Tag Archive for alumni publications

White ‘93, Greenidge ‘04 Win Whiting Awards for Writing

Kaitlyn Greenidge ’04 (Photo by Syreeta McFadden)

Kaitlyn Greenidge ’04 (Photo by Syreeta McFadden)

This month, two Wesleyan alumnae writers, Kaitlyn Greenidge ’04 and Simone White ’93 received the prestigious Whiting Award. Given annually to only 10 emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, drama and poetry, the award provides recipients with a $50,000 grant and is the largest of its kind. Previous winners have gone on to receive the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships. Some Whiting Award winners include Jeffery Eugenides, Colson Whitehead, Tracy Smith and David Foster Wallace.

Greenidge’s 2016 novel We Love You, Charlie Freeman is her most recent work and was published by Algonquin Books. The unconventional story chronicles a family of color fluent in sign language that travel to western Massachusetts to participate in a research experiment. There, they live with a chimpanzee named Charlie and attempt to teach it sign language.

The Whiting Award committee wrote that Greenridge “is at work on a broader underlying story: our inability to find a common language for a discussion of race in America. The sense you get is that she’s nowhere near her full powers yet, and the prospect is thrilling.”

Simone White ‘93 (Photo by Pat Cassidy Mollach)

Simone White ‘93 (Photo by Pat Cassidy Mollach)

White, program director at The Poetry Project and visiting assistant professor of literary studies at The New School, Eugene Lang College, has published several collections of poetry. Her most recent collection, Of Being Dispersed, was printed in 2016 by Futurepoem Books.

The Whiting Award selection committee praises White for “[deconstructing] our ideas of Americanness and the failure of language to be the transparent scrim we sometimes mistake it to be.” Dear Angel of Death, a book of criticism and poems also by White, is forthcoming with Ugly Duckling Press.

Medina ’00, MD, MPH, Explores Structural Racism in Health Care

Eduardo Medina ’00, M.D. (photo credit: Emily Rumsey Photography )

Eduardo Medina ’00, MD, MPH, is one of the authors of “Structural Racism and Supporting Black Lives,” published in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Photo by Emily Rumsey Photography)

When the news broke of Philando Castile’s tragic death at the hands of a St. Paul police officer last summer, Eduardo Medina ’00, MD, MPH, like many Americans, felt called to action. As a native of New York City and a Minneapolis resident for the past 10 years, he was familiar with a number of high profile cases of police misconduct and says that he felt compelled to address the structural racism that was the underlying cause of this tragedy.

Working with colleagues Dr. Rachel Hardeman and Dr. Katy Kozhimannil, both professors in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, they set out to address the link between premature deaths, both in the criminal justice system and in the healthcare system in America.

Their efforts culminated in “Structural Racism and Supporting Black Lives — The Role of Health Professionals” published last December in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. In it, the authors assert that structural racism not only plagues American policing practices, but has also corrupted the ways in which American doctors care for their patients.

Different from interpersonal racism, structural racism is, they write, “a confluence of institutions, culture, history, ideology, and codified practices that generate and perpetuate inequity among racial and ethnic groups,” so while few physicians express overt racism, they still work within a racist system. Medina cites evidence that, African American’s receive fewer referrals for cardiac catheterization and children of color often receive less adequate pain management in emergency rooms. This is, the authors believe, something that the field needs to more thoroughly acknowledge. Yet as they astutely note in their article, the term “racism” scarcely appears in medical literature.

Their research featured a shocking statistic about race and medicine in America. Citing a study published earlier in 2016, that found “50% of white medical students and residents hold false beliefs about biologic differences between black and white people,” such as: the blood of black people coagulates more quickly; the skin of black people is thicker than that of white people.

“Sadly, these misconceptions do not entirely surprise me,”Medina says, “considering America’s history of perpetuating the myth of differences based on racial classification, segregated care and medical experimentation on communities of color.”

To tackle these inequities, medical professionals “will have to recognize racism, not just race,” they write. Instead of simply attributing health disparities solely to biological differences, professionals ought to also examine other, broader, more structural factors that influence the health of their patients. A solution, the authors propose, is to integrate anti-racism programs along with traditional healthcare when dealing with illnesses such as diabetes, whose complications disproportionately effect black Americans.

Medina’s integration of social justice and medicine, he notes, actually echoes a history of political activism among Latin American physicians, like Che Guevara and Salvador Allende, something he studied as a Latin American Studies major, even while on the pre-med track at Wesleyan.

“Wesleyan offered a lot of opportunities that I was able to build on as I went forward with my career,” he says. Outside class, he found a “rich intellectual, cultural and spiritual community” particularly among students of color. Medina even had the opportunity to fulfill his work-study at a local health care clinic.

