Katie Aberbach

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors: Meyerson ’04, Card ’04, and Fink ’77

In this continuing series, we explore a selection of the latest books by Wesleyan alumni. The volumes, sent to us by the alumni authors themselves, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

The Imperfects coverAmy Meyerson ’04, The Imperfects (HarperCollins/Park Row Books, 2020)

Generations of secrets loom large in this novel about the dysfunctional Miller family. When the eccentric family matriarch, Helen, passes away, the items she leaves behind—including a 137-carat diamond hidden in her bedroom—stir up old resentments, new tensions, and plenty of questions among her daughter and grandchildren. As the family races to determine whether they are the rightful heirs to the precious gemstone, they make startling discoveries about Helen, who immigrated to the United States from Austria, and her family’s tragic past.

A fast-paced and engaging read, The Imperfects is based on the true story of the Florentine Diamond, which went missing around 1918, after the fall of the Austrian Empire.

Amy Meyerson ’04 is an associate professor of writing at the University of Southern California. The Imperfects is her second novel. Her debut novel The Bookshop of Yesterdays, an international best-seller with translations in 11 languages, was featured in a 2018 Connection article.

Moezzi ’01 Shares Reflections, Advice on Applying Rumi’s Wisdom to Modern Life

Melody Moezzi

In The Rumi Prescription, Melody Moezzi ’01 shares her story of studying and learning from the wisdom of 13th-century mystic poet Rumi, whose verses she found relevant even in today’s world. Moezzi majored in philosophy at Wesleyan.

The timing of the release of The Rumi Prescription: How an Ancient Mystic Poet Changed My Modern Manic Life (Penguin Random House, 2020) was far from ideal. Officially out March 3, the new book by Melody Moezzi ’01 was barely in readers’ hands before social distancing restrictions were imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Moezzi was able to participate in a handful of events near her home in Wilmington, N.C. . . . and then the remainder were canceled or rescheduled in virtual form.

The Rumi Prescription coverHowever, The Rumi Prescription is the sort of book that people with extra free time on their hands—and the inclination to obtain meaning from difficult experiences—might value. Moezzi’s third book, The Rumi Prescription details how she came to interpret and apply the lessons of the 13th-century mystic poet Rumi to her modern-day world, a process that was ultimately life-changing.

An Iranian-American Muslim author, attorney, activist, and visiting professor of creative nonfiction at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Moezzi has also written about mental health in her 2014 memoir Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life. On May 18, she will participate in a live Zoom conversation about The Rumi Prescription with fellow mental wellness activist and illustrator Ellen Forney ’89, as part of a series offered by Literati bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Click here to join the event on May 18.

Moezzi recently answered questions about The Rumi Prescription, how Rumi’s words can apply to today’s world, and her advice for taking care of your mental health during a pandemic.

First of all, how’s The Rumi Prescription doing? What a time to launch a new book.

Melody Moezzi: It’s not the best time to be releasing a book, but it turns out that the topic of this book is actually something that is helpful for people right now, so I’m glad for that. At least people seem to be finding comfort in it.

Gowns4Good, Co-Founded by Catania ’13, Connects Health Care Workers with Alternative PPE

Gowns4Good

Gowns4Good, co-founded by Taran Catania ’13 and Nathaniel “Than” Moore, above, coordinates the donation of graduation gowns to health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, where the gowns may be used as alternative personal protective equipment. Moore is an emergency medicine physician assistant in the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Scores of commencement ceremonies around the United States have been canceled or postponed this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That means scores of graduation gowns could sit unused in closets.

Instead, Taran Catania ’13, an MBA student at the University of Vermont, wants students past and present to put those gowns to a different use. Together with her classmate Nathaniel “Than” Moore, who works as an emergency medicine physician assistant in the UVM Medical Center, Catania earlier this month launched Gowns4Good, which coordinates the donation of gowns to health care providers on the front lines of the pandemic. The gowns will function as alternative personal protective equipment (PPE), to add an extra barrier of protection between medical staff and patients.

Spinner P’15 Offers Insight on Food Supply Chain Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Steven L. Spinner P'15

Steven Spinner P’15

Steven Spinner P’15 is chairman/CEO of United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), the largest publicly-traded grocery distributor in the United States, with 59 locations in the U.S. and Canada. UNFI’s customers include natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, e-commerce retailers, and restaurants—meaning Spinner and his team have a comprehensive perspective on our food supply chain.

Spinner recently spoke with us about how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting what we see (and don’t see) on grocery store shelves, and shared his thoughts on how the current situation might impact future consumer behavior.

You gave an interview on Bloomberg TV in March, advising consumers against hoarding food, and reassuring us that the food supply chain is still working effectively. Is that still true now, a few weeks later?

