Et Cetera

(A grab-bag of intriguing finds)

These are short takes on titles that I’ve read.  Books are listed alphabetically by author’s last name. If I have written a longer and more detailed review already, a link is included.  Many such reviews are intended; if you would like to hear more soon about any particular book, let me know in the comments below.  First-time commenters will have to be screened, so don’t be surprised if your note doesn’t pop up immediately.

****************

Author:  Smith, Steven D.
Title: Law’s Quandary
Publication Info:  Harvard University Press, 2004 (203pp.; notes and subject index in back.)
Subject Matter:  The disconnect between (1) a contemporary commitment in the field of law to scientific naturalism and (2) the language of law which continues to evoke transcendent categories (“rights,” “persons,” “authority,” etc.).
Intended Audience:  Certainly anyone with experience in the field of litigation or adjudication…but it is accessible also to those who still think of a “tort” as some kind of tasty dessert.  (Although these may have to read it twice.)
Best Thing(s):  An intriguing, edifying, and often amusing presentation of a heady but also extremely relevant topic.
Worst Thing(s):
Recommendation:  Highly recommended to those who have experience with the law or an interest in apologetics.
Detailed Review:  (Pending)

****************

Author:  Tatum, Beverly Daniel, Ph.D.
Title: “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”  And Other Conversations About Race
Publication Info: Basic Books, 1997; Introduction added in 1999.  (270 pp. with Appendix of resources, notes at back, and full index.  2003 edition includes additional Epilogue and Reader Discussion Guide.)
Subject Matter:  The development of racial awareness and identity, from a psychological (human development) perspective.
Intended Audience:  Adult readers.  Especially helpful for parents, teachers, and anyone who works with kids.
Best Thing(s):  This book offers a reasonable, thorough, and accessible explanation of the process of developing racial identity in a racialized society (that is, a culture where race is a factor in the reality of daily life in one way or another).  From a pre-schooler’s attempts to make sense of skin color differences to an adult’s wrestling with racial identity, Tatum’s examples and explanations will resonate with any reader.
Worst Thing(s):  Only the minor irritation that my local library has the older version on its shelves, so I missed her thoughtful addition of an epilogue and the publisher’s addition of a discussion guide, both of which are worth seeking out if you also end up reading the 1999 volume.
Recommendation:  Probably my top recommendation as an entry point into understanding race matters in America, simply because everybody will recognize a picture of themselves and their neighbors in the human development angle she takes.  (It’s an easier on-ramp than sociological statistics about groups or assumptions about human behavior based on lab experiments.)

****************

Author:  Woodward, C. Vann  (1908-1999; white Southern professor of American history)
Title:  The Strange Career of Jim Crow (Commemorative Edition, 2002)
Publication Info:  Oxford University Press, 1955.  First revised edition, 1957.  Second revised edition, 1966.  Third revised edition, 1974. (Each revision added important historical developments.)  (245pp. with Afterword by William S. McFeely; index at the back.)
Subject Matter:  The history of de facto and de jure racial segregation in the US from the end of the Civil War (First Reconstruction Era) to the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s.
Intended Audience:  USA.
Best Thing(s):  A relentless, even-handed, shrewd and often heartbreaking review of relations between white and black Americans, especially in the Deep South (Woodward’s home territory) but extending in later editions to a consideration of conditions in the North and West.  Every word counts.  This is scholarship pursued out of love.
Worst Thing(s):  That it had to be written at all.
Recommendation:  Read it to understand the back-story of racial relations in the USA now.  Woodward’s writing is not sensationalistic or sentimental, and is a pleasure to read just in a literary sense.  He carefully records events, the words and decisions of prominent figures, and legal and judicial developments to give a full picture of America in the decades from the 1870’s to the 1970’s.  If you are a citizen of the US and have never read this, you are missing out on a key expression of your own history.
Detailed Review:  (Pending)