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But it’s Historical!

Old stuff, textbooks, past events, etc.

Major Social Problems

Major Social Problems coverMajor social problems
Raab and Selznick

Submitter: Considering this book was published in 1959, it is not nearly as bad as it could be. The authors take a broad view of social problems, recognizing, for example, that “Negroes” are discriminated against in all aspects of society (socially, politically, economically, in law enforcement, etc.). For example, the book includes a page which has snippets of discriminatory texts from travel agencies and hotels—fascinating and damning stuff.

Where it goes seriously awry is in its “adaptations,” abridged adaptations from other publications. There are short introductory statements to these adaptations, but the authors of the textbook don’t criticize the excerpts, they simply present them as thought-provoking alternate viewpoints. One adaptation, “A southerner’s view of desegregation,” written by Thomas Waring and originally published in Harper’s magazine in January 1956, is particularly offensive, taking a white man’s burden view of desegregation efforts. Another, “Predicting parole success and failure,” adapted from the 1951 book of the same name by Lloyd E. Ohlin, doesn’t hesitate to use stereotypes to categorize people, such as “drunkard,” “sex deviant,” and… um… “’farmer’,” for some reason??

The weirdest section by far was an excerpt of an article published in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in February 1956, “The battle for health… and dollars” by Marguerite Shepard. Shepard appears to be in the pocket of Big Polio, as she seems extremely put out by the amount of money those swindlers fighting polio have been raking in.

Oh, and the cover’s pretty awful, too. An overdue weed from our small liberal arts college library’s collection, though I admit I feel comforted by the fact that 237 other libraries hold this book for those who are interested in researching late 1950s attitudes to “major social problems.”

Holly: This belongs *somewhere,* but that isn’t a small liberal arts college. Amazing what you unearth when weeding hasn’t been done for a while.

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A Communist Insider Tells All

communists in britain cover

The Communist Technique in Britain

This Cold War relic is actually an interesting book. It’s less dogma and more about the inner politics of the Communist Party in Britain and how the British Communists exert a great deal of influence more than would be indicated by the size of the party. I have only read bits and pieces, but I was fascinated by the party discipline issues and the power dynamics of the Party. Cold War nerds out there: I would love to hear your thoughts.


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Friday Fiction – Anne of Green Gables

Series: Anne of Green GablesAnne of Green Gables (series)
Anne of the Island, Anne of Ingleside, and Further Chronicles of Avonlea
1915, 1939, and 1920 (original publication dates)

Submitter: 25 – 30 years ago, my mom sometimes worked a shift at a tiny branch library near our home. The whole family has since moved away, but a few days ago we did a road trip and visited old friends, and we stopped by the lovely new branch library that has replaced the tiny old one. While browsing along the YA shelves, I was stunned to see these books, sad remnants of the entire series that once lived on the shelves. As a kid, I frequently saw these exact volumes and marveled at their ugliness. They were old and hideous then, and were probably largely responsible for my reluctance to read anything Anne-ish. (Jonathan Crombie later changed my mind, and I read them many times over — in new paperback editions!). I can’t BELIEVE these books are still there. Somebody chose to pack them up and move them to the new branch! And clearly, new generations of young readers are still refusing to pick them up, because they aren’t worn out YET.

Holly: Wow! They really should replace these with newly published copies with modern-looking covers. A brand-new, squeaky-clean library branch deserves some shiny new classics. These have what Mary calls “mom stink” on them. Anything mom loved or that looks like it came from mom’s era is an automatic no-go for some kids. Depending on the publication date of these copies, they might be collector’s items! In other words, inappropriate for your basic public library teen collection where they will not be carefully handled.