Book reviews from the Fall 2012 issue of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER magazine.
The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—And How To Make the Most of Them Now, by Meg Jay, Ph.D., Twelve: New York, 2012, $22.99 hardcover.
While society often touts slogans like, “thirty is the new twenty” and “you only live once,” at the same time that the job market has become a more treacherous place than ever, it has become very easy for twenty-somethings to feel that this is the time to live it up and that the time to work is later. In this book, Dr. Jay, a clinical psychologist specializing in adult development in twenty-somethings, attempts to dissect the span of time that often seems vast and uncertain to those ranging from ages 20-29. Divided into three sections, this book covers the general areas of work, love, and the brain and the body.
In the “Work” section, Dr. Jay uses client interactions and parts of her clients’ sessions to illustrate the frequency with which younger people find themselves unable to navigate the waters between finishing their education and settling into their careers. For some, this occurs because the person feels overwhelmed by the number of options that exist. For others, it seems that there will never be another opportunity to enjoy life and to be young and free, and the idea of focusing on work pales in importance. Regardless of the reasoning, Dr. Jay’s work with her clients helps to show the reader ways in which to combat the uncertainty and to begin to make a plan to reach the professional place they wish to find themselves later in life, rather than to miss opportunities that, although they seem endless, might only be options for a short while.
In the “Love” section, clients’ discussions and struggles with current relationships helps the reader to understand fears of not finding the right life partner, whether they are due to being in inappropriate relationships or being uncomfortable with the idea of seeking a relationship at all. Dr. Jay helps clients to clarify their own priorities, to figure out whether a current partner is the right long-term fit, or when to focus elsewhere rather than to put all of one’s effort into finding a mate.
In “The Brain and the Body,” Dr. Jay cites medical cases and personal client interactions in which there are discussions about the ability for the brain to create new ideas and to take new risks, as well as pointing out that there are necessary considerations to be made physically, even when a person is at an age at which such has never had to be considered before.
Overall, this book may be used in three ways: for a clinician or parent looking to better understand the current life struggles of those in their 20s, for a twenty-something to read simply to enjoy the clients’ stories, or for a twenty-something to read and use as a guidebook. Although the first two are very valid reasons to enjoy this book, its true impact is most evident when a reader chooses the third option. Although not every section may feel completely personal (if, for example, you’ve already married, the middle section might not be as poignant for you as the others, or if you do not want to have children, there are areas of the final section that won’t apply), having a professional help the reader to begin to consider his/her life choices and how decisions made now will impact future life options is something that many find a gentle but effective wake-up call.
Reviewed by Kristen Marie (Kryss) Shane, MSW, LSW, LMSW.
Bullying in Different Contexts, edited by Claire P. Monks and Iain Coyne, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2011, 276 pages, $41.99 paperback.
Domestic violence, elder abuse, and workplace harassment: these may not be words that are generally grouped under different types of bullying, but that is exactly what the editors attempt to do in Bullying in Different Contexts. The definition of bullying is largely debated by the contributors; in the end, the editors contend that there are several definitions of bullying. This gives the reader an in-depth background on what bullying means in different areas. However, it makes the reader question how useful and prevalent the text is in an educational and/or social environment.
Monks and Coyne begin the book by giving a summary of the book’s contents. The following nine chapters discuss bullying in various arenas. Chapters two and three introduce readers to bullying that happens at preschool to school age levels. Although it many times does not take place between school walls, cyberbullying is something that children and adolescents have to face as well (covered in Chapter 10). Other forms of bullying among youth are dating violence and bullying in residential facilities (Chapters 4 and 6).
Domestic violence and bullying issues that happen in a family context, not commonly categorized as bullying, are discussed in Chapter 5. Elder abuse is another type of bullying that can happen within families and many times goes unreported, because individuals are unaware of its existence (Chapter 9).
Chapters seven and eight stress the fact that bullying does not occur in a bubble in the prison and workplace areas.
The editors do an excellent job of categorizing bullying and suggesting areas of future research in the final chapter. However, the information about the Internet’s virtual worlds and bullying may need to have more descriptive information. Professionals working in any of the areas described in the book would find this book beneficial, so as to broaden their understanding of bullying. By reaching out to others, more research will hopefully be conducted in the areas suggested, to help reduce bullying in several different areas.
Reviewed by Michelle Sawyer, MSW, graduate of the University of South Dakota.
Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress—and a Plan to Stop It, by Lawrence Lessing, Twelve, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2011, 381 pages, $26.99 hardcover.
In a poll commissioned for Republic, Lost, 75 percent of Americans stated that they believed “campaign contributions buy results in Congress.” These results set the stage for Republic, Lost. Lawrence Lessig is a professor of law at Harvard Law School. Undoubtedly a man of brilliance, Lessig compels readers to take a look at how history has led us to the point of corruption in Congress today.
He offers insights not only about how America got into the mess of campaign corruption, but also offers four intriguing solutions to fix it.
Lessig makes a solid argument that money is not the corruption, but money in the wrong places causes corruption. He gives one specific example: “From 1998 to 2008, the financial sector spent $1.7 billion on campaign contributions and $3.4 billion on lobbying expenses. That’s a faster growth in spending than with any other industry.” The popular perception of Congressmen sitting in long meetings and shaking hands with constituents is far from reality. The more modern view of Congress is a “fund-raising Congress.” Lessig compares current Congressmen to “junkies” addicted to raising funds for their next campaign.