Absolutely. The United States has the most sophisticated supply chain probably in the world, with unbelievable manufacturing capacity. There is plenty of food in the supply chain. The only bottleneck is the volatility of purchase habits, as well as the pure logistics to get that much food into supermarkets. For example, if you budgeted with a manufacturer to have 3% growth over a period of weeks and instead you have 30% growth over that same period, it’s really difficult from an industry perspective to accommodate that growth.

Startup Led by Dhanda ’95 Developing COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests

Rahul Dhanda

Rahul Dhanda ’95

A lack of fast, reliable diagnostic testing has played a major role in the rapid proliferation of cases of COVID-19. Rahul Dhanda ’95 and his team at Sherlock Biosciences are working furiously to change that, potentially shortening the testing’s time horizon to a matter of minutes.

Dhanda is co-founder, CEO, and president of the engineering biology startup based in Cambridge, Mass., which is creating two different diagnostic tests for COVID-19—one rooted in CRISPR technology, the other in synthetic biology. The hope is that the tests can be released during the course of the current pandemic, Dhanda said, each with its own different applications and utility.

A history major who also took premed classes at Wesleyan, Dhanda earned his MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before forging a successful career in the biotech field, with a specialty in diagnostics.

Roth, Whaley, McLarney Host Video Forum for Students Remaining on Campus

Spring semester courses resumed on March 23 after the two-week spring break. Faculty contacted students in each of their classes to update them on how the classes would continue to meet. In many cases, classes will continue to meet via Zoom and Moodle, regardless of students' physical locations.

A student works in Usdan University Center on March 23. Approximately 300 students are staying on campus during the coronavirus pandemic. All students are completing their classes remotely due to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), regardless of their physical locations. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

remote

Another student works inside Usdan University Center on March 23.

On Sunday evening, President Michael S. Roth ’78, Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley, and Medical Director Tom McLarney invited the approximately 300 students who will be remaining on Wesleyan’s campus for the spring semester to participate in a video forum hosted by the University’s virtual Zoom platform. The event was aimed at communicating important information about on-campus resources during the remainder of the semester and answering participants’ questions.

Although the University has temporarily transitioned to distance learning in efforts to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, students who are housing-insecure, who were unable to return to their homes, or who had extenuating circumstances were allowed to petition to continue to live on campus in Middletown.

“It’s a crazy moment at Wesleyan and around the world,” Roth said during the video forum. “There’s a lot we don’t know about what will happen in this country and around the world over the next several weeks. We do know that the best way to defeat this virus is to prevent it from passing from one person to another.”

Roth, McLarney, and Whaley stressed the importance of practicing the best advice of medical professionals for combatting the virus’s spread: washing hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, using hand sanitizer when necessary, and, most importantly, maintaining a physical distance from others.

“Whether you’re sitting on Foss Hill…or exercising outside, maintaining a physical distance from one another is really important over these next few weeks,” Roth said.

Spring semester courses resumed on March 23 after the two-week spring break. Faculty contacted students in each of their classes to update them on how the classes would continue to meet. In many cases, classes will continue to meet via Zoom and Moodle, regardless of students’ physical locations. Classes are “not going to be the same [as they had been when held in person], but we’re going to do our best,” Roth said. “The faculty is taking this very seriously.”

Paul Vidich ’72, P’00, ’03 Discusses Espionage Novel at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore

Paul Vidich

Paul Vidich ’72, P’00, ’03 spoke about his new book, The Coldest Warrior, on Feb. 24 at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore. The espionage novel, published by Pegasus Crime in February 2020, explores the dark side of intelligence that is exposed when a CIA officer delves into a cold case from the 1950s―with fatal consequences.

Paul Vidich

Many of those who attended Vidich’s talk were friends and fellow members of Wesleyan’s Class of 1972. Vidich, a College of Social Studies (CSS) major, said, “What I learned at CSS was critical thinking and healthy skepticism, but not cynicism. I think I’m a skeptical person, but I also think that every generation goes through periods in which government disappoints. … Skepticism, to me, is a healthy way of looking at the world, and my characters in the novel are intentionally skeptical.”

grown Ends Operations in Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore

growngrown, the café inside the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore at 413 Main Street in Middletown, has announced that it will end its operations in that space.

The Middletown location was the only Connecticut outpost of the USDA-certified organic fast-food chain. grown has operated inside the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore since the bookstore opened in May 2017. The franchise is owned by Shannon Allen, a Middletown native.

At Wesleyan, as at all of its locations, grown prides itself on catering to all diets and food sensitivities, and on serving inclusive, wholesome options for everyone. Its menu includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, and espresso drinks. At the Wesleyan location, students were able to use their dining points to make purchases.

