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Who Cares: The Hidden Crisis of Caregiving, and How We Solve It

Emily Kenway. Seal, $29 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5416-0122-2

Social policy scholar Kenway (The Truth About Modern Slavery) makes an impassioned plea on behalf of the countless unpaid caregivers, mostly women, who take care of the world’s sick, elderly, and disabled. Focusing primarily on the U.K. and the U.S., Kenway reveals how declining rates of institutionalization, coupled with more women joining the workforce while still being culturally obligated to provide care to relatives at home, has created a gap that cannot be closed by government services or vouchers for professional caregivers. Though various “caretech” innovations—including PARO, a “carebot” designed to look and act like a docile seal pup that has been shown to “reduce stress, anxiety, and the use of antipsychotics among older people with dementia”—offer some hope, Kenway raises data privacy concerns and warns about the potential “dehumanization” of the elderly and infirm. Ultimately, she advocates for “kinning” or “the ongoing creation of family beyond conventional bounds,” to provide support for the impaired and their caregivers, highlighting as an example the “women’s circle” she set up while caring for her terminally ill mother. Kenway’s frank discussions of “caregiver stress syndrome” and the “social stigma and exclusion” caregivers experience are eye-opening, and her calls for moving to a more community-based model are persuasive. It’s a resounding call to action. (May)

Reviewed on 02/17/2023 | Details & Permalink

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Vanishing Point: The Search for a B-24 Bomber Crew Lost on the World War II Home Front

Tom Wilber. Three Hills, $29.95 (264p) ISBN 978-1-5017-6964-1

Journalist Wilber (Under the Surface) shines a light in this poignant history on the more than 15,000 U.S. Army Air Force pilots and crew members who died in stateside training missions during WWII. The focus is on one such accident, the disappearance of a B-24 bomber known as Getaway Gertie in Upstate New York in February 1944, and the ripple effects on the crew members’ families and the community of Oswego, N.Y., where “war buffs and amateur divers” continue to search for the wreckage in nearby Lake Ontario. (The official search was called off two weeks after the accident, with only a wing section recovered.) Wilber pieces together the life of pilot Keith Ponder through archival research and a visit to his relatives in Scott County, Miss., and vividly recreates the plane’s low-altitude flight over Oswego County after a “blinding snowstorm” left the crew “unable to communicate, unable to see, and running out of fuel after missing the airport on multiple passes.” Elsewhere, Wilber profiles locals who have spent decades scouring the bottom of the lake for the Gertie and other wrecks. Smoothly written and painstakingly researched, this is a fitting tribute to unsung heroes of the Greatest Generation. Photos. (May)

Reviewed on 02/17/2023 | Details & Permalink

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Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time

Sheila Liming. Melville House, $27.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-68589-005-6

Champlain College writing professor Liming (What a Library Means to a Woman) surveys in this erudite if meandering meditation “the many ways in which hanging out happens in contemporary culture” and encourages readers to do more of it in real life. Drawing largely from her own personal experiences with a smattering of references to literature, psychology, neuroscience, and sociology, Liming documents various places where people get together—such as dinner parties, academic conferences, musical jam sessions, and on social media—and discusses the degree to which they foster “connection, intimacy, and meaning.” Though Liming’s observational and storytelling skills shine, her examples often undermine the book’s prescriptive message by dwelling on awkward and unsatisfactory experiences; for example, the chapter on dinner parties opens with an account of the time the chancellor of North Dakota’s university system ruined Liming’s “dream dinner party” by eating filet mignon in front of a vegan guest of honor and leaving Liming and her husband to pay his $200 bill. Elsewhere, a chapter about television and contemporary social life gets sidetracked by an anecdote about filming episodes of a friend’s reality TV show. This is a mixed bag. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2023 | Details & Permalink

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The Keys to Kindness: How to Be Kinder to Yourself, Others and the World

Claudia Hammond. Canongate, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-1-83885-444-7