Today, Medina still keeps up with several Wesleyan friends, including Lauren Gilchrist ’99, Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor of  Minnesota. Meanwhile, he and his spouse, Dr. Hardeman, intend to keep fighting for justice and equity for marginalized patients. “As medical professionals of color if we’re not doing this work,” he asks, “then who else is?”

Manaster ’01 Exposes the Messiness of Life in New Book

the-done-thing-book-jacketIn The Done Thing (Tyrus Books, 2016), author Tracy Manaster ’01 introduces us to Lida Stearl, a newly retired widow growing more obsessed each day with her ex-brother-in-law Clarence, on death row for the murder of her sister almost 20 years earlier. We watch as Lida strikes up a correspondence with Clarence while posing as a naïve twenty-something in need of a friend. We witness the rawness of Lida’s pain when she realizes that her niece Pamela, whom she raised as her own, has been in contact with the man she has despised for all these years. And we stand by helplessly as we observe Lida’s obsession, once kept in check by her marriage and her career, spiral out of control—setting in motion a chain of events that threatens to destroy the one thing that matters most: her relationship with Pamela. Library Journal, in a starred review, says, “Manaster has written a deeply human and morally saturated novel, with captivating language. Don’t miss this sympathetic examination of how a tragic incident can irrevocably change a life’s course.” While Publishers Weekly says, “In this engrossing story about the effects that vengeance can have on love, Manaster refuses to take the happy, easy way out, instead leaving her strikingly relatable characters with just enough room to breathe.”

In this Q&A, Manaster talks about the characters she brings to life in The Done Thing.

Q: Where did the idea for The Done Thing come from?

A: The Done Thing had its inception in the worst short story written in the 80-year history of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  In an attempt to settle a pretentious bar argument about whether or not a piece could have both a twist ending and emotional heft, I had a proto-Lida—I think her name was Joan—puttering about her house in a state of focused fury, knowing that miles away in Arizona a proto-Clarence was being executed for the death of her sister. The twist was that because Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time, she misses the actual moment of his passing.

It was a terrible story. I lost the argument. The twist robbed the narrative of emotional resonance. But the premise was a good one, meaty enough to carry a book, and I began to hone in on Lida: her voice, the world she navigates, the impossible resolution she craves. It took nearly a decade—and everything I learned from writing, editing, and publishing my debut, You Could Be Home by Now—for me to become an adept enough writer to be equal to that voice.

Q: Was it always your intention to create a character like Lida, with whom we empathize, even when she’s at her worst? Was it a creative struggle to keep that balance in mind—the fine line between righteous anger and going too far—as you moved through the story?

A: After the initial “hey, wow, this could be an actual book” inspiration, Lida’s essential character gave me very little trouble.

Wesleyan Editors Call for New Books by Alumni, Faculty, Students, Staff

WES_0411Wesleyan is known for its top-notch writing programs and for the accomplishments of its community of award-winning alumni, faculty, students and staff book authors, editors and translators.

Members of the Wesleyan community—alumni, faculty, students and staff—are invited to submit their latest books, as well as information about forthcoming and recently signed titles, and other literary news, to Laurie Kenney, books editor for Wesleyan magazine. Books and information received will be considered for possible coverage in Wesleyan magazine, on the News @ Wes blog and through Wesleyan’s social media channels, as well as through possible in-store display and event opportunities at Wesleyan’s new bookstore—Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore—which will open on Main Street in Middletown later this spring.

Fill out our simple Author Questionnaire to submit your book information now.

While the editors can’t guarantee coverage for any book, due to the sheer number published each year, they hope that gathering and sharing information about these projects through various university channels will help to better serve and promote Wesleyan authors and their work.

Advance reading copies and finished review copies can be sent to: Laurie Kenney, Books Editor, Wesleyan University, Office of University Communications, 229 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459.

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

Richardson ’60 Publishes Bio of Urban Development Pioneer Shepherd

Alexander Robey Shepherd, by John P. RichardsonAlexander Robey Shepherd: The Man Who Built the Nation’s Capital, by John P. Richardson ’60 (Ohio University Press, 2016), tells the story of urban development pioneer and public works leader Alexander Robey Shepherd, who was instrumental in building the infrastructure of the nation’s capital when it was knee-deep in mud and disrepair after the Civil War. In fact it was Shepherd’s leadership, says Richardson, that made it possible for the city to finally realize the vision of French architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant, some 80-plus years after George Washington appointed L’Enfant to plan what was then known as the new “Federal City.”

“Shepherd did not build the buildings, but he built the infrastructure that made it possible to develop the city we see,” says Richardson, a retired intelligence officer and Middle East specialist who spent more than 30 years researching Shepherd before writing his book. “Much of Shepherd’s work is below the ground but critical to a modern city.”

