Tag Archive for alumni publications

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors Hill ’93, Schonfeld ’13, and Woodson ’76

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Middletown, Del., 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.

Watch Her coverEdwin Hill ’93, Watch Her (Kensington, 2020)

As the third installment in Edwin Hill’s mystery series, Watch Her is a sophisticated and gripping psychological thriller with sharp attention to character- and world-building. Protagonist Hester Thursby, a Harvard librarian and renowned researcher, is pulled into a murder mystery that starts when she and her friend Detective Angela White are summoned to investigate a break-in at a house belonging to the owners of a for-profit university, the Matson family. Readers are swept into addictive prose as Hill unravels a complex history that explains the unusual circumstances of the Matsons’ break-in. Hill manages to keep the plot moving at a fast and engaging pace, while still paying special attention to detail and suspense. The cast of characters is strong and eclectic, featuring compelling LGBTQ+ and female voices, and Hill builds on both new and old characters in his third novel. Readers will appreciate the book on its own, but will undoubtedly be eager to pick up (or revisit) the first and second books in the series as well.

Edwin Hill is the author of the Hester Thursby mystery series, which includes the books Little Comfort, The Missing Ones, and Watch Her. He graduated from Wesleyan with a BA in American Studies and earned an MFA from Emerson College. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, he worked in educational publishing. He lives in Roslindale, Mass.

3 Alumni Authors Published in Ploughshares

Ploughshares

Works by Steve Almond, Fay Dillof, and Christina Pugh are published in the Winter 2020–21 issue of Plougshares.

Works by three Wesleyan alumni are published in the Winter 2020–21 issue of Ploughshares. Founded in 1971 and published at Emerson College, Ploughshares is an award-winning journal featuring the freshest voices in contemporary American literature.

The issue includes: “The Man at the Top of the Stairs, On Rendering the Inner Life” by Steve Almond ’88; “Private Practice” by Fay Dillof ’87; and “Reading for the Plot” by Christina Pugh ’88.

Almond, an English major, is also the Kim-Frank Visiting Writer at Wesleyan this spring. He’s the author of 11 books of fiction and nonfiction, including the New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America (Workman Publishing, 2004) and Against Football: One Man’s Reluctant Manifesto (Melville House Books, 2014). His stories and essays have appeared in Best American Short Stories, the New York Times Magazine, and elsewhere. His most recent book is William Stoner and the Battle for the Inner Life (Ig Publishing, 2019).

This spring, Almond is teaching Writing Certificate Senior Seminar: Writing and Publishing at Wesleyan.

Work by Dillof, a university major, is published or forthcoming, in New Ohio Review, Green Mountains Review, FIELD, Barrow Street, Rattle, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. She has been awarded the Dogwood Literary Prize in Poetry and the Milton Kessler Memorial Prize for Poetry.

Pugh, who majored in English and French language and literature, has published five books of poems, including Stardust Media (University of Massachusetts Press, 2020), winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry, and Perception (Four Way Books, 2017), named one of the top poetry books of 2017 by Chicago Review of Books. Her poems have appeared in The Atlantic, Poetry, Kenyon Review, Yale Review, and other publications. A former Guggenheim fellow and visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome, she teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Pugh’s Stardust Media was also featured in this April 2020 “You Just Have to Read This…” article by Sara McCrea ’21.

The Ploughshares Winter 2020–21 Issue, edited by Editor-in-chief Ladette Randolph and Poetry Editor John Skoyles, also features poetry and prose by Nick Arvin, Gina Ochsner, Sylvie Baumgartel, and Jennifer Givhan, as well as Kelli Russell Agodon, Justin Balog, Shauna Barbosa, J. Mae Barizo, Christopher Buckley, Michael Burkard, Nora Caplan-Bricker, Elaine Hsieh Chou, Emily Cinquemani, Katie Condon, Jackie Craven, Caroline Crew, Evgeniya Dame, Shangyang Fang, Corey Flintoff, Jessica Goodfellow, Matthew Henry, David Keplinger, Ted Kooser, Laurie Lamon, Michael Lavers, Kathleen Lee, Eugenia Leigh, Ruth Madievsky, Alexandra Marshall, Gary McDowell, Paul Muldoon, Janice Northerns, Suphil Lee Park, Madelin Parsley, Emily Pittinos, Jeremy Radin, David Roderick, Craig van Rooyen, Noah Warren, Mason Wray, He Xiang, and Jane Zwart.

Behind the Beard: Cooper ’79 Captures Images, Stories of Professional Santa Clauses

santa book

Ron Cooper ’79 is the author and photographer of We Are Santa.

