, Margarita finds herself working with her mother (“It’s kinda ridiculous,” she says, “why did I even go to school?”). This story was originally told to the sociologist Roberto Gonzales and we reproduce it here.
Learn more about Streets of Gold at the PublicAffairs website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Stephen L. Harp's "The Riviera, Exposed"

Stephen L. Harp is Distinguished Professor of History and Professor of French at the University of Akron. He is a specialist in nineteenth and twentieth-century France. He has authored books on primary schooling and nationalism in Alsace-Lorraine, the Michelin tire company, nudism in modern France, and the history of rubber.

Harp applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Riviera, Exposed: An Ecohistory of Postwar Tourism and North African Labor and reported the following:
On page 99, I give background on the history of the sewage system in Nice. In the 1930s, Nice pioneered an early “separate” sewer system, separating run-off rain water from human sewage. Long an elite destination, Nice was on the cutting edge. Yet that same system proved woefully inadequate after World War II, when there were far more tourists, and they consumed up to 100 times more water, most of it ending up in a sewer system characterized by regular overflows into the sea. Imagine how floating human waste could hurt tourism!

Page 99 includes a fascinating detail. Since most of Nice is on a narrow plain along the sea, sewer lines were narrow with very little pitch. To clean lines too small for humans to enter, sanitation workers used sewer dogs, chiens-égoutiers. Workers attached a cable to the dog’s harness, and the dog ran down the pipe to the next manhole. Workers then used the cable to knock waste off the inside of the pipe. I first learned about the practice from newspaper articles bemoaning the fact that foreign tourists had complained, leading to its abandonment. Sanitation workers maintained that they had treated the dogs well.

Here is a clear case of the wonders of working in the era of the internet. From newspaper accounts, I didn’t understand how dogs helped to clean sewers or even what a “sewer dog” might be. So I googled chiens-égoutiers. I ultimately found a clip from channel TF1 on the site maintained by the French Institut nationale de l’audiovisuelle (which gets a copy of everything airing on French TV, just as one copy of every book published in France ends up in the Bibliothèque nationale de France). Come to find out, sewer dogs were still hard at work in the city of Rennes in 1982. Workers in Rennes assured viewers that the dogs were cleaned, well-fed, and received caresses. Without that news segment, I don’t think I could have figured out how dogs cleaned sewers.

In the end, page 99 represents the spirit of the book, in exposing some of the grit that underlay the glamour of the French Riviera. But page 99 doesn’t fully reveal just how thoroughly mass tourism transformed the environment of the Riviera. Nor does it show how much that transformation depended on North African migrant laborers who did much of the work—often while living without access to potable water or WCs in squats and shantytowns.
Learn more about The Riviera, Exposed at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 27, 2022

Brian C. Wilson's "The California Days of Ralph Waldo Emerson"

Brian C. Wilson is Professor of American Religious History and WMU Distinguished Faculty Scholar in the Department of Comparative Religion at Western Michigan University. His books include John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age.

Wilson applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The California Days of Ralph Waldo Emerson and reported the following:
The California Days of Ralph Waldo Emerson is an old-fashioned travelogue that narrates the Concord Sage’s one and only trip to the Far West in 1871. While in California, Emerson and his party traveled widely to visit several of the state’s emerging tourist attractions. The midpoint of the trip, and the midpoint of the book, finds Emerson and friends enjoying a respite at Calistoga, a hot-springs resort in the Napa Valley founded by the Mormon 49er, Samuel Brannan. It was here that Emerson was inspired to write a paean to the Golden State, lamenting in a letter to his wife that if only they were younger, “we might each claim his quarter-section of the Government, & plant grapes & oranges, & never come back to your east winds & cold summers.” Famously, Emerson had once joked that it was “Divine Providence that the New England states should have been first settled, before the western country was known, or they would never have been settled at all.” His visit to California confirmed him in this opinion.

After a day of bucolic splendor in Calistoga, a few in Emerson’s party decided to risk the treacherous wagon road over Mount St. Helena to the Geysers, a weird volcanic region of boiling mud pots and steaming fumaroles. Their encounter with this stygian landscape is described in vivid detail on page 99 of the book:
As the group climbed the canyon of Pluton Creek—the “Ascent into Tartarus” [as the] guidebook called it—everywhere could be heard subterranean gurgling, hissing, whistling, and puffing, and the ground grew increasing warm and soft, and the air more pungent with the hot smell of sulfur that stung one’s nostrils and permeated one’s clothes. All about, the rocks were stained with crystalized sulfur, alum, copper and iron sulfate, and a variety of other minerals, yellow, white, red, green, and black. […] As the group advanced, they were introduced to the seemingly endless series of weirdly shaped features, each with hellish names like the “Devil’s Kitchen,” the “Devil’s Inkstand,” and “Pluto’s Punchbowl,” this last being a rocky basin in which thick, black water boiled and tossed ceaselessly. Next was the “Witches’ Caldron,” where “steam-jets spurt out, hissing and puffing on every side, the air [...] thick with vapors from every chemical combination possible to imagine.” The whole atmosphere radiated danger and instability, although the guide blithely reassured everyone that no major explosion had occurred in the canyon since 1860.
Until Yellowstone was developed for tourism in the 1890s, California’s Geysers were immensely popular with tourists who were fascinated by such startling geologic features. Sadly, the Geysers were tapped for geothermal power in the 1960s, and little of the original features remain today. Indeed, most of the natural sites that Emerson and his party visited—from the San Francisco Peninsula to the San Joaquin Valley to Yosemite—existed in a state of pristineness that is hard to imagine today. And this, I believe, is one of the singular strengths of The California Days of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Using letters, guidebooks, photographs, and other primary documents, I have meticulously recreated scenes of a now vanished California, allowing readers to experience the state afresh through the Transcendentalist eyes of Emerson and his fellow travelers. To this extent, I think the Page 99 Test works remarkably well, and would give browsers a good sample of the kind of “thick description” that afficionados of travel writing will find irresistibly engaging.
Learn more about The California Days of Ralph Waldo Emerson at the University of Massachusetts Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Andrew Leon Hanna's "25 Million Sparks"

Andrew Leon Hanna is a first-generation Egyptian American lawyer, entrepreneur, and author from Jacksonville, Florida. He is co-founder and CEO of DreamxAmerica, a Knight-Hennessy Scholar and Siebel Scholar at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and winner of the Financial Times and McKinsey Bracken Bower Prize. Hanna has been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and graduated with honors from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, 25 Million Sparks: The Untold Story of Refugee Entrepreneurs and reported the following:
Page 99 of 25 Million Sparks shares the stories of two inspiring women, Yasmina and Masika, as illustrations of refugee entrepreneurs’ exceptional risk-taking ability and commitment to their ventures. The page takes readers to the Sherkole refugee camp in Ethiopia and introduces them to Masika, founder of a bakery and restaurant in the camp. It also touches on the story of one of the central entrepreneurs featured in the book, Yasmina, who is a wedding dress shop and salon owner living in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.

