Tag Archive for alumni books

New Book by Arndt ’92 Explores How the American Right Created Trump

The Right's Road to Serfdom, by Chris ArndtIn The Right’s Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound: From Hayek to Trump (Bulkington Press, 2016), Christopher F. Arndt ‘92 argues that conservatism is not what it pretends to be and that the American Right created Donald Trump. “There’s a destructive logic that has led the so-called ‘Party of Liberty’ to nominate an authoritarian like Donald Trump as its leader,” says Arndt, a former Wall Street executive and portfolio manager, in the press materials for the book. “I wrote the book to explain how this happened—to offer a readable, yet substantive account of recent political developments and do so in the context of the principles of political freedom that are common to us all.”

Below, News @ Wes talks with Arndt about the book, the subsequent election of Donald Trump, and the future.

What prompted you to write The Right’s Road to Serfdom?
There is a lot of confusion surrounding recent political developments, and in particular political developments on the American Right.  I wrote the book to clarify recent events, to offer a warning, and also to serve as a timely reminder of the American ideal of Liberty. That’s a pretty general answer so let me provide an example:

In early September of 2016, the Dallas Morning News—a famously conservative newspaper—wrote an editorial urging its readership to reject Trump’s bid for the presidency. In doing so, the editorial writers of the paper noted that “Trump is—or has been—at odds with nearly every GOP

Sweren-Becker ’06 Creates a Brave New World in New Book

Daniel Sweren-Becker ’06

Book by Daniel Sweren-Becker ’06.

In The Ones, Daniel Sweren-Becker ’06 creates a vision of a not-so-distant future world in which a random group of babies is chosen each year to be the smartest, best looking, most athletic members of society. “The Ones,” as they are called, short for the chosen ones, enjoy the privilege of membership in this exclusive group during the genetic engineering program’s 20-year history until a society-wide backlash marginalizes their status and threatens to even outlaw their existence. Sweren-Becker’s fast-paced YA novel follows two of The Ones (or are they?): 17-year-old Cody and her boyfriend, James, who are forced to decide whether to stand up for their rights…and how far they’re willing to go to do so.

The Ones (Imprint, 2016) is Sweren-Becker’s literary debut. A television writer and playwright in Los Angeles, he originally conceived the book as a television series. “When I decided to switch gears into a series of books [the second is due in September], it felt natural to pick YA [Young Adult] because the main characters were teenagers,” he says. “I think this genre is read so widely because we’ve reached a point where these books are fun and accessible but also deal with really sophisticated issues that attract a more mature audience.”

Poswolsky ’05 Pens The Quarter-Life Breakthrough

Quarter-Life Breakthrough by Adam Smiley PoswolskyAuthor Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky ’05 talks to News @ Wes about his new book, The Quarter-Life Breakthrough: Invent Your Own Path, Find Meaningful Work, and Build a Life That Matters (TarcherPerigee/Penguin Random House, 2016). Learn more about Poswolsky’s work at smileyposwolsky.com.

What did you major in at Wesleyan and how did that influence your career path out of college? Did you always know (or at least think you knew!) what you wanted to do with your life? If so, were you surprised when that belief was challenged by your actual experience?
I majored in film studies at Wesleyan, so after graduation I moved to New York City and worked in film production for two years as a location scout and production assistant. I thought filmmaking was my calling, so I was surprised to find out that I actually wasn’t that inspired by film production. The hectic film sets, the massive trucks, the brutal hours and long nights, the stressful months of pre-production, the crew members chain-smoking on set; it seemed out of sync with why I loved studying film at Wes, which was my interest in film as a medium for social change. The film major at Wes teaches you how to make movies, but more importantly, it teaches you how to craft a compelling narrative; it teaches you about perspective and persuasion. Those are the lessons that continue to inform my work today as a writer and public speaker—it’s not the fact that I was a film major, it’s that I learned how to share my story.

Vidich ’72 Celebrated in Poets and Writers as First-Time Author

Paul Vidich ’72 is first-time author of the noir spy-thriller "An Honorable Man," garnering rave reviews.

Paul Vidich ’72 is first-time author of the noir spy-thriller An Honorable Man, garnering rave reviews.