A couple years ago, Ron Cooper ’79, a retired corporate executive-turned-travel, documentary, and portrait photographer, was in New Mexico to photograph cowboys, Civil War re-enactors, gunslingers, and snake-handlers. After completing the shoot, one of the subjects asked if he could show Cooper a very different character that he also portrayed.

“I agreed and he went to change. He came back as Santa Claus in a terrific Western-style Santa suit, complete with bolo tie. As it turns out, he had a side gig during the holiday season as Santa Claus at a shopping mall in Albuquerque,” Cooper recalled. “Not long after that, I saw a news story about the Charles W. Howard Santa School, a venerable institution that’s been around since 1937 and has trained hundreds of professional Santas. Then I learned that Santa Claus is the most photographed character in the world. I’ve always been interested in meeting and photographing people who follow their passions, especially when those passions take them outside of, or beyond, the realm of their daily lives.”

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors Desai ’03, Logan ’16, and Savarese ’86

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Middletown, Del., 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.

The Dance Towards Death coverTejas Desai ’03, The Dance Towards Death (The New Wei, 2020)

In the third volume of his crime thriller trilogy The Brotherhood Chronicle, Tejas Desai delivers awe-inspiring narration that easily follows through in its mission to add a breathtaking final installment to the series. The Dance Towards Death follows former private investigator Niral Solanake and his journey through an intricate international criminal world across all corners of the globe. Desai’s realistic and clear-cut use of dialogue is most striking in his prose, as he manages to capture a multitude of tones and attitudes within each of his characters.

In an interview with Digital Journal, Desai explained that the exquisite precision of the book is no coincidence—he spent years engaging in a rigorous editing and revising process. “I’m meticulous, so even though the basic draft of The Dance Towards Death was finished years ago, it has still been chiseled and revised several times since,” he said. His attention to detail shows, and readers and fans will not be disappointed with the result.

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors Arnold ‘91, McKenna ’79, P’20, and Posner ’86

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Middletown, Del., 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.

The Essentials Vol 2 coverJeremy Arnold ‘91, The Essentials Vol. 2: 52 More Must-See Movies and Why They Matter (Turner Classic Movies, 2020)

In 2020, many of us have been turning to movies for entertainment in the comfort of our homes, making the demand for good film recommendations even more urgent. In the second volume of a series based on the weekly film-focused television program The Essentials, Jeremy Arnold showcases 52 must-see films from the silent era to the late 1980s. In his detailed, wide-ranging collection, Arnold provides the opportunity for a movie a week, satisfying avid film watchers everywhere.

The book is replete with vivid, eye-catching photographs in both black and white and color, as well as detailed synopses explaining why each movie is essential, cast lists, and quotations from renowned actors and film critics like Drew Barrymore and Molly Haskell. The book satisfies both lifelong film buffs and more inexperienced film-watchers who want to increase their knowledge about the world of movies. Arnold’s engaging selections are full of variety, adding another gem to a comprehensive and valuable series.

Jeremy Arnold ’91 is a film historian and commentator. He is the author of Turner Classic Movies: The Essentials volumes 1 and 2, as well as Christmas in the Movies: 30 Classics to Celebrate the Season. His writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, Moviemaker, and the Directors Guild of America magazine. While at Wesleyan, he studied film under Professor Jeanine Basinger.

Note: Arnold will be on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. He will be introducing four films that he programmed from the book, in on-air discussions with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.

The Paleontologist's Daughter coverKatharine L. McKenna ’79, P’20, The Paleontologist’s Daughter (Ratski Publications, 2020)

In her energetic, vivid memoir, Katharine L. McKenna describes her experience as the daughter of renowned paleontologist Malcolm C. McKenna. Having inherited much of her father’s passion for the science, her childhood was a thrilling journey as she shadowed her father during many of his paleontological pursuits. She and her family explored the wonders of the American West—its landscapes, its rocks, its wide spaces, which later went on to inform her career as a painter.

McKenna’s story is about the concrete pleasures of her experience alongside her beloved father, but it is also about inheritance—what it means to inherit curiosity, talent, passion, and interests from a long lineage of family members, and how that inheritance can be translated in many different ways throughout a person’s life. McKenna depicts astounding scenes of wonder as the treasures of the American West are revealed to her throughout her childhood; the story is full of excitement and vigor. McKenna offers her readers a new dimension of her artistic capabilities with her memoir, demonstrating her multifaceted identity and creative, lively spirit.

Katharine L. McKenna ’79, P’20 is an artist specializing in abstract figurative painting. She is best known for her “color, light, and spirit” technique. Her primary inspirations for her work are the adventures she went on as a child with her paleontologist father in the American West. She currently teaches painting at the Woodstock School of Art in Woodstock, N.Y. Her work has been featured at a variety of museums, including the Rockwell Museum of Western Art, the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, the Booth Western Art Museum, the Museum of Northern Arizona, and Woodstock Artists Association and Museum.