From page 99:
She would have much rather held off on selling her jewelry and waited for a return to Syria, but holding off would mean her children might not have enough to eat. Starting her salon was a risk that she knew she had to take for her family, and thus one she did not have time to second-guess as entrepreneurs with a comfortable ‘next best alternative’ might. Yasmina had to be fully committed from day one.
The Page 99 Test works reasonably well! The highest purpose of the book is to tell the stories of refugees in a way that reflects their incredible power, creativity, and beauty. Page 99 highlights the stories of two amazing refugee entrepreneurs – Yasmina and Masika – to illustrate why refugees tend to be so much more entrepreneurial than the average person. And in doing so, it emphasizes the courage of refugees to start life anew and launch their innovations – their “sparks” – even amidst the most tragic experiences imaginable.

More broadly, 25 Million Sparks follows the lives of three refugee entrepreneurs in the Za’atari refugee camp: along with Yasmina, there is Malak, a young artist infusing color and beauty throughout the camp, and Asma, a social entrepreneur leading a storytelling initiative to enrich children’s lives. Anchored by these three inspiring stories, as well as accompanying artwork and poetry by Malak and Asma, the narrative expands beyond Za’atari to explore the broader refugee entrepreneurship phenomenon in more than twenty camps and cities across the globe. What I hope emerges is a tale of power, determination, and dignity – of igniting the brightest sparks of joy, even when the rest of the world sees only the darkness.
Visit Andrew Leon Hanna's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Ben Jones's "Apocalypse without God"

Ben Jones is the Assistant Director of Penn State's Rock Ethics Institute and has a Ph.D. in political science from Yale University. His research has appeared in the Journal of Applied Philosophy, European Journal of Political Theory, Political Research Quarterly, and other venues, including popular outlets like The Washington Post.

Jones applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Apocalypse without God: Apocalyptic Thought, Ideal Politics, and the Limits of Utopian Hope and reported the following:
Page 99 comes in the middle of Chapter 4 on Thomas Hobbes, the influential English political philosopher of the 17th century who wrote Leviathan, which defends the state’s authority and condemns life outside of it as “solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.” This chapter examines how Hobbes responds to rebellious apocalyptic sects, like the Fifth Monarchy Men, and co-opts aspects of their beliefs to bolster the state’s authority. Page 99 quotes a letter by Hobbes to King Charles II from 1662, after the English Civil War and restoration of the monarchy. Leviathan sparked a great deal of controversy, leading some of Hobbes’s opponents to label him an atheist, and the letter tries to assure Charles that his motives for writing the book were noble:
It was written in a time when the pretence to Christ’s kingdom was made use of for the most horrid actions that can be imagined; and it was in just indignation of that, that I desired to see the bottom of that doctrine of the kingdom of Christ, which divers ministers then preached for a pretence to their rebellion.
It’s a fascinating remark by Hobbes and shows that Leviathan’s many passages on apocalyptic beliefs, like the kingdom of God or Christ, are central to the project. That is often missed in how Leviathan is read and taught today.

Apocalypse without God has three parts, and page 99 serves as a nice representation of Part II. This part offers historical case studies of secular political thinkers who engage with apocalyptic texts and figures. The other two chapters of Part II examine Niccolò Machiavelli’s interest in the apocalyptic figure Girolamo Savonarola and Friedrich Engels’s fascination with the book of Revelation and German revolutionary Thomas Müntzer. These chapters show how apocalyptic thought becomes secular and its persistent appeal in political thought.

Page 99 is a bit different than what you find in Parts I and III. Part I presents a conceptual analysis of secular apocalyptic thought along with methodological recommendations for how to study it (which Part II illustrates). Part III then reflects on what secular apocalyptic thought can teach us about political philosophy and politics today.

Apocalyptic thought has two sides to it: predictions of catastrophe, but also hope for utopia. As Apocalypse without God explains, the persistent appeal of apocalyptic thought partly lies in offering strategies to “reconcile deeply held hopes for a more perfect political future with a world seemingly hostile to it.” You will not find that exact point on page 99, but it’s a building block for developing and illustrating that argument.
Learn more about Apocalypse without God at the Cambridge University Press website, and visit Ben Jones's webpage.

Coffee with a Canine: Ben Jones & Sloopy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Wendy Rouse's "Public Faces, Secret Lives"

Wendy Rouse is a historian whose research focuses on the history of gender and sexuality in the Progressive Era. Her most recent book, Public Faces, Secret Lives: A Queer History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, challenges the heteronormative framing of the traditional narrative of the campaign for the vote. Her previous two books explored the history of women and children in the Progressive Era: The Children of Chinatown: Growing up Chinese American in San Francisco, 1850 to 1920 and Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women’s Self-Defense Movement. Rouse is presently Associate Professor of History at San Jose State University where she teaches LGBTQ+ and women’s history.

Rouse applied the “Page 99 Test” to Public Faces, Secret Lives and reported the following:
Page 99 of Public Faces, Secret Lives: A Queer History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement provides a glimpse into some of the key themes in the larger book. When the reader turns to page 99 they will read a small part of the story of queer suffragist Anne Martin. Martin advocated for women’s right to vote in her home state of Nevada and later fought for the passage of a federal suffrage amendment. But page 99 tells the story of an even earlier time in Martin’s life as a suffragist.

Page 99 travels back to 1909 when Martin was living in Britain and working with the suffragists of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Martin was one of several American suffragists who went to Britain to study the militant strategies of Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the WSPU. Martin participated in the WSPU’s deputations, marching with hundreds of suffragists to Parliament to petition the prime minster for the vote. Martin later used some of the tactics she learned in Britain in the suffrage campaign in the United States.

