What are you reading? – 4 October 2018

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 4, 2018
Woman reading a book
Source: iStock

Richard Joyner, emeritus professor of chemistry, Nottingham Trent University, is reading Sean Spicer’s The Briefing: Politics, the Press and the President (Biteback Publishing, 2018). “Spicer was one of a few Republican Party professionals hired to help Donald Trump’s presidency get off the ground. He was appointed press secretary, becoming famous on day one when he had to defend to the world’s press Trump’s claim that a record number of people had attended his inauguration. Spicer lasted six months. I had not expected to like him. Yet I found someone committed to the ideal of public service and with a coherent set of political beliefs, who seems thoughtful, honest and self-deprecating. From him I also learned, with many examples, something of why the American right feel they are habitually treated unfairly by ‘liberal’ East Coast media such as CNN and The New York Times. Think ‘Remoaners’ and the Daily Mail in a political mirror image.”

Kalwant Bhopal, professorial research fellow and professor of education and social justice, University of Birmingham, is reading Randall Kennedy’s The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency (Vintage, 2012). “‘The terms under which Barack Obama won the presidency, the conditions under which he governs, and the circumstances under which he seeks re-election all display the haunting persistence of the color line.’ Kennedy’s opening lines demonstrate the powerful argument of his book, which explores how discussion of race in the US has focused on the election and presidency of Obama. In examining the complexity of his symbolism as a black president and the challenges this poses for an inclusive society, the book is both provocative and informative. Kennedy’s insightful and intellectual analysis of racial politics reminds us that race remains a key feature of America’s consciousness – despite the election of a Black president.”

Geoffrey Alderman, professor of politics at the University of Buckingham, is reading Migrant Britain: Histories and Historiographies: Essays in Honour of Colin Holmes (edited by Jennifer Craig-Norton, Christhard Hoffmann and Tony Kushner; Routledge, 2018). “Colin Holmes, professor emeritus at the University of Sheffield, is the foremost authority on the history of antisemitism in Britain, and – more widely – on the impact and importance of Britain’s immigrant origins and of the immigrants who have made their homes in this country. A founder of the journal Immigrants & Minorities, over the past half-century Holmes reformulated the ‘immigrant’ debate, and in the process established ‘the Sheffield school’ of students whom he taught and of academic colleagues who were privileged to work with him. Such scholars, including myself, have now come together to contribute to a Festschrift in his honour – a fitting tribute to a great historian and (as it happens) a timely celebration of his work.”

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