Hammond (The Art of Rest), host of BBC Radio’s All in the Mind, offers a glass-half-full approach to kindness in this enlightening entry. Humans are collectively “kinder than we might think,” she maintains, but everyone can still strive to be more compassionate. Hammond debunks myths about kindness, for instance that the very young lack it—citing experiments in which toddlers help peers complete a task with no benefit to themselves (an especially noteworthy finding, as their brains don’t yet comprehend reciprocity). She also contends that compassionate acts don’t need to involve self-martyrdom, and that kindness confers profound emotional benefits to all involved in the interaction. Hammond’s advice for being kinder includes “truly listening” in conversations, practicing “perspective-taking” (arguing oneself into a different person’s position), and even reading fiction. Self-compassion is also vital, she maintains, as people who are kind to themselves lead more satisfying lives. Hammond strikes a good balance between optimism and a practical awareness of the challenges (for example, social media) to creating a kinder 21st-century society. Even cynics will emerge a little more hopeful. (May)

Reviewed on 02/17/2023 | Details & Permalink

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Ancient Africa: A Global History, to 300 CE

Christopher Ehret. Princeton Univ, $27.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-691-24409-9

UCLA historian Ehret (The Civilizations of Africa) delivers a comprehensive and stimulating look at the major transitions in African history and their significance for the global development of early civilizations. Drawing from archaeology, linguistics, and anthropology, Ehret argues that major transformations in the history of civilization developed independently in Africa, often preceding similar developments in the Near East, Middle East, Mediterranean, and Asia. He recognizes five historical periods between 68,000 BCE and 300 CE, each with distinctive technological, dietary, and commercial developments. Major innovations between and during these periods include the development of ceramics in present-day Mali, in which women played a significant role; the smelting of metals from ores at various locales across the African savannas in the eighth and ninth centuries BCE; mechanical weaving and textiles; the shift from foraging subsistence to early agriculture, including plant and animal domestication; the establishment of towns and long-distance trade; the growth of specialized craft production and trading centers such as the Tichit region in today’s Mauritania; and the rise of early cities, states, and nations. Throughout, Ehret notes the influence of climatic change on these transformations and makes a persuasive case that “African history offers strong counterweights to... presumptions about male and female roles in history.” Exhaustive and carefully documented, this is a vital reconsideration of world history. Illus. (June)

Reviewed on 02/17/2023 | Details & Permalink

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After Misogyny: How the Law Fails Women and What to Do About It

Julie C. Suk. Univ. of California, $29.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-520-38195-7

In this intriguing scholarly treatise, Fordham University law professor Suk (We the Women) documents how the law protects men’s “overentitlement” and “overempowerment” and examines efforts to correct the problem through constitutional reform. In the book’s most engrossing chapters, she revisits the legal strategies of the late-19th-century temperance movement, showing how the 18th Amendment prohibiting the sale, manufacture, and distribution of alcohol in the U.S. “reduced the power of men in relation to women in the home by abolishing spaces of toxic masculinity like the saloon and by reducing the political power of the corporate liquor industry.” Suk also surveys feminist constitutional movements in other parts of the world, including Iceland’s 2008–9 “Pots and Pans Revolution,” which blamed the country’s financial collapse on a “masculine ‘Viking’ mindset” that promoted “risk-taking economic behavior.” Explaining how the Equal Rights Amendment got stalled by an arbitrary deadline imposed by its opponents, Suk outlines potential reforms (citizens’ assemblies, an advisory council) to make the constitutional amendment process in the U.S. easier. Though dense with obscure legal cases, this is a well-informed and actionable diagnosis of one of society’s most persistent ills. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2023 | Details & Permalink

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The Chile Project: The Story of the Chicago Boys and the Downfall of Neoliberalism

Sebastian Edwards. Princeton Univ., $32 (368p) ISBN 978-0-691-20862-6

In this meticulous study, economist Edwards (Crisis and Reform in Latin America) recounts the history behind the 2019 Chilean protest movement that led to a constitutional referendum and the election of a left-wing president who vowed to eradicate “the neoliberal model.” Edwards traces the roots of this tumult back to 1955, when the U.S. State Department launched a plan to influence Latin American affairs by training Chilean economists in the free market ideology of Milton Friedman and his colleagues at the University of Chicago. For years, the Chicago-trained economists had little influence on Chilean policy until military dictator Augusto Pinochet seized power in 1973 and turned the economy over to them. Edwards credits the Chicago Boys’ policies, including low corporate taxes, tight restrictions on unions, and a pension system based on personal savings accounts, with helping to transform Chile into the wealthiest nation in Latin America by the early 2000s, but also reveals how the program entrenched high rates of inequality, fostered corruption, and produced environmental destruction. Marked by Edwards’s firm grasp of regional politics and lucid explanations of economic theory, this is a valuable primer on a complex subject. (May)