Martin also participated in the famous Black Friday deputation. This 1910 demonstration in Parliament Square ended violently when police officers physically assaulted suffragists inflicting them with black eyes, bleeding noses, and dislocated joints. Martin, along with over one hundred other suffragists, was arrested and charged with obstructing the police. After this incident, the WSPU decided to once again shift tactics. They launched mass window-breaking campaigns and encouraged other acts of vandalism to make their point heard. They also trained to physically defend themselves against police assault (see Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women’s Self-Defense Movement).

The snippet of Martin’s story on page 99 describes the important friendships Martin formed in England with other queer suffragists such as Annie Kenney and Evelina Haverfield. Kenney allegedly had romantic relationships with other women in the movement. Haverfield was in a committed relationship with fellow WSPU member Vera “Jack” Holme. Martin continued to rely on the network of queer friendships she created in England in her later suffrage work in the United States.

Page 99 not only demonstrates the significance of queer people to the suffrage movement but the significance of queer relationships in forging the transatlantic alliances that fueled an international women’s right movement. Dive into the book to learn even more about the queer history of the women’s suffrage movement.
Visit Wendy Rouse's website.

The Page 99 Test: Her Own Hero.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 23, 2022

Elizabeth D. Leonard's "Benjamin Franklin Butler"

Elizabeth D. Leonard is Gibson Professor of History, Emerita, at Colby College.

Her books on the Civil War-era include Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War (1994); All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies (1999); Lincoln's Avengers: Justice, Revenge, and Reunion after the Civil War (2004); Men of Color to Arms! Black Soldiers, Indian Wars, and the Quest for Equality (2010); and Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally: Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky (2011), which was named co-winner of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize in 2012.

Leonard applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Benjamin Franklin Butler: A Noisy, Fearless Life, and reported the following:
Readers who turn to page 99 will find themselves mired in General Benjamin Butler’s spring 1862 struggle, while commanding the Union occupation of New Orleans, over how to manage the many runaways from slavery who were seeking protection from his forces and, ultimately, freedom. Through their impressive channels of long-distance communication, many of Louisiana’s enslaved had no doubt learned of Butler’s “contraband policy,” established in May 1861 at Fort Monroe, Virginia. There, Butler had responded to a similar request for protection from escapees Sheppard Mallory, James Townsend, and Frank Baker, whose “owners” were committed rebels. Absent any directives on the future of slavery from President Lincoln, the U.S. Congress, or the War Department, Butler had refused to surrender the bondsmen, asserting that Virginia’s secession had removed it from the authority of the federal Fugitive Slave Act. Hundreds of enslaved Virginians quickly took note and took flight, and Lincoln and the War Department allowed Butler’s “contraband policy” to go forward without obstruction. That summer, Congress also passed the First Confiscation Act.

Now, a year later and over a thousand miles to the southwest, the challenge Butler faced may have appeared, to some, the same on its surface as the one he had faced in Virginia, but it had important distinctions. For one thing, unlike in Virginia, Louisiana’s runaways were absconding from fiercely rebellious White owners as well as, at least in some cases, from loyal Unionists, whose continuing allegiance to the United States government Butler (and Lincoln) needed to preserve as a crucial piece of a Reconstruction effort now undergoing its initial testing. Moreover, Butler could not ignore the related personnel issue associated with his subordinate, General John W. Phelps, whose unequivocal abolitionism—decidedly more advanced for the moment than Butler’s own views on slavery—threatened the chain of command. Meanwhile, although Congress had passed the First Confiscation Act and was now pondering further action to undermine the slave institution, Butler well knew that Lincoln had immediately rescinded General David Hunter’s recent order freeing all enslaved people in the area under his command. So, what to do?

This is the question, the dilemma, confronting Butler, and readers, on page 99. Learning how he analyzed and resolved it reveals key features of Butler’s character: his brilliant, principled, but flexible intellect; generous but also steely heart; shrewd and vivid sense of humor; and capacity for personal reflection and development.
Follow Elizabeth D. Leonard on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Dan Hassler-Forest's "Janelle Monáe’s Queer Afrofuturism"

Dan Hassler-Forest is an assistant professor of media studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He is the author of Capitalist Superheroes and Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Politics: Transmedia Storytelling Beyond Capitalism.

Hassler-Forest applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Janelle Monáe’s Queer Afrofuturism: Defying Every Label, and reported the following:
Page 99 is kind of a weird page to open to for any reader who (justifiably!) comes to this expecting a book that’s all about Janelle Monáe. It’s in the middle of a section about her role in the animated film UglyDolls, for which she was one of the voice actors. But as in each section, it then goes on to discuss broader media phenomena of race and gender in media, arriving at the start of this page on the term ‘plastic representation.’ The first paragraphs use examples like Star Wars: The Force Awakens to illustrate how on-screen racial diversity doesn’t necessarily ‘fix’ the larger issue of racism in Hollywood casting – moving on from there to analyze how central race remains in children’s toys and animated cartoons, where the ’neutral’ yellow of The Simpsons or the generic LEGO figurine reproduces whiteness as an invisible norm.

I guess it’s really not a bad page to sample then, as the book constantly relates Janelle Monáe’s work to other media, as well as larger processes that guide our understanding of race, gender, and sexuality. If a potential reader is turned off by this, and only wants to read about Janelle Monáe, then this book probably isn’t for them. It’s also fairly representative for the overall style throughout the book, which I would describe as ’Scholarly Lite’: while it’s conceptual and draws on some heavy-sounding abstract terms like Afrofuturism, intersectionality, and post-capitalism, these ideas are always explained using clear examples and fairly accessible language. So page 99 is as good as any for deciding whether this is a book you’d want to invest time and energy in!
Visit Dan Hassler-Forest's academic website and follow him on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 20, 2022

Ron E. Hassner's "Anatomy of Torture"

Ron E. Hassner is Chancellor's Professor of Political Science and Helen Diller Family Chair in Israel Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include War on Sacred Grounds, Religion in the Military Worldwide, and Religion on the Battlefield.

Hassner applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Anatomy of Torture, and reported the following:
Anatomy of Torture uses evidence from the archives of the Spanish Inquisition to explore the nature of torture. I read and analyzed many hundreds of hand-written manuscripts from the 15th and 16th centuries. These manuscripts show that the Inquisition succeeded in using cruel torture to extract reliable information. But they also show that the process of doing so was lengthy, costly, and that the information extracted was not new: It was used to confirm existing suspicions, not to produce new leads. The Inquisition treated evidence extracted by means of torture with suspicion. Both of these findings – the nature of torture and the reliability of evidence – have implications for current U.S. torture policy.