Unholy coverSarah Posner ’86, Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar of Donald Trump (Random House, 2020)

If you’ve ever wondered what accounts for the alliance between the evangelical movement and President Donald Trump, Sarah Posner’s Unholy has you covered. Having long studied the evangelical right in America, Posner is an expert on the demographic and therefore a fitting voice to identify the roots of the American evangelical movement and its perspective on Trump. Posner seeks to investigate the question of why a core part of Trump’s fan base consists of people who identify with the religious right, despite Trump himself having little religious affiliation.

The author delves deeply into Trump’s identity as a public figure, and explains why these characteristics make him the ideal candidate for white evangelicals, many of whom seek a leader who will guide the country away from liberalism. “Trump’s evangelical supporters,” Posner writes in Chapter 2, “have chosen to see him not as a sinner but as a strongman, not as a con man but as a king who is courageously unshackling them from what they portray as liberal oppression.” Her confident, sharp prose aids the urgency of her argument as she explores the stakes of another term of a Trump presidency. The book is timely and crucial as we approach the 2020 election.

Sarah Posner ’86 is a journalist and author. She is a reporting fellow with Type Investigations. In addition to Unholy, she is the author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters. Her reporting on the religious right in Republican politics has appeared in Rolling Stone, The New Republic, Vice, HuffPost, The Nation, Mother Jones, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The American Prospect, and Talking Points Memo, among other publications.

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors Goodman ’06, Thoms MAT’62, and Blake ’78

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Middletown, Del., 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.

The Shame coverMakenna Goodman ’06, The Shame (Milkweed, 2020)

In a letter to her children that she writes in case of an untimely death, Makenna Goodman’s protagonist Alma muses, “My great fear, which has kept me up nights for years, is that you will have to live without a mother when you need one the most.” This sentiment does not stop her from abruptly escaping her rustic Vermont home one night and leaving behind her young children and professor husband in pursuit of a life in New York City. As Alma’s identity crisis unfurls throughout her road trip to Brooklyn, she gradually reveals to the reader the circumstances of her departure in hushed, urgent prose.

The development of the narrative mirrors the progression of a long drive: at times the story feels electrifying and precipitous, at other times dreamlike and ponderous. Goodman manages to create a character who is desperate, imaginative, and lost, evoking an image of motherhood that is Elena Ferrante-adjacent in its subtle rage and self-doubt. Goodman’s novel also ties issues of the female consciousness to overlying sociopolitical systems and modern-day capitalism, making her work revolutionary in the world of female-authored literature. The Shame feels ultra-relevant in its interrogation of the contemporary female psyche and the pressures of marriage, motherhood, and career.

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors: Pugh ’88, Tupper ’95, and Pompano CAS’95

In the eighth 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.

Stardust MediaChristina Pugh ’88, Stardust Media (University of Massachusetts Press, 2020)

In this time of social distancing, I find myself surrounded by media more than ever. My Wesleyan friends, thousands of miles away, flicker on all my screens; I watch from my bedroom as my seminar courses adjust to Zoom. As we all adapt to the distance necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves confronted by the gifts and limitations of our technologies—a theme of Christina Pugh’s Stardust Media, a stunning new collection of poems that traverse the landscapes of both new and ancient technologies.

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.”

“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.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. CNN: “What the ‘Woke Student’ and the ‘Welfare Queen’ Have in Common”

“Every age seems to need a bogeyman, some negative image against which good people measure themselves,” writes President Michael Roth ’78 in this op-ed. Roth compares today’s bogeyman, the “woke” college student, with those of past eras—the “welfare queen” and “dirty hippie”—and seeks to build understanding and dispel negative misperceptions of activist college students. “The images of the welfare queen and of the woke student are convenient because they provide excuses to not engage with difference, placing certain types of people beyond the pale,” he writes. “These scapegoats are meant to inspire solidarity in a group by providing an object for its hostility (or derision), and educators and civic leaders should not play along.”

2. Los Angeles Times: “Opinion: Our Food Is Tainted with E. Coli, Yet the FDA Is Rolling Back Safety Rules”

As yet another food-borne E. coli outbreak sickens Americans, Fred Cohan, the Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment and professor of biology, and Isaac Klimasmith ’20, argue in this op-ed that more can and should be done to prevent dangerous contaminations of our food supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rolled back rules that “would have required monitoring and treating irrigation water for E. coli,” a major cause of these outbreaks. “We should not be surprised that a regulation-averse administration would disregard the science of food safety, but it is concerning that consumers have become complacent about yearly outbreaks of E. coli contamination and largely silent about the rollback of food safety regulations,” they write.

3. The Washington Post: “What Happens When College Students Discuss Lab Work in Spanish, Philosophy in Chinese or Opera in Italian?”