The article in Poets and Writers begins, “From the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 program to the New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 list, many organizations make a point of recognizing young, gifted authors at the start of their literary careers. In the November/December 2016 issue of Poets & Writers magazine, we feature five debut authors over the age of 50 … whose first books came out this past year, and who stand as living proof that it’s never too late to start your literary journey.”

Highlighted here was Paul Vidich ’72, whose first book, “An Honorable Man” was published in April 2016 by Atria/Emily Bestler, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Kirkus Review called it “A moody debut spy novel inspired by real events…Dead-on Cold War fiction. Noir to the bone,” and Publisher’s Weekly listed it as one of their “top ten mysteries and thrillers of spring 2016.”

The novel is set in 1953, in the midsts of McCarthyism, and with the Cold War underway. Vidich’s hero, George Mueller, is assigned to help the CIA find the double agent in its midst who is selling secrets to the Soviets. Read the excerpt published in Poets and Writers here.

Prior to this novel, Vidich has written both fiction and nonfiction pieces that have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Fugue, The Nation, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere. His story, “Falling Girl,” was nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize and appeared in New Rivers Press’s American Fiction, Volume 12: The Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers.

A College of Social Studies major at Wesleyan, Vidich previously served as executive vice president in charge of global digital strategy at Time Warner’s Warner Music Group. A past member of the National Academies committee on The Impact of Copyright Policy on Innovation in the Digital Era, he testified in Washington before rate hearings.

Vidich is currently a venture investor and serves as an advisor to Internet media companies in video and music. He is on the boards of directors of Poets and Writers, The New School for Social Research, and the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation. A former trustee of Wesleyan, he received a Distinguished Alumni Award and is a graduate of The Wharton School.

Potts ’60 Honored with Babbidge Award for Book on Wesleyan’s History

pottsbookWesleyan University, 1910-1970: Academic Ambition and Middle-Class America, by David Potts ’60 is the winner of the 2016 Homer D. Babbidge Jr. Award “for the best study of a significant aspect of Connecticut history.”

The book, published by Wesleyan University Press in 2015, has received critical acclaim from a variety of sources including, History of Education Quarterly and Connecticut History Review. Reviews in American History states, “Wesleyan University, 1910-1970 is one of the strongest institutional histories of an American college or university and covers in vivid detail every conceivable aspect of the institution, from finances and board priorities, to professors’ abilities and student aspirations, from building projects, to town-gown relations.”   

Potts’ book also won the Wesleyan’s James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award for “writings by a member of the Wesleyan family that conveys unusual insight and understanding of current or past events.” Additionally, his first volume on Wesleyan’s history, Wesleyan University, 1831-1910: Collegiate Enterprise in New England, published by Yale Press, 1992, also won the Babbidge Award.

Lerer ’76 Interviewed By Slate Magazine on the Evolution of Children’s Literature

Seth Lerer ’76, literary critic and Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of California at San Diego, spoke to Slate.com on the complex history of children’s literature.

“The earliest kids books…were largely designed to teach moral behavior,” he said. “They were about social decorum and a particular way of being a child, especially in relation to parents and teachers. Some children’s books—many of the early medieval romances, for instance—had an adventure quality to them, but always a moral and spiritual quality too.”

He also observed the increasing focus on young women in today’s literature. “When you look at the trajectory of modern books, Harriet the Spy, Judy Blume—books from the ’60s and ’70s—and then at Hermione in Harry Potter, who’s very much a modern YA heroine, and at The Hunger Games, you see children’s literature really moving toward an audience of younger women in particular, who face particular challenges and really develop their heroic lives.”

Lerer, the author of Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter, was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism in 2009 and the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in 2010.

Read the full interview here.

New Novel by Parkhurst ’92 Tells a Gripping Family Tale

Carolyn Parkhurst '92 (Photo by Nina Subin)

Carolyn Parkhurst ’92. (Photo by Nina Subin)

Carolyn Parkhurst (Rosser) ’92 is the author of the new novel Harmony (Pamela Dorman Books, Viking), in which a mother does everything she can to save her family. The Hammond family’s seemingly normal life is disrupted when oldest daughter Tilly shows signs of abnormal development. Her social behavior is considered undiagnosable and she is asked to leave the last school in Washington, D.C. that will have her.

