New Books Alert: 2015 Year in Preview, Part Two (May-August)



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Paul Putz

Back in January I posted a preview list of new books within the field of American religious history. That list only included books set to be released between January and April. As promised, here is the second part, featuring the May-to-August books. Once again I've included about 50 titles, and that doesn't even include LSU Press's "updated edition" of Ed Blum's Reforging the White Repblic, set for publication in June. (Congrats, Ed!)

A couple quick points to make before we get to the list. First, I've listed the books in roughly chronological order based on the month of their release date. Second, although I've tried to include as many relevant and interesting titles as I could find, I'm sure that I left out some deserving books. Please use the comments to add to this list, and I can update the post as needed. Third, to add a little color to this post, here are six of the books that I am most interested in reading (I'd include Heath Carter's Union Made on this list, but alas, I could not find an image of the book cover)

*Update: the book cover for Heath Carter's Union Made has been made available! Check it out:


*Update: just added Heather White's Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights (North Carolina, August). I'm not sure how I missed this book the first time around. I suppose this is why we crowdsource!




Leight Schmidt: "Interweaving American religious and environmental histories, Stoll has produced a tapestry richly textured with denominational variations and particular landscapes. Wary of environmentalism's prevailing Transcendentalist aura, Stoll resurfaces the Congregational and Presbyterian conduits of so much of American conservationism. His is an impressive reexamination of the religious and artistic qualities of the American engagement with nature."

From the publisher: "Each age has its own crisis—our modern experience of science-religion conflict is not so very different from that experienced by our forebears, Keith Thomson proposes in this thoughtful book. He considers the ideas and writings of Thomas Jefferson and Charles Darwin, two men who struggled mightily to reconcile their religion and their science, then looks to more recent times when scientific challenges to religion (evolutionary theory, for example) have given rise to powerful political responses from religious believers."

Amy DeRogatis: "Sean McCloud's compelling study of spiritual warfare manuals written by Third Wave American evangelicals is the first of its kind. McCloud carefully examines literature that focuses on cursed objects, spiritual mapping, protective battle prayers, generational demons, and prayer walks to uncover the extraordinary and ordinary aspects of deliverance beliefs and rituals. McCloud reveals how seemingly medieval religious practices are made sensible in the modern world. A fascinating and understudied topic."

Art Remillard: "Rebecca Alpert offers a series of expertly crafted case studies with innovative, provocative, and compelling suggested exercises for classroom use. The case studies are superb in their content and accessibility, and cover a wide range of sports from across the globe, raising important questions related to race, gender, ethnicity, creed, pluralism, and moral complexity."

Matt Sutton: "In this sweeping study of emptiness in American Christianity, Corrigan masterfully navigates difficult terrain, expertly ushering readers through centuries of religious behavior and across many traditions. With depth and creativity, he explores everything from the diaries of conflicted Puritans to Catholic Mel Gibson’s cinematic bloodletting. This is a powerful history.”

M. Jacqui Alexander: "A unique and provocative crossover text, Rosemarie Freeney Harding and Rachel Elizabeth Harding's Remnants troubles the boundaries of authorship, of genre, of discipline, of voice and agency. It hovers at the boundaries of the sacred and secular, but knits them together in the daily lives of practitioners and communities for whom a division is untenable, unthinkable even. It impels us to think deeply about the meaning of politics and the kinds of hidden intimacies that make committed public engagement possible, without succumbing to the unhelpful public/private binary. We need the stories of the kinds that are recounted here."

Keith McNeal: "Finally a broad-ranging comparative work exploring the roots of Islam in the Americas! Drawing upon fresh historical and ethnographic research, this book asks important questions about the politics of culture and globalization of religion in the modern world."

From the publisher: "This first comprehensive biography of Jewish American writer and humorist Harry Golden (1903-1981)--author of the 1958 national best-seller Only in America--illuminates a remarkable life intertwined with the rise of the civil rights movement, Jewish popular culture, and the sometimes precarious position of Jews in the South and across America during the 1950s."