Page 99 is a good representation of one type of evidence that I use in the book: detailed testimonies that allow me to look closely at who was and was not arrested and tortured, who collaborated, and whether their evidence was truthful. This page summarizes the misfortunes of twelve individuals from the secret Jewish community in Mexico in the 16th century. Because these were Jews pretending to be Christians, they were persecuted as heretics. The goal of the Inquisition was not to find out what they believed (which could not be proven one way or another) but to show that they secretly participated in Jewish customs: they lit Shabbat candles, kept kosher, fasted on Yom Kippur, etc.

The trials summarized on page 99 are sorted in chronological order and show who condemned whom among the twelve. Two things become immediately obvious. First, the dates show that the Inquisition did not torture until very late in the process, after most of the members of this community had collaborated with the courts. Second, those tortured had already been identified by multiple others prior to their torture. Torture provided no new names. It confirmed names that had been offered by other witnesses in the absence of torture.
For example, Violante Rodríguez was a marginal figure in the community, an aunt of Manuel de Lucena. Arrested in April 1595, she refused to name other conversos in her community. Yet, as table 1 illustrates, the court had heard about her Judaizing from Antonio Henríquez, Manuel de Lucena, and Catalina Henríquez even prior to Rodríguez’s arrest. Further witnesses testified against her during the first nine months of her imprisonment. Only then, in January 1596, after she met several reprimands with silence, was she tortured with three turns of the rope. I quoted from her torture at length in chapter 1. She incriminated five fellow Jews, including her own daughter, Isabel.
Learn more about Anatomy of Torture at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: War on Sacred Grounds.

The Page 99 Test: Religion on the Battlefield.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Judy Tzu-Chun Wu and Gwendolyn Mink's "Fierce and Fearless"

Fierce and Fearless: Patsy Takemoto Mink, First Woman in Congress is the first book-length biography of Mink, co-authored by historian Judy Tzu-Chun Wu and political scientist and Mink’s daughter, Gwendolyn Mink.

The authors applied the “Page 99 Test” to Fierce and Fearless and reported the following:
Page 99 of our book consists of these three sentences: “In her Capitol Hill office only a couple of days after returning from Paris, the first trickle of hate mail arrived. One postcard read, “I see you have appointment with Vietcong and North Vietnamese while you were in Paris. Did you go there for ‘instructions’?” This culminates the story of Mink’s feminist peace collaboration with sister congressmember Bella Abzug (D-NY). They traveled to Paris in 1972 to dialogue with Vietnamese representatives, most notably Madame Nguyen Thi Binh, to see if they might advance the cause of ending the U.S. war in Viet Nam. The trip aptly foregrounded how feminism, peace, and collaboration constituted the core of Mink’s policy and political commitments.

Anyone who has read the book will recognize one theme of Patsy Mink’s life that the sentences point to: bold and steadfast affirmation of principle even against naysayers and haters.

Page 99 concludes the third of eleven vignettes that provide first-person renderings of key political veins that run through Patsy Mink’s life. A curious browser who lands on this page might explore further to find that our book contains two narrative voices, one that bears witness and one that provides historical perspective. By dividing the story into clearly marked vignettes and historical chapters, we hope to give readers insight into the interwoven personal and political experiences of a public life.
Learn more about Fierce and Fearless at the NYU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Sam Lebovic's "A Righteous Smokescreen"

Sam Lebovic is associate professor of history at George Mason University and the author of Free Speech and Unfree News: The Paradox of Press Freedom in America.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Righteous Smokescreen: Postwar America and the Politics of Cultural Globalization, reported the following:
On page 99, the reader will be plunged deep into the details of U.S. passport policy in the 1940s, particularly the ways in which U.S. passport practice deviated from international standards being debated at United Nations conferences which sought to liberalize, if not eliminate, travel documents in the postwar world. They will learn, for instance, how much more expensive U.S. passports were than passports issued by Switzerland or Portugal, how this made money for the U.S. government, and how the U.S. lied about these facts when reporting to the UN.

Readers seeking to apply the page 99 test will therefore get a good flavor of the approach and style of the book, which is very interested in bureaucratic politics, and in tracing out how U.S. attitudes to the international exchange of ideas have been shaped by self-interested and frequently hypocritical positions articulated by particular sectors of the U.S. state. They will get a sense, too, of the method of the book, which is based on deep research in bureaucratic and diplomatic archives.

But they will get no sense of the stakes of these questions, nor will they have any reason to care about these details. That is unsurprising. Page 99 falls two-thirds of the way through the third of the five chapters of the book. In fact it falls pretty smack in the middle of the 195 pages of this deliberately short book.

To understand why it is worth zooming in on such apparently mundane details, readers will need to read what comes before and after it. Both in the chapter, which reveals the place that travel documents played in the international liberal imaginary, and then shows how obscure bureaucracies like the Passport Division sought to preserve control over the American border with consequences that last today. And in the book as a whole, which shows how paying attention to things like passport regulations – what I call “quotidian world ordering” – reveals a great deal about America’s vision of global liberalism after World War II, and then helped render the U.S. curiously isolated from foreign influences and networks in the 1950s, when visas and passports were denied to those espousing “un-American” ideas.

That strikes me as a pretty happy outcome for the test. My favorite works of history draw connections between seemingly unrelated topics, contextualize obscure details within broader developments, and thus rethink the grand themes of history. To do so, they need time to take you into the weeds, and the time to bring you back up. It would be a pretty boring book that, like a candidate running for office, hit its talking points on every page.
Learn more about A Righteous Smokescreen at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Alvin Eng's "Our Laundry, Our Town"

Alvin Eng is a native New York City playwright, performer, acoustic punk raconteur, and educator. His plays and performances have been seen Off-Broadway, throughout the United States, as well as in Paris, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou, China. Eng is the interviewer/ editor of the oral history / play anthology Tokens? The NYC Asian American Experience on Stage. His plays, lyrics, and memoir excerpts have also been published in numerous anthologies. Eng’s spoken-word videos, songs, storytelling, and commentary have been broadcast and streamed on National Public Radio among others. He is a a two-time appointee to the Fulbright Specialists roster of Theatre / U.S. Studies scholars and a three-time recipient of NYSCA/ NYFA Fellowships.

