Tag Archive for alumni books

Avitzour ’76 Writes Memoir about Losing Daughter to Long Illness

Susan Petersen Avitzour '76

Ten years ago, Susan Petersen Avitzour ’76 lost her 18-year-old daughter Timora to leukemia, after a six-year struggle. In her new memoir, And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones (ZmanMa), Avitzour deals with a number of profound personal, philosophical, and spiritual questions which face many bereaved parents. Using both narrative and a personal and philosophical journal, she takes the reader up close to the long years of her daughter’s illness and into her own emotional, intellectual, and spiritual journey after her child’s death. She addresses topics that range from food to fun to forgiveness, from pain to purpose to prayer—and ultimately considers the challenge of affirming faith and love in an unpredictable, and often cruel, universe.

The author writes:

“My goals in writing And Twice the Marrow of Her Bones were mainly two: To tell Timora’s and my stories in a way that would engross and move readers; and to write a book that would be of some comfort and/or assistance to people enduring hardship. I’ve been especially gratified that many people have told me it’s helped them deal with difficulties they are facing in their own lives, even if these difficulties are very different from those I describe in the memoir—and have thanked me for writing it.

“Creating the book was a double process. On the one hand, it was therapeutic in that it forced me to dig into deep aspects of my experience which I’d been avoiding, and to explore various facets of their meaning for me. That part was quite hard, but ultimately strengthened me. On the other, the process was deeply artistic in that I had to decide how to take my raw experience and put it into language, and fashion into a whole with integrity—a work that would be meaningful to others besides myself.”

“People often ask me if it was hard to write this particular memoir. My main difficulty was balancing my desire to tell the story of Timora’s illness and death and the need to protect my family’s privacy. One of the most serious challenges facing parents of children with serious illness is dealing with the family dynamics. I wanted to be honest about the very real difficulties, but without revealing things that my children would much rather be kept from the public eye. I eventually wrote just enough not to idealize our family—to let my readers know that a situation like ours is inevitably going to be very hard on the other children, and that parents will sometimes find themselves at a loss about what to do.”

Blacker ’76 Edits Book about Practicing Zen

Book edited by Melissa Myozen Blacker ’76

Melissa Myozen Blacker ’76 is co-editor (with James Ishmael Ford) of The Book of MU: Essential Writings on Zen’s Most Important Koan (Wisdom Publications, 2011). The word “mu” is one ancient Zen teacher’s response to the earnest question of whether even a dog has “buddha nature”—and discovering for ourselves the meaning of the master’s response is the urgent work of each of us who yearns to be free and at peace.

“Practicing Mu” is synonymous with practicing Zen, and “sitting with Mu” is an apt description for all Zen meditation. It has been said that thousands and thousands of koans in the Zen tradition are really just further elaborations of Mu.

This essential volume brings together the writings of more than 40 teachers, ancient and modern masters from across centuries and the full spectrum of the Zen world, to illuminate and clarify the essential matter: the question of how to be most truly ourselves. These writers include Dogen, Hakuin, Dahui, Thich Thien-An Zenkei Shibayama, Seung Sahn, Taizan Maezumi, Sheng Yen Philip Kapleau, Robert Aitken, Jan Chozen Bays, Shodo Harada Grace Schireson, John Daido Loori, John Tarrant Barry Magid, Joan Sutherland, and more.

Blacker is a Dharma successor to James Ishmael Ford. She is a Zen roshi and a co-founder of Boundless Way Zen, which she currently serves as a senior guiding teacher. She is also the associate director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and a director of professional training at the Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts Medical School. She is resident at Mugendo-ji, the Boundless Way Temple in Worcester, Mass.

Book by Vinkovetsky ’88 Explores 19th-Century Alaska under Russian Rule

Book by Ilya Vinkovetsky '88

From 1741 until Alaska was sold to the United States in 1867, the Russian empire claimed territory and peoples in North America. In his new book, Russian America: An Overseas Colony of a Continental Empire, 1804–1867 (Oxford University Press), Ilya Vinkovetsky ’88, an assistant professor of history at Simon Fraser University, examines how Russia governed its only overseas colony. Russian America was effectively transformed from a remote extension of Russia’s Siberian frontier penetrated mainly by Siberianized Russians into an ostensibly modern overseas colony operated by Europeanized Russians.