Douglas McAdam: "Flannery O'Connor wrote about the value of 'reading a small history in a universal light.' In writing her extraordinary analytic history of Mt. Zion Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi, Carol V.R. George has taken O'Connor's injunction to heart. The result is an exceptional book that uses the history of a single church, albeit a historically resonant one, as the lens through which to interrogate the enduring American dilemma of race. An altogether exemplary work that humanizes and localizes the dilemma as few other works ever have."

Walter Shurden: "I know of no other work like Born of Water and Spirit. Its contributions are threefold: it describes Baptist life in Kentucky in the formative period of the American Republic, it utilizes excellent primary material, and, most importantly, it interprets developments in light of what the writer successfully describes as the ‘Baptist impulse.’"

From the publisher: "In this provocative and accessible urban history, Lila Corwin Berman considers the role that Detroit’s Jews played in the city’s well-known narrative of migration and decline. Taking its cue from social critics and historians who have long looked toward Detroit to understand twentieth-century urban transformations, Metropolitan Jews tells the story of Jews leaving the city while retaining a deep connection to it."

Gretchen Adams: "At least once a generation a scholar promises to give the final word on the origins and course of the 1692 Salem witchcraft outbreak. Ben Ray’s Satan and Salem is a book that finally delivers on that ambitious claim. By combining shrewd analysis of newly transcribed and discovered documents, a corrected timeline of events, and a truly broad consideration of the religious, social, and political context for the outbreak, Ray makes us sympathetic to not only the tragedy of Salem but the complex world that produced it."

Todd Compton: "The Mapmakers of New Zion is a brilliant history of Mormons and Mormon thought, viewed through the unique lens of cartography. Written in an engaging style, Mapmakers documents the minutiae of history and geography and offers an ongoing meditation on Mormon cosmology and Latter-day Saint views on space and time. A stimulating and enlightening book."

Jackson Carroll: "Carrying on the legacy of his granduncle, the priest-sociologist Joseph Fichter, S.J., Stephen J. Fichter, also a priest-sociologist, has produced a rich portrait of priests who have left the Catholic priesthood to become married Protestant clergy. Using in-depth interviews with former priests and their spouses/partners, as well as survey data, Fichter takes the reader along the path that these transitioning priests take—a kind of rite of passage—as they move from a celibate Catholic priesthood to being shepherds 'in greener pastures' where, as Protestant clergy, they can embrace both marriage and ministry."

From the publisher: "Beliefs and Rituals in Archaic Eastern North America describes, illustrates, and offers nondogmatic interpretations of rituals and beliefs in Archaic America. In compiling a wealth of detailed entries, author Cheryl Claassen has created both an exhaustive reference as well as an opening into new archaeological taxonomies, connections, and understandings of Native American culture."

From the publisher: "The Reverend Howard Finster (1916–2001) was called the 'backwoods William Blake' and the 'Andy Warhol of the South,' and he is considered the godfather of contemporary American folk and visionary art. This book is the first interpretive analysis of the intertwined artistic and religious significance of Finster’s work within the context of the American 'outsider art' tradition. Finster began preaching as a teenager in the South in the 1930s. But it was not until he received a revelation from God at the age of sixty that he began to make sacred art."

Arthur Versluis: “Destined to become the definitive book on eccentric religion in this geographical area, this is a fascinating account of unusual and inventive religious figures and movements. Sure-handed, even-tempered, and wry, Joscelyn Godwin is the ideal guide, and his book is one that all readers will want to have in hand as they explore this historically rich and important region. What’s more, it is an important book for understanding a vital part of American religious history.”

From the publisher: "Ryan Claassen carefully assesses the way campaign activists represent religious and non-religious groups in American political parties dating back to the 1960s. By providing a new theoretical framework for investigating the connections between macro social and political trends, the results challenge a conventional wisdom in which recently mobilized religious and secular extremists captured the parties and created a God gap. The new approach reveals that very basic social and demographic trends matter far more than previously recognized and that mobilization matters far less. The God gap in voting is real, but it was not created by Christian Right mobilization efforts and a Secular backlash. Where others see culture wars and captured parties, Claassen finds many religious divisions in American politics are artifacts of basic social changes."

