Book Review

Book Review

50 points each

(see bottom of page for rubric)

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4 Pages



For each of these, you are going to take a book or 2-3 articles (and we can talk about how to read books for argument without actually reading the whole thing), and you are going to say something about how (a) historian(s) have discussed some theme that overlaps with our readings, lectures, and class discussions.

You are welcome to select your own readings if you have anything in mind, but I am also happy to assign you materials based on your interests.


What you need to do: Email me at least one week before the due date for the book review you are writing (it can be more than one week) In this email you can either tell me something specific you want to read about, or you can keep it very general and I will assign you something.


Example. If you say that you are interested in learning more about the history of the Black Panther Party, I will give you either one book or two articles on the Black Panther Party. You are then going to write a summary of the argument of that book or of those articles as they relate to one another and/or to the material we have read in the class.


What do I mean by argument? All history books and all history articles are written to try to make some point, to try to make some argument, to express a position, or an opinion. They are not just catalogues of facts, names, and dates. Your job as a reader is to figure out what that argument is, to explain it, to include evidence from the text, and then to evaluate it.


What do I mean by evaluate it? I just mean that I want to hear what you think about the ideas or opinions expressed. I will be more specific as I go back and forth with each of you, and I am happy to speak as many times as you need in order to make sure you’re comfortable with the assignment.


Note: I may or may not have time to look over drafts, but I am always happy to read over opening paragraphs.


Possible themes include:


· The Depression in California

· The New Deal

· Socialism in the 1930s

· Conservatism in the 1930s

· The Popular Front


· World War Two

· Labor during the War in California

· Japanese Internment

· Zoot Suit Riots

· Suburbanization

· The Blacklist

· The Cold war

· The Conservative Movement




Rubric: 50 points


Thesis, Argument, structure: 10 points

9-10 points: student articulates a clear argument or theme and traces it through the entire paper, advancing it with each paragraph, ending with a strong conclusion. The paper is coherent, and has a clear beginning, middle, and end

7-8 points: student makes a clear argument or establish a clear theme but supports it inconsistently in the paper itself and has a weak conclusion or one which merely repeats the thesis

5-6 points: student makes an unclear argument or theme

3-4 points: there is no argument or no theme, and there is not really a beginning, middle or end


Knowledge/ Comprehension/ Understanding: 12 points

10-12 points: student shows a clear understanding of the material and the sources, and illustrates how the readings connect to, and support the larger argument/ story of the paper

8-9 points: student shows an inconsistent understanding of the material and the above

6-7 points: student shows a poor understanding of the material but clearly makes an effort to use it to develop an understanding

3-5 points: student shows a poor understanding of the material and does not integrate it into a larger narrative


Use of Evidence from the selected texts/ sources: 10 points

9-10 points: Student cites an appropriate number of readings and successfully uses them to advance their argument. Student brings in quotes that advance the essay and accurately reflect the arguments of the sources.

7-8 points: student cites an appropriate number of readings, but only inconsistently uses them to advance their argument and misunderstands key elements of the sources

5-6 points: student fails to cite an appropriate number of sources or fails to use them to advance their argument

3-4 points: student does not cite an appropriate number of sources and fails to support the argument with those sources they do cite


Style: 12 points

10-12: a really well written essay with few or no errors and footnotes are correctly formatted (with maybe some minor errors)

8-9 mostly-written and readable, the student’s meaning is clear to the reader, there are a few errors, and some sentences might need work. There is an attempt to do the footnotes correctly.

6-7 points: Awkwardly written, spelling and grammar errors, inconsistent effort in footnotes

3-5: writing is hard to follow, no attempt at footnotes, many sloppy errors of grammar and spelling


Odds and Ends: 6 points:

Footnotes (Chicago Style) and works cited list: 3 points

Page numbers: 1 point

Paper is appropriate length: 1 point

Appropriate sources: 1 point

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