Nonfiction, April 19, 2019 | Xpress Reviews

By and about black Americans within—and on the margins of—Hollywood; of use to film students; will appeal to organizational and team leaders; a wider reflection on societal values; for policymakers and higher ed faculty; opening up career options for young people; pursuing their passions through alternative work; 23 interviews with novelist Whitehead

Week ending April 19, 2019

redstarBogle, Donald. Hollywood Black: The Stars, the Films, the Filmmakers. Turner Classic Movies: Running Pr. May 2019. 264p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780762491414. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780762491407. FILM
Historian of African American cinema Bogle (Africana studies, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Tisch Sch. of the Arts, New York Univ.; Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films ) presents a lavishly illustrated introduction to storytelling by and about black Americans within—and on the margins of—Hollywood. The author progresses chronologically from the earliest years of moving pictures to the 21st century, devoting a chapter per decade to the 1930s through the 1990s. Each chapter provides an overview of the era and introduces key films, filmmakers, and actors. The section on the 1950s, for example, places performers Sidney Poitier, Ethel Waters, Dorothy Dandridge, and Ruby Dee in the context of a decade of race-themed movies and the nascent opportunities for certain black actors to be accepted and marketed as Hollywood stars. The result is a rich saga that begins with Edwin S. Porter’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1903) and ends with Black Panther (2018). An index and short bibliography allow readers to get the most out of the work.
VERDICT While the book may proceed too quickly for the specialist scholar, Bogle’s compelling, accessible, gorgeous volume is a much-needed introduction that will encourage readers to explore further.—Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Massachusetts Historical Soc., Boston

Booker, M. Keith. The Coen Brothers’ America. Rowman & Littlefield. Jun. 2019. 232p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781538120866. $36; ebk. ISBN 9781538120873. FILM
Producers, directors, and writers Ethan and Joel Coen’s films have been consistently successful and intriguing from the start, and critical studies of the brothers’ unique partnership have been published on an almost annual basis for more than a decade. Booker (English, Univ. of Arkansas; Star Trek: A Cultural History) takes a thorough look at each of their films, from 1984’s Blood Simple to 2016’s Hail Caesar! While his commentary does not differ greatly from the collected thoughts of previous critics, clearly he has studied the Coen siblings’ output closely. Arguing that the Coens’ work exists in a kind of alternate reality America, Booker compares each of the movies to the genre it is meant to subvert and contrasts characters and story lines with elements of the filmmakers’ personal and creative history. The author deftly makes his case; the book is engaging, though undeniably academic.
VERDICT A worthy addition to larger libraries and of use to film students everywhere.—Peter Thornell, Hingham P.L., MA

Brigham, Nancy. A Fragile Enterprise: Yesterday’s Schools and Tomorrow’s Students. Rowman & Littlefield. Apr. 2019. 182p. notes. ISBN 9781475846010. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781475846034. ED
Brigham writes effectively about education research projects on which she and her organization, the educational and consulting firm Nancy Brigham Associates, have worked, ranging from Kids with Cameras studies (in which students are given cameras and told to take pictures of people, places, or things that are important to them) to teacher surveys. The author enumerates problems, such as loss of contact with students and failures of innovative teaching programs, that have come into play at the schools studied, offering solutions that include a strong emphasis on community-building as well as finding and communicating a shared vision for all members of a school community (teachers, administrators, families, and students). Readers interested in examining their own schools will appreciate the chapter about methods of analysis of school programs. An appendix contains the author’s survey and study protocols. Eleanor Renée Rodriguez and James Bellanca’s What Is It About Me You Can’t Teach? would be a useful parallel read, as it focuses on student-supportive pedagogical strategies.
VERDICT For those who want to learn more about results and methodologies related to school observational studies.—Amber Gray, Fogler Lib., Univ. of Maine, Orono

Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas. Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (and How To Fix It). Harvard Business Review. Apr. 2019. 240p. notes. index. ISBN 9781633696327. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781633696334. BUS
Chamorro-Premuzic (business psychology, Univ. Coll. London and Columbia Univ.) serves as chief talent scientist at ManpowerGroup and has written extensively on leadership development and talent acquisition. The author’s childhood in Argentina, once among the world’s richest countries, fueled his interest in this topic, and he attributes his homeland’s economic decline to one cause: poor leadership. Chamorro-Premuzic tells us the reason there aren’t more women leaders is because people can’t detect incompetence in men and that we’ve come to expect qualities such as overconfidence and narcissism. He argues that it’s not just in perceived male leadership qualities but even in more “feminine” ones—such as emotional intelligence and self-control—that women need to excel to be considered “good leaders” and that these traits actually translate into measurable results. Yet, Chamorro-Premuzic states, men don’t have to display good traits to be considered leadership material. Citing a wealth of research, the author backs up his claims that the “leadership” traits people value aren’t the ones that make the best leaders.
VERDICT Regardless of your gender or title in an organization, this is a quick and worthwhile read that’s really not about men but rather a wider reflection on societal values and how to choose better leaders.—Carol Elsen, Univ. of Wisconsin Whitewater Libs.

