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Book Review: A scholarly review of Catherine S. Ramírez’s The Woman in the Zoot Suit: Gender,
Nationalism, and the Cultural Politics of Memory (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009).1
Provide your critique of the author’s argument:
1. Introduce the author, the historical period and topic of the book. Summarize the book’s
2. Set out the main argument. Discuss how convincing the argument was, say something about
the importance or uniqueness of the argument and topic, or describe how the author adds to
our understanding of a particular historical question.
3. You would also work in your assessment of the evidence and sources used by the author.
4. You can conclude with the strengths and weaknesses or flaws in the book. It is up to you to
decide in what order these should come.
Summarize the author’s subject and argument.
In a few sentences, describe the time period, major events, geographical scope and group or groups of
people who are being investigated in the book. Why has the author chosen the starting and ending
dates of the book’s narrative? Next, discover the major thesis or theses of the book, the argument(s)
that the author makes and attempts to support with evidence. These are usually, but not always,
presented in a book’s introduction. It might help to look for the major question that the author is
attempting to answer and then try to write his or her answer to that question in a sentence or two.
Sometimes there is a broad argument supported by a series of supporting arguments. It is not always
easy to discern the main argument but this is the most important part of your book review.
Is the argument convincing as a whole?
Is there a particular place where it breaks down? Why? Is there a particular element that works best?
Closely related to the kinds of evidence are the kinds of sources the author uses.
What different kinds of primary sources are used? What type of source is most important in the
argument? Do these sources allow the author to adequately explore the subject? Are there important
issues that the author cannot address based on these sources?
How about the secondary sources? Are there one or more secondary books that the author seems to
lean heavily on in support of the argument? Are there works that the author disagrees with in the text?
This will tell the reader how the work fits into the historiography of the subject and whether it is
presenting a major new interpretation.
Catherine S. Ramírez, The Woman in the Zoot Suit: Gender, Nationalism, and the Cultural Politics of Memory (Durham:
Duke University Press, 2009), 83.1
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