His arguments are enough to turn the stomachs of unassuming Americans across our great nation. After he has finished turning stomachs, he then induces the desire for change.
There are several Thoreau references throughout the book, motivating the reader to strike at the root of evil, which he views as campaign corruption. Republic, Lost is an insightful book for the average American hungry for change. Lessig aims to inspire the reader to be “rootstrikers” and take down this current corruption in Congress.
Reviewed by Alissa A. Lennon, MSW, graduate of the University of South Dakota.
Social Work With HIV & AIDS: A Case-Based Guide, by Diana Rowan and contributors, Lyceum Books, Chicago, IL, 2013, 576 pages, $59.95 paperback.
Rowan has drawn together contributors from academia, agency administration, and front-line case management to create this guide. She describes it as suitable for classes on medical social work and social work with populations-at-risk, as well as a reference for service providers. I agree with her assessment of the book’s utility in all respects.
The book’s 17 chapters are divided into four topical sections. The first section (Chapters 1 through 3) addresses the current state of practice (Chapter 1) and the history of social work with HIV and AIDS as a stage to explore setting the next agenda for practice (Chapter 3). The second chapter reports an extensive conversation between Rowan and Alan Rice, a social worker with 28 years of experience working with HIV and AIDS. The chapter is conversational in tone and provides a comprehensive glimpse into one social worker’s experience on the front lines of AIDS social work across most of the history of the crisis.
The second section comprises six chapters, each addressing a specific population group. Chapters 4 through 8, respectively, address HIV and AIDS among African Americans, Latinos, men who have sex with men (MSM), adolescents and young adults, and persons over age 50. Chapter 9 explores the “ripple effect” of HIV and AIDS spreading concentrically outward from the person infected with HIV to families, friends, and communities. Rather than let this devolve into platitudes about “connectedness,” the authors focus primarily on interventions across practice levels.
The third section (Chapters 10 through 15) is oriented around practice responses. Chapters in this section address case management (Chapter 10), medical care for HIV and AIDS (Chapter 11), and medication adherence issues (Chapter 13). Other chapters deal with some of the more emotionally-charged topics: sex and drugs (Chapter 12), spirituality and religion (Chapter 14), and work with the “Black Faith Community” (Chapter 15). These chapters have achieved an appropriate balance between sensitivity and frankness, though they may still present a challenge for those students accustomed to more concrete thought.
The last section (Chapters 16 and 17) addresses policy responses. Chapter 16 examines housing policy for people living with HIV and AIDS, and Chapter 17 looks at both the history and the current changes taking place in U.S. AIDS policy, e.g., the Ryan White CARE Act and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Readers will find the portion of the chapter devoted to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA—the 2010 healthcare reform act) to be a good introduction to how the PPACA will affect treatment and coverage for persons living with HIV and AIDS. The chapter raises important questions about care going forward.
With the exception of the first three chapters, each chapter contains at least one case example, and several include multiple case studies. The case examples are well-developed and provide appropriate material for stimulating discussion or for classroom assignments. Reflection questions and discussion prompts add to the classroom utility of the text. Rowan and her contributors have produced a credible and useful resource for both students and practitioners.
Reviewed by David H. Johnson, Ph.D., MSW, LSW, assistant professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania.
Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It, by Don Peck, New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2011, 223 Pages. $10.99 paperback.
Don Peck discusses the current implications of the Great Recession in his 2011 book, Pinched. Peck’s discussion of past economic downturns in our nation’s history provides insight into our current situation. Examining the effects of the Gilded Age and Depression of 1893, the Great Depression of the 1930s, the stagnation of the economy from 1972 through the early 1980s, in comparison to the effects that we continue to feel from the stock market crash of 2008, Peck is convincing that we are a nation that will overcome.
Peck opens the first of nine chapters stating that our current recession began in 2008 and ended in 2009, but states that the cultural impacts are longer lasting. He discusses the changing marriages, relationships, and the widening division of the social classes.
In his next chapters, Peck notes gender differences in unemployment, historical depressions, and recessions, He discusses the American dream of home ownership, the 2008 housing crash, and its effects on our nation’s communities. Peck discusses how previous effects of unemployment and economic downturns have had an impact on presidential elections. The author shares that if we remain stuck in an economic climate in which stagnation and disappointment are the norms for large numbers of Americans, the result will be low levels of public trust and political options that are stunted by a poisonous atmosphere and heavy discontent.
In his final chapter, Peck shares his remedies for our ailing economic structure. He presents a change to entitlement programs, including Medicare and unemployment benefits, which may cause alarm to those beneficiaries. His ideas for change may be unpopular but are worthy of review to bring change to national deficit spending.
Overall, Peck writes in an easy-to-read fashion, and not just for those highly interested in politics and economics. Although it doesn’t sound appealing to read about the woes of our nation, this book manages to present our problems with a historical display of our ability to fix it, making it a worthy read during a presidential election year.
Reviewed by Jennifer Hess, MSW, a July 2012 graduate of the University of South Dakota.