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How America's Religious Exemption Laws Harm Children
When a four-year-old California girl died on March 9, 1984, the state charged her mother with involuntary manslaughter because she failed to provide her daughter with medical care, choosing instead to rely on spiritual healing. During the next few years, a half dozen other children of Christian Science parents died under similar circumstances. The children’s deaths and the parents’ trials drew national attention, highlighting a deeply rooted, legal/political struggle to define religious freedom. Through close analysis of these seven cases, legal historian Alan Rogers explores the conflict between religious principles and secular laws that seek to protect children from abuse and neglect. Christian Scientists argued—often with the support of mainline religious groups—that the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause protected religious belief and behavior. Insisting that their spiritual care was at least as effective as medical treatment, they thus maintained that parents of seriously ill children had a constitutional right to reject medical care. Congress and state legislatures confirmed this interpretation by inserting religious exemption provisos into child abuse laws. Yet when parental prayer failed and a child died, prosecutors were able to win manslaughter convictions by arguing—as the U.S. Supreme Court had held for more than a century—that religious belief could not trump a neutral, generally applicable law. Children’s advocates then carried this message to state legislatures, eventually winning repeal of religious exemption provisions in a handful of states.
Brainwashing and Postwar American Society
First popularized during the 1950s, the concept of “brainwashing” is often viewed as an example of Cold War paranoia, an amusing relic of a bygone era. Yet as Matthew W. Dunne shows in this wide-ranging study, over time brainwashing came to connote much more than a sinister form of Communist mind control, taking on broader cultural and political meanings. Moving beyond well-known debates over Korean War POWs and iconic cultural texts like The Manchurian Candidate, Dunne explores the impact of the idea of brainwashing on popular concerns about freedom, individualism, loyalty, and trust in authority. By the late 1950s the concept had been appropriated into critiques of various aspects of American life such as an insistence on conformity, the alleged “softening” of American men, and rampant consumerism fueled by corporate advertising that used “hidden” or “subliminal” forms of persuasion. Because of these associations and growing anxie-ties about the potential misuse of psychology, concerns about brainwashing contributed to a new emphasis on individuality and skepticism toward authority in the 1960s. The notion even played an unusual role in the 1968 presidential race, when Republican frontrunner George Romney’s claim that he had been “brainwashed” about the Vietnam War by the Johnson administration effectively destroyed his campaign. In addition to analyzing the evolving meaning of brainwashing over an extended period of time, A Cold War State of Mind explores the class and gender implications of the idea, such as the assumption that working-class POWs were more susceptible to mind control and that women were more easily taken in by the manipulations of advertisers.
Black Presentation in American Animated Short Films, 1907-1954
From the introduction of animated film in the early 1900s to the 1950s, ethnic humor was a staple of American-made cartoons. Yet as Christopher Lehman shows in this revealing study, the depiction of African Americans in particular became so inextricably linked to the cartoon medium as to influence its evolution through those five decades. He argues that what is in many ways most distinctive about American animation reflects white animators' visual interpretations of African American cultural expression. The first American animators drew on popular black representations, many of which were caricatures rooted in the culture of southern slavery. During the 1920s, the advent of the sound-synchronized cartoon inspired animators to blend antebellum-era black stereotypes with the modern black cultural expressions of jazz musicians and Hollywood actors. When the film industry set out to desexualize movies through the imposition of the Hays Code in the early 1930s, it regulated the portrayal of African Americans largely by segregating black characters from others, especially white females. At the same time, animators found new ways to exploit the popularity of African American culture by creating animal characters like Bugs Bunny who exhibited characteristics associated with African Americans without being identifiably black. By the 1950s, protests from civil rights activists and the growing popularity of white cartoon characters led animators away from much of the black representation on which they had built the medium. Even so, animated films today continue to portray African American characters and culture, and not necessarily in a favorable light. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including interviews with former animators, archived scripts for cartoons, and the films themselves, Lehman illustrates the intimate and unmistakable connection between African Americans and animation.Choice
The Olmsted Firm and the Development of Brookline, Massachusetts
In 1883, Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. moved from New York City to Brookline, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb that annointed itself the “richest town in the world.” For the next half century, until his son Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. relocated to California in 1936, the Olmsted firm received over 150 local commissions, serving as the dominant force in the planned development of this community. From Fairsted, the Olmsteds’ Brookline home and office, the firm collaborated with an impressive galaxy of suburban neighbors who were among the regional and national leaders in the fields of architecture and horticulture, among them Henry Hobson Richardson and Charles Sprague Sargent. Through plans for boulevards and parkways, residential subdivisions, institutional commissions, and private gardens, the Olmsted firm carefully guided the development of the town, as they designed cities and suburbs across America. While Olmsted Sr. used landscape architecture as his vehicle for development, his son and namesake saw Brookline as grounds for experiment in the new profession of city and regional planning, a field that he was helping to define and lead. Little has been published on the importance of Brookline as a laboratory and model for the Olmsted firm’s work. This beautifully illustrated book provides important new perspective on the history of planning in the United States and illuminates an aspect of the Olmsted office that has not been well understood.