Amanda Porterfield: "This book makes a significant contribution to scholarly understanding of Quaker history and casts new light on religion’s role in the development of modern nations. Far from being the quietists portrayed in some scholarly accounts, Quakers responded to the new pressures of nationalism by becoming reformers of their nations. No one to my knowledge has done as much as Crabtree to unpack this interesting history."

Stephen Ellingson: "This is a rich case study of how one congregation blends the traditions of African-American Christianity and the contemporary therapeutic ethic of American popular culture to become a GLBT-affirming church. Leong adeptly shows how the rituals, use of sacred texts, and adoption of liberation theology are combined at Unity Fellowship Church to create a haven for one of society’s most marginalized populations."

From the publisher: "American Heathens is the first in-depth ethnographic study about the largely misunderstood practice of American Heathenry (Germanic Paganism). Jennifer Snook—who has been Pagan since her early teens and a Heathen since eighteen—traces the development and trajectory of Heathenry as a new religious movement in America, one in which all identities are political and all politics matter."

Albert Raboteau: "In clear and compelling prose, filled with enlightening anecdotes, this book tells the amazing story of how a persecuted minority of Christians, who rejected infant baptism and state control of the church, grew into the largest denomination in the United States with culture-shaping consequences. An important contribution to American Religious History, this book should be widely read by anyone interested in the history and present state of religion in U.S. culture and politics." 

Aminah Beverly McCloud: "Tackles the contours and intimacies of a much practiced but seldom spoken about quasi-marriage that leaves women without legal support. A much-needed text on an extremely sensitive topic. Majeed excavates this terrain with finesse and a deft scholarly hand."

From the publisher: "In 1965 social scientist Charles S. Liebman published a study that boldly declared the vitality of American Jewish Orthodoxy and went on to guide scholarly investigations of the group for the next four decades. As American Orthodoxy continues to grow in geographical, institutional, and political strength, author Adam S. Ferziger argues in Beyond Sectarianism: The Realignment of American Orthodox Judaism that one of Liebman's principal definitions needs to be updated. While Liebman proposed that the "committed Orthodox" -observant rather than nominally affiliated-could be divided into two main streams: "church," or Modern Orthodoxy, and "sectarian," or Haredi Orthodoxy, Ferziger traces a narrowing of the gap between them and ultimately a realignment of American Orthodox Judaism."

From the publisher: "One such community in Smithfield, New York, led by activist Gerrit Smith, is the focus of Hadley Kruczek-Aaron’s study. Kruczek-Aaron demonstrates that religious ideology--specifically a lifestyle of temperance and simplicity as advocated by evangelical Christians--was as important an influence on consumption and daily life as socioeconomic status, purchasing power, access to markets, and other social factors."

From the publisher: "Sabine N. Meyer eschews the generalities of other temperance histories to provide a close-grained story about the connections between alcohol consumption and identity in the upper Midwest. Meyer examines the ever-shifting ways that ethnicity, gender, class, religion, and place interacted with each other during the long temperance battle in Minnesota." 

Jim Fisher: "The Bread of the Strong is a thrilling spiritual adventure story. Jack Downey brilliantly tracks the origins and flourishing of the controversial, mysterious, and extremely influential retreat movement most prominently associated with Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers. 'The retreat' blended passionately mystical Québécois spirituality with the hard-nosed militancy of Catholic labor movement advocacy of Industrial Era Pittsburgh. The result was a paradoxical-and most potent-form of Catholic spiritual radicalism that fulfilled Dorothy Day's lifelong search for authentic communion with Jesus and her fellows."

From the publisher: "In a sweeping critique of the field, Benjamin Schreier resituates Jewish Studies in order to make room for a critical study of identity and identification. Displacing the assumption that Jewish Studies is necessarily the study of Jews, this book aims to break down the walls of the academic ghetto in which the study of Jewish American literature often seems to be contained: alienated from fields like comparative ethnicity studies, American studies, and multicultural studies; suffering from the unwillingness of Jewish Studies to accept critical literary studies as a legitimate part of its project; and so often refusing itself to engage in self-critique."