Under the rule of the Russian-American Company, the colony was governed on different terms than the rest of the empire, a hybrid of elements carried over from Siberia and imported from rival colonial systems. Its economic, labor, and social organization reflected Russian hopes for Alaska, as well as the numerous limitations, such as its vast territory and pressures from its multiethnic residents, it imposed.

Ilya Vinkovetsky '88 in front of a Russian ship in Vancouver, during the Winter Olympics 2010

This approach was particularly evident in Russian strategies to convert the indigenous peoples of Russian America into loyal subjects of the Russian Empire. The author looks closely at Russian efforts to acculturate the native peoples, including attempts to predispose them to be more open to the Russian political and cultural influence through trade and Russian Orthodox Christianity.

This is the first book published by Oxford University Press on Alaska’s Russian colonial period since James R. Gibson’s groundbreaking Imperial Russia in Frontier America, which came out in the 1970s.

Vinkovestsky says: “My interest in history was fostered at Wesleyan, where I was a history major and took many courses in American and Russian history and also several courses in cultural anthropology. Wesleyan’s history program of the 1980s was an excellent preparation for graduate study in the field.”

“I took memorable history courses with Richard Buel, Philip Pomper, Donald Meyer, Richard Elphick, Ann Wightman, Ronald Schatz, and Vera Schwarcz. I am grateful to them all, and in particular, to Richard Buel, who persuaded me to write a senior thesis, which he also supervised.

“I am also grateful to James Gutmann, my geology professor at Wesleyan, who urged me to do something important with my life. Although this book is not what he had in mind, Jim Gutmann’s admonition struck a chord, and I made an effort to heed his advice—to a degree.”

Baltzell ’87 Writes Guide to Becoming a Better Performer

Amy Baltzell '87

Amy Baltzell ’87 is the author of Living in the Sweet Spot: Preparing for Performance in Sport and Life (Fitness Information Technology), an inspiring guide to getting ready for life’s big performances. The author integrates the best of the new field of positive psychology with the essentials of sport psychology.

Every chapter contains practical, effective reflective exercises that will help readers rise to the challenge of performing at their best when it counts. The book is divided into three parts: The Building Blocks of a Champion Approach, Preparing for Performance and Competition, and The Day of Performance.

Readers will learn how to strengthen their experience of daily fulfillment and concurrently make the most of the big moments when they occur. Top athletes and musicians, and the author herself, who was an Olympian and an America’s Cup sailor, share experiences about the issues they have faced under pressure as performers.

Baltzell directs the sport psychology program and is a professor in the School of Education at Boston University. She was inducted into Wesleyan’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010.

Book by Sinnreich ’94 Studies High-Tech Music Culture

Book by Aram Sinnreich '94.

Aram Sinnreich ’94 is the author of Mashed Up: Music, Technology and the Rise of Configurable Culture (University of Massachusetts Press) in which he chronicles the rise of “configurability,” an emerging musical and cultural moment rooted in today’s global, networked communications infrastructure. For his book, Sinnreich interviewed dozens of prominent DJs, attorneys, and music industry executives and argues that today’s battles over sampling, file sharing, and the marketability of new styles such as “mash-ups” and “techno” foretells social change on a broader scale.

For centuries, music has possessed a unique power to evoke emotions, signal identity, and bond or divide entire societies, all without the benefit of literal representation. According to Sinnreich, this power helps to explain why music has so often been regulated in societies around the globe and throughout history. Institutional authorities ranging from dynastic China’s “Office to Harmonize Sounds” to today’s copyright collecting societies like BMI and ASCAP leverage the rule of law and the power of the market to ensure that some musical forms and practices are allowed while others are prohibited.

In spite of these powerful regulators, musical cultures consistently come up with new and innovative ways to work around institutional regulations. These workarounds often generate new styles and traditions in turn, with effects far beyond the cultural sphere.

In the book’s preface, Sinnreich notes that as a Wesleyan student, he immersed himself in the University’s “stellar music and ethnolomusicology program.” He says, “I was exposed for the first time to innovative music theorists such as Anthony Braxton and Alvin Lucier, and to new (for me) musical traditions, from locales as diverse as Ghana, South India, and Indonesia. … I developed a deeper cultural competency in the African American musical styles of the 1970s and 1980s … as well as in dub and dancehall reggae. Given how deeply the hip-hop of the 1980s and 1990s drew on these traditions, it makes sense that I would gain a fuller appreciation of this newer music only once I had further developed my historical musical lexicon.”

Mashed Up will appeal to audiences interested in musicology, digital rights, street culture, and related subjects.

