Elevate Difference

Reviews by Rick Taylor

Rick Taylor

Rick Taylor is area coordinator for programs in Multicultural and Transnational Literatures at East Carolina University. He served for many years as secretary and historian for the Southeastern Women's Studies Association.

His academic writing focuses on eighteenth-century British culture, early modern women's writing, and contemporary Middle Eastern literature. He is happiest walking in Regent's Park in London or seeing the latest play at the National Theatre.

Black on Earth: African American Ecoliterary Traditions

African American literary contribution to the national conception of nature, in all of its symbolic ambiguity and historical twists and turns, is a subject that has been little studied. In fact, African American writers have contributed profoundly to our popular understanding of nature and to our ecological concern.

Cosmologies of Credit: Transnational Mobility and the Politics of Destination in China

Residents of Fujian Province on the southeastern coast of China burn spirit money designed to resemble U. S. currency. That stunning confluence of traditional religious practice and modern dreams of western emigration stands as a kind of symbolic center of this book. In her ethnographic study of the people of this region, famous-or infamous, perhaps—for their involvement in “human smuggling” to the West, Julie Y. Chu asks why so many people would honor the dead with images of western materialism.

Hip Hop Desis: South Asian Americans, Blackness, and a Global Race Consciousness

If the Asian American contribution to hip-hop has been largely invisible, South Asian American rap artists, here including those whose families came from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Fiji, have received a surprising amount of critical attention focused on re-conceptualizing race and the increasingly universal appeal of contemporary Black popular culture. On the heels of Ajay Nair and Murali Balaji’s 2009 study Desi Rap: Hip Hop and South Asian America comes Hip Hop Desis , an ethnographic analysis of a group of South Asian American rappers and the shared experience of those living in “racially marked bodies.”

Why Study Talmud in the Twenty-first Century?: The Relevance of the Ancient Jewish Text to Our World

Lending a somewhat contrarian voice to this collection of essays extolling the virtues of Talmud study, the rabbi Dr. Pinchas Hayman takes umbrage at the question Paul Socken poses in the book’s title: “Why should the indescribable depth, beauty, and challenge of authentic Jewish literature require apologetic essays?” He concludes with his own “more relevant” and “far more difficult” question: “Who needs the twenty-first century if one learns Talmud?”

No Silent Witness: The Eliot Parsonage Women and their Unitarian World

Group biography is notoriously difficult, for all the reasons that biography itself is hazardous, compounded by the number of people brought to center stage, and, in this case, the geographical and temporal sweep of the subject matter. To make a single life a coherent narrative with episodes that build systematically and climax, with a psychologically complex yet recognizably unified character, and with a sense of thematic consistency is to fashion something that life is not.

Militant Women of a Fragile Nation

This account of women’s central role in the industrial history of Lebanon adds another valuable title to Syracuse’s outstanding series of books on Middle Eastern history and culture, “Beyond Dominant Paradigms.” In stark contrast to images of women as helpless victims that pervade much of the depiction of the region consumed by the Western press, Malek Abisaab’s Militant Women of a Fragile Nation shows women’s transforming role in colonial and postcolonial industrialization, in the labor struggles and resistance to colonial rule, in the work of trade unions and the Arab Feminist Union, and in the modern Lebanese economy.

Songs in Black and Lavender: Race, Sexual Politics, and Women’s Music

In her critical study of later twentieth century women’s music festivals, Eileen Hayes sets the tone and identifies her intended audience in a trenchant dedication, which really serves as an effective epigraph for her book: _Some say feminism is dead. Others say black feminism stopped by but left in a hurry. A few claim that “women’s music” is dull; “Besides,” they say, “Bessie Smith is so last century.” Others don’t know any lesbians and would rather watch them on TV. It was chic to be lesbian—last year. They say you can’t be black, lesbian, and musical at the same time.

