Tag Archive for alumni achievements

“You Just Have to Read This. . .” Books by Wesleyan Authors Barry ’76, Rosenblatt ’87, and Taussig ‘03

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

coming to our senses coverSusan R. Barry ’76, Coming to Our Senses: A Boy Who Learned to See, a Girl Who Learned to Hear, and How We All Discover the World (Basic Books, 2021)

What is it like to gain a sense—say, sight or hearing—after spending your whole life without it? Is the transition seamless or disorienting? What can it teach us about the concept of human perception? Susan R. Barry explores these questions and more in Coming to Our Senses: A Boy Who Learned to See, a Girl Who Learned to Hear, and How We All Discover the World. The book focuses on two individuals who have experienced the aforementioned phenomenon: Liam McCoy, who was blind since infancy and then gained the ability to see after several operations when he was 15 years old; and Zohra Damji, who was deaf until receiving a cochlear implant at the age of 12. Liam and Zohra belong to a small group of people who have adjusted successfully to their new senses, albeit with lots of challenges.

Barry, who spent over a decade getting to know these two incredible people, profiles them with detail and compassion, unraveling their stories through both personal and scientific lenses. The result is a book that reveals the ways in which scientific knowledge is profoundly tied to our understanding of human nature. Neither scientists nor humanities-oriented readers will be left out of the intrigue of Barry’s fascinating prose.

Faculty, Alumni Rated Among World’s Top 1% of Scientists

Thirteen Wesleyan faculty are rated among the top 1% most-cited researchers worldwide, according to a recent study by PLOS Biology.

The study, led by Professor John Ioannidis from Stanford University, combines several different metrics to systematically rank the most influential scientists as measured by citations. More than six million scientists, who were actively working between 1996 and 2018, were analyzed for the project.

The faculty include:
David Beveridge, Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, emeritus
Fred Cohan, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, professor of biology
Mark Hovey, professor of mathematics, associate provost for budget and personnel
Tsampikos Kottos, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of physics
Matthew Kurtz, professor of psychology
Herbert Pickett, research professor in chemistry, emeritus
Dana Royer, professor of earth and environmental sciences
Francis Starr, professor of physics
Steve Stemler, professor of psychology
Ruth Striegel Weissman, Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, emerita
Sonia Sultan, professor of biology
Johan Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, emeritus
Gary Yohe, Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, emeritus

In addition, at least eight Wesleyan alumni are rated in the top 0.1% of all scientists in the world including Gene Stanley ’62, Philip Russell ’65, Jay Levy ’60, Nick Turro ’60, Dr. William H. Dietz ’66, Michael Greenberg ’76, Jerry Melillo ’65, John Coffin ’67, and Hugh Wilson ’65. (Know of any others? Let us know at newsletter@wesleyan.edu!)

The study reinforces Wesleyan’s reputation as an exceptional liberal arts institution, said Wilson, who is professor emeritus of spatial and computational vision at York University.

“It is sometimes questioned whether a liberal arts education is really optimal for an aspiring scientist. After all, wouldn’t it be better to take just science and math courses rather than spending part of one’s time with literature, philosophy, history, or art,” he said. “So, [this study shows that] liberal arts continue to attract outstanding scientists as dedicated faculty members who espouse both teaching and research.”

Stern ’80 Hosts Retrospective Art Show “Stronger Than Dirt”

Friends (detail). 2002. Pastel, graphite. 42x26 inches.

Friends (detail). 2002. Pastel, graphite. 42×26 inches. By Melissa Stern ’80.

Melissa Stern ’80, an artist and journalist, is hosting a retrospective art show at the Lockwood Gallery in Woodstock, New York. Stern’s show is called “Stronger Than Dirt” and looks back at her past 20 years of work. A live opening took place from 5 to 7 p.m. June 12, and the exhibition will run until July 11.

Over the past year, Stern has served as a visiting lecturer and guest critic through Zoom. She has virtually visited The Everson Museum of Art, Pratt Institute, NYU, The Pelham Art Center, and Indiana University, among others.

In describing her art, Stern said on her website, “I work like a handyman cobbling together drawings and sculptures from elements found, borrowed, and imagined. I use a wide range of materials from encaustic to clay, pastel to steel. The drawings and sculptures, often made in tandem, resonate with one another, the ideas in one reinforcing the themes of the other. All of my pieces share a thematic thread. Childlike and goofy my figures live in a dream world, cower in relationships or stand tall in the face of adversity. They are at once dark and funny, expressive of the absurd world around them.”

