The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader, Basic Civitas '12, $29.95, 644 pages, ASIN #0465028314. Index, unillustrated.
Those who have had the privilege of chatting with one of America's pre-eminent historians know that Henry Louis Gates is as approachable and friendly as he is knowledgeable. And those of a certain age who remember when the issue of race was much edgier when discussed by people of different races are impressed by the surefooted way, leavened with a sense of humor, that Gates is able to discuss racial issues with diverse audiences.
Those who have tuned into Dr. Gates's TV series, "Who Do You Think You Are?" are at once informed and entertained to learn that a conservative politician is really descended from African slaves or a black actor's roots lie in a family of white slaveowners. Gates painstakingly traces each search, and without saying so explicitly, draws out the implicit conclusion that we are all one.
In this Reader, he reprints essays on topics as varied as "Reading People," "Culture and Politics;" "Genealogies," and interviews with subjects as varied as Josephine Baker, James Baldwin, Wole Soyinka, Isabel Wilkerson, and Condoleezza Rice.
Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He regularly appears on lists of the most influential Americans.
Madison's Metronome -- The Constitution Majority Rule, and the Tempo of American Politics by Greg Weiner, Kansas UP '12, 194 pages, ASIN #0700618406. Index, bibliography, source notes, unillustrated.
From the dust jacket:
"In the wake of national crises and sharp shifts in the electorate, new members of Congress march off to Washington full of intense idealism and the desire for instant change -- but often lacking in any sense of proportion or patience. This drive for instant political gratification concerned one of the key Founders, James Madison, who accepted the inevitability of majority rule but worried that an inflamed majority might not rule reasonably.
"Greg Weiner challenges longstanding suppositions that Madison harbored misgivings about majority rule, arguing instead that he viewed constitutional institutions as delaying mechanisms to postpone decisions until after public passions had cooled and reason took hold. In effect, Madison believed that one of the Constitution's primary functions is to act as a metronome, regulating the tempo of American politics."
Greg Weiner has worked in the U.S. Senate as an aide to three senators and now teaches political science at Assumption College.
Leaps in the Dark -- Art and the World by Agnes de Mille, edited by MIndy Aloff, UP Florida '11, $34.95, 290 pages, ASIN #0813035708.
To put it mildly, Agnes de Mille was not an easy person with whom to get along. Largely attributed to her "brute candor," one of the most popular choreographers of American theater and film in the 20th century, she lost jobs and sometimes friendships. But to those who could abide her personality, she has been described as a "pillar of fire." And beside the life of a choreographer, de Mille fulfilled the roles of wife, dancer, and mother. From the dust jacket:
"Yet only one of the eleven books she published during her lifetime remains readily available. As a result, today's readers may be unaware of the power of her pen, unless they are familiar with her biography of Martha Graham. Leaps in the Dark is a dazzling anthology that includes excerpts from eight of de Mille's ten books now out of print, portions of the unpublished monograph, 'Russian Journals,' and the entirety of her review of the London premier of Balanchine's Prodigal Son.
Mindy Aloff teaches dance criticism and history at Barnard College and has written other books on the subject of dance.