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Immigrant Experiences: Why Immigrants Come to the United States and What They Find When They Get Here

Walter A. Ewing. Rowman & Littlefield, $35 (170p) ISBN 978-1-5381-0050-9

Ewing, senior researcher at the American Immigration Council, provides a comprehensive overview of immigration to the United States in this accessible and instructive book. The work is broken into three sections, each focusing on a phase in the immigration process (“The First Steps,” “Homecomings,” “The New Ordinary”), drawing examples from the history of groups who have immigrated to the U.S. (from such places as Ireland, Italy, Mexico, China, and India) and contemporary issues and myths about immigration. He covers historical factors that have spurred immigration, including xenophobic Russian policies that prompted Jews to flee in the 1880s; the economic downtown in Ireland that began around 1815 and reached its nadir in the Great Famine; the U.S. military’s use during the Iraq war of Iraqi interpreters, many of whom were later resettled in the U.S.; and the U.S. Immigration Act of 1990, which dramatically increased the number of employment-based visas for tech workers. Drawing on academic research, Ewing makes the case that immigration is important and beneficial to United States culture and economy and dispels myths that all immigrants to the U.S. are destitute and that Mexican immigrants are hurting the economy and stealing jobs. Ewing’s compassionate and informative study is a good starting point for those who want to separate myths from facts on this controversial topic. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Democracy Hacked: Political Turmoil and Information Warfare in the Digital Age

Martin Moore. Oneworld, $25.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-78607-408-9

Web tracking and social media threaten democracy with both anarchic populism and dour authoritarianism, according to this scattershot study of politics and technology. Moore, director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communications and Power at King’s College London, spotlights three agents that “poison[ed] the democratic well” in 2016: the denizens of the online forum 4chan, incubator of right-wing memes; the plutocrats who fund the news site Breitbart, promulgator of right-wing ideology; and the Russian government, producer of bot-driven pro-Trump fake news and Twitter commentary. Moore provides a lucid rundown of what he sees as the key enabler of this propaganda: the relentless data collection and customer profiling operations of tech giants including Google and Facebook, which permit the microtargeting of manipulative political messages. Speculating on where these capabilities are headed, he forecasts a total surveillance society under the soft dictatorship of corporations or hard dictatorship of government inquisitors. Moore’s argument that digital technology empowers both Big Brother and 4chan’s antiestablishment “freextremists” isn’t very coherent, and his anxious portrait of a hacked democracy of “smear stories about opposition candidates... vehement partisanship... [and] singularly one-sided information” sounds a lot like the democratic electioneering the West has known for centuries. Moore’s alarmist brief fails to make a strong case that politics on the internet are uniquely poisonous or even unusual. Agent: Annabel Merullo, Peters Fraser and Dunlop (U.K.). (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Contact Warhol: Photography Without End

helan and Richard Meyer. MIT Press and the Cantor Arts Center, $34.95 (232p) ISBN 978-0-262-03899-7

In this hybrid photo anthology and critical discussion, Phelan (Unmarked) and Meyer (What Was Contemporary Art?) unveil a collection of previously unpublished Andy Warhol images, and, in rather dense essays, provide fascinating insight into the work of the prolific artist. The core of the book consists of photos and selected images from 3,600 contact sheets acquired by Stanford’s Cantor Center, a sort of analog memory card from before the digital age. These sheets give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at Warhol’s photographic process as well as his passion for photography as an art. The authors show the work that went into capturing many of Warhol’s famous images, such as his silk screen painting of Liza Minnelli: photos taken of the session itself show people posing with her in the background. Many of the images here, such as Bianca Jagger shaving under her arms while lounging on a couch in a cocktail dress, expose the effort required in maintaining a glamorous image. Other images focus on sexuality and gender (there’s a chapter subtitled “Andy Warhol on Drag”), highlighting the struggles gay men faced during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Though the writing can be academic, Phelan and Meyer wonderfully demonstrate how Warhol’s life and career continue to surprise even today. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics and What Matters in the End

Gary M. Pomerantz. Penguin Press, $28 (346p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2361-5