Eng applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new memoir, Our Laundry, Our Town: My Chinese American Life from Flushing to the Downtown Stage and Beyond, reported the following:
Page 99 is a very good representation of the scope and tone of my memoir. On that page is a passage that explores my 1987 visit to an English language class in Guilin, China in their equivalent of high school. My mother and I were traveling with a small group of North American tourists and we were the only non-Caucasians. On this day, a rainstorm had cancelled our planned outdoor activities and somehow we were invited to visit this English language class. My mother sat out this visit. To quote from the text:
As soon as I entered the English class, whispers started buzzing around and smiles grew from welcoming to cunning as the teacher introduced her visitors. Finally, a delegation of the tallest boy in the class and a petite pig-tailed girl came forward. If she had been born twenty years earlier, this petite pig-tailed girl would have definitely been a Red Guard. Acting as both his agent and interpreter, the petite pig-tailed girl declared: “He would like to arm wrestle you!”

Taken aback, I sort of uttered, “Well . . . gee . . . I don’t know about that.”

The petite pig-tailed girl relayed my response in Chinese to her tall comrade. A round of whispers whipped around the room, and a new strategy was whispered into the ear of the petite pig-tailed girl.

“The friendship is first, the match is second,” she counter-offered. But her body language was screaming, “Let’s get ready to RUMBUUUUUUUULLLLLL!

“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” I politely declined. But the students were just getting started.

“Hey! If there was a war between the United States and China,” challenged a boy from the back row, “who would you fight for?”

“Yeah, who would you fight for?” the class started shouting—more or less in unison. But most aggressively, they were chanting in English.

The teacher finally chastised the students and regained order.

After a long pause in this calm after the storm, I finally said, “I think I’d move to Canada.”
Page 99 is from a chapter entitled “A Sort of Homecoming: But Where Are You Really From?” The chapter compares vignettes from my first trip to China with working in the 1980s rock music biz of NYC in my early 20s. In “the biz” I was regularly asked, “but where are you really from?” by many of my peers and even some musicians. For an American-born Chinese, was this any worse or bizarre than being asked by teenage students in China, “who would you fight for” if a U.S.-Sino war broke out? The finale of the memoir is in direct contrast with the Guilin episode. The final chapters revolve around teaching and creating a Fulbright devised theatre residency. The residency’s primary theme was inspired by the Chinese artistic influences on Thornton Wilder’s Americana play, Our Town. The 21st century Hong Kong college students now accepted and appreciated working with an Asian American professor. Throughout the book, as throughout life, the questions remain more or less the same, but the answers and revelations are always very different.
Visit Alvin Eng's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 16, 2022

Stephen L. Moore's "Patton's Payback"

Stephen L. Moore, a sixth generation Texan, is author of more than twenty books on World War II and Texas history.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Patton's Payback: The Battle of El Guettar and General Patton's Rise to Glory, reported the following:
The ninety-ninth page of Patton’s Payback is a segue that sets up the final failure of the U.S. Army’s campaign commander in North Africa, Lieutenant General Lloyd Fredendall, thereby setting the stage for the introduction of a fiery new leader, Lieutenant General George S. Patton.

Page 99 ends with: “The Americans had been stunned with the bold Axis thrust at Faid Pass. This time the alert Ranger patrols at Dernaia Pass were bypassed and the Allies would be surprised again at a different Tunisian mountain pass called Kasserine.”

Lieutenant Les Kness and his squad of Darby’s Rangers have just completed a grueling twenty-mile march through the Tunisian desert. The elite Army special forces group under Lieutenant Colonel Bill Darby would soon face the taunting rants of their new commander-in-chief for their failure to be in proper uniforms. But over the course of the next two months, Darby, Kness, and their Rangers would earn the respect of “Old Blood and Guts” for their daring assaults against German and Italian outposts.

George Patton’s rise to campaign commander is set up by the U.S. Army’s terrible showing at Kasserine Pass, which is hinted at on Page 99. In the six weeks that followed the introduction of Patton as the Army’s new leader, his Rangers, artillerymen, armored divisions, and infantry would face the best of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps in the desert near El Guettar.
Visit Stephen L. Moore's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Battle for Hell’s Island.

The Page 99 Test: As Good As Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Michelle R. Warren's "Holy Digital Grail"

Michelle R. Warren is Professor of Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College, Her publications include History on the Edge: Excalibur and the Borders of Britain (2000) and Creole Medievalism: Colonial France and Joseph Bédier's Middle Ages (2011), along with several edited volumes.

Warren applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Holy Digital Grail: A Medieval Book on the Internet, reported the following:
Page 99 is a great representation of my book. If the browser opens here, the first words are actually in the header right next to the number 99: “Merchants, Chivalry, Data.” This is the subtitle of Chapter 2, which is about the medieval London guild for fur traders and artisans, the Skinners. Surprisingly, these three words also express really well the overall topic of my book: medieval merchants created a book about chivalry whose meaning has been transformed by digital technologies. Throughout my book, I analyze how data both preserve and erase the past—and how merchant capitalism is still making books on the internet, creating new cultural values just as chivalry did in fifteenth-century England.

The rest of page 99 tells three interconnected stories that also illustrate themes that weave through the whole book: how literary texts interact with historical events, how nationalism motivates book collecting, and how religion becomes political.

The page starts with a heresy trial that took place in 1415: the accused, a skinner named John Claydon, was condemned for owning a book that challenged church doctrines. The second paragraph turns to a related event in church politics that took place a few years later: in 1417 English officials claimed that English Christianity was the oldest in Europe because it had been established by Joseph of Arimathea, who cared for Christ’s body after the Crucifixion. Page 99 ends by noting that around the same time, Joseph’s story was translated into English by Henry Lovelich, a skinner like Claydon.

Remarkably, all the main characters of my book are mentioned on page 99: the translator Henry Lovelich, his patron Henry Barton, their guild the Skinners, Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Grail, and King Arthur. Together, Lovelich and Barton planned an illustrated book that would have enhanced the social status of their guild. The book was designed to make merchants more like the aristocracy in their reading practices, knowledge of national history, and ownership of luxury goods like illustrated books. Later, the book was preserved for its value to the English Reformation and then variously catalogued, edited, and photographed over the centuries until it reached the internet in 2009 as part of Parker Library on the Web. By following this one book through its many transformations, my book shows how myths endure despite drastic changes in technology, language, and culture.