From the publisher: "Combining vivid ethnographic storytelling and incisive theoretical analysis, New Monasticism and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism introduces readers to the fascinating and unexplored terrain of neo-monastic evangelicalism. Often located in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods, new monastic communities pursue religiously inspired visions of racial, social, and economic justice-alongside personal spiritual transformation-through diverse and creative expressions of radical community. In this account, Wes Markofski has immersed himself in the paradoxical world of evangelical neo-monasticism, focusing on the Urban Monastery-an influential neo-monastic community located in a gritty, racially diverse neighborhood in a major Midwestern American city."

David Chidester: ""Not a conventional survey of African American religion, which might trace religious origins and developments, this book is a groundbreaking exploration of the conditions of possibility for thinking about African American religion. Transatlantic empires, colonial enclosures, and political engagements, as Sylvester Johnson shows, are more than historical contexts; they are forces of religious formation. The book is an important contribution to the study of African American religion and the study of religion." 

From the publisher: "Following a lineage of environmental historians who acknowledge the movement’s religious roots, this study offers a potent theoretical corrective designed to clarify how such religious characteristics remained publicly vital components of the movement well into the 20th century. In particular, Berry argues that an explicitly Christian understanding of salvation grounded the environmental movement’s orientation toward the natural world. Theologically derived concepts about salvation, redemption, and spiritual progress not only provide the basic context for Americans enthusiastic about the out-of-doors, they also establish the horizons of possibility for the national environmental imagination."

Daniel Ott and Hannah Schell, Christian Thought in America: A Brief History (Fortress, July)
From the publisher: "Daniel Ott and Hannah Schell offer a short, accessible overview of the history of Christian thought in America, from the Puritans and other colonials to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Moving chronologically, each chapter addresses a historical segment, focusing on key movements and figures and tracing general trends and developments. While many texts offer a detailed history of Christianity in the American context, few focus on the philosophical and theological issues..."

Kathryn Lofton: "What an intimate and perceptive work of ethnographic scholarship! Playing for God takes you into the profound epistemology of athleticism. Blazer uses her conversations with Christian sportswomen to delve into the ways that all people, religious and not, understand themselves through their bodies. A first-rate exploration of the intersection between spiritual knowledge and the disciplining effects of sporting life."

Randall Stephens: "B. M. Pietsch's Dispensational Modernism is a bold reinterpretation of an enormously important modern religious movement. Making use of an array of understudied original sources and recent scholarship, Pietsch skillfully argues that dispensationalists applied the technological methods and epistemologies of modernism. He traces the history of this movement through the late 19th and early 20th centuries and reveals the fascinating ways that its champions held 'thoroughly modernist assumptions.' Perhaps most importantly, Pietsch, with clear and fluid prose, links what had once been thought of as a disconnected sectarian movement with the vital intellectual and cultural currents of the age."

John Fea: "Inventing a Christian America is the most thorough critique of Christian nationalism available today. Steven Green approaches this controversial subject with scholarly insight, a generally irenic spirit, and a comprehensive analysis of the literature produced by those who defend the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Anyone interested in this subject must read this book."

From the publisher: "A fresh retelling of Cotton Mather's life, this biography corrects misconceptions and focuses on how he sought to promote, socially and intellectually, a biblical lifestyle. As older Puritan hopes in New England were giving way to a broader and shallower Protestantism, Mather led a populist, Bible-oriented movement that embraced the new century -- the beginning of a dynamic evangelical tradition that eventually became a major force in American culture."

From the publisher: "Klezmer presents a lively and detailed overview of the folk musical tradition as practiced in Philadelphia's twentieth-century Jewish community. Through interviews, archival research, and recordings, Hankus Netsky constructs an ethnographic portrait of Philadelphia’s Jewish musicians, the environment they worked in, and the repertoire they performed at local Jewish lifestyle and communal celebrations. Netsky defines what klezmer music is, how it helped define Jewish immigrant culture in Philadelphia, and how its current revival has changed klezmer’s meaning historically."

