Erstwhile Presents: Your Spring Break 2015 Reading Guide

cocoa-beach

Erstwhile’s Keith Aksel suggests spring break reads for people weary of spring semester. Depending on how you spend break, one of these may fit your mood.  

Back visiting Mom?

Jodi Vandenberg-Daves. Modern Motherhood: An American History. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2014.

If you need to be reminded that moms deal with more pressure than anyone, dive into Jodi Vandenberg-Daves’ book on motherhood and public expectations. The author elaborates on the history of motherhood in the US, analyzing the ways motherhood has been understood in American imagination. While the late-1800s saw widespread belief in the moral role of mothers in their child’s life, the post-World War II era saw a “fragmentation” of motherhood’s purposes. Identity politics, power over reproduction, and scientific understandings of motherhood’s functions complicated motherhood after the war. Considering the mixed messages they dealt with outside the home, dealing with you may have actually been a reprieve. So, for real, cut mom a break.

Heading South?

Stephen Prince. Stories of the South: Race and the Reconstruction of Southern Identity, 1865–1915. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014.

If you’re traveling south for break, why not take Prince’s new book with ya? Rather than recounting the political events that reconciled the postbellum South with the North, Prince discusses popular discussions about Southern identity after the war.  Using various popular publications and pamphlets as evidence, Prince provides a reminder of the South’s cultural struggles as a region without slave labor. So, while everyone else is enjoying the Daytona Beach sun, you’ll be reading up for the history roundtable taking place in the hotel lobby that night. Suckers.

For when you’re feeling so relaxed over break you might even go easy on those essays you still haven’t graded: 

Julia Irwin, Making the World Safe: The American Red Cross and a Nation’s Humanitarian Awakening.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

When we decide to overlook another batch of essays misusing “you’re,” consider that you may be in league with other humanitarians, like the Red Cross. Irwin writes that the Red Cross during WWI embodied the rise in humanitarian thought in the US. Volunteer membership increases during and after the war proved that the American desire to help others was part and parcel of Progressive logic and reformism. In contrast to that decades-long movement, your grading benevolence may only last until the second week of April.
For that moment when you realize tax season is what we call the two weeks after spring break:

Romain D. Huret, American Tax Resisters. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014.

Huret illuminates the anti-tax movement as pushback against progressive taxation through the twentieth century. His argument contributes to what we already know about the rise of Reagan-era conservatism, stating that tax resisting was a building block for the general anti-state sentiment that Reagan rode to victory in the 1980s. Huret focuses on elites as the drivers of that movement, but that doesn’t mean that poor grad students can’t feel at least a little kinship with that sentiment (seriously? the department pays us peanuts and then we still lose a good chunk of that to Uncle Sam? I have kids to feed…or at least a dog to feed).

However you take your spring break, enjoy!

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