Page by Page: Book Reviews

An Ensemble View of Modern American Life

While The Other Americans makes for a compelling read with its digestible chapters, its alternating perspectives, and its many layers, an overly ambitious scope means that some of the subjects it tries to tackle receive scant attention.

The Story of a Literary Friendship and How It Ends Badly

Be it Hughes and Hurston, Baldwin and Wright, or Tupac and Biggie, burdened friendships are a recurrent and disturbingly alluring theme in the study of Black writers. Yet, if it is the dramatic bite of high-profile betrayal that tends to ignite a hot-selling story, in the case of Zora and Langston it is the dynamics of friendship that provide a happy counterexample.

All the Roads That Lead to Rome

Addis offers a dark view of Rome’s history, in which historical change comes about not through high-minded actions or progress, but rather through brutality, ruthlessness, and accident. This is a healthful antidote to the triumphalist histories, acclaiming the expansion of the Roman Empire, the rise of Christianity, Italian nationalism, or Western civilization, of which the city of Rome has sometimes been the center.

How to Eat to Live

Using the twin themes of hunger and health to explore the biopolitics of nature, Treitel convincingly shows that natural eating habits not only persisted in times of want as an efficient way to manage the nation’s food supply, but also in times of plenty to improve the health of the body politic.

The Story of the Black People Who Will Vote for Donald Trump

How can remedies for Blacks, because of their unique subjugation, be colorblind and still work? Will they not be simply co-opted by the White majority? To this, the Black conservative responds that Blacks let their race over-determine their views and their fate while intensifying their sense of alienation, failing to understand that they are Americans too and benefit from policies that are good for Americans on the whole.

Mental Illness and the Question of Genetics

Theodore Porter’s contribution to this discussion, Genetics in the Madhouse: The Unknown History of Human Heredity, takes a much broader perspective on the eugenics-genetics divide. Instead of seeing eugenics as either a founding contaminant in genetics, or as a temporary aberration in psychiatric science, Porter looks at the much longer history of data collection within the primary sites for psychiatry over several centuries: asylums or mental hospitals.