Book Review on Noel Ignatiev, How the Irish Became White (1995)

A scholarly book review is always more than a book summary. For our purposes, you will want to produce a systematic discussion of the book as a work of scholarship, paying attention to its constituent parts (argument, method, sources, key contributions), while discussing how it fits in to the larger scholarship concerning its topic, the larger themes of this course, and concluding with a discussion of what, specifically, it has helped you to better understand.

Your review should be composed as one cogent narrative. Below is a series of questions that your book review should attend to (though you don’t need to mechanistically pose / respond to these questions; rather just make sure your writing addresses them in some way within your larger narrative):

  • What are the key arguments of this book? (1-3 paragraphs)
  • How does the author support these arguments?
    • What evidence does the author draw from? (1-2 paragraphs)
    • What methods does the author use to gather and organize their evidence? (1-2 paragraphs)
  • How does the book relate to the larger discussion about its topic? (1-2 paragraphs)
  • How does the book relate to the larger discussion of course themes? (1-2 paragraphs)
  • In what ways does this book help you to better understand whiteness? Be specific. (1-3 paragraphs)

This is an individual assignment. While you will be teaching your book alongside two of your classmates, your book review should represent your thinking, written in your words, utilizing your analysis, ideas, reflections, etc. The body of your review should be 6-14 paragraphs, Times New Roman, 12 pt. font, double spaced, and uploaded here by the due date as either a .doc or .pdf.

Some things to think about while reading and working through this material:

  • No book exists in a vacuum.
    • All scholarly monographs are entries into larger scholarly conversations
    • It is important to develop some understanding of those conversations (don’t worry if you don’t grasp it in its entirety, these books are the products of years of work and specialized study, only a handful of similarly situated scholars will come to these books with the same frame of reference as the author).
    • The author will describe the larger conversation that they are participating in and how they situate themselves within that conversation in the book’s “literature review” – a not always formal, not always clearly marked or delineated out, but nevertheless present, section of the book (or, individual chapters) where the author walks the reader through the existing literature/ describes the larger field that they are working within. Because the existing literature, like the book, is a collection of arguments, the scholar will often discuss the literature as a collection of arguments, assessing their relative strengths or weaknesses, noting where there are absences or blind spots, and where the author’s work fits. Literature reviews are often in the introduction to a book or in the opening pages of some or each chapter.
  • Every chapter has a purpose.
    • Each chapter in a monograph 1) makes a self-contained argument, 2) makes a piece of a larger argument, or 3) does both 1) and 2).
    • An author will often help you find the argument. Pay close attention when reading the introduction, when reading the conclusion, and when reading the opening and closing sections of each chapter. Chapter titles, section titles, sub-section titles, etc. are often helpful signposts for locating major ideas and for navigating your way through the work’s propositions.
  • Every scholar has their own approach.
    • A scholar’s approach gathering evidence, constructing an argument, marshaling sources to support claims, is what we call their “method.” Sometimes their methods are stated explicitly in the work, other times, they can be gleaned by close readings of the notes. It is good to have a sense of method as you are reading, writing about, and teaching a book.
  • Every monograph narrates a scholar’s interaction with the evidence they have chosen.
    • Scholarship is the uncovering or and interpretation/analysis of evidence. It is important to have a firm sense of the specific evidence each work of scholarship is working from in order to best understand and assess their argument(s).
  • Every monograph, then, asks the reader do multiple things.
    • The reader locates the scholarship within a larger discussion;
    • The reader identifies the scholar’s specific method(s);
    • The reader tracks the scholar’s narrative;
    • The reader closely reads the scholar’s notations for evidence;
    • The reader assesses the relationship between what is being narrated by the scholar and what is being presented as evidence in the notes.

You should keep this information on hand as you are reading, reviewing, and preparing to teach your book. Your review does not need to explicitly discuss each of these in detail, but your review should demonstrate an understanding of these aspects of the book.

Requirements:   |   .doc file | OTHER | Book Report | 4 pages, Double spaced