Colin MacLachlan's new book is something of a riddle. If not quite genre-bending, it certainly seems genre-defying.

The initial impression given by the book is that it is a monograph. Consider the object: a hefty hardback (cloth only, at least upon release) with a serious university press. Consider the author: a senior scholar who has over the past four decades given us an extremely impressive series of books on the histories of Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina. Consider the title, which contains that combination of boldness, specificity, and ambiguity that often marks a monograph. Finally, there are suggestions and hints early on of a thesis: for example, the book's title, the dedication “to my mestizo son,” and the closing line of the introduction (“Destruction, replacement, and amalgamation created Mestizo Mexico” [p. 33]).

Yet that impression starts to dissolve almost immediately. Something nonmonographic is...

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