BOOKS AT A GLANCE

April 28, 2013 | Salute to Scholars, The University

Here is a collection of new books written by CUNY authors:

Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven?

Fox Piven

Graduate Center Distinguished Professor of political science and sociology Frances

New Press

Whos-Afraid-of-Frances-Fox-PivenFrances Fox Piven and her late husband Richard Cloward have been famously credited by commentator Glenn Beck with devising the “Cloward/Piven Strategy,” a world view responsible, according to Beck, for everything from creating a “culture of poverty” and fomenting “violent revolution” to causing global warming and the recent financial crisis. Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven? is a concise, accessible introduction to Piven’s actual thinking, from her early work on welfare rights and “poor people’s movements,” written with Cloward, through her influential examination of American voting habits, and her most recent work on the possibilities for a new movement for progressive reform.


Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861–1865

James Oakes

Graduate Center Distinguished Professor of history

W.W. Norton

BookFreedomNationalFreedom National upends the widespread conviction that the Civil War was foremost a war to restore the Union and only gradually a war to end slavery. Oakes shows that Lincoln’s landmark 1863 proclamation marked neither the beginning nor the end of emancipation, but triggered a more aggressive phase of military emancipation, sending Union soldiers onto plantations to entice slaves away and enlist the men in the army. But slavery proved deeply entrenched, with slaveholders determined to re-enslave freedmen, and Lincoln feared that the war could end in Union victory with slavery still intact. The 13th Amendment was thus the final act in a saga of war, social upheaval and determined political leadership.


Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist

Harriet Hyman Alonso

City College and Graduate Center professor of history

Wesleyan University Press

bookYipYip Harburg wrote the lyrics to the standards “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” and “April in Paris,” as well as all of the songs in “The Wizard of Oz.” Interweaving close to 50 interviews, Alonso brings us Harburg’s tales of his early childhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, how the Great Depression opened the way to writing lyrics and his work on Broadway and in Hollywood, including his blacklisting during the McCarthy era. Through the stories, Harburg shares his commitment to human rights and the ways that commitment affected his writing and his career path.


Heartbeats in the Muck: A Dramatic Look at the History, Sea Life, and Environment of New York Harbor

John Waldman

Queens College professor of biology and earth and environmental sciences
Fordham University Press

bookWaldman-Heartbeats_cvr-2-2The revised edition of Heartbeats in the Muck has a new epilogue that details some of the remarkable changes in the New York Harbor in recent years, with environmental awareness and action allowing the harbor to begin cleaning itself. Although it will never regain its native biological glory, the return of oysters, herons and a host of other creatures is an indication of the harbor’s rebirth.

 


American Empire: The Rise of a Global Power, the Democratic Revolution at Home 1945 – 2000

Joshua B. Freeman

Queens College, Graduate Center and Murphy Institute professor of history

Viking

bookAmerican-EmpireThis portrait of the United States shows a nation both galvanized by change and driven by conflict. Freeman sees a profound tragedy shaping the path of American civic life: After decades of work by the civil rights and labor movements to expand the rights of millions of Americans, power has slipped from the hands of individual citizens into those of private corporations. Freeman’s sweeping story of a nation’s rise reveals forces at play that will continue to affect American influence and might in the greater world.


Strange Beauty

Cynthia Hahn

Graduate Center and Hunter College professor of Medieval Art

Penn State Press

bookStrangeIn Strange Beauty, Hahn treats issues that cut across the class of medieval reliquaries as a whole. She is particularly concerned with portable reliquaries that often contained tiny relic fragments, which purportedly allowed saints to actively exercise power in the world. Above all, Hahn argues, reliquaries are a form of representation. They rarely simply depict what they contain; rather, they prepare the viewer for the appropriate reception of their precious contents and establish the “story” of the relics and thus engage the viewer in ways that are persuasive or rhetorical.


Elusive Victories: The American Presidency at War

Andrew J. Polsky

Hunter College and Graduate Center professor of political science

Oxford University Press

bookElusiveThis fascinating study of seven wartime presidents provides lessons about the limits of the power of the White House during armed conflict. Polsky examines Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, showing how each gravely overestimated his power as commander in chief. With insight and clarity, he identifies overarching issues that will inform current and future policymakers. The single most important dynamic, he writes, is the erosion of a president’s freedom of action: each decision propels him down a path from which he cannot turn back. In the final chapter, Polsky examines Obama’s options in light of these conclusions, and considers how the experiences of the past might inform the world we face now.