Choice Reviews

Some review excerpts from the September 2009 issue of Choice:

Heresy and the Politics of Community: The Jews of the Fatimid Caliphate by Marina Rustow
“The Cairo Geniza documents have been at the center of Jewish scholarship for over a century. Rustow has reviewed the medieval and modern models that emerged on the basis of the rich polemical literature and challenges them against the extant contemporary correspondence that describe the actual interactions. . . . This well-written and reader-friendly major contribution is accessible to neophyte and scholar alike, and will engender a new, nuanced view of the social relations among Jews and Muslims in the medieval Mediterranean. Highly recommended.”—S. Bowman

Khrushchev’s Cold Summer: Gulag Returnees, Crime, and the Fate of Reform after Stalin by Miriam Dobson
“This outstanding book examines the return of prisoners from the Gulag in the Soviet Union during the first decade after the death of Stalin. . . . Dobson considers the experiences not only of the minority of political prisoners from the Gulag, but also the majority who had been convicted of other crimes, including many prisoners who were hardened criminals. The prisoners’ release set off a wave of anxiety in the country as some of the returnees committed crimes as they returned from their remote places of imprisonment and exile. The author examines the actions of the political leadership and how Khrushchev and other leaders were forced to deal with the unexpected consequences of their decisions. The impact of the prisoners’ return on their families and others in their communities is also analyzed. Highly recommended.”—N. M. Brooks

Blue Helmets and Black Markets: The Business of Survival in the Siege of Sarajevo by Peter Andreas
“In this provocative study, Andreas examines the unexpected consequences of humanitarian intervention. . . . Drawing on extensive interviews, diaries, and memoirs of participants, and newspaper accounts, among other sources, Andreas argues that the internationalization of the siege paradoxically prolonged the conflict. Humanitarian assistance the international community provided to the people of Sarajevo became incorporated into the criminalized war economy that flourished in the besieged city. . . . The study also reveals the much more complex social dynamics that emerged and flourished during the conflict. In particular, far from severing ties between ethnic groups, the war economy sustained informal contacts and cross-ethnic collaboration in the midst of conflict. Andreas argues that the example of Sarajevo strongly suggests that uncovering the hidden dynamics of war economies is important because their legacies outlast a conflict’s end and continue to shape postconflict reconstruction. Highly recommended.”—A. Paczynska

City Bound: How States Stifle Urban Innovation by Gerald E. Frug and David J. Barron
“Frug and Barron examine the balance between state and local control in seven cities, asserting that state control distorts and fragments policy making across a number of issues, including education, land use, and taxation. Their claim is persuasive. . . . This work is very well grounded in the most interesting recent literature about cities and offers many important insights into how the law shapes urban public policy. Highly recommended.”—R. M. Flanagan

Antiques: The History of an Idea by Leon Rosenstein
“Rosenstein has had two careers: philosopher and antiques dealer. The philosopher in Rosenstein makes him reflective about the theory and practice of collecting antiques. He provides an analysis of the concept of an antique, a history of the appreciation of antiques, proposed desiderata of antiques, and ruminations on the cultural significance of antique collecting. . . . The history of connoisseurship is full of fascinating details about collecting from the time of the ancients to the present.”—J. O. Young

Milton and the Victorians by Erik Gray
“Gray sees Milton’s influence as becoming paradoxically less visible but even more pervasive during the Victorian period. Writers no longer self-consciously drew attention to their engagement with Milton because his works had become ‘classics,’ so familiar that they were always in the background. Gray supports his thesis with acute analysis of works by a number of authors, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, Matthew Arnold, Alfred Tennyson, and George Eliot. This engaging book will be a valuable resource for students of Milton, of Victorian literature, and of the nature of influence. Recommended.”—B. E. Brandt

Shakespeare’s Foreign Worlds: National and Transnational Identities in the Elizabethan Age by Carole Levin and John Watkins
“This interdisciplinary book, which comprises pairs of essays on 1 Henry VI, The Merchant of Venice, and The Taming of the Shrew, exemplifies new historicism at its best. . . . The essays are beautifully written, cogently argued, and meticulously researched. Recommended.”—M. S. Stephenson

Prosperity for All: Consumer Activism in an Era of Globalization by Matthew Hilton
“Hilton’s fine book traces the history of the consumer movement, focusing on how its agenda has changed and how, in the process, it has neglected two critical issues, overconsumption by some groups and underconsumption by others. . . . The powerful narrative makes insightful links to broader social and global issues. Highly recommended.”—M. Veseth

Reconstructing the World: Southern Fictions and U.S. Imperialisms, 1898–1976 by Harilaos Stecopoulos
“Stecopoulos opens the present book with a photo of film director Spike Lee in post-Katrina New Orleans; he cites W. E. B. Du Bois’s claim that, in the south, ‘the Negro’ is ‘everything.’ Thus, the majority of the eight ‘public intellectuals’ at the heart of Stecopoulos’s discussion are African Americans: Du Bois, Charles Chestnutt, James Weldon Johnson, Richard Wright, and Alice Walker. . . . Stecopoulos presents a dazzling variety of perspectives on U.S. ‘imperialisms.’ Recommended.”—J. W. Hall

A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections, edited by Nancy E. Green and Christopher Reed
“This book, and the exhibition it accompanies, showcases how American admirers of the writing of Woolf, Strachey, and their circle acquired art that complemented these literary interests. . . . Five essays from a team of arts and letters specialists present a useful survey of the entire Bloomsbury project and its American context. The book features over 250 illustrations, most in color. Recommended.”—W. S. Rodner

Never Good Enough: Health Care Workers and the False Promise of Job Training by Ariel Ducey
“To overcome the hazards of constant health care restructuring efforts, one union strategy has been the development of programs to make allied health workers multiskilled and cross-trained. However, these expensive training programs have provided neither more meaningful work not better paying jobs. . . . This book features interviews with allied health workers about their educational, occupational, and personal histories. The interviews certainly speak to the humor and creativity health care workers employ in light of these constant training programs. Recommended”—B. A. D’Anna

The Golden Triangle: Inside Southeast Asia’s Drug Trade by Ko-lin Chin
“Opium, a relatively recent product in Burma, and its derivative, heroin, have become Burma’s major illegal commodities. Their production and trade is dominated by the Wa tribe. . . . Chin seeks to provide a brief history of the Wa; the opium, heroin, and methamphetamine trades; drug use and control; and the drug business and politics. In the absence of reliable historical studies and hard data, the author assembled research teams, devised questionnaires, and used the information acquired to develop his narrative. Recommended.”—J. Silverstein

Choice Reviews