cover image Creating a New Civility

Creating a New Civility

Joy Marsella. Univ. of Akron, $24.95 trade paper (174p) ISBN 978-1-62922-123-6

Marsella ([em]The Promise of Destiny[/em]), a University of Hawaii English professor, offers a simplistic five-step program for developing civility, defined here as “a combination of belief and behavior that allows a community... to thrive.” She goes on to explain that her vision of civility is based on the concepts of full humanity, interdependence, and common cause. The aim of the five “processes” (interrogating identity, practicing mindfulness, listening anew, developing empathy, and reasoning well) is to move the reader through exercises in self-reflection to a point where the processes become “a new paradigm” for living. She also provides a helpful graphic illustrating the relationship between her five steps, the actions each step is meant to guide the reader toward, and the end goal. Each chapter focuses on a step, starting with “Interrogating Identity,” in which Marsella asks the reader to write their own identity story and provides examples from herself and the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates. While Marsella’s aim is laudable, she never provides an adequate response to critics she mentions who have asked her what more her work will provide than a call to “being nice.” Any reader who has engaged with the source material she uses—for example, Coates or Jon Kabat-Zinn—has probably moved beyond the need for the very elementary process of self-reflection Marsella describes here. [em](Mar.) [/em]