“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors: Alznauer ’92, Almond ’99, and Florsheim ’83, P’14

In the seventh of this continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

Flying PaintingsAmy Alznauer ’92, Flying Paintings: The Zhou Brothers: a Story of Revolution and Art (Candlewick Press, 2020)

When Shaoli and Shaoning Zhou are growing up and first learning to paint, their grandmother Po Po tells them, “To become an artist, you must possess the highest spirit.” But when officials from Mao’s republic come to the Zhou family bookstore and burn all of the art and writing they can find, this high spirit of the Zhous’ is strictly regulated, and the brothers can no longer paint freely. It is in this authoritarian political reality that the brothers learn that art can both be beautiful and have terrible consequences, as can the practices of resistance and perseverance. Through a fictionalized depiction of the trials and triumphs that the real-life Zhou brothers faced on their path to becoming art studio owners in Bridgeport, Chicago, author Amy Alznauer crafts an inspiring story for all ages about the importance of collaboration and fighting for artistic freedom. With beautiful illustrations from ShanZuo Zhou and DaHuang Zhou themselves, The Zhou Brothers features and celebrates art that, in its ability to fly off the page, surely exemplifies the highest spirit.

Amy Alznauer ’92 is a part-time mathematics lecturer at Northwestern University, and lives in Chicago. Besides Flying Paintings, she has two additional books out this spring: The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity (Candlewick Press, April 2020), a picture-book biography of the Indian mathematician Ramanujan; and The Strange Birds of Flannery O’Connor, A Life (Enchanted Lion Books, 2020), a picture-book biography of writer O’Connor and her fascination with the magnificent oddities of our world.

Witches DanceErin Eileen Almond ’99, Witches’ Dance (Lanternfish Press, 2019)

When she witnesses an unforgettable performance of Nicolò Paganini’s “Witches’ Dance” by virtuoso Phillip Mann, seven-year-old Hilda Greer dedicates herself wholeheartedly to learning to play the violin. Her love of music comes full-circle when, years later, Hilda plays the same bewitching piece back to Phillip at a conservatory audition. Following this moment of intense connection, the two musicians become deeply entangled in a relationship that quickly surpasses the dynamics of any typical mentorship, with the musical success of one protagonist appearing contingent on the unraveling of the other. Witches’ Dance is an arresting tale about obsession with and possession of power, control, and artistic achievement, as well as the intersection of mental illness and creative genius. With Almond’s melodious prose and thrilling narrative twists, this finely-tuned novel will sweep readers into its characters’ passions and madness.

Erin Eileen Almond ‘99 is a novelist, short story writer, essayist, and reviewer who lives outside Boston. She majored in English at Wesleyan University, and earned an MFA from UC-Irvine. She is a recipient of a St. Botolph Foundation Emerging Artists Grant.

Lost and FoundPaul Florsheim ’83, P’14 and David Moore, Lost and Found: Young Fathers in the Age of Unwed Parenthood (Oxford University Press, 2020)

In Lost and Found, authors Paul Florsheim ’83, P’14 and David Moore draw from many disciplines to present 23 personal interviews with young fathers who have navigated struggles accompanying unplanned parenthood. In conversation with these personal stories, Florsheim and Moore add new dimensions to the social conversation surrounding unwed pregnancies, taking a nuanced and pragmatic approach to strategizing men’s involvement in prenatal care. Instead of placing blame on young men, the book seeks to undo stereotypical thinking surrounding the role of the father in family life while proposing solutions that work toward stabilizing the father-child bond. As we enter an age in which marriage is not the only bond tying men to their families, Lost and Found offers a radical and necessary reconceptualization of fatherhood, relying on the personal and the human to show how young men can overcome struggles and find their way to the Winnicottian ideal of “good-enough” parenting.

Paul Florsheim ’83, P’14 is a clinical psychologist and professor in the Joseph Zilber School of Public Health at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, where he teaches classes on public health and mental health. He continues to work with young fathers and mothers as a researcher and clinician. He is the father of Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim ’14, along with sons Sam and Nathan. At Wesleyan, he majored in history.

On Thursday, April 2, at 7 p.m. at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, Florsheim will discuss his book and speak with Anthony Gay, social work supervisor at the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.