The Ethnic Vegetarian is a book of mostly very easy-to-prepare recipes, cleverly arranged by related cuisines: 1) African, 2) Afro-Carribean, 3) African/Native American (a very specific cuisine from the American South slavery and early post-slavery era), 4) Creole/Cajun, 5) Southern (closely related to African/Native American cuisine), and 6) Modern African American foods. Within each section of cuisines are short lists of condiments, appetizers, salads, soups, mains, breads, desserts, and beverages.
Because of the ambitious nature of the book--six cuisines and at least six courses per cuisine, in only 272 pages including all the intro stuff and the index--none of these cuisines is covered in very much depth. This means there is offered only a small handful of each kind of food. There is a very short menus section toward the end, but this too is enough to tempt but not satisfy.
I think this book is best for two types of cooks:
1) beginning cooks interested in trying their hand at making tasty, basic dishes of African and African-American origin. The book is great for new cooks who love many different flavor combinations--sweet, spicy, earthy, rich--and who want to start easy and work their way up; and
2) very confident cooks who already know what generally they prefer to cook and eat, know how to experiment widely, and want some suggestions for great African-origin dishes, flavors, and combinations, and are comfortable adapting recipes to their liking.
There is a section in the back on what to stock in your pantry--very useful if you are just starting out in your cooking adventures and aren't really sure what foods you might want to have on hand. Similarly, there's a basics section that tells you good stuff about preparing dried beans, toasting nuts, prepping chiles, etc.
I found the book fairly useful as a compilation of suggestions--but suggestions I would almost certainly, and sometimes radically, revise to suit my tastes. My tastes are foods made fresh from scratch, whole foods, and artfully-prepared vegetarian foods that don't try to pass themselves off as meat--tastes not terribly accommodated by this book. The book is also fairly heavy on the dairy and eggs, which means vegans have to do the usual recipe adaptations.
This book is, in my opinion, a little too reliant on prepared foods that are meant to mimic animals. This isn't necessarily a fundamental flaw in the book: There is a place for this kind of cooking, particularly if you are in a household where someone is a hard-core meat eater and has a prejudice against anything vegetarian; in this case, maybe you want foods that seem enough like meat to entice the carnivore to even try your dishes. It is also true that a couple of the cuisines in this book are meat-heavy (particularly Southern US cuisines) and therefore take some creative re-engineering to adapt them to vegetarian palates.
It's just that I don't think vegetarian food has anything to apologize for (quite the contrary, great vegetarian food is worthy of trumpeting!).
One thing that keeps me from giving this book a higher rating: In the discussion of types of vegetarians, the author includes people who eat chicken and fish. Let us be very clear: No vegetarians eat animals. There is a wide spectrum of vegetarians, with vegans (no animal products of any kind whatsoever) being the purest and lacto-ovo vegetarians (dairy and eggs included) being the most permissive. But no vegetarian of any kind will eat a fish or a chicken, as these are animals, and vegetarians by even the most lax definition do not eat animals. Although there are no recipes in the book that include chicken or fish, I am dismayed that a "vegetarian" cookbook would include eating animals in a "vegetarian" diet. If you've ever been stuck on an 11-hour airplane trip with no food to eat because the term "vegetarian" is misunderstood, you'll understand my dismay.
The Ethnic Vegetarian is a decent book, not a great book. I do pull it out of my shelf on occasion. I'd pull it out a lot more often if it were more comprehensive, less oriented toward prepared meat-like foods, and perhaps a little more advanced. My complaints about this book may be the very reasons someone else praises it.
In any case, I'm just glad there's such a book out there at all, whether I perceive flaws in it or not.