This has been the season of book reviews! Closing out this season America has just published my review of an excellent book that examines the recent history of American Catholic activism. Sharon Erickson Nepstad continues to “do it again,” with books that bring readers insights on religion and activism. Catholic Social Activism: Progressive Movements in the United States (NYU 2019) brings the readers into the changes and efforts made by the laity and hierarchy on issues of gender, the environment, the Central American peace movement and more. The whole book examines the interplay between the laity and hierarchy on each of these topics; sometimes they work together, sometimes their efforts are more parallel and at times they are at loggerheads. Nepstad closes the book by connecting these efforts to broader ideas on understanding Catholic social change. The book is one of those that is great for classroom or a parish book group, and I note the multiple-audience appeal in my review:
The rigor and breadth of Nepstad’s research and analysis makes this an excellent book for academic courses. Yet the page-turning readability also makes it valuable for everyday Catholics who look to deepen their understanding of Catholic social teaching and how our church has enacted it.
The Wabash Center Journal on Teaching has just published my review of the edited collection Identity and Internationalization in Catholic Universities: Exploring Institutional Pathways in Context (Brill 2018). Appropriately spearheaded by a global team (Hans de Wit, Andrés Bernasconi, Visnja Car, Fiona Hunter, Michael James, and Daniela Véliz), this book uses case studies to examine the ways various institutions in Catholic higher ed have navigated questions and challenges surrounding identity and internationalization. It is a book that would provide insights on Catholic identity for a number of institutions, as I note in my review:
Identity and Internationalization in Catholic Universities is indispensable not only for those in leadership in Catholic higher education, but also for those leading Catholic schools, hospitals, nonprofits, networks, Bishops conferences, and other organizations that seek to make a distinctly Catholic impact in an increasingly global and pluralist world.
Social Forces has just published my review of Beyond Betrayal: The Priest Sex Abuse Crisis, The Voice of the Faithful, and the Process of Collective Identity (University of Chicago Press 2019). This book, written by Drs. Patricia Ewick and the late Marc W. Steinberg, explores a single Voice of the Faithful affiliate for ten years. For those unfamiliar, Voice of the Faithful is a group that began following the discovery of clerical sexual abuse of minors and its subsequent coverup. Ewick and Steinberg’s long-haul study allows us to see the ways the group does identity work as they encounter victories and setbacks in their work for justice and healing. Beyond the content itself, the book is a wonderful contribution to the literature on theories of narrative; I’m especially appreciative of this as this in an understudied field within sociology. To share a piece of my review:
Beyond Betrayal is a masterfully written book that dives deeply into the minds of individual activists to see the ways they make sense not only of their activism, but also their very selves. This book is sure to invite new questions on meaning and the role of narratives in social life. It is a must-read for scholars in the areas of social movements, identity, emotion, small groups, or framing and would be very useful for those who lead small groups trying to foment social change.