From the publisher: "In After the Wrath of God, Anthony Petro vividly narrates the religious history of AIDS in America. Delving into the culture wars over sex, morality, and the future of the American nation, he demonstrates how religious leaders and AIDS activists have shaped debates over sexual morality and public health from the 1980s to the present day. While most attention to religion and AIDS foregrounds the role of the Religious Right, Petro takes a much broader view, encompassing the range of mainline Protestant, evangelical, and Catholic groups that shaped public discussions of AIDS prevention and care in the U.S."

From the publisher: "Hunt the Devil is a timely and illuminating exploration of demonic imagery in US war culture. In it, authors Robert L. Ivie and Oscar Giner examine the origins of the Devil figure in the national psyche and review numerous examples from US history of the demonization of America’s perceived opponents. Their analysis demonstrates that American military deployments are often part of a cycle of mythical projection wherein the Devil repeatedly appears anew and must be exorcised through redemptive acts of war, even at the cost of curtailing democratic values."

From the publisher: "In the late 1850s and early 1860s, the attention of the Catholic and Protestant religious communities around the world focused on a few small settlements of French Canadian immigrants in northeastern Illinois. Soon after arriving in their new home, a large number of these immigrants, led by Father Charles Chiniquy, the charismatic Catholic priest who had brought them there, converted to Protestantism. In this anthropological history, Caroline B. Bretell explores how Father Chiniquy took on both the sacred and the secular authority of the Catholic Church to engineer the religious schism and how the legacy of this rift affected the lives of the immigrants and their descendants for generations. This intriguing study of a nineteenth-century migration of French Canadians to the American Midwest offers an innovative perspective on the immigrant experience in America."

From the publisher: "Concentrating on two of today's best known purity organizations, True Loves Waits and Silver Ring Thing, Sara Moslener's investigation reveals that purity work over the last two centuries has developed in concert with widespread fears of changing traditional gender roles and sexual norms, national decline, and global apocalypse. Moslener highlights a number of points in U.S. history when evangelical beliefs and values have seemed to provide viable explanations for and solutions to widespread cultural crises, resulting in the growth of their cultural and political influence. By asserting a causal relationship between sexual immorality, national decline, and apocalyptic anticipation, leaders have shaped a purity rhetoric that positions Protestant evangelicalism as the salvation of American civilization."

From the publisher: "This new history of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, focuses on the growth and evolution of the Congregation through the years 1944–1999. This book attempts to look at the Congregation, an ecclesial group of Catholic women religious, from the particular perspectives of spirituality, ministry, and governance."

From the publisher: "In Union Made, Heath W. Carter advances a bold new interpretation of the origins of American Social Christianity. While historians have often attributed the rise of the Social Gospel to middle-class ministers, seminary professors, and social reformers, this book places working people at the very center of the story. The major characters--blacksmiths, glove makers, teamsters, printers, and the like--have been mostly forgotten, but as Carter convincingly argues, their collective contribution to American Social Christianity was no less significant than that of Walter Rauschenbusch or Jane Addams."

Richard Bell: "Precise and powerful, wide-ranging and illuminating, Patient Expectations offers the first patient-centered history of the transformation of American medicine in the early Republic. Thompson concludes that physicians made far more limited use of heroic therapies than historians have previously acknowledged and that private practitioners in particular were strikingly tolerant of self-medication and alternative remedies."

From the publisher: "American Secularism addresses the contemporary lived reality of secular individuals, outlining forms of secular identity and showing their connection to patterns of family formation, sexuality, and politics, providing scholars of religion with a more comprehensive understanding of worldviews that do not include traditional religion."

David Kraemer: "Brings together a vast range of scholarship and anecdote to produce the first comprehensive history of the Jewish delicatessen. Both culinary and cultural history, this book will be of interest to scholars and common readers alike, the former for its incisive interpretations of modern Jewish foodways and the latter for its ability to recreate a time and place that was 'home' for so many 20th century Jews in America. 