To help Tilly, the Hammonds move to Camp Harmony in the New Hampshire woods, seeking the guidance of a child behavior expert Scott Bean and testing the bonds of the family. Parkhurst expertly tells her suspenseful story from the points of view of Alexandra, the mother, and younger daughter Iris, who may have the clearest perspective of what is happening to her family.

In her review in The Washington Post, novelist Amy McKinnon writes: “…in Parkhurst’s deft treatment, Harmony becomes a story of our time, a compassionate treatise on how society judges parents, how parents judge themselves and how desperation sometimes causes otherwise rational people to choose irrational lives.”

Novel by Carolyn Parkhurst '92

Novel by Carolyn Parkhurst ’92

For the A. V. Club, reviewer Caitlin Penzey Moog says: “The rare alchemy of achingly powerful words that also induce fevered page riffling is in abundance in Harmony, Carolyn Parkhurst’s sumptuously written, eminently compelling novel about a family and its desperation. Readers will be torn between a desire to pause to admire a golden paragraph and the compulsion to hasten on to find out what happens next.”

Parkhurst is the author of three other novels, The New York Times best seller The Dogs of Babel, Lost and Found and The Nobodies Album. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children. Harmony was edited by Pamela Dorman ’79.

Arnold ’91 Writes Companion to Turner Classic Movies “Essentials” Series

Author and film historian Jeremy Arnold has written the companion book to Turner Classic Movies Essential series with The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter (Running Press, 2016).

Author and film historian Jeremy Arnold has written the companion book to Turner Classic Movies Essential series with The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter (Running Press, 2016).

Jeremy Arnold ’91, author, film historian and longtime contributor to Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is the author of The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter, recently published in collaboration with Running Press and Turner Classic Movies.

A graduate of the Film Studies Department at Wesleyan, Arnold credits Professor Jeanine Basinger as instrumental in his work, both researching and writing the book. “I took five courses with Professor Basinger and she was the best teacher I ever had. She remains a close friend to this day,” he said.

The book serves as a companion to TCM’s weekly on-air “Essentials” series, hosted by Robert Osborne and others, which showcases the most influential and impactful movies ever made. Arnold made an appearance at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood to introduce two screenings, and on Sunday, May 15, at 8 and 10 p.m. EDT, Arnold also will be appearing on TCM, to discuss the book and introduce a James Cagney double feature of White Heat (1949) and Footlight Parade (1933).

Southard ’78 Receives Lukas Book Prize

Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War, by Susan Southard ’78, has been awarded the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, administered by the Columbia University School of Journalism and Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism.

Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear WarOne of three annual Lukas Prizes honoring the best in American nonfiction writing, the Book Prize is given to a book exemplifying “the literary grace, commitment to serious research, and the social concern that characterized the distinguished work of the award’s namesake, J. Anthony Lukas.”  The prize comes with a $10,000 award.

“I couldn’t be more honored that Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War has been included among the remarkable books of narrative journalism that have received the Lukas Book Prize since 1998,” said Southard. “And I am elated that, 70 years after the atomic bombings of Japan, the survivors’ stories have been recognized in this way.”

The judges in their citation noted, “Susan Southard’s Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War will upset you. With lean and powerful prose she describes the indescribable taking the reader almost minute by minute through the bombing of Nagasaki and then the aftermath. With thorough careful research she exposes a half-century of lies and half-truths about the reasons for the bombing and the results, even denying that radiation poisoning was real. Seventy years later, following the lives of survivors, she reaches the final chapter and at last tells the complete story. Without diatribes or polemics she leaves the reader with a resolve that such a thing must never happen again.”

Wall Street Journal Names Fossel ’73 Book a “Best Book for Science Lovers”

telomerase revolutionThe latest book by Michael Fossel ’73, The Telomerase Revolution: The Enzyme That Holds the Key to Human Aging . . . and Will Soon Lead to Longer, Healthier Lives, published by BenBella Books, was recently selected as one of the Best Books for Science Lovers in 2015 by the Wall Street Journal. Fossel has been writing about the telomerase theory of aging for 20 years and is considered the foremost expert on the clinical use of telomerase for age-related diseases.