Kim ’03 Translates Best-Selling Korean Novel about Missing Mother

Chi-Young Kim '03

Chi-Young Kim ’03 has translated the international best-selling Korean novel, Please Look After Mom (Knopf), which recounts the story of a family’s search for their mother, who disappears one afternoon amid the crowds of the Seoul Station subway. The novel is told from the points of view of four of the family members.

In a review of the novel in The New York Times, Mythili G. Rao writes: “Shin’s prose, intimate and hauntingly spare in this translation by Chi-Young Kim, moves from first to second and third person, and powerfully conveys grief’s bewildering immediacy.”

The Korea Times wrote that Please Look After Mom “would not have made a sensational international debut without professional translator Kim Chi-young. The 30-year-old Korean-American suspended her law practice to devote herself to translating Korean literature.”

The newspaper also profiled Kim as a translator following in her mother’s footsteps. Kim comments about her work: “It makes me feel good to help those who don’t speak Korean learn more about Korean literature, and what many Koreans love and cherish.”

Based in Los Angeles, Kim is the recipient of the Daesan Foundation Translation Grant in 2005 and 2008, and the 34th Modern Korean Literature Translation Award in 2003. Her other translations include Kyung Ran Jo’s Tongue (Bloomsbury, 2009), Young-ha Kim’s Your Republic Is Calling You (Mariner Books, 2010) and I Have the Right to Destroy Myself (Harvest Books, 2007), and Lee Dong-ha’s Toy City (Koryo Press, 2007)..

Galinsky ’96 Writes about Journeys of 5 Changemakers

Lara Galinsky ’96 is the author (with Kelly Nuxoll) of Work on Purpose, published by Echoing Green, a nonprofit social venture fund that supports emerging social entrepreneurs. The book tells the stories of five changemakers and their journeys from struggle and uncertainty to significance and success.

Through these true-life narratives, the publication reveals how personal fulfillment and societal impact are the result of aligning passion and talents. The altruistic spirit of these young people helps craft careers with meaningful impact, contributing to a robust ecosystem of individuals and institutions dedicated to pushing forward bold ideas to solve the most deeply entrenched problems in the world.

The book features a list of more than 150 career resources and programs; a foreword by LIVESTRONG’s Lance Armstrong and Doug Ulman; an afterword by Harlem Children’s Zone’s Geoffrey Canada; and thought-provoking questions to inspire readers to apply the lessons in the book to their own lives. An activity guide will also be available on the Echoing Green web site for professors and facilitators using Work on Purpose in the classroom or with groups.

Click here for more about the book and Echoing Green.

Lara Galinsky is senior vice president of Echoing Green and serves as board chair of Starting Bloc and as a board member for the Fast Forward Fund. She previously was Do Something’s national program director. She also is the co-author of Be Bold: Create a Career with Impact.

Prager ’84 on “Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime”

Dr. Ellen Prager '84 / Rodrigo Varela - University of Chicago Press

Marine scientist and educator Ellen Prager ’84 is the author of Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime: The Oceans’ Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter, just published by University of Chicago Press.

She introduces the reader to a variety of fascinating and often strange creatures that live in the depths of the ocean—from tiny but voracious arrow worms whose rapacious ways may lead to death by overeating, to the lobsters that battle rivals or seduce mates with their urine, to the sea’s masters of disguise, the octopuses. Prager examines the ways these sea inhabitants interact as predators, prey, or potential mates. Her book elucidates the crucial connections between life in the ocean and humankind, in everything from our food supply to our economy, and in drug discovery, biomedical research and popular culture.

Prager recently talked about her book on NPR’s Fresh Air, and she revealed the dangers of antagonizing a hagfish.

Peabody ’91 Edits New Study of Judicial Independence



Book edited by Bruce Peabody ’91



Bruce Peabody ’91, a constitutional law scholar at Fairleigh Dickinson University, is the editor and one of the authors of The Politics of Judicial Independence (Johns Hopkins University Press), a new volume that gathers together a range of scholars and experts to chart and explore the importance of criticisms of courts and judges—in the United States and abroad.

While contributors consider attacks against the judiciary over the past four decades, several of them are especially interested in court critiques (and their implications for judicial independence) in the 21st century. The judiciary in the United States has been subject in recent years to increasingly vocal, aggressive criticism by media members, activists, and public officials at the federal, state, and local level.

This collection probes whether these attacks as well as proposals for reform represent threats to judicial independence or the normal, even healthy, operation of our political system.

