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Committed: On Meaning and Madwomen (Vintage, 2024) is a critical memoir about women, reading, and mental illness. When Suzanne Scanlon was a student at Barnard in the 90s, grieving the loss of her mother—feeling untethered and swimming through inarticulable pain—she made a suicide attempt that landed her in the New York State Psychiatric Institute.…
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Cinema has had a hugely influential role on global culture in the 20th century at multiple levels: social, political, and educational. The part of British cinema in this has been controversial–often derided as a whole, but also vigorously celebrated, especially in terms of specific films and film-makers. In British Cinema: A Very Short Introduction…
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Bombarded with the equivalent of one Hiroshima bomb a day for half a century, Pacific people have long been subjected to man-made cataclysm. Well before climate change became a global concern, nuclear testing brought about untimely death, widespread diseases, forced migration, and irreparable destruction to the shores of Oceania. In The Ocean on Fi…
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Tazin Abdullah speaks with Dr Ibrar Bhatt about heritage literacies, particularly as they are practiced by Chinese Muslims. Bhatt is the author of A Semiotics of Muslimness in China (Cambridge UP, 2023). About the book: A Semiotics of Muslimness in China examines the semiotics of Sino-Muslim heritage literacy in a way that integrates its Perso-Arab…
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Throughout the 1920s Mexico was rocked by attempted coups, assassinations, and popular revolts. Yet by the mid-1930s, the country boasted one of the most stable and durable political systems in Latin America. In the first book on party formation conducted at the regional level after the Mexican Revolution, Sarah Osten examines processes of politica…
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In January 1945, the final year of the Pacific War, Japanese-held Hong Kong became the site of coordinated attacks by the U.S. Navy on Japanese warships and aircraft. Target Hong Kong: A True Story of U.S. Navy Pilots at War (Osprey, 2024) by Steven K. Bailey tells the story of what those air raids were like for the men who lived through them. Targ…
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In this elegantly written study Rival Wisdoms: Reading Proverbs in the Canterbury Tales (Penn State University Press, 2024), Dr. Nancy Mason Bradbury situates Chaucer’s last and most ambitious work in the context of a zeal for proverbs that was still rising in his day. Rival Wisdoms demonstrates that for Chaucer’s contemporaries, these tiny embedde…
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"Everyone assumed that in a more open, interconnected world, democracy and liberal ideas would spread to the autocratic states. Nobody imagined that autocracy and illiberalism would spread to the democratic world instead". So writes Anne Applebaum in Autocracy, Inc: The Dictators Who Want to Run the World (Double Day Books, 2024). Applebaum's new b…
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In 1967, the US government funded the National Theatre of the Deaf, a groundbreaking rehabilitation initiative employing deaf actors. This project aligned with the postwar belief that transforming bodies, minds, aesthetics, and institutions could liberate disabled Americans from economic reliance on the state, and demonstrated the growing belief th…
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Suddenly, the Sight of War: Violence and Nationalism in Hebrew Poetry in the 1940s (Stanford UP, 2016) is a genealogy of Hebrew poetry written in pre-state Israel between the beginning of World War II and the War of Independence in 1948. In it, renowned literary scholar Hannan Hever sheds light on how the views and poetic practices of poets changed…
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By combining chronological coverage, analytical breadth, and interdisciplinary approaches, these two volumes—Histories of Solitude: Colombia, 1820s-1970s (Routledge, 2024) and Histories of Perplexity: Colombia, 1970s-2010s (Routledge, 2024)—study the histories of Colombia over the last two centuries as illustrations of the histories of democracy ac…
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In Christian Collier's debut poetry collection, Greater Ghost (Four Way Books, 2024), this extraordinary Black Southern poet precisely stitches the sutures of grief and gratitude together over our wounds. These pages move between elegies for private hauntings and public ones, the visceral bereavement of a miscarriage alongside the murder of a famil…
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A new book reveals an incredible slice of Cuban-American history that’s been all but forgotten until now. Lisandro Perez‘s Sugar, Cigars and Revolution: The Making of Cuban New York (NYU Press, 2018) tells the story of a vibrant Cuban émigré community in 19th-century New York that ranged from wealthy sugar plantation owners investing their fortunes…
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In an unusual episode, we listen back to field recordings that co-host cris cheek made in 1987 and 1993 on the island of Madagascar. It’s a rich sonic travelogue, with incredible musicians appearing at seemingly every stop along the way. Mack interviews cris, who discusses the strangeness and surprises of listening back to the sounds of that other …