“While we will no longer be operating grown at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, bringing grown ‘home’ to Middletown has been a proud moment during our journey to reinvent fast food,” the franchise said in a statement. “We have thoroughly enjoyed our time serving students, faculty, and staff, working alongside the Wesleyan University and bookstore teams, and have loved being a part of the bridge between Wesleyan and the entire Middlesex County community. Thank you for continuing to support our mission to bring delicious, nutrient-dense meals made with 100% USDA-certified organic ingredients to busy people everywhere.”

Students, Faculty, Community Observe Rare Complete Transit of Mercury

Visitors use telescopes outside observatory

Individuals gathered outside Van Vleck Observatory to view the transit of Mercury on Nov. 11.

For only the seventh time since Wesleyan’s founding, the planet Mercury passed directly in front of the sun, from the perspective of Earth—and Wesleyan served as a gathering place from which to learn about and observe the event. Faculty and students from Wesleyan’s astronomy department, as well as others from the University and the greater Middletown community, gathered outside the Van Vleck Observatory on Nov. 11 to witness the transit through three telescopes.

The mild weather and partly cloudy conditions—particularly at the beginning and end of the transit (which lasted from 7:35 a.m. to 1:04 p.m.)—made for good viewings through the University’s general-purpose 8-inch telescope, as well as its hydrogen alpha solar telescope, which allows users to observe solar prominences. A second solar telescope, owned by John Sillasen, MALS’07, a local amateur astronomer and member of the Astronomical Society of Greater Hartford, was also available to use as part of the event.

Gilberto Garcia ’20, an astronomy and physics major, was assisting with one of the solar telescopes. “Just seeing Mercury in general is a pretty rare occurrence, so I was pretty excited about it,” Garcia said. Viewed from a telescope, Mercury appeared as a small dot on the sun’s surface.

Angle Guest-Edits Special Issue of Contemporary Chinese Thought

Stephen Angle

Stephen Angle

Stephen Angle, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of philosophy, has had a number of recent publications.

Angle is the editor of “The Adolescence of Mainland New Confucianism,” special issue 49:2 of Contemporary Chinese Thought (2018). The issue is devoted to recent mainland Chinese Confucian philosophizing, and particularly to arguments about what “Mainland New Confucianism” signifies, which were prompted by noted Taiwanese scholar Li Minghui’s 2015 remarks about Mainland New Confucianism.

Angle also wrote an introduction to the issue, which explores how Mainland New Confucianism has entered a somewhat more diverse and mature stage than previously. The introduction also reflects on the place of Confucianism within contemporary East Asia.

Earlier this year, Angle authored the article “Does Confuscian Public Reason Depend on Confucian Civil Religion?”, which was published in the Journal of Social Philosophy. The article focuses on a dimension of the increasingly pluralist field of political philosophy, in which Western and non‐Western theories and experiences are reevaluated in light of one another.

In addition to these publications, Angle is a contributor to and co-administrator of Neo-Confucianism, a companion website for Angle’s book, co-authored with Justin Tiwald, Neo-Confucianism: A Philosophical Introduction (2017); and Warp, Weft, and Way, a group blog focused on on Chinese and comparative philosophy.

Besides his research and teaching responsibilities, Angle also serves as the director of the Fries Center for Global Studies. He is a principal investigator on the “Wesleyan South Asia Initiative,” a grant awarded by the US Department of Education’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language program (2018–2020).

Grimmer-Solem Authors Learning Empire

Learning EmpireErik Grimmer-Solem, professor of history and German studies, is the author of a new book, Learning Empire: Globalization and the German Quest for World Status, 1875-1919published by Cambridge University Press.

The book “reconstructs the complex entanglements of a small but highly influential group of German scholars who worked and travelled extensively in North and South America, Japan, China, Southeast Asia, Ottoman Turkey, and Russia,” during the period of German imperialism, before the First World War, Grimmer-Solem said. “These experiences, enabled by new transcontinental railways, intercontinental steamship lines, and global telegraph networks, shaped a German liberal imperialist ideology that they helped popularize around 1900 and that influenced German naval and colonial policy.”

The book also looks at how the rise of the German far right was closely tied to this attempt at reconciling globalization with nationhood and empire. From that perspective, Grimmer-Solem said, “the development of Nazism can be seen as a metastasis of liberal imperialism, mutated as it was by war, de-globalization, and unilateral decolonization.” Learning Empire invites reflection upon modern-day challenges; as Grimmer-Solem suggests, the resurgence of the far right today “is linked to parallel processes that highlight the risks and instabilities created by global trade, travel, and communications.”

Grimmer-Solem is also the author of The Rise of Historical Economics and Social Reform in Germany, 1864-1894 (Oxford University Press, 2003), along with more than 30 other publications.