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Billiken Bookmarks: Summer Reading Picks From SLU Authors


Looking for that next great read? In this mini-series, some of Saint Louis University’s published authors share their recommendations for memorable summer reading with their fellow staff, faculty and students. 

Amanda Izzo, Ph.D., and Nori Katagiri, Ph.D., from the College of Arts and Sciences, offer this summer's first recommendations.

Amanda Izzo, Ph.D. 

Amanda Izzo

Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray  by Rosalind Rosenberg (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017)

About the book

This is an important new biography by a noted women’s historian on the most important twentieth-century U.S. activist you’ve probably never heard of.

Pauli Murray (1910-1985) was in the vanguard of the pivotal social movements of the twentieth century. She staged an influential protest against the exclusion of African Americans from institutes of higher education; engaged in direct action to fight segregation in transportation; launched lunch counter sit-ins; and constructed influential legal challenges to racial and gender discrimination ten to twenty years before such events took center stage in the civil rights and feminist movements of the 1950s and 1960s. She was a founder of the National Organization for Women; an educator  in the newly independent nation of Ghana; the author of instrumental documents that laid the groundwork for application of the Fourteenth Amendment to anti-discrimination law; and the first African American woman ordained by the Episcopal Church.

This is a chance for me to catch up on the scholarly literature in my field, but it’s also an engaging and inspiring read.  One of the most important lessons to take away from Murray’s story is that the pursuit of social justice and human rights is a life-long battle.

Reasons to read

Rosenberg has the admirable ability to take historical subjects on their own terms — richly portraying Murray’s self-fashioning and influence within the social and political structures of the time. Yet, she also compellingly applies contemporary insights drawn from intersectional feminism and the transgender liberation movement to analyze Murray’s profound sense of in-betweenness: as a light-complexioned African American growing up in genteel poverty in the Jim Crow South; as a coalition-builder who created bridges between professional and working-class women, white and black feminists; and, most illuminatingly, as someone who rejected binary understandings of gender, a self-described “boy-girl” who resisted the strictures of norms of gender and sexuality at a time when LGBT activism was in its infancy.

The SLU Connection 

This biography uses a wealth of archival material to interpret Murray’s personal journey alongside the diverse social movements that she influenced. For a U.S. women’s historian such as myself, the book provides critical new insights into liberal efforts for social change, and it provides a model of scholarship that uses a single person’s life to illuminate a wide historical context.

In addition, it touches on Murray’s involvement with an organization about which I write — the Young Women’s Christian Association.

SLU Author Bio

Amanda Izzo, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies. She teaches courses on U.S. women's religious history, social movements and sexuality studies. Her book, Liberal Christianity and Women's Global Activism, will be published by the Rutgers University Press in January 2018. She will also have an article, "'By Love, Serve One Another':  Foreign Mission and the Challenge of World Fellowship in the YWCAs of Japan and Turkey," forthcoming in the January 2018 issue of the Journal of American-East Asian Relations.   

Nori Katagiri, Ph.D.

Nori Katagiri

The Pivot: The Future of American Statecraft in Asia by Kurt M. Campbell. (Twelve, 2016)

About the book

I chose this book because it offers an important set of policy prescriptions about what the United States should do in its foreign policy, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, on a very broad level. These prescriptions come from someone who actually ran the nation’s policy with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Obama administration. A lot of things have changed now with the Trump administration, but the logic behind the policy remains valid, and there are a lot of things that readers can learn from his experience.

Reasons to read

For a former government official, the book is surprisingly analytical and rich in details. That's because Campbell was trained initially as a scholar and spent a number of years later working at research organizations and serving in government. As an author, I like this book because readers will get multiple benefits from the combination of scholarly elaboration, style and policy recommendations from someone who made the policy for a few years during the Obama administration.

SLU Connection

This book's premise – that Asia remains central to the success of American foreign policy and that we should continue to look for opportunities and to confront challenges there – is an integral part of the courses I teach here at SLU, including “US Foreign Policy” (Fall 2017) and “Politics of Asia” (Spring 2018). Last year, I traveled to several countries Campbell discusses in the book, such as Myanmar (the picture of me was taken in Myanmar, during my interview with the army), Singapore, Japan and Indonesia. I encourage SLU students to broaden their worldviews by considering travel to Asia and to studying the region and languages for their future as Asia could provide potential job opportunities for them after graduation.

SLU Author Bio

Nori Katagiri is an assistant professor of political science. He teaches international relations, US foreign policy, security studies and politics in Asia. Katagiri is currently writing a book on Asia, focused particularly on Japan. In 2015, he published his book, Adapting to Win: How Insurgents Fight and Defeat Foreign States in War, with the University of Pennsylvania Press. He is the inaugural visiting research fellow at the Japan Air Self-Defense Force's Air Staff College and was recently a nonresident fellow of the Modern War Institute at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

'Billiken Bookmarks' is a mini-feature series that will appear with new reading recommendations from Saint Louis University authors throughout July and occasionally throughout the academic year. 

Check out the next edition of Newslink on Monday, July 17, for more suggestions from SLU-Madrid's Laura Tedesco, Ph.D., and Joel Goldstein, J.D., of the School of Law. 

Are you a passionate reader, eager to share your top summer reading pick with the SLU community? Share your recommendation with Newslink by July 21 for a chance to win a prize selected with the avid bookworm in mind. A round-up story featuring the best community recommendations will appear at the end of this month.