The Power of Books in Popular Culture and Pedagogy

Why are book reviews important? What do they offer audiences? Why should we pay attention? How can they help our pedagogical and research practices?

Books offer essential insights to cultural understanding and directions for teaching and learning about ourselves, others, and the world itself. Through textbooks students learn about what counts as knowledge and what types of people embody this knowledge (see CohenMiller & Lewis, 2019; Durrani et al., 2022). Across history, governments have banned and burned books to eliminate acknowledgement and contributions of entire cultures, communities, and ways of knowing and being. The effects of such choices affect generations, teaching audiences what are accepted interpretations and “truths,” such as of gender roles, of leadership roles, and of workplace culture.

Recently, there have been strong discussions and arguments around books and education. The decisions made by elected politicians affect the use or exclusion of books in public schools funded by local governments. In Florida, for example, access to books discussing issues of social justice, gender identity, and diversity have been removed from public schools. Most recently, the Florida Department of Education has also demanded that middle school-level  African American history curriculum cover the “benefits” of slavery, a dangerous re-writing of history that erases not only the realities of enslavement in the United States but also its “afterlife,” to use Black Studies scholar Saidya Hartman’s phrasing. Still, the curricular changes being implemented in the Florida public education system are but one example of how books (and the ideas communicated by these) are being wielded to re-write the past, a re-writing largely driven by questions of power. Indeed, as Winston Smith, the protagonist of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, eerily reminds us, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” Not surprisingly then, educators from primary to higher education across the US are increasingly facing challenges in selecting texts and/or discussing topics addressing equity, inclusion, and (in)justice in classrooms rendered ideological “battlegrounds. The “struggle” over what books we can read (or those that “need” to be suppressed) and which we consider “legitimate” sources of knowledge shows the very real power of books or the lack of them.

As we continue to celebrate the 10th year of Dialogue, we are offering a special issue dedicated to book reviews. While book reviews for the Journal usually are published right away for online access, over the last few months, we have been collecting the reviews for this special collection. The issue, Guest Edited by Miriam Sciala, thus focuses on recent book reviews – first seen in this special issue.

Sciala’s work over the last few years has expanded the Journal into a regular hub of insightful commentary and insights on pedagogical practice and research and ideas about books. It is our pleasure to offer this innovative approach in thinking about book reviews, to aggregate them into a collection highlighting the power and potential effect of book reviews for both formal and informal teaching and learning.

We look forward to showcasing this special issue and continuing to showcase your insightful work around popular culture and pedagogy.

Anna CohenMiller
Editor in Chief

Karina A. Vado
Managing Editor & Musings Editor

References

CohenMiller, A. & Lewis, J. (2019). Gender audit as research method for organizational learning and change in higher education. In V. Demos, M. Segal, & K. Kelly (Eds.) Gender and Practice: Insights from the Field (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 27), Emerald, pp. 39-55. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/S1529-212620190000027003/full/html

Durrani, N., CohenMiller, A., Kataeva, Z., Bekzhanova, Z., Seitkhadyrova, A., & Badanova, A. (2022). “The fearful khan and the delightful beauties”: Doing gender in secondary school textbooks in Kazakhstan. International Journal of Educational Development. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0738059321001619

Suggested Reference Citation

APA

CohenMiller, A., & Vado, K. (2023). The Power of Books in Popular Culture and Pedagogy. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 10(2). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v10-issue-2/the-power-of-books-in-popular-culture-and-pedagogy/

MLA

CohenMiller, Anna; Vado, Karina; and Kelli Bippert. Cultivating the Futures of Popular Culture and Pedagogy: Celebrating 10 Years of Dialogue, vol. 10, no. 2. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v10-issue-2/the-power-of-books-in-popular-culture-and-pedagogy/.

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