In this eloquent biography, Pomerantz (Wilt: 1962) details the relationship between Boston Celtics teammates Bob Cousy and Bill Russell, both now in the Hall of Fame. When Russell joined the Boston Celtics as the team’s only African-American player in the middle of the 1956–1957 season, the 6′10″ center became a lightning rod for prejudice. Even though team captain Cousy, who is white, and Russell led the Celtics to six NBA titles in seven years, Cousy and Russell were never as chummy as Cousy was with other teammates (including African-Americans who followed Russell). Pomerantz recounts Cousy’s playing and coaching careers, and includes anecdotes about the team’s passionate fans (on Bob Cousy Day in 1963, one Korean War veteran yelled “We love you, Cooz!” from the cheap seats, reverberating throughout the arena) as well as racism in Boston. In an interview with Pomerantz, a contemplative Cousy expressed regret about not doing more to ease the burden of racism that Russell carried, though he added that Russell often made himself inaccessible as a teammate. Russell didn’t want to be interviewed for the book, and it’s too bad, as his voice would have greatly added to the narrative. Nevertheless, Pomerantz tells a moving story of a pivotal time in basketball history. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Collision of Wills: Johnny Unitas, Don Shula, and the Rise of the Modern NFL

Jack Gilden. Univ. of Nebraska, $29.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4962-0691-6

Journalist Gilden expertly captures the heady days of the Baltimore Colts in an entertaining profile of Johnny Unitas and Don Shula, who were part of one of the NFL’s most exciting and winningest teams of the 1950s and ’60s. When Unitas came to Baltimore in 1956, the town celebrated him for his blue-collar qualities: he had worked in a steel mill in Pittsburgh after the Steelers cut him the previous year. The young quarterback worked tirelessly on the field and off—watching game films with his young daughter on his knee—and he quickly became the team’s best play caller and an outstanding field general. Shula was a brusque, all-business coach who tolerated no opposition to his calls or to his approach to the game. He and Unitas often clashed fiercely, but, as coach and quarterback, they led the team through several championships and to one of the most memorable games in football history: Super Bowl III in 1969 against the New York Jets (although the Jets came out victorious). Gilden’s detailed book captures the excitement of the Unitas-led Colts drives and provides a glimpse into one of pro football’s greatest player-coach relationships. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Essential Films of Ingrid Bergman

Constantine Santas and James M. Wilson. Rowman & Littlefield, $38 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4422-1214-5

Santas (The Essential Films of Humphrey Bogart) and Wilson (The Encyclopedia of Epic Films) present a detailed and informative tribute to Bergman’s career. The book opens with a brief biographical note; each of the subsequent 21 chapters reviews a film, giving a star rating and production backstory followed by a plot summary and thematic analysis. The reviews situate the films in Bergman’s life, discussing, for example, how public outcry over Bergman leaving her first husband and her young daughter for director Roberto Rossellini doomed one of her most ambitious projects, Joan of Arc, to box office failure. The text is rife with illuminating details about her feelings about her roles; for instance, she was vehement about securing the lead in the period thriller Gaslight, which led to Bergman winning her first Oscar. Each review is filled with glowing praise for Bergman’s work, from the emotions conveyed by her carefully controlled body language in Gaslight to her “deeply respectful portrayal” of Golda Meir in her last role, on the TV miniseries A Woman Called Golda. More than a critical study, this is a love letter to Bergman’s accomplishments as an artist, and will be a delightful addition to any classic film lover’s library. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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What Future: The Year’s Best Writing on What’s Next for People, Technology, and the Planet

Edited by Meehan Crist and Rose Eveleth. Unnamed, $21.99 (325p) ISBN 978-1-944700-66-9

In this forward-looking collection of previously published essays, contributors discuss the latest tech innovations, the vanguard of social and political thought, and projections about the consequences of climate change. Ross Andersen’s “Welcome to Pleistocene Park,” originally published in the Atlantic, explores the work of scientists at a Siberian nature reserve who are hoping to reduce the thaw of Arctic permafrost (and possibly one day provide a home for genetically engineered woolly mammoths). In “This is What a 21st-Century Police State Looks Like,” originally published on BuzzFeed, Megha Rajagopalan considers the Chinese government’s disturbing use of digital surveillance in the Muslim-majority city of Kashgar as a “testing ground for big data” and cautions that such tracking methods could be adopted more widely. One of the most memorable selections, Sam Knight’s investigative Guardian piece “London Bridge Is Down,” outlines the highly regimented plans in place for Queen Elizabeth’s death, from official Buckingham Palace announcements to preselected BBC playlists, and astutely defines her symbolic significance to the U.K. as “the last living link with our former greatness.” Showcasing a range of perspectives and tones, from ominous warnings to heralds of liberation, this collection provides an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of tomorrow’s conversations. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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People in a Magazine: The Selected Letters of S.N. Behrman and His Editors at the ‘New Yorker’