“As a doctor, my emphasis has always been on clinical results,” says Fossel in his introduction. “Understanding the nature of aging is essential, of course. But the goal isn’t simply to achieve understanding. The goal is to develop techniques to extend lives, cure diseases, and reduce suffering.”

Each time a cell reproduces, its telomeres (the tips of the chromosomes) shorten, decreasing the cell’s ability to repair its molecules. While most of our cells age in such a way, sex cells and stem cells can reproduce indefinitely, without aging, because they create telomerase, which re-lengthens the telomeres and keeps the cells young. In The Telomerase Revolution, Fossel describes how telomerase might soon be used as a powerful therapeutic tool, with the potential to extend lifespans and maybe even reverse human aging.

Fossel earned both his PhD and MD from Stanford University, where he taught neurobiology and research methods. A past recipient of a National Science Foundation fellowship, he was a clinical professor of medicine for almost 30 years, executive director of the American Aging Association and the founding editor of Rejuvenation Research. He wrote the first ever book on the telomerase theory of aging, Reversing Human Aging (1996), followed by Cells, Aging, and Human Disease (2004), and The Immortality Edge (2011). He currently teaches The Biology of Aging at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., and is working to bring telomerase to human trials for Alzheimer’s disease.

Season’s Readings!

alu_books_2015-1210214425+Every year we review dozens of books and publish several author essays, and a book excerpt or two, by Wesleyan alumni in the pages of Wesleyan magazine. With the holidays upon us, ’tis the season to take another look at just a handful of the many selections made by Wesleyan magazine Arts and Culture Editor David Low this year. Happy reading!

Fins ’82 Discusses the Treatment of Brain Injury Patients and His New Book

Former Wesleyan Trustee Dr. Joseph Fins, M.D. ’82 returned to campus Nov. 5 to speak on “Giving Voice to Consciousness: Neuroscience, Neuroethics and the Law" as part of the Russell House Series on Prose and Poetry. Several students and faculty attended the talk.

Wesleyan Trustee Emeritus Dr. Joseph Fins, M.D. ’82 returned to campus Nov. 5 to speak on “Giving Voice to Consciousness: Neuroscience, Neuroethics and the Law” as part of the Russell House Series on Prose and Poetry. The talk was open to members of the Wesleyan community.

eve_Joe fins_hcf_2015-1105213525

Fins, the Kim-Frank Visiting Writer at Wesleyan, discussed his most recent book, Rights Come to Mind: Brain Injury, Ethics, and the Struggle for Consciousness, published by Cambridge University Press in August 2015. The book traces the evolution of the medical classification of severe brain injury and recognizes what he calls “a deeply marginalized class” of society. Prior to writing the book, Fins interviewed more than 50 families of people with brain injuries who are identified as in a minimally conscious state and reveals that patients are often incorrectly categorized as in a vegetative state, or having an absence of responsiveness or awareness.

Read more about the discussion in this Wesleyan Argus article and more about his book in this Q&A, below:

Fins also is currently the chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College and director of ethics at Weill Cornell Medical Center, as well as an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of more than 250 books and articles.

Fins also is currently the chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College and director of ethics at Weill Cornell Medical Center, as well as an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of more than 250 books and articles.

Q: What motivated you to write the book?

A: I wrote it to give voice to patients and families touched by severe brain injury and chose this genre because it was a complex interdisciplinary problem that needed a broader frame than that afforded by the typical truncated article in a medical journal. Rights Come to Mind is a story that straddles the sciences and the humanities and fundamentally is a question of how scientific advance compels us to change our views about ethics and moral obligation. I have been working with these patients and families for more than 15 years and have seen how new knowledge about the brain and consciousness made the status quo of neglect increasingly untenable and wrong. We now know that patients we thought were permanently unconscious are sometimes, in fact, conscious, albeit minimally conscious. They are often misdiagnosed and undertreated, leaving conscious individuals in the lurch. How this scientific progress informed our ethics and what it means for these patients and families is the subject of this book.

Q: How have a large number of patients with severe brain injuries been misdiagnosed?

A: That is a complex question which I explain at length in the book, but there are three key reasons for the diagnostic challenge.