Book by Galer ’83 Suggests ways to Fight Chronic Pain



Book by Bradley Galer '83, M.D.



Bradley Galer ’83, M.D., and Charles Argoff, M.D., are the authors of Defeat Chronic Pain Now! (Fair Winds Press), a survival guide to preventing, reversing, and managing chronic pain. Galer and Argoff present hidden and little known causes of common chronic pain conditions, how to avoid misdiagnosis, and the latest treatments under development including:

Myofascial Dysfunction: The real (undiagnosed!) culprit in 90 percent of back and neck pain;

DMARDS and NSAIDS: Two breakthrough drugs that promise significant relief for arthritis;

Nutraceuticals: The natural wonder treatment for peripheral neuropathy;

Focal heat trigger-point (FHTP) therapy: The new drug-free approach to migraine relief.

This helpful volume provides the latest information on surgical options, new medications, complementary therapies, and psychological interventions that can be used to rewire the body for pain relief. For each condition and procedure, the authors share what to expect in the hospital and the doctor’s office, and what self-therapy solutions individuals can do on their own. Detailed illustrations and easy-to-understand descriptions help readers select the best treatment options to improve their unique type of pain.

Galer is a co-founder of the American Academy of Neurology Pain Medicine Special Interest Group.

Biography by Kaplan ’73 Covers Early Life of Frank Sinatra

James Kaplan '73 (Photo by Erinn Hartman)

James Kaplan '73 (Photo by Erinn Hartman)

Best-selling author James Kaplan ’73 has written an acclaimed new biography, Frank: The Voice (Doubleday), about the early life of one of America’s best known American singers and entertainers of the 20th century, Frank Sinatra, from the years 1915 through 1954. Kaplan reveals how Sinatra helped to make the act of listening to pop music a more personal experience to his fans than it had ever been before.

Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times recently chose Kaplan’s book as one of her Top 10 Books of 2010. In her review in the Times, she wrote that Kaplan “has produced a book that has all the emotional detail and narrative momentum of a novel.  …  In recounting his subject’s rise and fall and rise again — all before the age of 40 — Mr. Kaplan gives us a wonderfully vivid feel for the worlds Sinatra traversed, from Hoboken and New York to Hollywood and Las Vegas, as well as the rapidly shifting tastes in music that shaped him and were later shaped by him.”

Stephen Holden also wrote a feature in The New York Times praising Kaplan’s work and said: “The book does music history a huge favor by reminding us that from his days with Tommy Dorsey to the twilight of his Columbia years, Sinatra was a singularly incandescent vocal phenomenon.”

Novel by Peterson ’85 Explores Turmoil in 1950s Tibet

Jeanne Peterson ’85

Jeanne Peterson ’85 has written a new novel, Falling to Heaven (St. Martin’s Press), the story of two American Quakers who trek into Tibet in 1954.

In this work of historical fiction, Emma and Gerald Kittredge leave their secure Quaker community and travel to the Tibetan city of Shigatse where they soon find companionship with their neighbors, Dorje and Rinchen, and their small family. But the arrival of Maoist soldiers shatters these characters’ quiet life. Gerald is captured by the soldiers, leaving a pregnant Emma facing an agonizing decision: flee Tibet or stay and risk imprisonment herself. Dorje and Rinchen are her only allies, but their lives are also thrown into turmoil when their son abandons the sanctuary of his monastery to fight in the resistance. Told in three distinct voices rich in their respective spiritual traditions, Peterson’s novel is ultimately about losing and rediscovering faith.

Book by Jeanne Peterson ’85

When asked how she came to write Falling to Heaven, Peterson responded:

“I can only say that the book first came out of the creative ether. By this I mean that the seed for the book came out of my pen one day as I was free-writing. I was rather astonished by what emerged, because I’d had no plans to write a piece of historical fiction about the invasion of Tibet by the communist Chinese! Although I hadn’t planned to write the story when I began, the story was certainly shaped by my years of experience working as a psychologist with survivors of torture and communist reeducation from various parts of Asia, which gave me an unusually intimate knowledge of both torture methods and the trauma they cause. After my initial realization of what the story might be, I began to research Tibet and Chinese communism assiduously, and the historical research then provided the plot elements that make the story authentic.”

Peterson is a clinical psychologist who worked for years with survivors of torture and communist reeducation from all over Asia. In her free time she facilitates an advanced writing group in San Diego, Calif. where she lives with her two sons.