Edited by Joseph Goodrich. Univ. of Massachusetts, $24.95 trade paper (372p) ISBN 978-1-62534-399-4

In order to rescue longtime New Yorker contributor S.N. Behrman from obscurity, playwright Goodrich (Blood Relations: The Selected Letters of Ellery Queen, 1947–1950, editor) has dusted off and assembled a generous cache of the playwright-turned-essayist’s personal correspondence with his editors:. These include Harold Ross, William Shawn, and Katharine White, all legendary figures in their own right. Although Behrman spent over four decades at the magazine, from 1929 to 1972, higher-profile colleagues have long overshadowed his understated contributions, which notably included profiles of such luminaries as Max Beerbohm, Eddie Cantor, and Ira Gershwin as well as a popular, long-running series about his Worcester, Mass., upbringing. Though one might expect Behrman’s own letters to be the standout attraction, his mild-mannered writings are consistently upstaged by Ross’s playful wit, which can make even a rejection letter sound genial. White’s polite, New England–flavored sensibility makes for an amusing foil to Ross’s alpha-male banter. Inevitably, a number of documents included here read more like completist filler than key biographical insights. But as a whole, this collection succeeds as a trip back in time to a long-lost literary era, as well as a tribute to an undervalued player in the New Yorker’s early years. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Laws of Human Nature

Robert Greene. Viking, $30 (624p) ISBN 978-0-525-42814-5

In this detailed and expansive guide, Greene (Mastery) seeks to immerse his audience in “all aspects of human behavior,” as represented by 18 laws created by Greene. He claims that studying these laws will transform the reader into a “calmer and more strategic observer,” immune to “emotional drama.” Those are lofty promises, but even skeptics will become believers after diving into Greene’s well-organized text. In each chapter, he describes the benefits of confronting and overcoming a different form of human fallibility. Overcoming the “law of irrationality,” for instance, leads to the ability to “open your mind to what is really happening, as opposed to what you are feeling.” For historical perspective, he highlights relevant famous figures: Howard Hughes represents the pitfalls of compulsive behavior, and Anton Chekhov embodies the benefits of overcoming self-sabotage. Greene also quotes a number of literary greats along the way, including Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Gore Vidal, whose aphorism “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little” is applied, not surprisingly, to the chapter on envy. Throughout, Greene’s overriding message is to “step back” from the “immediate rush of events” in order to gain greater insight into one’s experiences and circumstances. Greene’s thoughtful examination of self and society will, for the committed reader, deliver a refreshing and revitalizing perspective. Agent: Michael Carlisle, InkWell Management. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Innumerable Insects: The Story of the Most Diverse and Myriad Animals on Earth

Michael S. Engel. Sterling, $27.95 (232p) ISBN 978-1-4549-2323-7

Engel, a University of Kansas biology professor, delves into the American Museum of Natural History’s rare book collection, specifically its “thousands of marvelously illustrated books” about insects, to create a book as aesthetically pleasing as it is informative. Insects, Engel explains, are indeed innumerable, with perhaps as many as 30 million extant species. They can also be set apart from the rest of the planet’s life in many respects, since “insects were among the earliest animals to transition to land, the first to fly, the first to sing, the first to disguise themselves with camouflage, the first to evolve societies, the first to develop agriculture, and the first to use an abstract language.” Engel covers insect diversity, evolution, ecology, and physiology, among other topics, while including intriguing vignettes about early entomologists, including Maria Sibylla Merian, Julius T.C. Ratzeburg, and Jan Swammerdam. With so much ground to cover, Engel doesn’t go into great detail about any one point, but there’s enough substance to satisfy most readers. The images, however, are the stars of this work, which will delight every entomophile who turns its pages. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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