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Book Review   |    
Multicultural Issues in Social Work: Practice and Research
Joshua Miller, Ph.D.
Psychiatric Services 2000; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.51.11.1461-a
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edited by Patricia L. Ewalt, Edith M. Freeman, Anne E. Fortune, Dennis L. Poole, and Stanley L. Witkin; Washington, D.C., NASW Press, 1999, 701 pages, $41.95

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The editors of this volume are all current or former editors of social work journals published by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW): Social Work, Health and Social Work, Social Work in Education, and Social Work Research. All 48 chapters, comprising 678 pages, appeared in one of those journals, and the book is published by NASW Press, so it is very much a "best of" NASW publications over the past five years. The book has sections on multicultural social work practice, child welfare, education and youth, communities, health, long-term care, mental health and substance abuse, HIV-AIDS, and immigration.

For the most part, "multicultural" refers to ethnic groups often considered people of color—African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian Americans—although the editors also offer chapters on deaf children and on women living with HIV. Most of the chapters do not directly address racism. Rather, they focus on cultural differences; the expressed purpose of the book is to help social workers "navigate" among different cultures. Many of the chapters are research based and describe both quantitative and qualitative research.

Not surprisingly for a collection this large, the quality of the chapters varies considerably. It is not clear whether there was a conscious rationale for the book's structure or whether it was designed around what had been published in the selected journals. For example, the majority of the chapters on HIV-AIDS are about Hispanics, and other ethnic or racial groups, such as Native Americans, are not covered.

Another problem with using only reprinted articles is that each chapter has to cover much of the same ground instead of there being one or two chapters that stake out and summarize important theoretical or practice issues. Thus the obligatory statements about the relevance of multicultural sensitivity and competence appear in virtually every introduction and conclusion, which has a numbing effect on the reader.

The audience for the book is social workers involved in many different practice settings. Although I would not recommend reading the book from cover to cover, it has some strong chapters that might be useful for social workers dealing with diverse populations. Some of the more notable ones are Michael Spencer's chapter on racism in schools, Margaret Hughes' piece on turning points in the lives of inner-city men, Linda McLaughlin and Kathryn Braun's consideration of Asian and Pacific Islanders' cultural values and health care, Greg Yamashiro and Jon Matsuoka's essay on help seeking among Asian and Pacific Americans, Yolanda Padilla's consideration of immigrant policy, and the research of James Herbert Williams and associates on violence among urban African-American youths. Melvin Delgado, who has six chapters in this volume, contributes some interesting articles that consider HIV-AIDS, caregiving, the use of community murals, and schools from the perspective of Puerto Ricans and other Latino populations.

Overall, the content of this well-intentioned book is important for social workers and other mental health practitioners to integrate into daily practice.

Dr. Miller is associate professor and chair of the social policy sequence at Smith College School for Social Work in Northampton, Massachusetts.




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