Stephen Angle, director of the Fries Center for Global Studies, professor of philosophy, and the Mansfield Professor of East Asian Studies, is interviewed about Wesleyan’s efforts to promote language study, including the new Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC) initiative, through which students can study a range of disciplines in other languages. For example, Angle teaches a Mandarin-language section of Classical Chinese Philosophy, a course historically taught in English. Read more about CLAC and Wesleyan’s language instruction here.

Alumni, Faculty Discuss Russia’s Return to the World Stage at Shasha Seminar

David Abramson ’87, Foreign Affairs Analyst at the U.S. Department of State, asks a question at a panel held by Wesleyan alumni on Saturday afternoon regarding Russia’s economic development, the prospects for foreign investors, and the range of careers available to graduates in Russian studies.

David Abramson ’87, foreign affairs analyst at the U.S. Department of State, asks a question regarding Russia’s economic development during the 2019 Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns.

shasha bannerRussia has returned to the world stage in dramatic fashion in recent years with military interventions and interference in elections.

What is driving this aggressive behavior? Will the current political system survive the scheduled departure of its architect, Vladimir Putin, in 2024? How should the United States deal with Russia?

On Oct. 11–12, Wesleyan alumni and faculty panelists tackled these questions and more during the 2019 Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns. This year’s theme was “Understanding Russia: A Dramatic Return to the World Stage,” with Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, serving as this year’s director. Rutland works on contemporary Russian politics and political economy, with a side interest in nationalism. (For a Q&A with Rutland, previewing the seminar, click here.)

The Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, endowed by James Shasha ’50, P’82, supports lifelong learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and perspectives on significant issues.

Townsend ’90 Discusses New Memoir at Bookstore with McCrea ’21

bookstore

Professor of Letters, Emeritus, Paul Schwaber joined College of Letters alumna and author Sarah Townsend ’90, P’21, and current COL major Sara McCrea ’21 for a discussion of Townsend’s book at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.

On Sept. 19, Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore hosted a Q&A with College of Letters (COL) alumna Sarah C. Townsend ’90, P’21, author of Setting the Wire: A Memoir of Postpartum Psychosis, (Lettered Streets Press, 2019) in conversation with current COL major Sara McCrea ’21.

McCrea, who reviews alumni books for the Wesleyan Connection, had selected Townsend’s book for inclusion in the second of her recent-publications series last spring. Encouraging others to read Townsend’s work, she had written: “Bursts of sharp and vulnerable detail presented in lyrical prose display Townsend’s fearlessness as she evaluates the ways in which her own body and others’ bodies handle and inform emotion. Through its discussion of losing and finding wholeness, Townsend’s succinct and striking writing implores readers to reckon with the power and limitation of physical reflections in representing mental illness.”

This semester, at the bookstore event, she told those gathered, “I was in complete awe of this book’s riveting honesty and its masterful structure.”

An audience that boasted many of McCrea’s COL peers, along with University Professor of Letters Kari Weil, were seated to face Townsend and McCrea. Additionally, Professor of Letters Emeritus, Paul Schwaber, who had been director of the College of Letters as well as one of Townsend’s advisors while she was an undergraduate, was also in attendance, contributing his observations and a question to the discussion that followed the Townsend/McCrea dialogue.

Townsend began by reading from the book, tracing her experience as a new mother with a nursing infant, quickly moving into psychosis, undergoing hospitalization, and finally returning to a healthy sense of self. Yet, “this isn’t a really heavy book,” Townsend explained. “It’s joyful, actually—a love story.”

Prompted by McCrea’s questions, Townsend explored the meaning of the title: She had become fascinated by Phillipe Petit, the man who walked on a wire strung between the two towers of the World Trade Center. He had talked about the importance of properly “setting the wire”—a through line—before beginning to cross. Like Petit’s high wire, she noted, her baby’s umbilical cord had been attached off-center, in what is called a compromised attachment.

“I think our minds are natural pattern-makers, and we have that in our favor,” Townsend noted, commenting on the associations these items had brought to her consciousness. The two also discussed Townsend’s use of sound, as well as the book’s narrative shape, noting that it is unlike that of a male hero’s journey; instead, it traced out a spiral structure. The two also explored Townsend’s writing process, as well as the ways that her career as a psychotherapist had informed the work.

“I guess one of the great things about writing is that there aren’t any rules and you can just take from anywhere and see what you might do with it,” Townsend concluded, ending the formal part of the program to greet students personally and sign books.

Townsend’s debut book, Setting the Wire, is an account of postpartum psychosis and a meditation on what holds us together. Her style mixes memoir with film, music, visual art, and psychology.

The conversation touched on Townsend’s experience of fragmentation when she was a new mother.