When I was writing Holy Digital Grail, I tried to imagine that readers could start almost anywhere—and the page 99 test has shown how true this idea can be!
Follow Michelle R. Warren on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 13, 2022

Clayton Butler's "True Blue"

Clayton J. Butler is a postdoctoral fellow at the Nau Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, True Blue: White Unionists in the Deep South during the Civil War and Reconstruction, and found that the illustration there did not reveal the quality of the whole. So he tried out page 69 to see if it gave a good preview of book and reported the following:
From page 69:
They condoned emancipation as a necessary war measure, just punishment, and future check on the slaveholding class—but retained a deep-seated antipathy toward African Americans the war did nothing to alter. For these atypical white Alabamians, the salvation of the Union—with or without slavery intact—subsumed all other concerns over the course of the war.

In all, 2,066 soldiers enlisted in the First Alabama Cavalry between 1862 and 1865, representing about two-thirds of the estimated total of Alabamians who took up arms for the Union. They forged a creditable military record over the three years of its existence and possessed a political significance to contemporaries on both sides that has been largely overlooked by current scholars. As Alabama historian William Stanley Hoole noted, 'the very existence of the First Alabama Cavalry entitles it to special consideration.' His own history of the regiment, however, is a somewhat boilerplate military history. Deeper investigation of the formation, career, and legacy of the regiment, as well as the stories of the men who comprised both its leadership and its rank and file, illuminates many of the complex facets of white Unionism in the state and in the Deep South as a region.

Alabama Unionists before Federal Occupation

During the period of more than a year between secession and the first arrival of Federal troops in northern Alabama, life for Unionists in the state had become increasingly fraught and precarious. Accounts of future soldiers and their family members recorded in diaries, letters, Southern Claims Commission files and other forms almost universally attest to the dire situation they faced as a result of their national allegiance. Confederate partisans attempted to enforce fealty to the new nation through intimidation and violence; especially after the institution of the Confederate draft in April 1862, even an outwardly neutral stance became untenable. As John Terry, a Cherokee County Unionist later testified, 'things got ... hot about the time the conscript law passed.' Men of military age could either report for Confederate service or face immediate forced conscription. The prospect induced many who still refused to fight against the Union to seek refuge in the woods. Women, nonmilitary-age men, and at times even enslaved persons helped to develop and sustain support networks for these 'lie-outs' which allowed Unionists in northern Alabama to carry on a dogged resistance to the draft."
Page 69 of my book (page 99 proved to be an illustration) would give browsers a direct look at the broader themes, if not the more minute details and vignettes, of the book as a whole. Page 69 finds us wrapping up the introduction to the third chapter, which centers on the First Alabama Cavalry, and beginning the discussion of the experience of Alabama’s white Unionists before the Union army’s first arrival in the state in 1862. The first sentence on the page refers one of the most important takeaways of the book— specifically, that Alabama’s white Unionists by and large did not oppose the Confederacy out of any any profound opposition to slavery and certainly not out of any sympathy for the enslaved. Indeed, with the Union’s integrity later assured by the early 1870s, they would help deliver the state back to the Democratic Party, banish the agents of so-called Radicalism, and “redeem” it from Republican rule. Alabama's white Unionists later abandoned black Alabamians politically, realigned with former rebels on the issue of race, and consigned their former Unionist comrades to another century of oppression and Jim Crow, an ignominious postscript to their Union service during the Civil War. Ultimately, though they made a brave and bold choice to oppose the Confederacy, solicitude for the plight of the enslaved almost never had anything to do with it. They were certainly Unionists -- True Blue -- but not for the reasons we might wish. The truth of history, as ever, is more complicated.
Follow Clayton Butler on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Keith Thomson's "Born to Be Hanged"

Keith Thomson is the author of several novels, including Pirates of Pensacola and the New York Times bestseller Once a Spy. The former Columbia history major also writes nonfiction for the New York Times, Garden & Gun, and the Huffington Post on a range of topics, including national security and piracy. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

Thomson applied the “Page 99 Test” to his nonfiction account of the first pirate expedition into the Pacific, Born to Be Hanged: The Epic Story of the Gentlemen Pirates Who Raided the South Seas, Rescued a Princess, and Stole a Fortune, and reported the following:
This is easy, because page 99 is smack in the middle of the April 23, 1680, clash between Spanish soldiers and the English pirates who are the heroes of Born to Be Hanged.

Originally there were 366 of them, banding together in the Caribbean with the intent of being the first buccaneer company to raid the Pacific. On their way to their first major target, Panama City, things went horribly wrong, as things so often do, and, on the morning of April 23, only sixty-eight of them arrived in the Bay of Panama, exhausted from rowing dugout canoes all night through a tropical storm that had waylaid the rest of their company. There were far too few of them to raid the city, even if they were in peak condition. But before they could retreat, they found themselves on the verge of being run down by 260 Spanish soldiers in three warships the size of 747s. Somehow, the pirates got it into their heads that they could defeat the Spaniards.

The resulting battle was arguably the greatest in pirate history, if not all of maritime history, and, not to give anything away, but page 99 is as representative as any in Born to Be Hanged of the Englishmen’s courage and resourcefulness—and insanity.
Learn more about the book and author at Keith Thomson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Once A Spy.

The Page 69 Test: 7 Grams of Lead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 9, 2022

R. Isabela Morales's "Happy Dreams of Liberty"

R. Isabela Morales is a public historian based in New Jersey. She is the Editor and Project Manager of Princeton University's expansive public history initiative, The Princeton & Slavery Project; her research for the project has been featured in the New York Times. She is also the Digital Projects Manager at the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum, central New Jersey's first Black history museum.

Morales received her Ph.D. in history from Princeton University in 2019, specializing in the 19th-century United States, slavery, and emancipation.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Happy Dreams of Liberty: An American Family in Slavery and Freedom, and reported the following:
Page 99, near the middle of my book, opens at a critical moment in the Townsends' lives: the first stirrings of civil war. When the family was freed in early 1860, they expected that they would soon receive the inheritance that would help them complete their education, buy land and homes, and start new lives as free people in Ohio and Kansas. Yet when Abraham Lincoln was elected president in November 1860 and southern states responded by seceding from the Union, the Townsends saw their dreams of financial security begin to slip away.
With war looming, the estate Cabaniss once considered 'abundantly solvent' was at risk. Three days after Lincoln's election, the lawyer wrote a Mississippi planter that he was 'almost in despair' over the state of the country. With an antislavery president in office and Alabama likely to secede, Cabaniss 'entertained some doubts as to the propriety of proceeding with the sale' of the rest of Samuel Townsend's land and slaves. ... He had already sold land and slaves on credit; if he made the wrong decision now, the Townsends might never receive their full inheritance.
The Townsends' father, the wealthy Alabama cotton planter Samuel Townsend, had promised his once-enslaved children equal shares in his $200,000 fortune. With the outbreak of the Civil War, however, the Townsends were cut off from communication with Samuel's attorney S. D. Cabaniss, who managed the estate, and Cabaniss wouldn't be able to send the Townsends money from their inheritance for the next five years. This was a turning point in the Townsends' lives, as well as the lives of millions of Americans who would be affected by the Civil War.