Garcia, Gina Ann. Becoming Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Opportunities for Colleges and Universities. Johns Hopkins. Mar. 2019. 176p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781421427379. pap. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781421427386. ED
College enrollment among the Latinx population is growing. Since 1992, the federal government has given benefits to schools designated Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), or schools with at least 25 percent Latinx enrollment. Approximately 14 percent of higher education institutions have been named HSIs, with the same percentage considered as emerging HSIs. Garcia (higher education, Univ. of Pittsburgh) explores what this designation means for both universities and students. She posits that traditional measurements in higher education, such as graduation rates, are based on white normative values and that HSIs often fail to measure up to these standards. Grounded in organizational theory and employing qualitative research methodologies backed up with quantitative data, this work suggests that a new cultural and organizational structure may better serve the Latinx community. Such a structure would emphasize low student debt, improved advising, cultural experiences, a bilingual approach, and experiential training through career instruction and internships.
VERDICT Policymakers, community leaders, and higher education faculty and administrators will appreciate Garcia’s insights.—Lydia Olszak, Bosler Memorial Lib., Carlisle, PA

Pearlstein, Mitch.Education Roads Less Traveled: Solving Americas Fixation on Four-Year Degrees. Rowman & Littlefield. Apr. 2019. 130p. notes. index. ISBN 9781475847536. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781475847550. ED
Pearlstein (Senior Fellow, Ctr. of the American Experiment; From Family Collapse to America’s Decline) argues that an obsession with four-year degrees has devalued other educational pathways that lead to solid, middle-class careers. Advocating for trade schools, vocational education, two-year degrees, apprenticeships, and technical certifications, he notes that there are many worthy occupations that require work experience over university education. He adds his voice to many others who contend that university is not for everyone and takes a critical look at how the passage of the GI Bill and social constructs, such as the need to attract a life partner, impact our views of education. The author draws on interviews and his own personal accounts as he illuminates ways that we can help place young people on a path that allows them to avoid crushing debt and find a job they love. Though the ideas presented are intriguing, at times Pearlstein comes across as overbearing and pretentious. Concluding with the observation that working with one’s hands is satisfying and joyous, Pearlstein offers a deeply personal view of how we can embrace a broader view of career pathways.
VERDICT For those seeking commentary on how we can rethink education in order to open up more career options for young people.—Rachel Wadham, Brigham Young Univ. Libs., Provo, UT

Watkins, Craig S. Don t Knock the Hustle: Young Creatives, Tech Ingenuity, and the Making of a New Innovation Economy. Beacon. May 2019. 248p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780807035306. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780807035313. BUS
In this follow-up to The Digital Edge, Watkins (Ernest S. Sharpe Centennial Professor, Univ. of Texas at Austin) focuses on the steady rise of alternative work arrangements called the gig economy—comprised of temporary, on-call, contract, and freelance workers—and how these positions are impacting millennials, currently the largest segment of the U.S. workforce. With assistance from a team of graduate students, Watkins shares interviews with millennials who embarked on side hustles, or taking on employment in addition to a full-time job and pursuing something of greater interest. Among the case studies included are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who won the election for representative of New York’s 14th congressional district, Issa Rae’s successful launch of the web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, and Austin-based independent games collective Juegos Rancheros. Watkins also considers the downside of the side hustle, particularly stress and sleep deprivation.
VERDICT An intriguing look at people pursuing their passions through alternative work arrangements, this is a fascinating read for social scientists, researchers, and those who are looking for inspiration and role models to develop their own road maps to successful careers.—Lucy Heckman, St. John’s Univ. Lib., Queens Village, NY

Whitehead, Colson. Conversations with Colson Whitehead. Univ. Pr. of Mississippi. (Literary Conversations). Apr. 2019. 194p. ed. by Derek C. Maus. bibliog. ISBN 9781496821478. pap. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781496821485. LIT
Twenty-three interviews with American novelist Whitehead (The Intuitionist; Sag Harbor; The Underground Railroad), ranging from 2001 to 2016, comprise this collection, which is ideal for anyone seeking information about the author. Here it’s revealed that in fellow writer Zadie Smith’s taxonomy of macroplanners and micromanagers, he is the former. In a 2004 exchange with Jeremiah Chamberlin in Fiction Writers Review, Whitehead says he creates an outline before he begins writing; his fourth novel, Sag Harbor, was the first he wrote start to finish, without skipping around. In various conversations he notes his literary influences (e.g., Harlan Ellison, Thomas Pynchon, and Samuel Beckett) as well as those from popular culture: comics, music, and movies. He likes to experiment rather than repeat himself. Case in point: Sag Harbor, an autobiographical work, was followed by the sf zombie story Zone One. About a third of the interviews here focus on his Pulitzer Prize–winning Railroad. Editor Maus (English, State Univ. of New York Potsdam; Understanding Colson Whitehead) includes a list of uncollected writings and studies of the author but unfortunately omits book reviews.
VERDICT While there’s some repetition, this is a worthwhile addition to scholarship about an important voice in American letters.—Joseph Rosenblum, Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro

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