The books we love coming out this week include new titles by Edmund de Waal, Jake Tapper, and John Mullan.
Moral Majorities across the Americas: Brazil, the United States, and the Creation of the Religious Right
Cowan, professor of history at the University of California, San Diego, follows up his 2016 monograph Securing Sex with this persuasive study of evangelical Protestant conservatism in the Western hemisphere. Focusing on the relationship between right-wing religious and political conservatives in the United States and Brazil, Cowan constructs a nuanced argument that religious and political conservatism in these two countries are deeply entwined and often work in concert—most recently in the mutually admiring relationship between former U.S. president Donald Trump and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Cowan starts his analysis in the 1950s with the international activities of American conservatives Carl McIntire and Paul Weyrich, who aimed to “construct a transnational New Right” through organizations such as the International Policy Forum. Cowan also highlights the response of Brazilian religious conservatives to Vatican II (1962–1965), arguing that Brazilian and American conservatives agreed on an essential vision centered on fear of “modernism,” which included communism, feminism, sexual liberation, and gay rights. This deeply researched, closely argued of work will be a valuable contribution to the field of conservative studies.
Brown (The Boys in the Boat) chronicles in this bravura account the experiences of Japanese American soldiers and their families during WWII. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, more than 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast were sent to internment camps for the duration of the war. By 1943, after more than a year of persistent lobbying for the chance to prove their patriotism, draft-age Nisei (those born in the U.S. to Japanese immigrant parents) could volunteer for “a segregated, all-Japanese American fighting unit” in the U.S. Army. Brown details tensions between recruits from the mainland and Hawaii (where Japanese Americans were not interned) during their training in Jim Crow–era Mississippi, and dramatically recounts their rescue of a “lost battalion” of besieged Texas infantrymen in eastern France in October 1944. Drawing from extensive firsthand accounts, Brown interweaves the stories of dozens of Japanese American soldiers with the experiences of their interned families back in the U.S., and tracks legal battles waged by Nisei who refused to sign loyalty oaths or register for the draft because they believed their civil rights had been violated. The result is an illuminating and spirited portrait of courage under fire.
Returning to the bustling streets of the alternate 1912 Cairo first visited in the novella A Dead Djinn in Cairo, Clark’s stunning full-length debut follows the adventures of Fatma el-Sha’arawi, a special investigator with the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities. Decades earlier, the prophet al-Jahiz eliminated the separation of magical and non-magical realms, forever altering the world before disappearing from the public eye. Now members of a brotherhood dedicated to al-Jahiz’s legacy turn up murdered. When Fatma is called in to investigate the crime, she discovers the perpetrator to be a man of rare magical abilities who claims to be the returned al-Jahiz himself. Together with her clever partner, Agent Hadia Abdel Hafez, and her girlfriend, Siti, Fatma sets out to uncover the truth behind this self-professed prophet. With this fantastic feat of postcolonial imagination, Clark reconfigures history with a keen, critical eye toward gender, class, and imperialism. Meanwhile, the colorful prose and thorough worldbuilding allow readers to truly enter this imagined world. An epic tale of magic and mystery, this is sure to wow.
Montessori teachers Davies (The Montessori Toddler) and Uzodike deliver a calming and encouraging guide to using the Montessori principles of child-led exploration. Focusing on the Montessori philosophy of “giving them as little help as possible and as much as necessary,” the authors encourage parents to respect a newborn’s self-development. They advise communicating with babies from the beginning by using “rich, beautiful language” to ask permission before picking them up, watching carefully for their responses, and never interrupting their concentration. For each stage of development, the authors suggest creating an exciting but orderly environment that a child can safely explore: art should be hung at babies’ eye level, a movement mat can help babies before they learn to crawl, a floor bed can prevent a crawling baby from rolling out while still allowing them to crawl out independently, and a wall bar with a mirror behind it can support babies who are ready to stand. The authors also touch on developmentally appropriate objects, such as mobiles to help with visual development, and a low table and chair for babies who can sit. The guide is thoughtfully and beautifully laid out: block text, bulleted lists, and simple line illustrations accent the many anecdotes about babies and their living spaces from around the world. For parents interested in Montessori concepts of child development, this will be an invaluable resource. Color illustrations and photos.
