Spring 2005 l Capital University Journal
Landing Votes: Representation and Land Reform in Latin America
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, $59.95)
Nancy Lapp, professor of goverment
Lapp says political and social issues in Latin America often have one thing at their heart — land. Generally speaking, she points out, 90 percent of the land in the region is owned by 10 percent of the people. That’s a carryover from colonial times, and it’s an extraordinary concentration of power, particularly because land has such high value in developing economies.
So when Lapp studied how politicians in Latin America’s emerging democracies respond to everyday citizens, land reform was an obvious focus.
She found a rather consistent pattern. When poor people gained expanded rights to vote — such as when literacy requirements and property ownership requirements were eliminated — land reform followed.
“When politicians thought that more poor were going to come out and vote, they responded to those constituents and offered land reform to try to get their votes,” Lapp says. “Unfortunately, there was this expectation that the rural poor would become more participatory over time, but that hasn’t happened. Very often, the poor are just focused on getting through the day.” Politicians, she adds, also have not encouraged their participation.
Many people, she says, assume that land reform benefiting the Latin American poor has resulted from military coups, national revolutions or social unrest. But she found that very often it followed disputes among the ruling elites or by an excluded party gaining power and seeking new voters to help keep it.
And Lapp says that although the land reforms have never been as sweeping or successful as many hoped, some progress in addressing the large inequities has been made.
(Kensington Publishing, 2004, $6.99)
Mary Mackey, professor of English, written under the pen name Kate Clemens
This is the second book Mackey has written as Kate Clemens in the last year. And like The Stand In it’s a fast, fun read.
Mackey’s focus this time is revenge.
The main character, Nora Wynn, runs a computerized matchmaking service and has used her system to find her own perfect match. But after finding out he’s a philandering liar, she starts a new business called “Payback Time,” which specializes in revenge fantasies. Things start to go wrong when someone starts carrying out the ideas for real, and get even worse when a client kills her husband.
“There’s an endless market for revenge,” Mackey says. “We all have revenge fantasies — maybe because of a bad breakup, a mean boss, getting cut off in traffic. There are all kinds of reasons we have these ideas, but of course we usually don’t carry them out.
“The focus of this book is revenge that doesn’t hurt people, that isn’t evil. I wanted it to be funny.”
Mackey says writing the comic novels has been a nice change of pace from the intricately researched historical novels she’s known for. But she promises that fans of her other style can expect something new in the next year or two — this one set sometime in the 19th century.
The History of Christianity: An Introduction
(McGraw-Hill, 2004, $54.68)
Bradley P. Nystrom, professor of humanities and religious studies, with his brother, David P. Nystrom
Describing the sweeping history and worldwide influence of Christianity is an ambitious project, but the Nystrom brothers, who both teach religious studies at different universities, manage to do it in a single and highly readable volume.
Their book ranges from Christianity’s institutions to its political impact and intellectual contributions.
“Our goal was to write a book that’s global in its approach, rather than one that focuses exclusively on Christianity in the West, which is what you typically find,” Bradley Nystrom says. “It’s directed to people who are new to the history of Christianity.”
The book follows Christianity from its earliest foundations into the 21st century. It includes the various forms Christianity has taken, not only in Europe, but in Asia, Africa and the Americas. Other topics of interest include the scholarly quest for the historical Jesus, and Christianity’s impact in areas ranging from architecture to philosophy.
It appears that the Nystroms have met their goal in writing a balanced presentation of Christianity; their book has been adopted for classes in both private and public universities, including universities affiliated with a number of different Christian faiths.
Religion in French Feminist Thought and French Feminists on Religion: A Reader
(Routledge, 2003, $34.95 and 2002, $32.95)
Edited by Judith L. Poxon, professor of humanities and religious studies, with Morny Joy and Kathleen O’Grady
While some French feminists are like their American counterparts in stressing equality, there’s also a distinctive group of French feminists who believe in the need to understand and articulate gender difference. Their work was taken up by American scholars in the early 1980s, and has been gaining in popularity ever since.
Here in one volume, and in English, are 13 critiques of that distinctive French brand.
The Reader, meanwhile, provides some of the most important writings. It’s a first-of-its-kind selection of translated writings on religion by many of the leading French feminist thinkers.
Poxon says the French eminists, like the Americans, were originally negative toward organized religion and its tendency to place women in a secondary role.
