Utne Reader Book Reviews: May-June 2010

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An Emotional Feast
BREAKING BREAD: Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens
by Lynne Christy Anderson (University of California Press)
When Lynne Christy Anderson hung up her chef’s jacket and began work as an educator, food didn’t fade from her life. It became a communication device. “That first year, staring out at a roomful of immigrant adults . . . I knew I had to find a way to build their trust,” she writes in Breaking Bread. “We needed a common language. It turned out to be food.”

Anderson found that we all have a dish “so wed to our sensibilities” that it channels history and home, and that we all love talking about it. For Breaking Bread she explored Boston’s diverse neighborhoods, spending time with immigrants and their families and recording their most-loved recipes. The result is a spectacular hybrid. Each chapter tells one individual’s or family’s story, beginning with Anderson’s account of preparing food together, followed by the meaning of the meal in her collaborators’ words, then the luscious recipes: Haitian joumou soup, Salvadoran quesadilla, Russian mushroom casserole, crispy rice of Côte d’Ivoire. Breaking Bread whets the literary and literal appetites in skillfully balanced portions. —Julie Hanus

Stop Yelling, Start Thinking
THE IDLE PARENT: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids
by Tom Hodgkinson (Tarcher/Penguin)
Most parenting books lack three elements that The Idle Parent has in spades: an intellectual bent, a distrust of the status quo, and a robust sense of humor. Despite the title, this book celebrates not laziness but the opposite, a deep engagement with the world outside of plastic toys, mind-numbing television, and craven capitalism. Author Tom Hodgkinson borrows heavily from John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in both words and ideas, grounding his modern alt-parent outlook in the classics. —Keith Goetzman

The Roots of Race Hatred
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A RECOVERING SKINHEAD: The Frank Meeink Story as Told to Jody M. Roy (Hawthorne)
Where does hate come from? Frank Meeink’s searing memoir provides some precious clues—if you have the stomach to read it. Gaining insight into the mind of a skinhead is a valuable but uncomfortable process, and Meeink is brutally honest. You’ll feel each sharp kick of his steel-toed Doc Martens, and see how easily he recruits angry, confused teenagers to his cause. But you’ll also learn what it takes to pull people off this path and prevent others from ever walking it. —Danielle Maestretti