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Spring 2003 l Capital University Journal
Faculty Authors

Preserving Privilege: California Politics, Propositions and People of Color

(Praeger Publishers, 2001, $42.95)

Teiahsha Bankhead, professor of social work, and co-author Jewelle Taylor Gibbs

Concerns over California’s changing demographics have some of the state’s conservatives fighting to protect their status, says Teiahsha Bankhead. She says efforts to “preserve privilege” can be seen in a recent series of propositions put before California voters that constitute a backlash against decades-old civil rights legislation.

The propositions in question are “racially divisive,” Bankhead says–Prop. 184, the “three strikes” law; Prop. 187, reducing benefits for undocumented immigrants; Prop. 209, eliminating state affirmative action; and Prop. 227, restricting bilingual education. “The reactionary ideas in these ballot initiatives represent an irrational response by conservatives to the progress and mobility of people of color, coupled with their anxiety about losing economic ground.”

Bankhead also criticizes the initiative process. “It results in only wealthy individuals and organizations having the capacity to advance their causes by misleading the voting public.” In California it takes $1 million to place an initiative on the ballot and several hundred thousand more to win, Bankhead says. The book, among other things, details how much individual organizations gave in support of each initiative as well as to the politicians who supported them.

After the book came out, Bankhead and Gibbs testified before Congress. “California is a test ground for the rest of the country,” Bankhead says. “Similar ‘minority majorities’ are expected in other border states and the nation is watching how California deals with its multiple cultures.”

Criminological Theories: Bridging the Past to the Future

(Sage Publications, 2002, $41.95)

Edited by Suzette Cote, assistant professor of criminal justice

What causes criminal behavior? Suzette Cote’s effort to answer that question features a range of theories on the subject. “I tried to strike a balance between the traditional and cutting edge theories that you don’t always see,” she says.

The book also includes a section that addresses the problems with theorizing in criminology and criminal justice, particularly in the American criminological enterprise. “I wanted to draw a bridge between criminology and criminal justice. I’m happy—it runs the gamut.”

The book, a collection of previously published articles about theories of criminal behavior with introductions and study questions written by Cote, arose from her need to expose her criminal justice students to criminological theory.

“They’re not used to theory and its place in studying crime and criminal justice,” she says. “It’s important that they know why criminals are committing crimes and why it’s necessary to use different punishment strategies.”

Though the text includes the traditional classic readings found in many criminology readers, Cote touches on subjects not normally included in criminology studies such as domestic violence, white collar crime and the Holocaust. She also looks at modern theories that combine sociological theories with theories that focus on the relationship between behavior, genetics and environment.

“I thought it was important to include theories that contribute to progress in the field, even if they’re controversial,” she says.

Systematic Instruction in Reading for Spanish-Speaking Students

(Charles C Thomas Publisher, 2003, $63.95)

Elva Durán, professor of special education, rehabilitation and school psychology, and John Shefelbine, professor of teacher education, with co-authors Linda Carnine, Elba Maldonado-Colón and Barbara Gunn

In a diverse state like California, the odds are that many teachers will be teaching reading to a child who speaks a language other than English. Yet, as Elva Durán found, until now there’s been a dearth of information on how to do it. “There’s nothing out there on literacy and not a lot on how to teach reading to Spanish-speaking students,” she says.

So she decided to compile her experience in teaching reading to Spanish-speaking students into a book – both for teachers and for parents who want their kids to be able to read in both languages.

The book’s focus is on literacy. It looks at the connections between listening, reading, writing and speaking. And it features sections on language development, the transfer of reading Spanish to English and sound systems that cause confusion.

The material in the book parallels some of the Spanish reading curriculum she co-authored with others in the field of literacy for Spanish-speaking students.

“You have to give students the research that’s out there along with the information you know and have created. You also want to blend in what you have done,” she says. “Now, with the book, it’s all right here.”


In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy

(Columbia University Press, 2001, $34)

Joseph Palermo, professor of history

Featuring details from never-before-seen documents, In His Own Right begins with the assassination of John F. Kennedy and traces Robert F. Kennedy’s political career from his 1964 election to the Senate through his presidential campaign, and ends with his assassination in 1968.

It is both a political biography and a story about the social struggles of the 1960s. Joseph Palermo casts Kennedy center stage, shaped by the times and shaping the agenda of the progressive, peace-minded wing of the Democratic Party.

“Robert Kennedy was a Democrat who could express liberal, progressive ideals as few politicians can do today,” Palermo says.

Palermo spent years poring over every Kennedy speech from 1965 on. He also went through letters between Kennedy and supporters of the most influential political players of the time­—Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Benjamin Spock, Eugene McCarthy. The book includes extensive excerpts.

Contrary to the generally accepted view that Kennedy turned from hawk to dove simply to run for president, Palermo found that he opposed escalation in Vietnam early on. Kennedy gave strong speeches opposing the increase in troops in 1965, far ahead of most politicians. And he said sending U.S. troops to Vietnam in the first place—a decision he participated in—had been a mistake.

In the end, Palermo says, the book is also about the start of a decline in the Democratic Party. The party ended the 1960s deeply divided over war and race. And three promising leaders who might have brought it together and inspired future leaders—John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.—had all been assassinated.

The Longman Anthology of Drama and Theater: A Global Perspective

(Addison Wesley Longman, 2000, $71)

Roberto D. Pomo, chair, department of theatre and dance, with co-editors Michael L. Greenwald and Roger Schultz

In this exhaustive introduction to drama, which has been greeted warmly by reviewers, all the world is indeed a stage. Between its covers, alongside core works from the Western canon, are historically neglected plays from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

“It’s the first anthology that’s global in nature,” says Roberto Pomo. “In our great nation we’re so tunneled in vision—we label anything to do with Latin America or Asia or Africa as being Third World. But Latin American theater, for example, is very advanced.”

The 1,808-page tome holds both an expansive historical treatise, detailing the origins of drama, and an anthology of 58 plays. Pomo painstakingly sought out international playwrights with track records of successful publication and consistent quality.

He says he hopes the books will throw open doors to a treasure trove of theater.

“An intelligent reader will peruse it and say, ‘I didn’t know the theater of Latin America or Africa was so eclectic or so well developed, with such history,’ and they’ll learn to appreciate them,” he says. “And maybe some of these plays will be staged. If a professor or a director says, ‘I’ve never read this from Chile before, but I want to stage it,’ then the journey has been worth it.”

Pomo is now at work on another anthology, this one of 20th Century world drama.

Skin Prayer

(Eraserhead Press, 2002, $14.95)

Doug Rice, professor of English

Calling Doug Rice’s writing “unusual” is a bit like calling the sun “hot.” Accurate, yes, but it doesn’t quite capture the point.

Rice writes in fragments, not even attempting to offer a storyline. He aims for feelings rather than setting. Autobiography is mixed liberally with religious references and philosophy. He toys mercilessly with the rules of grammar.

“I don’t write in the normal, usual way,” Rice says, shrugging. “But I have no choice about that. As I tell my students, I think the style chooses the writer, the writer doesn’t choose the style. Actually, I wish I could write in more of a usual way. I enjoy reading those types of books.”

His latest work, Skin Prayer, has been described by an admiring reviewer as “a series of mysterious and deeply evocative meditations: erotic, sacred, tender, grave, profane.”

That’s good enough for Rice, who has a tough time describing the work himself. He says it includes a retelling of the story of certain saints, as well as an exploration of Catholicism and gender identity.

“I live my story, in a certain way,” Rice says. “I wonder and daydream a lot. And as I daydream, I think about things I can’t find an answer to. Then I write about them, though I don’t ever reach an answer.”

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