“But then they realized that religion is just too important to dismiss like that, it’s too much a part of the symbolic underpinnings of society,” Poxon says. “They came to see beyond the oppressive part and recognize that religion offered potential ways to change society.”
In addition to coediting the volumes, Poxon contributed an essay on Luce Irigaray, a psychoanalyst and linguist who focuses her critiques on influential Western thinkers including Plato and Freud.
Preserving Power Through Coalitions: Comparing the Grand Strategy of Great Britain and the United States
(Praeger, 2003, $64.95)
Maria Sampanis, professor of government
For two decades following World War II, the United States pretty much did as it pleased when dealing with other countries. Today, it works to build coalitions in war, trade and other foreign policy matters.
Quite simply, the United States began declining as a world superpower, Sampanis says, sharing a view that’s held by many American scholars. In this book, Sampanis looks at the United States’ foreign policy tactics from the 1970s on, and she finds striking similarities to the tactics of a declining British Empire in the decades before World War I.
“It’s clear that on the way down, the great power resists, it looks for strategies to retain its power,” Sampanis says. “This book offers a ‘big picture’ perspective on some of the policies you see the United States pursuing in recent years.”
Great Britain created the Commonwealth so it could continue having influence, even as its overall power in the world was diminished, she says. It was able to accomplish more by leveraging the combined strength of its partners.
Today, in similar fashion, the United States frequently builds coalitions with much smaller nations in working out trade agreements through the World Trade Organization or resolutions at the United Nations, she says. Agricultural trade liberalization, Sampanis says, has been an especially effective way for the United States to “bond” with smaller nations.
East Sacramento and Sacramento’s Oak Park
(Arcadia Publishing, 2004, $19.99 each)
Lee Simpson, professor of history, and Sac State class
Archival photos and lively narrative bring the history of two Sacramento neighborhoods to life in these books by Lee Simpson and her students. The books explore the streetcar beginnings of the area around McKinley Park and of the city’s first suburb of Oak Park, which was officially annexed to the city in 1911.
Students in a special research seminar worked with the Sacramento Archives and Museum Collection Center (SAMCC), St. Hope and various historical associations to gather information. Simpson led the research and edited the final book text.
The students found photos dating to the 1890s, and were able to include about 200 of them in each book. They were also able to compile detailed histories of each neighborhood.
“We found quite a few gems,” Simpson says. Among them are photos of Sacramento in its early years, of then-Gov. Ronald Reagan when he lived in East Sacramento, and of the Oak Park riots in the 1960s. There’s a photo of an electric car developed by East Sacramentan A.R. Meister in 1910, and photos from Oak Park of the state fair and the city’s very own amusement park called Joyland. There are also photos of efforts to contain early fires in the neighborhoods, and details about the city’s early Jewish Cemetery in East Sacramento.
Net proceeds from sales of the books benefit SAMCC.
Focused for Fastpitch: 80 Drills to Play and Stay Sharp
(Human Kinetics, 2004, $18.95)
Gloria Solomon, professor of kinesiology and health science, with Andrea Becker
When one of her firstyear graduate students approached Gloria Solomon about coauthoring a book, Solomon admits her first reaction was, “Are you kidding?” But Solomon couldn’t resist the opportunity to combine two of her passions. “I wanted to demonstrate how to integrate coaching and sport psychology in a particular sport,” Solomon says.
Two years later, Solomon and Sac State alum Andrea Becker released Focused for Fastpitch, a book of drills focused on specific aspects of the game. But instead of just focusing on the physical part of the game, Solomon and Becker went beyond to emphasize the mental components.
“It became our philosophy of mental preparation in softball but it can be translated to any sport,” Solomon says. “Ten bigname coaches from around the country submitted drills, then we added the mental components.” It also gained a celebrity endorser in two-time Olympic gold medalist Michele Smith, who wrote a cover blurb.
Solomon says they even created a new term for the book —“mentaphysical training”, which is a combination of mental and physical conditioning.
“It takes integration to a new level,” Solomon says. “For example, a coach may tell a player to focus, but then doesn’t tell her what to focus on, for how long or when to focus on something else. Instead of just saying these words —‘Focus,’ ‘Keep your eye on the ball’— we want coaches to be able to teach the player how to do it.”
It appears to be paying off. Solomon says she’s been contacted by several grateful coaches who say they are using the book, and it’s helping.