14 Booklist September 1, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
sound judgment. Given the current election
cycle, this interesting, well-written work is a
worthy, timely read. —Jay Freeman
Water Tossing Boulders: How a Family
of Chinese Immigrants Led the First
Fight to Desegregate Schools in the Jim
By Adrienne Berard.
Oct. 2016. 224p. Beacon, $26.95 (9780807033531).
Thirty years before Brown v. Board of Education struck down segregation in public
schools, a Chinese American family in the
Mississippi Delta fought to continue their
daughter’s education. On September 15,
1924, Rosedale School’s principal banned
nine-and-a-half-year-old, straight-A student
Martha Lum and her older sister from school
because of their “colored” Chinese ancestry.
The Lum family decided to fight, and their
lawsuit became “the first U.S. Supreme Court
case to challenge the constitutionality of segregation in Southern public schools.” Filed
by former Mississippi Governor Earl Brewer,
the case took on a Southern gothic-like legal
cast, ending with twenty-seventh president-turned-chief justice William Taft writing the
final decision. Although the writing is a bit
uneven, with clumsy attempts at florid language (“daughters of an ancient nation called
China”) and repetition in spite of the book’s
slim size, Berard’s intention to “restor[e]
Gong Lum v. Rice to its rightful place in history” is undeniably noble. And the fact that
the school district where the Lums filed suit
remains segregated almost a century later
is sobering proof of the book’s significance.
— Terry Hong
YA: This chronicle of a little-known case
of early-twentieth-century miscarriage of
civil rights is enlightening and instructive.
We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and
By Jeff Chang.
Sept. 2016. 192p. Picador USA, paper, $16
(9780312429485); e-book, $9.99 (9781250114792).
Chang, author of the hip-hop history Can’t
Stop Won’t Stop (2005), tasked with writing
a new introduction for Who We Be (2014),
instead wrote what became this entire new
book of essays on inequality and resegrega-
tion in the U.S. With a conclusion devoted
to Beyoncé’s album Lemonade, released this
past spring, and references to Donald Trump’s
presidential campaign, We Gon’ Be Alright is
an of-the-moment contemplation ripe for
the social-media generation. Chang, who
directs the Institute for Diversity in the Arts
at Stanford University, rests his discussion,
extensively underpinned with figures and
endnotes, squarely on the politics and poli-
cies of the past half-century. He writes, “One
need not be a pessimist to see the bad loop of
history we are caught within—crisis, reaction,
backlash, complacency, crisis.” Whether his
topic is a day-by-day breakdown of the situa-
tion in Ferguson, Missouri, after the death of
Michael Brown, the birth of the Movement
for Black Lives, or his own Asian American-
ness, Chang’s prose is disarming, provocative,
and sure to inspire further thought and re-
search. —Annie Bostrom
A Woman on the Edge of Time: A Son
Investigates His Trailblazing Mother’s
By Jeremy Gavron.
Sept. 2016. 272p. Experiment, $24.95 (9781615193387).
In 1965, Gavron’s mother dropped him off
at his preschool Christmas party just before
killing herself at a friend’s home. Only 29
at the time, Hannah, as English author and
journalist Gavron (An Acre of Barren Ground,
2006) refers to his mother here, was well
loved and had already achieved many great
successes—academic accomplishments, including the near completion of a doctorate,
and a forthcoming book, all while maintaining her marriage of nearly a decade and
raising two young sons. What, then, did everyone miss? In his forties with children of
his own, Gavron pursues the question, never
much discussed in the intervening years, with
a newfound and focused obsession, following every potential personal connection to
the mother he barely knew and reading every word she wrote that he can get his hands
on. His careful work conjures not only one
remarkable woman but also a snapshot of the
fractured lives of women in general during
the rapidly warping 1960s, with moving and
revelatory conclusions. In a book with suicide
in its subtitle, Gavron reminds readers of art’s
work in raising the dead. —Annie Bostrom
Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from
Trailblazing Women at the Top of the
By Joann S. Lublin.
Oct. 2016. 304p. HarperBusiness, $27.99
With a successful career under her belt and
struggles along the way, Lublin, a Pulitzer
Prize–winning journalist and management
news editor for the Wall Street Journal, offers
fresh insights into women in the workforce.
Inspired by her daughter entering the business
world, she created this guide by interviewing
more than 50 of today’s female leaders, including Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors,
and Brenda Barnes, former CEO of Sara Lee.
Her research covers a gamut of industries,
ranging from banking and finance to auto-
motive and retail. Realities like promotion,
pay, and working with and managing men
are punctuated by real-life experiences from
female industry leaders. Along with these, she
offers practical ideas, such as “Bloom where
you are planted,” meaning take an opportu-
nity and run with it, even if it is over your
head. Lublin doesn’t shy away from failure,
and she shares several examples where wom-
en leaders quit or were fired and how using
that experience help propel them into suc-
cessful careers at other companies. The book
touches on work-life balance, and these cur-
rent lessons give a fresh perspective on how
women continue to change the workforce
and prove their mettle in the business world.
What the F: What Swearing Reveals
about Our Language, Our Brains, and
By Benjamin K. Bergen.
Sept. 2016. 288p. illus. Basic, $27.99 (9780465060917).
How did swearwords become dirty words?
How are they different from any other set of
letters strung together, and where do they get
their impact? Bergen, a professor of cognitive science at UC San Diego, takes a look at
11 different “dimensions” of swearing in this
microhistory. It’s all here—name your favorite b-word, c-word, and n-word—and Bergen
uses lots of humor to make some of the more
scholarly parts go down easier, as graphs, statistics, and academic writing abound here.
It’s fascinating to realize that while the 7,000
languages of the world all have swearwords
aplenty, there are few universal exclamations.
Readers will also be amused to learn the science of why some words for sexual organs are
crass while others make one giggle. Why do
some words just sound aggressive while others
are silly? Bergen also covers the development
of language, leading into whether or not
profanity is harmful to children. There’s something here guaranteed to offend everyone (the
book wouldn’t be doing its job otherwise), but
microhistories are hot, and lovers of language
will savor every word. —Rebecca Vnuk
Einstein’s Masterwork: 1915 and
the General Theory of Relativity.
By John Gribbin.
Sept. 2016. 240p. Pegasus, $27.95 (9781681772127).
A mere instant in the time scale of the universe it explains, a century still gives Gribbin
much-needed historical perspective on the
theory of general relativity,
published by Albert Einstein in 1915. Though less
widely appreciated than his
special theory of relativity (with its iconic formula
E=mc2), Einstein’s general
theory has given scientists
over the last 100 years a
vastly wider and more profound perspective
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