Reviewed on 02/17/2023 | Details & Permalink

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The Power of Saying No: The New Science of How to Say No That Puts You in Charge of Your Life

Vanessa Patrick. Sourcebooks, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-72825-152-3

Patrick, a professor of marketing at the University of Houston, advances a notion of “empowered refusal” in her upbeat debut. After acceding to a boss’s arbitrary request to stay late at the office to receive a fax in her mid-20s, Patrick resolved to find a better way to say no and formulated a method driven by one’s “values, priorities, and perspectives.” Here, she outlines a three-part plan for obtaining this “superskill.” First, it’s important to understand why people unwillingly say yes; for one, humans are wired to seek social harmony, and saying no is a “socially dispreferred response.” Next, readers should better understand the priorities that motivate their choices. Finally, the author shares practical tools to handle pushback, such as delegating the refusal or explaining that “no” is part of a “personal policy.” Patrick draws on psychological research and cultural references to illustrate her ideas, and while some don’t do much to advance the argument—as when she cites Katherine Heigl’s character in the movie 27 Dresses as an example of someone who can’t turn down friends’ requests, in this case ending up a bridesmaid in nearly 30 weddings—readers will appreciate her practical strategies and encouraging tone. Despite its weaker moments, this is motivating. (June)

Reviewed on 02/17/2023 | Details & Permalink

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Rising Together: How We Can Bridge Divides and Create a More Inclusive Workplace

Sally Helgesen. Hachette Go, $30 (256p) ISBN 978-0-306-82830-0

This perceptive program by leadership coach Helgesen (How Women Rise) offers guidance on how executives can create a workplace that fosters productive relationships among employees from diverse backgrounds. Companies, she contends, need to help workers collaborate across racial, gender, ethnic, and generational divides by addressing the “eight common triggers that undermine our ability to connect.” These include offensive attempts at humor, as well as issues of visibility (employees might resent colleagues “who are good at getting noticed”), miscommunication (people from different backgrounds bring different assumptions and perspectives), and networking (affiliating only with people like oneself makes one oblivious to the concerns of others). Stories from Helgesen’s clients illustrate the proposed remedies, as when the author tells of an employee passed over for a promotion who had to humble herself, which allowed her to get over her resentment and work with her supervisor to plan her career trajectory at the company. Helgesen demonstrates a keen eye for workplace dynamics, and her concrete suggestions—which include recommendations for business leaders to ensure their employees feel heard by building on what they say and asking them “what skills they don’t get a chance to use”—offer pragmatic means to promote inclusivity. Executives will find this a boon. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/17/2023 | Details & Permalink

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Fancy Bear Goes Phishing: The Dark History of the Information Age, in Five Extraordinary Hacks

Scott J. Shapiro. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (432p) ISBN 978-0-374-60117-1

Ingenious coding, buggy software, and gullibility take the spotlight in this colorful retrospective of hacking. Shapiro (Legality), director of the cybersecurity lab at Yale’s Center for Law and Philosophy, revisits spectacular computer intrusions and the characters responsible for them, including a Cornell grad student’s 1988 experiment gone awry that crashed the fledgling internet; the battle of wits between Bulgarian hacker Dark Avenger and the computer scientist who worked to defeat his destructive viruses; a Boston 16-year-old’s hacking of nude photos from Paris Hilton’s cellphone; and the exposure of Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential election by the Russian military’s Fancy Bear hacking team. He emphasizes the human forces behind the technology, describing the callow malevolence of hackers, the cognitive blind spots that phishing attacks manipulate to get people to click on bogus email links, and the reluctance of profit-hungry corporate executives to pay for cybersecurity. Shapiro’s snappy prose manages the extraordinary feat of describing hackers’ intricate coding tactics and the flaws they exploit in a way that is accessible and captivating even to readers who don’t know Python from JavaScript. The result is a fascinating look at the anarchic side of cyberspace. (May)

Reviewed on 02/17/2023 | Details & Permalink

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