La Familia: Chicano Families in the Urban Southwest, 1848 to present, Richard Griswold del Castillo (Notre Dame: $7.95). "One of the more useful purposes to which a historian can devote his or her energies," writes the author, "is the correction of false historical beliefs and the elimination of simplified stereotypes." Academic, well-researched, extensively documented, "La Familia" is unlikely to capture the wide readership necessary to do away with stereotypes about Chicanos. For the record, at least, the author, a professor of Mexican-American studies at San Diego State University, does invalidate several prevalent characterizations in this 1984 study of Mexican immigration, economic class struggles, intermarriage, discrimination and prejudice. Mexican-American women have not been "virtual slaves of the family," writes Castillo, nor were Mexican Americans hesitant to adapt to American culture. As men searched for jobs in the late 19th Century, Castillo writes, women assumed control of the family. And throughout history, Mexican-Americans always have managed to survive because they are "flexible, pluralistic and adaptive."
The Living Planet, David Attenborough (Little, Brown: $17.95). One must attribute at least part of the author's prominence to his two recent television series for the BBC, "Life on Earth" and "The Living Planet." But this book, written independently of the TV production, suggests another reason. Attenborough informs as well as entertains. His productions are inviting because they find a balance between the "believe it or not" approach, which highlights the eccentric and the anecdotal at the expense of everything else, and zoological theory, which often focuses on complex interrelationships, leaving the drama on the periphery. Chapters in this 1985 book are organized by geography, and the narrative follows the food chain, with the author interjecting only one dominant point of view throughout his book: "We have no moral right to exterminate forever the creatures with which we share this Earth."