The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker: The Life Cycle of an Eighteenth-Century Woman (Abridged Version)

The preface to this newly issued, abridged version of Elizabeth Drinker's diary, published originally in three volumes in 1991, reveals the sort of personal relationship the editor has formed with her subject over the past decades, an intimacy that forms often in historical scholarship, especially in single-author studies and even more so when the genre of focus is so inherently intimate, as the diary form certainly is.

Competing Kingdoms: Women, Mission, Nation, and the American Protestant Empire, 1812-1960

A great deal of important criticism has emerged recently in the area of women’s contributions to the history of evangelical Christianity, and this collection brings together some of the scholars largely responsible for this upsurge in interest.

Love of Freedom: Black Women in Colonial and Revolutionary New England

That the past is never past is nowhere more apparent than in recent debates over efforts to celebrate “Confederate History Month.” Happily, critics responded to the omission of slavery and the suffering it wrought from the latest official commemorations, still and perhaps forevermore marinated in the intoxicating rhetorical liquor of the “Lost Cause.” And so the sobering scholarship of archival scholars such as Catherine Adams and Elizabeth Pleck, drawing on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century legal records, family papers, genealogical studies, and often on the recorded words of enslaved peopl

Daughters of Empire: A Memoir of a Year in Britain and Beyond

The poet and essayist Jane Satterfield writes a hauntingly discontinuous prose-poem about a sort of exile.

Cleopatra: A Biography

Cleopatra is a cipher, an enigmatic and historically remote figure reimagined until she has become, for much of the world and for much of modern history, the apotheosis of desire, representative of the potency of feminine allure. As with the search for the historical Jesus, separating the real figure from the myth is complicated not only by our fascination with all the artistic interventions and the millennia of (mis)representation but also by the paucity of hard evidence.

Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism

In Girl Zines, Alison Piepmeier elegantly chronicles the emergence in the early 1990s of zines: a complex, multifaceted phenomenon aligned with third wave feminism, and a powerful and unruly articulation of the same cultural moment that produced riot grrrls. It may also have been the last gasp of the manuscript culture—since, some would say, eclipsed by the blogosphere and electronic media—as a pervasive form of underground radical expression.

The Songs of Blind Folk: African American Musicians and the Cultures of Blindness

Terry Rowden’s book is that rarest of gems, a work of critical theory that should appeal to a broad audience and that contributes simultaneously, in an original and exciting way, to the fields of Disability Studies, Ethnomusicology, and African American Studies.

Feminist Spirituality: The Next Generation

Feminist Spirituality: The Next Generation uses the publication of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards in 2000 as its point of departure.

Enterprising Women in Urban Zimbabwe: Gender, Microbusiness, and Globalization

In the early 1990s, Mary Osirim took a team of interviewers to several urban areas in Zimbabwe to learn about the lives and financial status of women working in the “microenterprise sector.” She found that while women were largely excluded from education and much of the Zimbabwean economy, some had found a niche as crocheters, seamstresses, hairdressers, and “market traders” in fruits and vegetables and other goods. There is plenty of sociological theory—the author is, after all, an eminent sociologist—much of it concerning the damage wrought by globalization generally and more specifically

The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism

This new collection of essays, solicited from among the world’s most brilliant scholars of rabbinic literature, interpreters of the Torah, and professors of gender studies, is the first book I would recommend for those preparing to teach advanced courses in Jewish Studies. The essays range in tone from playfulness to fairly turgid exegesis, but the pieces are—without exception—bold, honest, and unabashed.

Gender Violence in Russia: The Politics of Feminist Intervention

In periods of rapid social change, the poets of one ideological system or another rush to find the cogent metaphor or, more recently, the winning soundbite, that will interpret the change to suit their own ends, to control meaning. To find and sell the right descriptive phrase is to raise the flag of possession over a historical event. For example, the collapse of the Soviet Union—or, even more stridently, the U.S.

Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History

Feeling Backward is a brilliant book that attempts the “impossible” and succeeds. Using Michel Foucault and Eve Sedgwick as theoretical touchstones, and incorporating Raymond Williams’s “structures of feeling,” Heather Love “feels backward” to reimagine and connect with aspects of a queer past that had been rendered invisible.

Desiring Arabs

On September 24, 2007, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran drew derisive laughter from a group at Columbia University when he announced, "In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon." Joseph A. Massad, Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia, was likely among the few who were not mocking this assertion.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa

Wangari’s Trees of Peace is a beautifully imagined account, designed for young readers, of the life and career of Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan scholar, activist, and environmentalist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her leadership of the Green Belt Movement and her resistance to deforestation. Often, “message books” like these underestimate kids’ level of sophistication and come across as preachy or cloying.

When the Prisoners Ran Walpole: A True Story in the Movement for Prison Abolition

Those of us who spend a lot of time lollygagging in the distant pass frequently encounter scenes of horror — people being tortured for their religious beliefs or identities, for example - and find ample evidence of our capacity for cruelty and inhumanity littering the landscape of human history.

Southeastern Women’s Studies Association Conference 2008: Frontiers of Feminism at Home and Abroad (4/3-4/5/08)

Since its first meeting in Atlanta in 1977, the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association (SEWSA) has consistently been the most active of the regional organizations of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) and has served academics, activists, community leaders, and students as a source of professional inspiration, mutual support, a network of shared information and experience, and a connection to the emergence of global feminism.

September 11, 2001: Feminist Perspectives

As an antidote for all the disingenuous head-scratching over “what went wrong” in Iraq—how the United States transmuted the world’s sympathy and support into global revulsion in the wake of September 11, this painful retrospective on what might have been—or rather what should have been—is a powerful tonic. The writings gathered here, a pastiche of genres and a powerfully diverse set of feminist voices, were written in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks and published by an Australian press.

One of the Guys: Women as Aggressors and Torturers

Are there lessons to be learned from the interminable nightmare in Iraq? Was more heartbreaking instruction needed, even after My Lai and William Calley and Zippo raids? The media, with its relentless blather about heroism, simply can’t accommodate the postmodern ambiguity in the story of Private Jessica Lynch or the fragging death of Pat Tillman.

Women and Sports in the United States

As the rather generic title would suggest, this collection is intended as an introduction to a broad field, perhaps a reader useful for a college-level Exercise Science or Physical Education seminar. There are nods to some of the pioneers of sport, essays on gender and athleticism—most of them more journalistic than scholarly—an all too brief treatment of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League of A League of Their Own fame. There is a rehash of Brandi Chastain’s exuberant celebration after the 1999 Women’s World Cup and the sexualizing of athletes’ bodies in the media.

I Think of You: Stories

The stories in Ahdaf Soueif’s book collectively form the multivoiced memoir of a woman growing up with academic parents in Cairo and in England and on the cultural margins of both places. Her first narrative, “Knowing,” told in the charmingly declarative voice of a child, tells of the wonders of the Cairo marketplace: fingering guavas, nibbling at the sheep head on a snack tray, sneaking a puff on a waterpipe.

Trans/forming Feminisms: Trans-Feminist Voices Speak Out

Krista Scott-Dixon’s collection, Trans/forming Feminisms: Transfeminist Voices Speak Out blending gender theory and a remarkable range of personal narratives, provides a powerful, complex and deeply moving introduction to a relatively neglected and misunderstood area of feminist study: the experiences, gendered multiplicity, personal and social struggles, and the touching humanity of people identified—for lack of a better term—as trans.


Elizabeth Robinson’s new book of poetry, Apostrophe, is startling in a number of respects: more white space than word, more whisper than yawp, poems with one-word titles like “Wind” and “Lost”—and, in fact, titles like “Anemone” repeated twice, as if the author were revising herself or perhaps offering variations on a theme. The language first encountered seems startlingly abstract and enigmatic, although moments of sensational contact invoke Whitman’s advice: “missing me one place, search another,” at the end of “Song of Myself.”