Love and Loss in the Memoirs of C. S. Lewis, John Bayley, Donald Hall, Joan Didion, and Calvin Trillen
In Companionship in Grief, Jeffrey Berman focuses on the most life-changing event for many people—the death of a spouse. Some of the most acclaimed memoirs of the past fifty years offer insights into this profound loss: C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed; John Bayley’s three memoirs about Iris Murdoch, including Elegy for Iris; Donald Hall’s The Best Day the Worst Day; Joan Didion’s best-selling The Year of Magical Thinking; and Calvin Trillin’s About Alice. These books explore the nature of spousal bereavement, the importance of caregiving, the role of writing in recovery, and the possibility of falling in love again after a devastating loss. Throughout his study, Berman traces the theme of love and loss in all five memoirists’ fictional and nonfictional writings as well as in those of their spouses, who were also accomplished writers. Combining literary studies, grief and bereavement theory, attachment theory, composition studies, and trauma theory, Companionship in Grief will appeal to anyone who has experienced love and loss. Berman’s research casts light on five remarkable marriages, showing how autobiographical stories of love and loss can memorialize deceased spouses and offer wisdom and comfort to readers.
How did Shakespeare and his contemporaries, whose works mark the last quarter century of Elizabeth I’s reign as one of the richest moments in all of English literature, regard and represent old age? Was late life seen primarily as a time of withdrawal and preparation for death, as scholars and historians have traditionally maintained? In this book, Christopher Martin examines how, contrary to received impressions, writers and thinkers of the era—working in the shadow of the kinetic, long-lived queen herself—contested such prejudicial and dismissive social attitudes. In late Tudor England, Martin argues, competing definitions of and regard for old age established a deeply conflicted frontier between external, socially “constituted” beliefs and a developing sense of an individual’s “constitution” or physical makeup, a usage that entered the language in the mid-1500s. This space was further complicated by internal divisions within the opposing camps. On one side, reverence for the elder’s authority, rooted in religious and social convention, was persistently challenged by the discontents of an ambitious younger underclass. Simultaneously, the aging subject grounded an enduring social presence and dignity on a bodily integrity that time inevitably threatened. In a historical setting that saw both the extended reign of an aging monarch and a resulting climate of acute generational strife, this network of competition and accommodation uniquely shaped late Elizabethan literary imagination. Through fresh readings of signature works, genres, and figures, Martin redirects critical attention to this neglected aspect of early modern studies.
Its Folk Roots and Modern Literary Branches
In 1987 Bernard W. Bell published The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition, a comprehensive interpretive history of more than 150 novels written by African Americans from 1853 to 1983. The book won the Distinguished Scholarship Award of the College Language Association and was reprinted five times. Now Bell has produced a new volume that serves as a sequel and companion to the earlier work, expanding the coverage to 2001. Bell also refines and extends his interpretive model for reading texts by African American writers, a model based on the vernacular forms of expression of his childhood, the literary theories of Ralph Ellison, and the writings on double-consciousness of W.E.B. Du Bois. The book begins with a personal essay in which Bell traces the evolution of his thinking about sociohistorical and sociocultural approaches to literature. He goes on to apply these approaches to the work of hundreds of black novelists whose work has been published since 1853. His primary focus, however, is on some forty novels and romances published between 1983 and 2001, including works by Gayl Jones, Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, Paule Marshall, Albert Murray, Gloria Naylor, Al Young, David Bradley, Leon Forrest, and Charles Johnson, as well as the neo-Black Aesthetic novelists Nathaniel Mackey, Trey Ellis, Percival L. Everett, and Colson Whitehead. In acknowledging the diversity of the tradition of the novel, Bell also examines the science fiction of Samuel Delany and Octavia Butler, the gay novels of E. Lynn Harris, Larry Duplechan, and Randall Kenan, and the detective narratives of Barbara Neely and Walter Mosley. The result is a book of impressive scope and accomplishment—an essential work for any serious student of African American literature.
This biography examines the life of Cornelia James Cannon (1876-1969), a Radcliffe graduate, wife of a prominent Harvard professor, and mother of five who became a prolific writer and "all-purpose reformer," in the words of her son-in-law, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. In addition to writing eight novels, Cannon published dozens of essays during the 1920s and 1930s on a broad range of controversial topics. She advocated on behalf of women's rights, birth control, and public education and wrote provocative essays on immigration policy, welfare reform, and eugenics. According to Maria I. Diedrich, it was the last of these concerns, Cannon's interest in what she and her husband called "the future of the race"—a term conflating ideas of class, race, and ethnicity—that inspired many of her varied reform activities. From the vantage point of today it may seem hard to understand how a social reformer and outspoken feminist could also embrace eugenicist principles. Yet, in the context of the time such views were not uncommon among progressive thinkers. Far from being an extremist or even exceptional, Cornelia James Cannon was a woman representative of her social class and historical moment. By disentangling the threads of Cannon's life and thought, Diedrich seeks to shed light on the experiences of other progressive reformers of the interwar years whose interest in social justice often went hand in hand with racially exclusive notions of Americanness.
This powerful novel depicts the reign of violence perpetrated in Peru in the 1980s by the Shining Path guerrillas, a Maoist-based organization, and the subsequent authoritarian counterattack by the Peruvian government. It explores these horrific events through the eyes of a young American photojournalist and humanitarian worker, Lisette, who bears witness to the genocide of the Peruvian Indians in whose village she has chosen to live. “I use the camera to block my view,” says Lisette. This is the start of her double vision—trying to forget and trying to recall—and her struggle to come to terms with the human capacity for cruelty. But the grim reality in Peru is so overpowering that she carries it with her back to New York and through the rest of her life. Having abandoned a lover along with the fight, she desperately tries to find meaning beyond that of mere survival.