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Converging Complexities

Converging Complexities

Higher Education and the Color Line:
College Access, Racial Equity and Social Change
By Gary Orfield, Patricia Marin and Catherine L. Horn, eds.
Harvard Education Press, 2005
300 pp., $59.95 cloth, ISBN: 1-891792-60-1; $29.95 paper, ISBN: 1-891792-59-8

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Grutter v. Bollinger decision upholding affirmative action, this book outlines the agenda for achieving racial justice in higher education in the next generation. Through an examination of current research and overarching social issues, the book explores the racial transformation of higher education and the structural barriers that perpetuate racial stratification at the postsecondary level.

Higher Education and the Color Line includes chapters that outline the demographic changes in elementary, secondary and postsecondary school enrollment; the evolving role of law and policy; the barriers faced by minority college students; and the kinds of programs that best serve them. In addition to providing a well-researched assessment of the state of racial integration in higher education, the book goes beyond the usual Black-and-White analysis to provide a multiethnic perspective.
This book effectively discusses the role of higher education in opening up opportunities for mobility in American society — or in reinforcing the segregation between White and non-White America. It provides insight for how the country can ensure that affirmative action will be unnecessary in the next generation.

Dr. Gary Orfield is professor of education and social policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is also co-founder and director of The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University. Dr. Patricia Marin is a higher education research associate at The Civil Rights Project. Dr. Catherine L. Horn is an assistant professor in the College of Education at the University of Houston.

Converging Stories: Race, Ecology, and Environmental Justice in American Literature
University of Georgia Press, 2005
By Jeffrey Myers
200 pp., $39.95 cloth,
ISBN: 0-8203-2744-1
Our discourse on the themes of race and ecology in American literature is too narrowly focused on the 20th century argues Jeffrey Myers. His new study broadens the field by looking at works of literature from the preceding 100 years. This was an era of renewed violence and oppression against people of color and of unprecedented environmental destruction on a continental scale. Myers focuses particularly on works that engage the notion that White racism and alienation from nature sprang from a common source.

Myers discusses the paradox of Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, which can support either environmental destruction or conservation, a democratic or a racist society. By looking race-critically at Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and The Maine Woods, and ecocritically at Char-les Chesnutt’s The Conjure Woman and Zitkala-Sa’s Old Indian Legends and American Indian Stories, Myers traces the development of a new resistance to racial and ecological hegemony. He concludes by discussing how these themes can be seen in contemporary writer Eddy L. Harris’s Mississippi Solo.

By looking at works by American Indians, African-Americans, European Americans and others, and by considering forms of literature beyond the traditional nature essay, Myers expands our conceptions of environmental writing and environmental justice.

Dr. Jeffrey Myers is an assistant professor of English at Manhattan College in Riverdale, N.Y.

The American South in the Twentieth Century
By Craig S. Pascoe, Karen Trahan Leathem and Andy Ambrose, eds.
University of Georgia Press, Nov. 2005
328 pp, $54.95 cloth, ISBN: 0-8203-2594-5;
$22.95 paper, ISBN: 0-8203-2771-9

In The American South in the Twentieth Century, some of the region’s most respected and readable observers look back on the past 100 years to help us take stock of where the South is now and where it maybeheaded.

Reflecting the writers’ deep interests in southern history, politics, literature, religion and other matters, the essays engage in new ways some timeless concerns about the region: How has the South changed — or not changed? Has the South as a distinct region disappeared, or has it maintained its cultural and social distinctiveness while absorbing influences from other regions?

Although the essays touch on a n engaging range of topics — from crop spraying policies to collegiate women’s soccer — they ultimately cluster around a common set of themes. These include: race, segregation and the fall of Jim Crow; gender cultural distinctiveness and identity; and modernization, education, and urbanization. Mindful of the South’s reputation for insularity, the essays also gauge the impact of federal assistance and other outside influences.

Dr. Craig S. Pascoe is editor of Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South and an assistant professor of history at Georgia College & State University. Dr. Karen Trahan Leathem is a historian at the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans. Andy Ambrose is a historian of Atlanta and the chief operating officer of the Atlanta History Center.

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