Alexander Robey Shepherd was born in Washington in 1835. After his father’s early death, Shepherd left school at the age of 13 and worked his way up from apprentice to owner of a plumbing company. After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, he started a second career—in politics.

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.”

Middle School Misfits Inhabit New Wilder ’88 Novel

Robert Wilder ’88

Book by Robert Wilder ’88.

Robert Wilder ’88 draws on his 25 years of teaching experience to paint a complex, funny, poignant picture of life in middle school in Nickel (Leaf Storm Press, 2016). The novel tells the story of two middle school misfits who bond over a mutual love for 1980s pop culture: Coy, whose mother is in rehab and whose stepfather is trying, but not always succeeding, to hold things together in her absence; and Monroe, his just-as-quirky female best friend whose braces have given her a rash that becomes a life-threatening illness. Booklist, in a starred review, says, “Wilder powers his classic coming-of-age narrative with a ferocious storytelling voice . . . A humorous, poignant, and formidable debut.”

The idea of Nickel stemmed from Wilder’s love of the quiet, quirky kids he’s taught over the years, as well as his teenage son, London. “I love teenagers, and I ask them questions daily,” says Wilder. “I take notes on their obsessions, dreams, fashion choices and language, and I learn something new from them every day without fail. I have to be subtler with my own children. They think it’s weird when I ask them a question that has to do with a character I’m working on. They want me to make them enchiladas and give them money.”

Wilder used the elements of storytelling he learned from studying fiction for his first two books—collections of comedic essays based on his own personal experiences as a teacher and a father. In writing Nickel, Wilder found some similarities but also one notable difference. “With nonfiction, you already have the world created for you. If something happened in my kitchen, I can refer to it anytime I need to,” he says. “When writing fiction, you need to create an entire world from the ground up.”

Robert Wilder ’88

Robert Wilder ’88

For Wilder, the process of writing Nickel began with the voice of the book’s main character, Coy. “I started with Coy’s voice and let it lead me,” he says. “Many of the kids I was thinking about when I developed that voice spoke in code and sound effects, so my early drafts were an attempt to try and emulate that shorthand manner of speech. When I sent the manuscript to my friend Christopher, he said, ‘This is great but totally unreadable.’ So I had to try to keep the core elements of Coy’s voice but allow the casual reader access to him and his world.”

Wilder drew on his own high school memories and experiences, as well as his experience as a teacher, to flesh out the book’s relatable, realistic characters and setting. “For the character of Coy, I tried to recall what it was like when I was his age and how hard it was being a relatively sensitive teenager who suffers loss, especially in a large school. When I created the school that Coy and Monroe attend, I drew on all the telling details I’ve gathered in my 25 years of teaching. Schools are such a rich environment and culture; it was a lot of fun trying to capture what it’s like being in that world day after day. I also allowed myself to see the challenges and absurdities of school life the way Coy and Monroe would.”

Wilder, an English major and soccer player during his years at Wesleyan, recently finished another novel, which he hopes to publish soon. He is also working on a television pilot loosely based on his two essay collections, Daddy Needs a Drink: An Irreverent Look at Parenting from a Dad Who Truly Loves His Kids—Even When They’re Driving Him Nuts, which the Los Angeles Times called “consistently hilarious,” and Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge: What I Learned in School the Second Time Around—One Man’s Irreverent Look at Being a Teacher Today, which Publishers Weekly called “honest and funny.”

“There is no doubt that I have far more empathy for the teenage species after writing Nickel,” says Wilder. “How couldn’t I? Writing is an act of empathy, after all.”

Smith ’82 Explores How Fear Distorts Reality in First Novel

Book by Patricia Smith ’82.

Book by Patricia Smith ’82.

“At seven thirty, with SJ still asleep, Deirdre Murphy left the house for school. She walked side streets shaded by trees in their glory—pale autumn reds, yellows the color of honey. She scuffed through piles of leaves, each whoosh a reminder of every other autumn and every other beginning of the school year, the only way Deirdre knew how to mark time. She kept track of events based on the girls she taught: the drama queens, the freaks, the year they were all brilliant. This year, Deirdre could already tell after a week of classes, was the year of the needy girls.”

So begins The Year of Needy Girls, the debut novel from Patricia Smith ’82. The book is published by Kaylie Jones (’81) Books, an imprint of Akashic Books, headed by publisher and editor-in-chief Johnny Temple ’88.