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The Christianization of Knowledge in Late Antiquity: Intellectual and Material Transformations (Cambridge UP, 2023) traces the beginning of Late Antiquity from a new angle. Shifting the focus away from the Christianization of people or the transformation of institutions, Mark Letteney interrogates the creation of novel and durable structures of kno…
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Over the past 300 years, The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce has tried to improve British life in every way imaginable. It has sought to influence education, commerce, music, art, architecture, communications, food, and every other corner of society. Arts and Minds: How the Royal Society of Arts Changed a Nati…
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Has fascism arrived in America? In Fascism in America: Past and Present (Cambridge UP, 2023), Gavriel D. Rosenfeld and Janet Ward have gathered experts to survey the history of fascism in the United States. Although the US established a staunch anti-fascist reputation by defeating the Axis powers in World War II, the unsettling truth is that fascis…
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There are some topics that historians know not to touch. They are just too hot (or too cold). The assassination of JFK is one of them. Most scholars would say either: (a) the topic has been done to death so nothing new can be said or (b) it’s been so thoroughly co-opted by nutty theorists that no sane discussion is possible. Thank goodness David Ka…
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“Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to begin our descent into Los Angeles.” So begins The Graduate (1967), which everyone loves but which many of us loved for one reason when we were younger and one when we became a little more seasoned. “Plastics” is a great joke when you’re 20; how does it sound decades later? The movie hasn’t changed, but we hav…
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On Task: How Our Brain Gets Things Done (Princeton UP, 2020) is a look at the extraordinary ways the brain turns thoughts into actions—and how this shapes our everyday lives. Why is it hard to text and drive at the same time? How do you resist eating that extra piece of cake? Why does staring at a tax form feel mentally exhausting? Why can your chi…
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Beyond Complicity: Why We Blame Each Other Instead of Systems (University of California Press, 2024) by Dr. Francine Banner is a fascinating cultural diagnosis that identifies our obsession with complicity as a symptom of a deeply divided society. The questions surrounding what it means to be legally complicit are the same ones we may ask ourselves…
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The struggle against neoliberal order has gained momentum over the last five decades – to the point that economic elites have not only adapted to the Left's critiques but incorporated them for capitalist expansion. Venture funds expose their ties to slavery and pledge to invest in racial equity. Banks pitch microloans as a path to indigenous self-d…
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The Persian Gulf has long been a contested space--an object of imperial ambitions, national antagonisms, and migratory dreams. The roots of these contestations lie in the different ways the Gulf has been defined as a region, both by those who live there and those beyond its shore. Making Space for the Gulf: Histories of Regionalism and the Middle E…
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You could fill a large library with books about JFK’s assassination. We’ve even touched on the subject here. The topic of the transfer of power from JFK to LBJ, however, has been neglected. I was under the impression that after JFK was pronounced dead, LBJ took an oath and that was that. As Steve Gillon points out in his terrific new The Kennedy As…
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Black women undertook an energetic and unprecedented engagement with internationalism from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s. In many cases, their work reflected a complex effort to merge internationalism with issues of women's rights and with feminist concerns. To Turn the Whole World Over: Black Women and Internationalism (U Illinois Press…
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In an unsettling time in American history, the outbreak of right-wing violence is among the most disturbing developments. In recent years, attacks originating from the far right of American politics have targeted religious and ethnic minorities, with a series of antigovernment militants, religious extremists, and lone-wolf mass shooters inspired by…
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Yanagawa Seigan (1789–1858) and his wife Kōran (1804–79) were two of the great poets of nineteenth-century Japan. They practiced the art of traditional Sinitic poetry—works written in literary Sinitic, or classical Chinese, a language of enduring importance far beyond China’s borders. Together, they led itinerant lives, traveling around Japan teach…
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