Page 99 also points to the problematic origins of the freed Townsends' inheritance. The fortune Samuel's children hoped to inherit one day had been built by slave labor, as well as the sale of other enslaved people who weren't related to their master by blood. In some ways, the Townsends' inheritance looks like wealth redistribution: from an enslaver to the enslaved people he once owned. But that wealth was built on exploitation, and the Townsends were beneficiaries of that system too. It's just one example of the complexity of the Townsends' lives and experiences that I explore in Happy Dreams of Liberty.
Visit R. Isabela Morales's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Paul Craddock's "Spare Parts"

Paul Craddock is a cultural historian and award-winning author based in London. His debut book, Spare Parts: A Surprising History of Transplants was a Daily Mail Book of the Week and won the Special Commendation of the Royal Society of Literature Giles St Aubyn Awards.

Craddock is a Science Museum Group Senior Research Associate (SMGSRA), an Honorary Senior Research Associate of UCL’s Division of Surgery, and a Visiting Lecturer at Imperial College London.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to Spare Parts and reported the following:
Page 99 of Spare Parts is largely dedicated to an etching from 1705, of a blood transfusion from a lamb to a man. The slither of text below the image is the beginning of an introduction to George Acton, a sixteenth-century English doctor who proposed that you might treat epilepsy with a transfusion of cat’s blood.

In a way, page 99 gives a rather good idea of what Spare Parts is about. Most people think transplant surgery and transfusion are twentieth-century inventions, and the excerpt introduces some of the seventeenth-century ideas about transplants. My book is all about surprises (in fact, its subtitle in the UK is ‘the surprising history of transplants’), and this is certainly one of those. It’s complete with an image showing a rather disturbed man looking away as a transfusionist sees to his operation. His donor – the lamb – is looking similarly disturbed with an almost human face, and is looking away in the opposite direction. It looks simultaneously macabre and hilarious. And this is another way page 99 is indicative of the whole: Much of the history in Spare Parts feels incredibly silly, at least to someone with a British sense of humour. The idea of transfusion itself isn’t funny, of course, but we can affectionately chuckle at scientists earnestly assuming that a transfusion recipient might turn into a sheep. There’s some evidence, in fact, that people at the time loved to laugh at such silliness – plays were written poking fun at scientists for such outlandish suggestions, as playwrights created characters who had transfusions in order to transform into various creatures. So, the test worked in those few ways: it’s indicative of the kind of story a browser will come across, it gives an impression of the sheer age of transplant surgery as a medical idea, and it presents something of the inherent creativity and quirkiness in the history of this remarkable surgery.
Visit Paul Craddock's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 6, 2022

Patricia Saldarriaga and Emy Manini's "Infected Empires"

Patricia Saldarriaga is a professor of Luso-Hispanic studies at Middlebury College, Vermont. She is the author of Los espacios del ‘Primero Sueño’ de Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and co-editor (with M. Júdice, I. Araújo-Branco, and R. Marques) of Sor Juana e Portugal. Emy Manini is an independent scholar based in Seattle, Washington.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Infected Empires: Decolonizing Zombies, and reported the following:
Page 99 of our book is a fractional but representative snapshot of the entirety of our book. We discuss the Peruvian film The Year of the Apocalypse (El año del apocalipsis) and a plot point in which a group of young adult survivors of a zombie outbreak decide to sacrifice the children and elderly people they have been tasked with protecting when they are under attack. They do this in order to give themselves, the supposedly stronger, healthier, and abler demographic, a better chance of survival. From our page: “For this generation, the future is the present moment, and only by eliminating the children (of the future) and the elderly (of the past) will they be able to survive… They decide that, due to their respective ages, the elderly and the children are disabled, and so they poison them to control their present moment.” We refer to the “strange temporalities” proposed by J. Halberstam, in which the emergency of the AIDS era brought focus to the present moment instead of a long future life and the idea of futurity itself. The young adults in the film are rejecting a queer and crip temporality that goes beyond the idea of ableist and heteronormative narratives about the future. We liken this mindset to the way young, “healthier,” lives were valued over “disposable” elderly, poor, and immunocompromised subjects during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our page 99 ends by introducing the notion of an inclusive futurity, which we later go on to propose must consider the union of queer temporality and crip time to include intersectionalities of gender, disability, race, and class.

We believe this page is a good example of how we analyze global zombie narratives presented in films from around the world to examine what they tell us about how we understand the world we live in, how we came to this historical moment, and how we can navigate our anxieties about an apocalyptic future that are expressed by these films. Of course, it is only one example in a book that contains hundreds, and so it is not a complete view of our broader project. However, the example of page 99 is a good indicator of our methods and interests.

We study the zombie as a transnational cinematic phenomenon. We begin with an in-depth study of the ontology of the zombie and the decolonization of the soul, something that we trace back to classical philosophy. We go on to make connections between the zombie myth born in colonialism and the epistemic violence that enforces the continuation of coloniality of thought that props up the structure of the modern nation-state. We also consider the ways in which capital maintains coloniality over bodies and lives, even unto death. Therefore, we look at zombies as subjects of gore capitalism (as proposed by Sayak Valencia), as dead bodies and commodities that resist their economic exploitation through necroactivism. We study the zombie in its current expressions of difference and otherness, across categories of race, nationality, gender, class, dis/ability, and sexuality, in terms of how zombie narratives reflect real-world events. For example, we question categories of ability (especially under the weight of the global COVID emergency) and look at zombies as expressions of anxieties during Trump era immigration policies. It is our assertion that zombie films illustrate the consequences of oppressive societal systems including capitalism, globalization, as well as environmental, immigration and health policies. These films use horror to emphasize the traces of affects in humanity which allow for the visualization and understanding of historical apocalyptic moments and the means of moving past them towards the sort of futurity proposed on our page 99. In this way, the page delivers a dismembered slice of the fuller corpus of our book!
Learn more about Infected Empires at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Kathryn S. Olmsted's "The Newspaper Axis"

Kathryn S. Olmsted is a professor of history at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism.