The impeccable third Ghost Roads urban fantasy (after The Girl in the Green Silk Gown) explores and expands on McGuire’s modern-day mythology, brilliantly marrying old traditions and more recent urban legends to create an enthralling tapestry of highway hauntings and hard-traveling horrors. Following the destruction of the malevolent crossroads, teenage ghost and accomplished hitchhiker Rose Marshall, aka the Phantom Prom Date, finally has an opportunity to permanently eliminate her immortal murderer, former film star Bobby Cross. But even bearing Persephone’s favor and operating at the behest of the road goddess known as the Ocean Lady, Rose has a hard path ahead of her. Her quest sends her hitchhiking across America and through the ever-shifting, increasingly hazardous layers of the afterlife. As Rose runs a gauntlet of threats, she must accept that her mission may change her forever. Rose’s resilience and resourcefulness pairs well with McGuire’s signature blend of pop culture references, humor, and mythological deep dives. As the finale to this particular story arc, this love letter to the open road is not an ideal starting point for series newbies, but existing fans will be thrilled with the end of Rose’s current road trip—and excited for her next adventure.
A sumptuous household museum prompts a reverie on the doomed French-Jewish haute bourgeoisie in this elegiac family history. Memoirist and ceramic artist de Waal (The Hare with the Amber Eyes) addresses an epistolary monologue to Moïse de Camondo (1860–1935), a Jewish banker and collector who bequeathed to the public his palatial home in Paris, along with its art, porcelains, and antiques, in honor of his son, a pilot killed in WWI. De Waal’s detailed appreciations of the Musée Nissim de Camondo’s furnishings—“the panels that hold the decoration of birds are framed in gold so that this toucan, this mistle thrush has its own little patch of the world, a rock to sit on, a bush to sing at”—open out into a reconstruction of the lives of Camondo’s circle of related Jewish families (de Waal’s Ephrussi family forebears, who lived nearby, among them) who rose to prominence as intellectuals and patrons but became targets of anti-Semitic ideologues. (The book’s later chapters tersely recount the persecution of Moïse’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren in Nazi-occupied France and their deaths at Auschwitz.) De Waal’s elegant prose, rapt eye for aesthetics, subtle character sketches, and nuanced musings on Jewish identity yield a rich, Proustian recreation of a lost era.
A gifted lock-picker is called upon to serve her country during WWII in this superb series launch from Edgar finalist Weaver (the Amory Ames series). After business slows down for locksmith Mick McDonnell, Electra “Ellie” McDonnell helps her uncle crack a safe at a posh home in London, only to find it is a setup. The arrogant Maj. Gabriel Ramsey has a job for her: steal secret plans from a traitor’s safe, and Mick will walk free. When Ellie and Ramsey enter the traitor’s house, however, they find him dead and the safe empty. Ramsey thinks likely suspects belong to a group of Chinese porcelain devotees with potential ties to Germany, and takes Ellie to one of their parties to break into the host’s safe. Suspicion swirls around a former girlfriend of Ramsey, setting Ellie, Ramsey, and their associates on the trail of spies in the town of Torquay. A thorny relationship between Ellie and Ramsey, a cast of colorful characters, a brisk pace, and an ironic message about the identity of true patriots enthrall. Readers will look forward to the next mission for the smart, feisty Ellie and her circle.
Set in 1962, Tapper’s excellent sequel to 2018’s The Hellfire Club opens with a highly effective tease. New York congressman Charlie Marder is in a California cemetery along with his wife, Margaret, and members of the Rat Pack, including Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, who chose the grim locale to mark the passing of mobster Lucky Luciano. After the gathering ends, the Marders return to their rental car, only to find the body of an unnamed woman both of them knew in the trunk, her eyes shot out. On that cliffhanger, Tapper flashes back a month to New York City, where Marder gets a disturbing call from his political fixer father, Winston, who has been arrested for consorting with gangsters. During their brief jailhouse talk, Winston asks Marder to find out what Attorney General Robert Kennedy wants “and give it to him.” That turns out to be information on the relationships between Mafia leaders and Hollywood stars, such as Sinatra. The plot eventually circles back to the female corpse. Tapper makes good use of the rich source material. Fans of Max Allan Collins’s Nathan Heller books will be pleased.
Mullan (What Matters in Jane Austen?) deconstructs Charles Dickens in this incisive essay collection. Astute observations abound in 13 pieces that attempt to “do justice to Dickens’s inventiveness, ingenuity, and experimentalism. The essay “Fantasising” examines the number of times “as if” appears as an idiomatic tic that “unlocks the novelist’s fantastic vision of the sheer strangeness of reality.” “Smelling” describes the grim “whiff” of London sewage and horse dung in Dickens’s work, as well as the odors of his characters. “Changing Tenses” provides a chance to “share the sharpness of childhood memory,” while “Naming” proves that Dickens’s characters got their names from lists of advisers to the royal family. “Speaking” digs into Dickens’s use of dialogue, and “Breaking the Rules” shows that the novelist’s use of repetition was the “simplest and the best of his tricks.” Mullan convincingly suggests that writers including Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, and Muriel Sparks draw from the best of Dickens’s techniques—in fact, he writes, Dickens anticipated the “narrative experiments” of modern novelists. This superlative, fresh collection will please stalwart fans and bring new readers to the Dickens canon.