From the publisher: "In Pillars of Cloud and Fire, Herbert Robinson Marbury offers a comprehensive survey of African American biblical interpretation. Each chapter in this compelling volume moves chronologically, from the antebellum period and the Civil War through to the Harlem Renaissance, the civil rights movement, the black power movement, and the Obama era, to offer a historical context for the interpretative activity of that time and to analyze its effect in transforming black social reality." 

From the publisher: "Formed in 1972, Jesus People USA is an evangelical Christian community that fundamentally transformed the American Christian music industry and the practice of American evangelicalism, which continues to evolve under its influence. In this fascinating ethnographic study, Shawn David Young replays not only the growth and influence of the group over the past three decades but also the left-leaning politics it developed that continue to serve as a catalyst for change."

From the publisher: "Christopher Craig Brittain offers a wide-ranging examination of specific events within The Episcopal Church (TEC) by drawing upon an analysis of theological debates within the church, field interviews in church congregations, and sociological literature on church conflict. The discussion demonstrates that interpretations describing the situation in TEC as a Culture War between Liberals and Conservatives are deeply flawed. Moreover, the book shows that the splits that are occurring within the national church are not so much schisms in the technical sociological sense, but are more accurately described as a familial divorce, with all the ongoing messy entwinement that this term evokes."

Paul Harvey: “A richly detailed study of the rise of the Bahá’í Faith in South Carolina. There isn’t another study out there even remotely like this one."

From the publisher: "Tracing the movement from its mid-twentieth century origins in the writings of theologian and philosopher R.J. Rushdoony to its present day sites of influence including the Christian Home School movement, advocacy for the teaching of creationism, and the development and rise of the Tea Party movement, Ingersoll illustrates how the Reconstructionist movement has broadly and subtly shaped conservative American Protestantism over the course of the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries."

Heather White, Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights (North Carolina, August)
John D'Emilio: "Important, gracefully written, and interpretively original, Reforming Sodom brings together two historical subjects--religion and gay/lesbian activism--that are often seen as not intersecting. Heather White makes notable new arguments about the collaboration between religion and medicine in the post-World War II generation and the ways religious organizing and activism intersected so thoroughly with the expanding gay liberation movement of the 1970s."

From the publisher: "Christine Leigh Heyrman's American Apostles brilliantly chronicles the first collision between American evangelicalism and the diverse religious cultures of the Levant. The founding members of the "Palestine mission" thrilled readers with tales of crossing the Sinai and exploring Cairo and Jerusalem. But their missions did not go according to plan. The Muslims of the Middle East showed no interest in converting. Instead of saving souls, the New Englanders found themselves engaging scholars in theological debate, marveling at the local folkways, and pursuing an elusive Bostonian convert to Islam....In the end, Heyrman argues that the failure of the foreign missions movement bolstered a more militant Christianity that became America's unofficial creed. The missionaries did not convert Muslims but they did transform themselves--with political and religious legacies that last to this day."

From the publisher: "This substantial work explores the interplay of religion and politics throughout the history of the United States. Paul D. Hanson traces American history back to colonial times, paying close attention to the role that biblical tradition has played in shaping the national story of the United States. He then presents a detailed study of politics in the Bible that is framed by the challenges and crises in American history."

From the publisher: "Much has been written about women religious -- known as nuns or sisters -- since Vatican II, which brought about major changes to the Roman Catholic Church worldwide. In this book several Dominican Sisters tell with candor what it was really like to live the religious life in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during those years."

5 comments:

Heather R. White at: April 20, 2015 at 9:55 PM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather R. White at: April 20, 2015 at 9:57 PM said...

August release: Heather R. White, Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights (UNC)

Paul Putz at: April 21, 2015 at 8:30 AM said...

Wow, how did I miss that one? My apologies, Heather. I just added your book, and I look forward to reading it when it comes out as well!

Paul Putz at: April 21, 2015 at 8:45 AM said...

I should add that I'll make up for my ommission by re-running a notice of your book when I put out the September-December list.

Heather R. White at: April 22, 2015 at 8:57 AM said...

Thanks! And thanks for the list!

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