Contributors: Kendall Allen, James Cury, Julie Felner, Scott Hamrah, Josh Kun, and Leah Shahum.
In The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms With America’s Changing Families (New York: BasicBooks, 1997), social historian Stephanie Coontz claims the truth about American families lies buried beneath political spin. While family values proponents warn that the country’s moral fabric is fraying, Coontz applies a sociological and historical perspective to changing family structures and roles, dispelling modern myths, like the notion of ’50s-era bliss, along the way. Actually, Mr. Quayle, there was a greater increase in the rate of nonmarital childbearing between 1940 and 1958 than during any other period in American history. Coontz confronts economic and social issues instead of wasting time longing for the values of a misremembered past.
In June 1996, one frustrated mother wanted to find — or start — a community in which she could share the fundamental truths about such topics as the best companies for working mothers, pesticide poisons in baby food, and how women can get back in shape after giving birth. Her Web site, A Woman’s Space, contains all this, along with insightful stories, kid-friendly movie reviews, and cartoons.
The problem with the rat race, according to the old joke, is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. First We Quit Our Jobs (New York: Dell, 1997) suggests a tempting alternative to the craziness of corporate life. Fed up with an increasingly depersonalized workplace, author Marilyn J. Abraham and her husband swap their livings as publishing executives in New York for a year of life on the road. Covering nearly 20,000 miles, they never regret their unconventional decision. When strangers heard about their plan, she recalls, “faces lit up, smiles appeared, we were congratulated for our bravery.” This lively travel journal begs the question of what is sacrificed for a “successful” corporate life.
Think you should be getting paid for all that overtime? Fear your boss is snooping through your e-mail late at night? In Your Rights in the Workplace (Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo Press, 1996), legal journalist Barbara Kate Repa provides practical advice. Though some information may seem insultingly obvious — like the suggestion to double-check your math before complaining about a paycheck — other advice can save an employee from needless anxiety or even costly courtroom disputes. Most helpful are Repa’s explanations of relatively new federal laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Three photographers celebrate the achievements of one of North America’s most important landscape architects in Viewing Olmsted: Photographs by Robert Burley, Lee Friedlander, and Geoffrey James (Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1996). Each contributor uses a different approach to capture the creations of Frederick Law Olmsted, best known for his design of Central Park. Burley, who highlights how the landscape changes with the seasons and with the impact of human activity, notes Olmsted’s “talent for manipulating not only the landscape but the way people experienced it.
Environmental historian Alfred Runte chronicles more than a century of discord in Yosemite: The Embattled Wilderness (Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), documenting how the preservation of one of the country’s oldest national parks has suffered at the expense of development. He makes no effort to hide his disgust with early park officials who focused on enticing tourists to “the next Niagara Falls,” ignoring warnings about the effects of human traffic on nature.
Race & The Christian Coalition
Why do African-Americans, women, and homosexuals continue to hold the Bible dear when the Scriptures, taken literally, pointedly exclude them? asks Harvard University preacher Peter J. Gomes in The Good Book: Reading the Bible With Mind and Heart (New York: William Morrow, 1996). During what he calls today’s “crisis of biblical illiteracy,” Gomes reintroduces the Bible to people unsure of how to reconcile its text with their moral beliefs. The Good Book examines the painful past — and present — use of Scripture to defend slavery and to subjugate women, Jews, and gays. And Gomes — who is black, homosexual, and Republican — illustrates how readers can reclaim biblical interpretation from those who use the Bible to ostracize others.
Originally released in 1980, the reissue of Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs, 1960-1966 (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 1997) is a stunning exercise in the telling of history through song. Rooted in the political landscape of bus boycotts, school desegregation, and labor drives, this two-disc compilation chronicles how congregational meetings (usually held in black churches and featuring such memorable soloists as activist Fannie Lou Hamer) and ensembles (such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Freedom Singers) used gospel songs, hymns, spirituals, and even ’50s and ’60s pop and R&B to create political statements of struggle and protest.
Created by a multiracial and multifaith group of clergy and laypeople, the Victims of Church Arson Support Page presents facts, resources, and suggestions on how to support victims of church burnings. From the black-and-white ribbon topping the homepage to the fact sheet about the torching of 100 churches — the point is obvious: no tolerance. The site archives news articles on church burnings and assembles vital Web links for those seeking more information.
The Citizen’s Guide to Lobbying Congress (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1997) by lawyer/lobbyist Donald E. deKieffer levels the playing field for first-timers on the Hill by demystifying the rules of this complicated, high-stakes game. Nonpartisan and nonideological, the book is a how-to manual that walks readers through the intricacies of legislation and ways to effect change.
Behind every smiling candidate, there’s a laundry list of scandals — most of which are lurking in Skeleton Closet, an off-the-wall Web site that dishes rumor, innuendo, and “all the dirt on all the candidates” from the 1996 presidential campaign, including Clinton, Dole, Perot, Buchanan, and Nader. Detailed profiles are backed up by a list of allegations and sources. Think this is too darn negative? So did the site’s creators — they have added a new link: “Positive Ideas for Real Change.”