The Year of Needy Girls tells the story of Deirdre, a dedicated private school teacher from a working class background, and her partner, Sara Jane (SJ), who live in a tolerant New England town, divided by a river and by class, until the murder of a 10-year-old boy changes the way the townspeople look at themselves…and at others. Publishers Weekly says, “Smith’s crisp prose and dedication to moralistic ambiguity make for a provoking read,” while Library Journal notes, “Smith’s first novel successfully builds tension and a sense of dread among the picture-perfect New England fall.”

Ainspan ’88 Receives Katzell Award for Work with Veterans, Research-Based Insight

Nathan Ainspan ’88, the editor of The Handbook of Psychosocial Interventions for Veterans and Service Members and When the Warrior Returns: Making the Transition at Home, received the Raymond A. Katzell Award in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Nathan Ainspan ’88, the editor of The Handbook of Psychosocial Interventions for Veterans and Service Members and When the Warrior Returns: Making the Transition at Home, received the Raymond A. Katzell Award in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Nathan Ainspan ’88, an industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologist with the Department of Defense’s Transition to Veterans Program Office, has received the Raymond A. Katzell Award in I-O Psychology from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) for his work improving the lives of military veterans and for his commitment to promoting research-based insights designed to improve organizations and the lives of individuals.

Ainspan’s work has focused on influencing policy and educating service members, veterans, clinicians, and corporate leaders to improve the military-to-civilian transition process. The editor of When the Warrior Returns: Making the Transition at Home, The Handbook of Psychosocial Intervention for Service Members, and Returning Wars’ Wounded, Injured, and Ill: A Reference Handbook, he has just begun editing another handbook to guide private-sector human resource professionals on hiring and retaining military veterans in their companies.

An American Studies major at Wesleyan, he earned his doctorate from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He attributes his interest in I-O psychology to a course he took at Wesleyan and traces his work with veterans from there.

Sienkiewicz ’03 Authors Book on U.S. Efforts to Reshape Middle Eastern Media

Matt Sienkiewicz ’03

Book by Matt Sienkiewicz ’03.

The U.S. has poured millions of dollars into local television and radio programming in the Muslim World in an effort to win the hearts and minds of that region’s citizens. But according to communications scholar Matt Sienkiewicz ’03, the Middle Eastern media producers who rely on these funds are hardly puppets on an American string.

In The Other Air Force: U.S. Efforts to Reshape Middle Eastern Media Since 9/11 (Rutgers University Press, 2016), Sienkiewicz explores America’s efforts to employ “soft-psy” media—a combination of “soft” methods, such as encouraging programs modeled on U.S. entertainment and reality programs, with more militaristic approaches to information control—to generate pro-American sentiment in the Middle East. Drawing on years of field research and interviews, Sienkiewicz gives readers an inside look at radio and television production in Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories to show how Middle Eastern media producers are working to forge viable broadcasting businesses without straying outside the American-set boundaries for acceptable content.

“Although much of the U.S. power apparatus desires Middle Eastern media that will parrot American perspectives, this is no longer the sole, or even dominant, strategy in the region,” says Sienkiewicz in his introduction. “Instead, the encouragement of certain media forms serves as the organizing principle for a wide range of American projects.  More so than asking local agents to transfer specific, American-vetted messages to viewers, U.S.-funded projects have instead tended to demand that Afghans, Palestinians and others create programming the embraces the industrial and aesthetic conventions of for-profit, American-style commercial television and radio, while being constrained mainly by a basic set of ‘red lines’—words and ideas that are off-limits.”

Sienkiewicz is an assistant professor of communication and international studies at Boston College. In addition to authoring The Other Air Force, he is the coeditor of Saturday Night Live and American TV (Indiana University Press, 2013) and has produced several documentaries, including Live from Bethlehem (2009), which chronicled the shaping of the Ma’an News Network, the only major independent news source in the Palestinian Territories.

Aubry ’89 Pens Science Fiction Book for Young Adults

Edward Aubry '89 courtesy of Curiosity Quills Press.

Edward Aubry ’89.

Edward Aubry ’89 is the author of a new young adult science fiction book, Prelude to Mayhem, published by Curiosity Quills Press in November 2016.

Prelude to Mayhem is the first book out of five in the Mayhem Wave series. The next installment is slated for release in mid-2017, according to Lisa Gus, managing partner at Curiosity Quills Press.

In this apocalyptic novel, Harrison Cody’s world is in ruins. He follows a mysterious voice on the radio as he and his pixie sidekick travel on foot across a terrifyingly random landscape. They discover Dorothy O’Neill, who has had to survive among monsters when her greatest worry used to be how to navigate high school. Together they search for what remains of Chicago, and the hope that civilization can be rebuilt.

Aubry, who studied music composition at Wesleyan, is the author of the young adult books Unhappenings (2015), Caprice (2012), and Static Mayhem (2010). He lives in rural Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters, where he has taught high school math for the past 12 years.