Olmsted applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Newspaper Axis: Six Press Barons Who Enabled Hitler, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test works remarkably well for my book. The Newspaper Axis examines the Anglo-American media environment in which Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler came to power in the 1930s. In both the U.S. and the U.K., the most powerful media moguls dismissed or appeased Hitler—and in some cases, even published pro-fascist propaganda. Page 99 of the book details the efforts by two of these newspaper publishers, Joe Patterson of the New York Daily News and Lord Beaverbrook of the London Daily Express, which were the most popular papers in their respective nations, to engineer an Anglo-American campaign to ignore Hitler’s aggression. They agreed to publish front-page editorials, public letters, news articles, and letters to the editor to encourage their readers to support the cause of isolationism. As I write on page 99, “The Daily Express ran a story about how the Daily News was printing letters from Express readers about the Express stories about the Daily News. The two publishers created a transatlantic isolationist media echo chamber.”

It is this alliance between the U.S. and U.K. newspaper publishers that I refer to as the “newspaper axis.” I didn’t invent the term: one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s top advisers, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, used it to describe the American isolationist newspaper publishers. But I believe that the phrase captures the transnational cooperation between the media barons of both nations, and page 99 explains the details of their alliance.

These publishers helped shape the responses of their governments to fascist aggression. The six press barons I examine in the book collectively reached tens of millions of readers. Their willingness to appease or even praise the Nazi leader made it much more difficult for their nation’s elected officials to stand up to the fascist threat. The book shows that the embrace of authoritarian dictators by today’s right-wing media has deep roots in the past.
Learn more about The Newspaper Axis at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Neall W. Pogue's "The Nature of the Religious Right"

Neall W. Pogue is an Assistant Professor of Instruction at the University of Texas at Dallas.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Nature of the Religious Right: The Struggle between Conservative Evangelicals and the Environmental Movement, and reported the following:
Page 99 demonstrates that Christian school educational material written in the 1980s by religious right supporters championed the views of famous preservationist John Muir. In the Christian schoolbook, Muir stops his money hungry father from chopping down all the trees on their farm. The Nature of the Religious Right illustration/photo section additionally features reprinted pages of this story about Muir, which can be located just before chapter 5 that begins on page 109.

The final paragraph on page 99 connects the Muir’s story with a previously discussed idea called Christian environmental stewardship. The analysis explains that Christian environmental stewardship is a theologically based perspective in which humanity was mandated by God to treat nature with respect even if it meant curbing financial gain. Such a moral is directly reflected by the story of Muir.

In summary, page 99 offers hard evidence of the book’s overall thesis that conservative evangelicals of the religious right surprisingly supported eco-friendly philosophies from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. Thus, although today this important American religious and political demographic stands in opposition to environmental initiatives, history shows they once held much friendlier views of nature.

In short, page 99 gives the reader a very good idea of the whole book. It demonstrates that religious right supporters, who wrote Christian school material, supported protecting the environment even if it meant curbing financial profits. Such a perspective nicely reflects the book’s thesis that conservative evangelicals of the religious right believed that humanity could use nature but must do it wisely because the earth is owned by God.

It is recommended, however, that one should read the introduction of The Nature of the Religious Right to clearly understand conservative evangelical culture and the book’s overall thesis. Nevertheless, the analysis of the Muir story on page 99 nicely reflects the book’s overall message.

The Nature of the Religious Right can help save our planet and therefore our survival as a species.

The book proves that conservative evangelicals of the religious right actually supported eco-friendly initiatives from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. Such a fact suggests that bridges of communication can be built between environmentalists and supporters of the religious right movement.

After all, this book is dedicated to “conservative evangelicals and environmentalists.” The information could, in other words, be used to assist in healing political divides, which if accomplished, can help protect the earth.
Learn more about The Nature of the Religious Right at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 2, 2022

David E. Gussak's "The Frenzied Dance of Art and Violence"

David E. Gussak is Professor for the Florida State University's Graduate Art Therapy Program and the Project Coordinator for the FSU/FL Department of Correction's Art Therapy in Prisons program. As an art therapist for almost 30 years, Gussak has presented and published extensively internationally and nationally on forensic art therapy and art therapy in forensic settings. These include, among others, Art on Trial (2015) and Art and Art Therapy with the Imprisoned (2019). He is also the co-editor, with Marcia Rosal, and contributing author for The Wiley Handbook of Art Therapy (2015).

Gussak applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Frenzied Dance of Art and Violence, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Frenzied Dance of Art and Violence is in the middle of chapter 2 which features artists impacted by situational and societal violence whose work seemed to emerge from a need of comprehension, control and resistance. The top half of this page is filled with Felix Nussbaum’s final painting, Death Triumphant, created shortly before he was arrested, deported and ultimately murdered by the Nazi regime. Yet the text on the page primarily refers to his self-portrait that appears on the previous page which conveys “…a sense of furtive insolence, the subject doing everything he can to maintain his humanity and identity [in the face of violent oppression]. Unfortunately, it is already too late.” The bottom of the page begins its reflections of Death Triumphant, which “depicts many skeletons playing and dancing to music among the ruins,” concluding its summary on the following page, ultimately reminding the reader “[i]n destruction nothing is sacred; all will eventually disappear.”

This page is paradoxically an excellent encapsulation and a meagre fragment of the entire book—it captures its essence, illustrating in depth the infamous work of one of many featured artists, relying on it to help tell his volatile story. Like all of the examinations throughout, it reflects deeply on the artist’s work to convey how it might reflect, contain, resist or sublimate their violent tendencies or volatile experiences. Yet it is just one of 85 examples depicted throughout, either by notoriously aggressive and violent creators, courageous resistors, psychopathic murderers who wielded their art as a weapon, or those whose creations facilitated peace and well-being for even the most incorrigible.

This page does indeed underscore the role that art has in maintaining and reinforcing one’s identity in the face of barbarism, and the artists’ ability to exhibit and express the volatility held within and experienced without. Yet, in exploring the complex interrelationship between art and violence, the book can’t help but provide an intricate, complicated and thought-provoking examination. Thus, while this single page can help draw the reader in and provide a sense of the book’s narrative rhythm, it can’t fully contain in a nice, neat parcel the frenzy ensued within.
Follow Dave Gussak on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue