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Publication Date: New York: Basic Books, 2015. xix, 339 p.
Reviewed: Economist 19 Mar. 2022 p. 76. Description: A thousand years ago it was the center of the first great Slav civilization, Kievan Rus. In 1240, the Mongols invaded from the east, and for the next seven centuries, Ukraine was split between warring neighbors: Lithuanians, Poles, Russians, Austrians, and Tatars. Again and again, borderland turned into battlefield: during the Cossack risings of the seventeenth century, Russia’s wars with Sweden in the eighteenth, the Civil War of 1918-1920, and under Nazi occupation. Ukraine finally won independence in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Bigger than France and as populous as Britain, it has the potential to become one of the most powerful states in Europe. In this finely written and penetrating book, Anna Reid combines research and her own experiences to chart Ukraine’s tragic past. Talking to peasants and politicians, rabbis and racketeers, dissidents and paramilitaries, survivors of Stalin’s famine and of Nazi labor camps, she reveals the layers of myth and propaganda that wrap this divided land. From the Polish churches of Lviv to the coal mines of the Russian-speaking Donbass, from the Galician shtetlech to the Tatar shantytowns of Crimea, the book explores Ukraine’s struggle to build itself a national identity, and identity that faces up to a bloody past, and embraces all the peoples within its borders. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Random House, 2020. xvii, 325 p.
Reviewed: FA May/June 2021 p. 179. Description: Set in Aba, a town perched at 12,000 feet on the Tibetan plateau in the far western reaches of China that has been the engine of Tibetan resistance for decades, Eat the Buddha tells the story of a nation through the lives of ordinary people living in the throes of this conflict. Award-winning journalist Barbara Demick illuminates a part of China and the aggressions of this superpower that have been largely off limits to Westerners who have long romanticized Tibetans as a deeply spiritual, peaceful people. She tells a sweeping story that spans decades through the lives of her subjects, among them a princess whose family lost everything in the Cultural Revolution; a young student from a nomadic family who becomes radicalized in the storied monastery of Kirta; an upwardly mobile shopkeeper who falls in love with a Chinese woman; a poet and intellectual who risks everything to voice his resistance. Demick paints a broad canvas through an intimate view of these lives, depicting the tradition of resistance that results in the shocking acts of self-immolation, the vibrant, enduring power of Tibetan Buddhism, and the clash of modernity with ancient ways of life. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Columbia UP, 2022. xxiii, 494 p.
Reviewed: Economist 30 Oct. 2021 p. 84. Description: The first comprehensive history of Xinjiang, the vast central Eurasian region bordering India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Mongolia. Forming one-sixth of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Xinjiang stands at the crossroads between China, India, the Mediterranean, and Russia and has, since the Bronze Age, played a pivotal role in the social, cultural, and political development of Asia and the world. Drawing on primary sources in several Asian and European languages, James Millward presents a thorough study of Xinjiang’s history and people from antiquity to the present and takes a balanced look at the position of Turkic Muslims within the PRC today. While offering fresh material and perspectives for specialists, this engaging survey of Xinjiang’s rich environmental, cultural, and ethno-political heritage is also written for travelers, students, and anyone eager to learn about this vital connector between East and West. This new edition brings the book up to the present, reflecting on the mistreatment of Muslims in contemporary Xinjiang and the contentious place the province holds in today's China. (publ.)
Publication Date: Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2021. xvi, 414 p.
Description: A geographical area, not a political entity, the steppe connects the western and eastern parts of the Eurasian land mass. As such, it is always open, subject to constant movement between Asia and Europe. Steppe peoples such as Huns, Avars and Turks changed the course of European history, while others such as Finns, Magyars and Bulgars form European nations. The steppe saw the world’s only Jewish Empire, while the Mongols conquered an empire from the Pacific to the Mediterranean. Indeed, Europe’s largest nation, Russia, was formed from the fusion of Eurasian nomadic and European sedentary elements. The peculiar nature of the steppe has resulted in peoples originating in parts of Asia now forming a permanent part of the European community, and that movement has affected European history and identity since earliest times. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Basic Books, 2021. xxvi, 407 p.
Reviewed: Economist 19 Mar. 2022 p. 76. Description: As Ukraine is embroiled in an ongoing struggle with Russia to preserve its territorial integrity and political independence, celebrated historian Serhii Plokhy explains that today's crisis is a case of history repeating itself: the Ukrainian conflict is only the latest in a long history of turmoil over Ukraine’s sovereignty. … This revised edition contains new material that brings this definitive history up to the present, from the election of Volodymyr Zelensky to the role of Ukraine in Trump’s impeachment. As Ukraine once again finds itself at the center of global attention, Plokhy brings its history to vivid life as he connects the nation’s past with its present and future. (publ.)
Description: Former journalist and Harvard professor Marvin Kalb traces how the Crimea of Catherine the Great became a global tinder box. The world was stunned when Vladimir Putin invaded and seized Crimea in March 2014. In the weeks that followed, pro-Russian rebels staged uprisings in southeastern Ukraine. The United States and its Western allies immediately imposed strict sanctions on Russia and whenever possible tried to isolate it diplomatically. This sharp deterioration in East-West relations raised basic questions about Putin’s provocative policies and the future of Russia and Ukraine. (publ)
Publication Date: Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 400 p.
Description: In this exceptional collection of dispatches from occupied Donbas, writer and journalist Stanislav Aseyev details the internal and external changes observed in the cities of Makiïvka and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Aseyev scrutinizes his immediate environment and questions himself in an attempt to understand the reasons behind the success of Russian propaganda among the working-class residents of the industrial region of Donbas. Aseyev focuses on the early period of the Russian-sponsored military aggression in Ukraine’s east, the period of 2015–2017. The author’s testimony ends with his arrest for publishing his dispatches and his subsequent imprisonment and torture in a modern-day concentration camp on the outskirts of Donetsk run by lawless mercenaries and local militants with the tacit approval and support of Moscow. For the first time, an inside account is presented here of the toll on real human lives and civic freedoms that the citizens of Europe’s largest country continue to suffer in Russia’s hybrid war on its territory. (publ.)
Call Number: Received Not Yet Cataloged-Grant Book
Publication Date: New York: Columbia Global Reports, 2021. 159 p.
Reviewed: Economist 30 Oct. 2021 p. 84; LR March 2022 p. 36. Description: Novel forms of state violence and colonization have been unfolding for years in China’s vast northwestern region, where more than a million and a half Uyghurs and others have vanished into internment camps and associated factories. Based on hours of interviews with camp survivors and workers, thousands of government documents, and over a decade of research, Darren Byler, one of the leading experts on Uyghur society and Chinese surveillance systems, uncovers how a vast network of technology provided by private companies–facial surveillance, voice recognition, smartphone data–enabled the state and corporations to blacklist millions of Uyghurs because of their religious and cultural practice starting in 2017. Charged with “pre-crimes” that sometimes consist only of installing social media apps, detainees were put in camps to “study”–forced to praise the Chinese government, renounce Islam, disavow families, and labor in factories. Byler travels back to Xinjiang to reveal how the convenience of smartphones have doomed the Uyghurs to catastrophe, and makes the case that the technology is being used all over the world, sold by tech companies from Beijing to Seattle producing new forms of unfreedom for vulnerable people around the world. (publ.)
Call Number: Received Not Yet Cataloged-Grant Book
Publication Date: New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2016. xxviii, 257 p.
Description: Ever since Ukraine’s violent 2014 revolution, followed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the country has been at war. Misinformation reigns, more than two million people have been displaced, and Ukrainians fight one another on a second front–the crucial war against corruption. With In Wartime, journalist Tim Judah lays bare the events that have turned neighbors against one another and mired Europe’s second-largest country in a conflict seemingly without end. In Lviv, Ukraine’s western cultural capital, mothers tend the graves of sons killed on the other side of the country. On the Maidan, the square where the protests that deposed President Yanukovych began, pamphleteers, recruiters, buskers, and mascots compete for attention. In Donetsk, civilians who cheered Russia’s President Putin find their hopes crushed as they realize they have been trapped in the twilight zone of a frozen conflict. Judah talks to everyone from politicians to poets, pensioners, and historians. Listening to their clashing explanations, he interweaves their stories to create a sweeping, tragic portrait of a country fighting a war of independence from Russia–twenty-five years after the collapse of the USSR. (publ.)
Call Number: Received Not Yet Cataloged-Grant Book
Publication Date: London: Haus Publishing, 2020. 164 p.
Reviewed: TLS 30 Apr. 2021 p. 5. Description: The Partition of Ireland in 1921, which established Northern Ireland and saw it incorporated into the United Kingdom, sparked immediate civil war and a century of unrest. Today, the Partition remains the single most contentious issue in Irish politics, but its origins–how and why the British divided the island–remain obscured by decades of ensuing struggle. Cutting through the partisan divide, Irish Studies Prof. Ivan Gibbons takes readers back to the first days of the twentieth century to uncover the concerns at the heart of the original conflict. Drawing on extensive primary research, he reveals how the idea to divide Ireland came about and gained popular support as well as why its implementation proved so controversial and left a century of troubles in its wake. (publ.)
Description: Told from the perspective of a U.S. diplomat in Kyiv, this book is the true story of Ukraine’s anti-corruption revolution in 2013-14, Russia’s intervention and invasion, and the limited role played by the United States. The author’s narrative includes a wealth of information on Ukrainian high-level and street-level politics, a broad analysis of the international context, and vivid descriptions of people and places in Ukraine during the EuroMaidan Revolution. The book also counters Russia’s disinformation narratives about the revolution and America's role in it. While focusing on a single country during a dramatic three-year period, the book’s universal themes–among them, truth versus lies, democracy versus autocracy–possess a broader urgency for our times, particularly for the United States and all other countries that are the targets of Russia’s cyber warfare and other forms of political skullduggery. The book also details Russia’s attempt to abort the Ukrainian revolution through threats, economic pressure, lies, and intimidation. When all of that failed, the Kremlin exacted revenge by annexing Ukraine’s territory of Crimea and fomenting and sustaining a hybrid war in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 13,000 people and continues to this day. (publ.)
Call Number: Received Not Yet Cataloged-Grant Book
Publication Date: New York: Central European UP, 2022. vii, 236 p.
Description: This collective work analyzes the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, providing a coherent picture of Ukraine and Eastern Europe in the period 2013-2020. Giving voice to different social groups, scholarly communities and agencies relevant to Ukraine’s recent history, The War in Ukraine’s Donbas goes beyond simplistic media interpretations that limit the analysis to Vladimir Putin and Russian aims to annex Ukraine. Instead, the authors identify the deeper roots linked to the autonomy and history of Donbas as a region. The contributions explore local society and traditions and the alienation from Ukraine caused by the events of Euromaidan, which saw the removal of the Donetsk-based president Viktor Yanukovych. Other chapters address the refugee crisis, the Minsk Accords in 2014 and the impact of the new president Volodymyr Zelensky and his efforts to bring the war to an end by negotiations among Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany. The book concludes with four proposals for a durable peace in Donbas: territorial power-sharing; the conversion of rebels into legitimate political parties; amnesty for all participants of the armed conflict; and a transitional period of several years until political institutions are fully re-established. (publ.)
Publication Date: Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 2020. xviii, 308 p.
Reviewed: FA Mar./Apr. 2021 p. 222. Description: Within weeks of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, the Chinese government warned that it faced a serious terrorist threat from its Uyghur ethnic minority, who are largely Muslim. In this book, Sean Roberts reveals how China has been using the US-led global war on terror as international cover for its increasingly brutal suppression of the Uyghurs, and how the war’s targeting of an undefined enemy has emboldened states around the globe to persecute ethnic minorities and severely repress domestic opposition in the name of combatting terrorism. Of the eleven million Uyghurs living in China today, more than one million are now being held in so-called reeducation camps, victims of what has become the largest program of mass detention and surveillance in the world. Roberts describes how the Chinese government successfully implicated the Uyghurs in the global terror war-despite a complete lack of evidence-and branded them as a dangerous terrorist threat with links to al-Qaeda. He argues that the reframing of Uyghur domestic dissent as international terrorism provided justification and inspiration for a systematic campaign to erase Uyghur identity, and that a nominal Uyghur militant threat only emerged after more than a decade of Chinese suppression in the name of counterterrorism-which has served to justify further state repression.
Publication Date: London: I.B. Tauris, 2021. xi, 268 p.
Description: The West’s actions in the Middle East are based on a fundamental misunderstanding: political Islam is repeatedly assumed to be the main cause of conflict and unrest in the region. The idea that we can decipher Jihadist radicalization or problems in the Middle East simply by reading the Qur’an has now become symptomatic of our age. This dangerous over-simplification and the West’s obsession with Islam dominates media and policy analysis, ultimately skewing intervention and preventing long-term solutions and stability in the region. Ömer Taşpinar, who has 20 years’ research and policymaking experience, explains here what is really going on in the Middle East. The book is based on three of the most pressing cases currently under the spotlight: the role of Erdogan and the unrest in Turkey; the sectarian clashes in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon; and the existence of the so-called Islamic State. Islam is often seen as the root cause of the challenge associated with these cases. But by unpacking the real issues, such as entrenched authoritarianism, vast energy resources, excessive defense spending, and the youth bulge, the book demystifies what is happening and cites governance and nationalism as the main drivers of conflict. The book shows the importance of treating the causes–which are economic, social and institutional–rather than the symptom–the continued and growing success of Islamist parties and jihadist movements in assessing the Middle East. In revealing exactly how Islamism is activated and by analyzing the structural challenges of the region, this unique insider’s account provides a map to understanding Middle Eastern wars and conflicts and the prospects for the future. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Pegasus Books, 2019. xxv, 497 p., 16 p. of plates.
Reviewed: NYRB 27 Feb. 2020 p. 32. Description: The birth of South Sudan was celebrated the world round–a triumph for global justice and the end of one of the world’s most devastating wars. The Republic’s historic independence was acclaimed not only by its long-oppressed people, but by three U.S. presidents and the legions of Americans who championed their cause. But the celebration would not last; South Sudan’s freedom-fighters soon plunged their new nation back into chaos, shattering the promise of liberation and exposing the hubris of their American backers. Drawing on extraordinary personal stories of identity, liberation, and survival, this tells an epic story of paradise won and then lost. Zach Vertin’s firsthand accounts from deadly war zones to the halls of Washington power bring readers on an extraordinary journey into the rise and fall of the world's newest state. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Random House, 2016. xiv, 470 p.
Reviewed: TLS 23/30 Aug. 2019 p. 29 (referenced) Description: Bringing together dozens of voices in her distinctive documentary style, this is a monument to the collapse of the USSR, charting the decline of Soviet culture and speculating on what will rise from the ashes of communism. As in all her books, Alexievich gives voice to women and men whose stories are lost in the official narratives of nation-states, creating a powerful alternative history from the personal and private stories of individuals. When the Swedish Academy awarded Svetlana Alexievich the Nobel Prize in Literature, they praised her “polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time,” and cited her for inventing “a new kind of literary genre.” Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, added that her work comprises “a history of emotions–a history of the soul.” (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: PublicAffairs, 2019. xi, 300 p.
Reviewed: TLS 11 Oct. 2019 p. 28. Description: NPR correspondent Frank Langfitt describes how he created a free taxi service–offering rides in exchange for illuminating conversation–to go beyond the headlines and get to know a wide range of colorful, compelling characters representative of the new China. They include folks like “Beer,” a slippery salesman who tries to sell Langfitt a used car; Rocky, a farm boy turned Shanghai lawyer; and Chen, who runs an underground Christian church and moves his family to America in search of a better, freer life. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Public Affairs, 2019. 305 p., 16 p. of plates.
Reviewed: NYT/BR 13 Oct. 2019 p. 21. Description: Daraya lies on the fringe of Damascus, just southwest of the Syrian capital. Yet for four years it lived in another world. Besieged by government forces early in the Syrian Civil War, its people were deprived of food, bombarded by heavy artillery, and under the constant fire of snipers. But deep be-neath this scene of frightening devastation lay a hidden library. While the streets above echoed with shelling and rifle fire, the secret world below was a haven of books. Long rows of well-thumbed volumes lined almost every wall: bloated editions with grand leather covers, pocket-sized guides to Syrian poetry, and no-nonsense reference books, all arranged in well-ordered lines. But this precious horde was not bought from publishers or loaned by other libraries–they were the books salvaged and scavenged at great personal risk from the doomed city above. The story of this extraordinary place and the people who found purpose and refuge in it is one of hope, human resilience, and above all, the timeless, universal love of literature and the compassion and wisdom it fosters. (publ.)
Publication Date: London: Head of Zeus, 2018. xix, 453 p., 8 p. of plates.
Reviewed: PW 3 Sept. 2018 p. 88. Description: The dictator who grew so rich on his country's cocoa crop that he built a 35-story-high basilica in the jungles of the Ivory Coast. The austere, incorruptible leader who has shut Eritrea off from the world in a permanent state of war and conscripted every adult into the armed forces. In Equatorial Guinea, the paranoid despot who thought Hitler was the savior of Africa and waged a relentless campaign of terror against his own people. The Libyan army officer who authored a new work of political philosophy, The Green Book. And behind these almost incredible stories of fantastic violence and excess lie the dark secrets of Western greed and complicity, the insatiable taste for chocolate, oil, diamonds and gold that have encouraged dictators to rule with an iron hand, siphoning off their share of the action into mansions in Paris and banks in Zurich and keeping their people in dire poverty. (publ.)
Publication Date: Chicago: U. Chicago Pr., 2019. 640 p.
Reviewed: PW 11 Feb. 2019 p. 61; Choice (Sept. 2019 vol. 57 no. 1) Essential for community college libraries; NYRB 27 June 2019 p. 47; LR Feb. 2019 p. 30. Description: By the time the “Scramble for Africa” among European colonial powers began in the late nineteenth century, Africa had already been globally connected for centuries. Its gold had fueled the economies of Europe and the Islamic world for nearly a millennium, and the sophisticated kingdoms spanning its west coast had traded with Europeans since the fifteenth century. Until at least 1650, this was a trade of equals, using a variety of currencies–most importantly, cowrie shells imported from the Maldives and nzimbu shells imported from Brazil. But, as the slave trade grew, African kingdoms began to lose prominence in the growing global economy. We have been living with the effects of this shift ever since. Toby Green trans-forms our view of West and West-Central Africa by reconstructing the world of these kingdoms, which revolved around trade, diplomacy, complex religious beliefs, and the production of art. Green shows how the slave trade led to economic disparities that caused African kingdoms to lose relative political and economic power. (publ.)
Publication Date: Chicago: U. Chicago Pr., 2018. 198 p.
Reviewed: NYRB 7 Mar. 2019 p. 33. Description: Interweaving powerful stories and deep meditations, this book offers vivid firsthand reports from the occupied West Bank in Palestine as seen through the eyes of an experienced Israeli peace activist who has seen the Israeli occupation close up as it impacts on the lives of all Palestinian civilians. … The violent realities of the occupation are on full display. We get to know and understand the Palestinian shepherds and farmers and Israeli volunteers who face this situation head-on with nonviolent resistance. (publ.)
Publication Date: Toronto, Ont.: Random House, 2018. 277 p.
Reviewed: Lancet 392(10151) 15 Sept. 2018 p. 909. Description: A stunning work of investigative reporting by a Canadian journalist who has risked her own life to bring us a deeply disturbing history of the Rwandan genocide that takes the true measure of Rwandan head of state Paul Kagame. Through unparalleled interviews with RPF defectors, former soldiers and atrocity survivors, supported by documents leaked from a UN court, Judi Rever brings us the complete history of the Rwandan genocide. Considered by the international community to be the saviours who ended the Hutu slaughter of innocent Tutsis, Kagame and his rebel forces were also killing, in quiet and in the dark, as ruthlessly as the Hutu genocidaire were killing in daylight. The reason why the larger world community hasn’t recognized this truth? Kagame and his top commanders effectively covered their tracks and, post-genocide, rallied world guilt and played the heroes in order to attract funds to rebuild Rwanda and to maintain and ex-tend the Tutsi sphere of influence in the region. Judi Rever, who has fol-lowed the story since 1997, has marshalled evidence to show that Kagame’s own troops shot down the presidential plane on April 6, 1994–the act that put the match to the genocidal flame. As Kagame and his forces slowly advanced on the capital of Kigali, they were ethnically cleansing the country of Hutu men, women and children in order that returning Tutsi settlers, displaced since the early '60s, would have homes and land. (publ.)
Reviewed: NPR & Patron Recommendation (7 Aug. 2018); NYT/BR 19 Aug. 2018 p. 10; Economist 11 Aug. 2018 p. 67; LR Sept. 2018 p. 18. Description: A candid narrative of how and why the Arab Spring sparked, then failed, and the truth about America’s role in that failure and the subsequent military coup that put Sisi in power–from the Middle East correspondent of the New York Times. In 2011, Egyptians of all sects, ages, and social classes shook off millennia of autocracy, then elected a Muslim Brotherhood president. The 2013 military coup replaced him with a vigorous strongman, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has cracked down on any dissent or opposition with a degree of ferocity Mubarak never dared. What went wrong? Is the Arab world stuck between military and theocratic authoritarianism? And how did Washington manage to be so feckless and reactive? Egypt has for centuries set in motion every major trend in politics and culture across the Arab world, from independence and Arab nationalism to Islamic modernism, political Islam, and the jihadist thought that led to Al Qaeda and ISIS. The Arab Spring revolts of 2011 spread from Cairo, so Americans naturally look to its disastrous democratic experiment with cynical exasperation; but they fail to understand the dynamic of the uprising, the hidden story of its failure, and Washington's part in that tragedy. David D. Kirkpatrick arrived in Egypt less than six months before the uprising broke out. The book juxtaposes his account of Tahrir Square, the elections, and the eventual coup, with new reporting on the conflicts within the Obama administration over how to handle the tumult.
Publication Date: New York: Oxford UP, 2019. xv, 224 p.
Description: Former North Korea lead foreign service officer at the US embassy in Seoul Patrick McEachern unpacks the contentious and tangled relationship between the Koreas in an approachable question-and-answer format. While North Korea is famous for its militarism and nuclear pro-gram, South Korea is best known for its economic miracle, familiar to consumers as the producer of Samsung smartphones, Hyundai cars, and even K-pop music and K-beauty. Why have the two Koreas developed politically and economically in such radically different ways? What are the origins of a divided Korean Peninsula? Who rules the two Koreas? How have three generations of the authoritarian Kim dictatorship shaped North Korea? What is the history of North-South relations? Why does the North Korean government develop nuclear weapons? How do powers such as Japan, China, and Russia fit into the mix? What is it like to live in North and South Korea? This book tackles these broad topics and many more to explain what everyone needs to know about South and North Korea. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Doubleday, 2019. xii, 441 p.
Reviewed: NYT/BR 3 Mar. 2019 p. 12; LJ Winter 2018 p. 87; TLS 1 Feb. 2019 p. 10. Description: An intricate narrative about a notorious killing in Northern Ireland and its devastating repercussions. In December 1972, Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as the Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the IRA was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it. In 2003, five years after an accord brought an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville’s children knew it was their mother when they were told a blue safety pin was attached to the garments–with so many kids, she had always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes. Patrick Radden Keefe’s mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Harper, 2019. xvi, 365 p., 8 p. of plates.
Reviewed:NPR 13 Mar. 2019; NYT/BR 19 May 2019 p. 10. Description: For more than a millennium, Polynesians occupied the remotest islands in the Pacific Ocean, an enormous triangle stretching from Hawaii to New Zealand to Easter Island. Sailing in large, double-hulled canoes, without the benefit of maps, writing, or metal tools, these ancient mariners were the first and, until the era of European discovery, the only people ever to have reached this part of the globe. Today, they are widely acknowledged as the world’s greatest navigators. But how did the earliest Polynesians reach these far-flung islands? How did they conquer the largest ocean on the planet? Diving deep into the history of the Pacific, Christina Thompson explores this epic migration, following the trail of the many sailors, linguists, archaeologists, and geographers who have puzzled over this story, in a quest to discover who these ancient voyagers were, where they came from, and how they managed to colonize every habitable island in the vast region of remote Oceania. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Oxford UP, 2017. xxii, 466 p.
Reviewed: TLS 11 Jan. 2019 p. 9; Bustan 9(2) 2018 p. 230; NYRB 21 Feb. 2019 p. 16. Description: Anthropologist Marieke Brandt tells the story of the Houthi conflict in Sa’dah Province, Yemen, as seen through the eyes of the local tribes. In the West the Houthi conflict, which erupted in 2004, is often defined through the lenses of either the Iranian-Saudi proxy war or the Sunni-Shia divide. Yet, as experienced by locals, the Houthi conflict is much more deeply rooted in the recent history of Sa’dah Province. Its origins must be sought in the political, economic, social and sectarian transformations since the 1960s civil war and their repercussions on the local society, which is dominated by tribal norms. From the civil war to the Houthi conflict these transformations involve the same individuals, families and groups, and are driven by the same struggles over resources, prerogatives, and power. This book is based on years of anthropological fieldwork expertise both on the ground and through digital anthropological approaches. It offers a detailed account of the local complexities of the Houthi conflict and its historical background and underscores the absolute imperative of understanding the highly local, personal, and non-ideological nature of internal conflict in Yemen. (publ.)
Publication Date: New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 2019. 177 p.
Reviewed: NYRB 21 Mar. 2019 p. 58. Description: Christophe Guilluy, a French geographer, makes the case that France has become an “American society”–one that is both increasingly multicultural and increasingly unequal. The divide between the global economy’s winners and losers in today’s France has replaced the old left-right split, leaving many on “the periphery.” As Guilluy shows, there is no unified French economy, and those cut off from the country’s new economic citadels suffer disproportionately on both economic and social fronts. In Guilluy’s analysis, the lip service paid to the idea of an “open society” has emerged in France as a smoke screen meant to hide the emergence of a closed society, walled off for the benefit of the upper classes. The ruling classes in France are reaching a dangerous stage, he argues; without the stability of a growing economy, the hope for those excluded from growth is extinguished, undermining the legitimacy of a multicultural nation. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: The New Press, 2017. 230 p.
Reviewed: NYT/BR 26 Aug. 2018 p. 19 (author review of other work) Description: In this book, Shehadeh explores how occupation has affected him personally, chronicling the various crossings that he undertook into Israel over a period of forty years to visit friends and family, to enjoy the sea, to argue before the Israeli courts, and to negotiate failed peace agreements. Those forty years also saw him develop a close friendship with Henry, a Canadian Jew who immigrated to Israel at around the same time Shehadeh returned to Palestine from studying in London. While offering an unforgettably poignant exploration of Palestinian-Israeli relationships, Shehadeh also provides an anatomy of friendship and an exploration of whether, in the bleakest of circumstances, it is possible for bonds to transcend political divisions. (publ.)
Reviewed: The Lancet 30 Sept. 2017 p. 1574 Description: Reframes the debate about Africa’s growth or lack thereof, challenging mainstream accounts of African economic history. For the first time in generations, Africa is spoken of these days with enthusiastic hope: no longer seen as a hopeless morass of poverty, the continent instead is described as Africa Rising, a land of enormous economic potential that is just beginning to be tapped. Morten Jerven offers a bracing corrective. Neither story, he shows, is accurate. In truth, most African economies have been growing rapidly since the 1990s--and, until a collapse in the 70s and 80s, they had been growing reliably for decades. Puncturing weak analysis that relies too much on those two lost decades, Jerven redraws our picture of Africa’s past, present, and potential. (publ.)
Publication Date: Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 2018. 352 p.
Description: Boko Haram is one of the world’s deadliest jihadist groups. It has killed more than twenty thousand people and displaced more than two million in a campaign of terror that began in Nigeria but has since spread to Chad, Niger, and Cameroon as well. This is the first book to tell the full story of this West African affiliate of the Islamic State, from its beginnings in the early 2000s to its most infamous violence, including the 2014 kid-napping of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls. (publ.)
Publication Date: Minneapolis, Minn.: Graywolf Pr., 2017. xviii, 379 p.
Reviewed: Economist 11 Feb. 2017 p. 70. Description: Kapka Kassabova returns to Bulgaria, from where she emigrated as a girl twenty-five years previously, to explore the border it shares with Turkey and Greece. When she was a child, the border zone was rumored to be an easier crossing point into the West than the Berlin Wall, and it swarmed with soldiers and spies. On holidays in the “Red Riviera” on the Black Sea, she remembers playing on the beach only miles from a bristling electrified fence whose barbs pointed inward toward the enemy: the citizens of the totalitarian regime. She discovers a place that has been shaped by successive forces of history: the Soviet and Ottoman empires, and, older still, myth and legend. Her exquisite portraits of fire walkers, smugglers, treasure hunters, botanists, and border guards populate the book. There are also the ragged men and women who have walked across Turkey from Syria and Iraq. But there seem to be nonhuman forces at work here too: This densely forested landscape is rich with curative springs and Thracian tombs, and the tug of the ancient world, of circular time and animism, is never far off. (publ.)
Publication Date: Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2016. 365 p.
Reviewed: FA July/Aug. 2017 p. 149 Description: Based on illuminating details from 260 well-researched cases of corruption involved multiple officials and businessmen since the early 1990s, this study investigates how collusion among elites has penetrated the vital sectors of the Chinese political and economic systems. These cases reveal a well-developed illicit market for power inside the Chinese party-state, in which bribes and official appointments are surreptitiously but routinely traded. (publ.)
Publication Date: Oakland: U. California Pr., 2017. 302 p.
Description: Since March 2015, a Saudi-led international coalition of forces–supported by Britain and the United States–has waged devastating war in Yemen. Largely ignored by the world's media, the resulting humanitarian disaster and full-scale famine threatens millions. Destroying Yemen offers the first in-depth historical account of the transnational origins of this war. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Oxford UP, 2016. xvii, 269 p.
Reviewed: TLS 2 Feb. 2018 p. 27 Description: Some 250,000 people died in the southern Somalia famine of 2011-12, which also displaced and destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands more. Yet this crisis had been predicted nearly a year earlier. The harshest drought in Somalia's recent history coincided with a global spike in food prices, hitting this arid, import-dependent country hard. The policies of Al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group that controlled southern Somalia, exacerbated an already difficult situation, barring most humanitarian assistance, while the government's counter-terrorism policies criminalized any aid falling into their hands. A major disaster resulted from the production and market failures precipitated by the drought and food price crisis, while the famine itself was the result of the failure to quickly respond to these events–and was thus largely human-made. This book analyses the famine: the trade-offs between competing policy priorities that led to it, the collective failure in response, and how those affected by it attempted to protect themselves and their livelihoods. It also examines the humanitarian response, including actors that had not previously been particularly visible in Somalia–from Turkey, the Middle East, and Islamic charities worldwide. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: MCD/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017. 295 p.
Reviewed: NYRB 9 Nov. 2017 p. 16 Description: On March 11, 2011, a 120-foot-high tsunami smashed into the northeast coast of Japan, leaving more than eighteen thousand people dead. It was Japan's single greatest loss of life since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945. Richard Lloyd Parry, an award winning foreign correspondent, lived through the earthquake in Tokyo and spent six years reporting from the disaster zone. Ghosts of the Tsunami is the intimate ac-count of an epic tragedy, told through the perspectives of those who lived through it. (publ.)
Reviewed: TLS 18/25 Aug. 2017 p. 19; Lancet 2 Sept. 2017 p. 924. Description: The Syrian civil war and the humanitarian catastrophe it has produced constitute the most urgent geopolitical crisis of the twenty-first century. For the last six years, we have been confronted with images of colossal human suffering and a moral dilemma that remains unresolved, with no end in sight. Yassin al-Haj Saleh, the intellectual voice of the Syrian revolution, describes with precision and fervor the events that led to the uprising of 2011, the metamorphosis of the popular revolution into a regional war, and the “three monsters” Saleh sees “treading on Syria’s corpse”: the Assad regime and its allies, ISIS and other jihadists, and the West. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017. xxii, 581 p.
Reviewed: NYT 3 Sept. 2017 p. SR7; CHE 15 Sept. 2017 (new books); Economist 23 Sept. 2017 p. 75; NYT/BR 24 Sept. 2017 p. 25; LR Oct. 2017 p. 18; Economist 9 Dec. 2017 p. 83 (2017 Books of the Year). Description: On a hot summer afternoon in 1928, the leaders of the world assembled in Paris to outlaw war. Within the year, the treaty signed that day, known as the Peace Pact, had been ratified by nearly every state in the world. War, for the first time in history, had become illegal the world over. But the promise of that summer day was fleeting. Within a decade of its signing, each state that had gathered in Paris to renounce war was at war. And in the century that followed, the Peace Pact was dismissed as an act of folly and an unmistakable failure. This book argues that that understanding is inaccurate, and that the Peace Pact ushered in a sustained march toward peace that lasts to this day. (publ.)
Description: This book is designed to introduce American readers to the terms of the discussion of a two-state solution. It features essays by well-known Israeli academics, both Jewish and Palestinian, as well as contributions from non-Israeli citizen Palestinian, and American scholars. It is the first to bring together a wide-range of views and perspectives by influential scholars from various disciplines as well as from activists to bear on a very topical subject with international ramifications. (publ.)
Publication Date: Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 2018. 472 p.
Reviewed: Bustan 8(2) 2017 p. 167 (mention) Description: Based on a decade of research, including in-depth interviews with many leading figures in the story, Making the Arab World is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the roots of the turmoil engulfing the Middle East, from civil wars to the rise of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. (publ.)
Publication Date: London: Zed Books, 2017. xiv, 280 p.
Reviewed: FA 97(1) Jan./Feb. 2018 p. 168; TLS 13 Apr. 2018 p. 22. Description: Explores the growing divide between Myanmar’s Buddhist and Muslim communities, and questions why some of the most respected and articulate voices for democracy in the country have become complicit in the persecution of its religious minorities. (publ.)
Description: Decades after the colonial powers withdrew from Africa, the continent is still struggling to catch up with the rest of the world. When the same colonists withdrew from Asia, it kickstarted several decades of sustained and unprecedented growth throughout the continent. So what went wrong in Africa? And are we doing the right things to fix it, or are we making matters worse? (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Oxford UP, 2017. xiv, 189 p.
Reviewed: FA 96(5) Sept./Oct. 2017 p. 185 Description: Sadly, most Americans if asked would probably think this is an international studies book. Acquired by the United States from Spain in 1898, Puerto Rico has a peculiar status among Latin American and Caribbean countries. As a Commonwealth, the island enjoys limited autonomy over local matters, but the U.S. has dominated it militarily, politically, and economically for much of its recent history. Though they are U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans do not have their own voting representatives in Congress and cannot vote in presidential elections (although they are able to participate in the primaries). The island’s status is a topic of perennial debate, both within and beyond its shores. In recent months its colossal public debt has sparked an economic crisis that has catapulted it onto the national stage and intensified the exodus to the U.S., bringing to the fore many of the unresolved remnants of its colonial history. This is an accessibly written survey for general audiences. (publ.)
Publication Date: Tunbridge Wells, England: Atlantic Books, 2017. 384 p.
Reviewed: TLS 2 Feb. 2018 p. 28 Description: India joined the railway age late: the first line was not completed until 1853 but, by 1929, 41,000 miles of track served the country. However, the creation of this vast network was not intended to modernize India for the sake of its people but rather was a means for the colonial power to govern the huge country under its control, serving its British economic and military interests. Despite the dubious intentions behind the construction of the network, the Indian people quickly took to the railways, as the trains allowed them to travel easily for the first time. The Indian Railways network remains one of the largest in the world, serving over 25 million passengers each day. In this expertly told history, transport historian Christian Wolmar reveals the full story of India’s railways, from its very beginnings to the present day, and examines the checkered role they have played in Indian history and the creation of today’s modern state. (publ.)
Publication Date: Stanford, Calif.: Stanford UP, 2017. xiv, 294 p.
Description: The revolutionary wave that swept the Middle East in 2011 was marked by spectacular mobilization, spreading within and between countries with extraordinary speed. Several years on, however, it has caused limited shifts in structures of power, leaving much of the old political and social order intact. In this book, noted author Asef Bayat–whose Life as Politics anticipated the Arab Spring–uncovers why this occurred, and what made these uprisings so distinct from those that came before. (publ.)
Publication Date: London: Hurst, 2017. xviii, 355 pages, 8 p. of plates.
Reviewed: The Economist 9 Dec. 2017 p. 85 (2017 Books of the Year); Choice May 2018 vol. 55 no. 9 (Highly recommended; recommended for community college libraries) Description: Analyzes with rare impartiality what sets the Catalans apart from Spain, and how the separatist debate is playing out. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Public Affairs, 2017. xxi, 312.
Reviewed: TLS 11 Aug. 2017 p. 11; The Economist 9 Dec. 2017 p. 85 (2017 Books of the Year). Description: Former Economist journalist Adam Roberts spent five years traveling the length and breadth of the country from Kerala to the Himalayas, Bengal to Gujarat. As he encountered the power brokers, gate keepers, and elaborate social dynamics of the world’s largest democracy, he asked if–and how–India can become a truly great economic power, more influential abroad and stable at home. He met prime ministers, multimillionaires, traveling salesmen, pilgrims, eco-warriors, farmers, and tech innovators, each wrestling with the trials posed by the world’s most conspicuously nearly great power. He experienced an immense country that, despite daunting challenges, is entering the most optimistic period in its modern history. Through vivid storytelling and insight, Superfast Primetime Ultimate Nation examines the problems and promises of fast-growing India to reveal how it might reach its full potential. (publ.)
Publication Date: New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 2017. xxiii, 290 p.
Reviewed: TLS 2 Feb. 2018 p. 23; NYT/BR 18 Feb. 2018 p. 15; FA 97(2) March/April 2018 p. 182; Economist 3 Feb. 2018 p. 73 Description: In this lyrical and intimate book, Marci Shore evokes the human face of the Ukrainian Revolution. Grounded in the true stories of activists and soldiers, parents and children, Shore’s book blends a narrative of suspenseful choices with a historian’s reflections on what revolution is and what it means. She gently sets her portraits of individual revolutionaries against the past as they understand it—and the future as they hope to make it. In so doing, she provides a lesson about human solidarity in a world, our world, where the boundary between reality and fiction is ever more effaced. (publ.)
Publication Date: New York: Custom House, 2017. liii, 290 p.
Reviewed: FA 97(3) May/June 2018 p. 203. Description: Based on interviews with hundreds of displaced Syrians conducted over four years across the Middle East and Europe, this is a mosaic of first-hand testimonials from the frontlines. Some of the testimonies are several pages long, eloquent narratives that could stand alone as short stories; others are only a few sentences, poetic and aphoristic. Together, they cohere into a chronicle that is not only a testament to the power of story-telling but to the strength of those who face darkness with hope, courage, and moral conviction. (publ.)