To face her paralyzing fear of heights, journalist Eva Holland jumped off a plane and learned to climb. But while she endured these experiences with a semblance of balance, she found that the experience had little to allay her fears. “I was facing my fear, but it was hard to imagine that my resulting feelings, or my control over them, would constantly improve,” says Holland in Nerve: adventures in the science of fear, one of the five new fiction titles featured in Smithsonian weekly review of magazine books.
The latest episode in our “Books of the Week” series, which launched in late March to support authors whose works were overshadowed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, details Holland’s harrowing feats, the stories of 50 forgotten innovators, a 19th royal scandal of the 20th century that destroyed the Bourbon dynasty in France, an investigation into how street addresses reflect race and class, and a glimpse into the turbulent history of Saint-Louis.
Representing the fields of history, science, arts and culture, innovation and travel, the selections represent texts that aroused our curiosity with their new approaches to often discussed subjects, the rise of forgotten stories and artful prose. We’re linked to Amazon for your convenience, but be sure to check with your local bookstore to see if it also supports social distancing delivery or pickup measures.
Nerve: adventures in the science of fear by Eva Holland
When Eva Holland’s biggest fear – the untimely death of her mother – was realized in 2015, she decided to embark on a journey of self-discovery, examining “to what extent her many fears had limited her… and whether or not it was possible to move after them. ” Nerve, a work which contextualizes Holland’s personal phobias by delving into the latest scientific research, is the product of this quest which has lasted for years.
As Holland writes in the prologue to the book, she began by dividing fear into three “imperfect” categories: phobias, trauma, and the short-lived. From there, she began to answer key questions, including how and why humans feel fear, if there is a cure for fear, and if there is a “better way to feel fear”. .
During his research, Holland tackled his own fears, interviewed people with a rare disease that keeps them from feeling fear, and met scientists working to cure phobias with a single pill. Although she freely admits that she “cannot say that I am now in complete control of my fears,” the reporter notes that her relationship to fear has changed forever. With Nerve, Holland hopes to teach these same lessons to others.
She adds: “Fear is a uniting experience, even if it makes us alone right now.”
The address book: what street addresses reveal about identity, race, wealth and power by Deirdre Mask
Street addresses, argues Deirdre Mask in The address book, transmit crucial information regarding their demographic details, including race, wealth and identity, of those who live there. These numbers and names also reflect power – “the power to name, the power to shape history, the power to decide who counts, who doesn’t, and why.” As Mask writes in the book’s introduction, addresses are useful for directing ambulances to go, but at the same time, they “exist so people can find you, watch you, tax you, and try to sell you things you don’t need in the mail. “
Take for example, rural West Virginia, which had few public addresses before 1991, when a telecommunications company launched an unprecedented addressing campaign aimed “literally, [at putting] Western Virginians on the map. Residents, who have long been used to providing directions based on geographic coordinates rather than street names, viewed the initiative with suspicion, Mask writes.
Mask explores the tensions over street names – and the ripple effects of not having an address – through case studies of Nazi Germany, a cholera epidemic in Haiti, ancient Rome and other communities on four continents. Speak New york times‘ Review of The address book, the book is surprisingly encouraging for a story on “class, poverty, disease, racism and the Holocaust”, based on a “cast of moving jammers whose curiosity, indignation and ambition encourage them to face problems ignored by indifferent bureaucracies ”.
The Duchess’ betrayal: the scandal that destroyed the Bourbon monarchy and modernized France by Maurice Samuels
The July 1830 Revolution is perhaps best known for ending the reign of the Bourbon dynasty in France. But as Maurice Samuels writes The Duchess’ Betrayal, the uprising had at least one unexpected side effect that is still evident in modern French society: the rise of rampant anti-Semitism.
Samuels traces the omnipresent anti-Semitism in France to the betrayal of Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Sicile, duchesse de Berry, in 1832, by her trusted advisor, a “seductive but volatile man” by the name of Simon Deutz. The Duchess, mother of the 11-year-old heir to the crown, had been exiled in the aftermath of the July Revolution, but far from placidly accepting this unwelcome turn of events, she rallied supporters and led a charged guerrilla army to restore the Bourbon Dynasty to the throne. De Berry escaped from the authorities for six months, but on November 6, 1832, he was found hidden in a Nantes house. Leaving a secret compartment, she reportedly said, “I’m the Duchess of Berry. You are French soldiers. I confide in your honor! ”
Deutz, the man responsible for the discovery of the Duchess, was a Jewish convert to Catholicism who gave up his former confidant for a small fortune. In the aftermath of the betrayal, according to Samuels, supporters of the Duchess came to view Deutz’s actions as emblematic of modernity – in other words, a “symbol of evil … inaugurated by the French Revolution”.
Samuels adds: “History has transformed resistance to modernity into a passionate game with the Jew as the villain and, in so doing, has helped to make anti-Semitism a key element of right-wing ideology in France. “
The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States by Walter Johnson
As the geographic center of the United States of America, St. Louis has seen more than its fair share of historic events. In The broken heart of America, historian Walter Johnson traces the evolution of the city – including the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804, the Missouri Compromise, 1857 Dred scott decision and the 2014 uprising in the neighboring city of Ferguson – from the “most radical city” in the country to an urban center marked by racial inequality.
“The history of the human geography of Saint-Louis is as much a history of“ withdrawal of blacks ”- the serial destruction of black neighborhoods and the transfer of their population according to the prevailing model of profit and maintenance of order in anytime – just white flight, ”writes Johnson in the introduction to the book.
Imperialism, capitalism and racism have long merged in Saint-Louis, but far from being a representative city both torn between “east and west, north and south”, argues the historian, the capital of Missouri has, in fact, “been the crucible” of American history “, a large part of which” unfolded from the junction of the empire and anti-darkness in the city of Saint-Louis ” .
Anonymous is a woman: a global chronicle of gender inequality by Nina Ansary
Virginia Woolf’s A room of your own contains several sayings which have since become the pillars of the feminist lexicon. The title of the 1929 essay, for example, is commonly used to describe the intimacy and independence necessary for foster female creativity. Anonymous is a woman, a new offer from the specialist in women’s rights Nina Ansary, takes its title from another quote from Woolf often repeated: “I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman. “
In accordance with the line of thought of the British writer, Anonymous is a woman explores the stories of 50 innovative women whose achievements have been largely overlooked. Beginning with En Hedu-Anna, an Akkadian woman who was the first known female astronomer in the world, and ending with Alice Ball, a 20th century American chemist who discovered a treatment for leprosy, the book uses short illustrated biographical sketches by artist Petra Dufkova to unravel 4,000 years of gender inequality. As Ansary writes in the opening chapters of the book, “It was a challenge to select only fifty women. … [D]Despite the formidable cultural barriers, women have developed their skills and talents, used their intellect and creativity and have distinguished themselves in various businesses. “
Proceeds from the sale of Anonymous is a woman will be donated to the Center for Human Rights in Iran and the London School of Economics Center for Women, Peace and Security.