“You Just Have to Read This . . .” Books by Wesleyan Alumni Dass ’69, Greenidge ’04, and Saba ’81

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

Being Ram Dass coverRam Dass MA ’54 and Rameshwar Das ’69, Being Ram Dass (Sounds True, 2021)

When Ram Dass, then known as Richard Alpert, was fired from his position as a professor of psychology at Harvard University for giving psychedelics to undergraduates in pursuit of a research project, his adventure-loving soul decided to use the initially disappointing dismissal as an opportunity and a path towards freedom. A few years later, he traveled to India, where he met his Hindu guru, Neem Karoli Baba, who gave him the name of Ram Dass (which means “servant of God”). From then on, Ram Dass led a life of spirituality, teaching, leadership, meditation, yoga, charity, and yes, drugs. His posthumously published autobiography and memoir, which was co-written with his longtime collaborator Rameshwar Das ’69, provides a rich and detailed account of these events and more, starting from his early life, tracking his many transformations over the years, and even including some details about his time at Wesleyan.

Ligon ’82, Hon. ’12 Inducted to the American Academy of Arts and Letters

Glenn Ligon ’82

Glenn Ligon ’82

Artist Glenn Ligon ’82, Hon. 12 was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters on May 19. The Academy is an honor society comprised of 300 architects, artists, composers, and writers.

Each year, the Academy elects new members as vacancies occur, administers over 70 awards and prizes, exhibits art and manuscripts, funds performances of new works of musical theater, and purchases artwork for donation to museums across the United States.

Ligon’s work is an exploration of American history, literature, and society that builds on the legacies of modern painting and more recent conceptual art. He’s best known for his text-based paintings, which draw on the writings and speeches of Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Stein, and Richard Pryor.

After receiving a BA at Wesleyan, Ligon joined the Whitney Museum of Art’s Independent Study Program. The museum hosted a 2011 mid-career retrospective called Glenn Ligon: America to celebrate his work. Ligon’s art has been displayed and celebrated internationally. His recent exhibitions include Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions in 2015 and Blue Black in 2017, an exhibition Ligon curated at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, inspired by the site-specific Ellsworth Kelly wall.

Ligon’s work has been featured at the Camden Arts Centre in London, the Power Plant in Toronto, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and at the Venice Biennale, Berlin Biennal, Istanbul Biennal, and Gwangju Biennale festivals.

Other 2021 Academy inductees include Spike Lee, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Barbara Kingsolver, Adrian Piper, and Tracy K. Smith. Read the full list here.

“You Just Have to Read This. . .” Books by Wesleyan Alumni Aspray ’73, MA ’73, Morris ’76, Roth ’70

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.

Deciding Where to Live coverWilliam Aspray ’73, MA ’73 and Melissa Ocepek (editors), Deciding Where to Live (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020)

In the past year, our choice of residence has become more crucial than ever. In fact, the pandemic has caused many people to house-hunt, pack up and move away, ready for a change of scenery. Deciding Where to Live, edited by William Aspray and Melissa G. Ocepek, comes at a timely moment, as it is a comprehensive guide to some of the more elusive and less recognized aspects of deciding where to call home. The two editors and 11 authors rely heavily on information studies to ground their logic, focusing on specific case studies that demonstrate the various ways in which humans interact with information and how these behaviors affect real estate. The book also explores social and cultural factors involved in decision-making, drawing on race and gender studies, as well as addressing the impacts of the pandemic. Therefore, the work seamlessly combines a variety of disciplines—while it is centered on information studies, the authors also draw on scholarship in psychology, sociology, political science, and more.

As informational as it is thought-provoking, the book compels readers to understand recent shifts in real estate that have been affected by contemporary realities like social media, the internet, and the pandemic. Readers will be drawn not only to the facts and statistics, but also to the cultural and social deep-dives in several of the sections.

William Aspray ’73, MA ’73 is a senior research fellow at the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Prior to his current position, he was a senior faculty member at various information schools, including the University of Indiana (Bloomington), the University of Texas (Austin), and the University of Colorado (Boulder). He earned a BA and MA in mathematics from Wesleyan, and his interests include computer history, information history, everyday information behavior, information policy, food studies, and broadening participation in computing.

“You Just Have to Read This. . .” Books by Wesleyan Authors Garrison ’67, Porter ’77, MALS ’79, and Tupper ’95

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.

Light in the River coverDavid Lee Garrison ’67, Light in the River (Dos Madres Press, 2020)

Lately, many of us have been looking for small ways to escape from our screens and our worries. David Lee Garrison’s latest poetry collection is the perfect shelter for moments like these, providing an assortment of charming, readable poems that will leave readers in good humor. All of the poems are brief and enchanting, presenting as bite-sized stories that seamlessly balance comedy and depth and seem to encompass tiny worlds of their own in remarkably few words.

In “Meatballs,” a dog begs for the meatballs his owner is cooking, looking at him with “big wet eyes” and a “relentless display / of pathos”; at the end, the owner quips that the dog has “got [him] / by the meatballs.” In “Men at Seventy,” the speaker’s voice straddles wit and sadness: “They take aspirin before playing tennis, / write wills directing that their ashes / be mixed into the clay of the courts.” “Beware of the Poem” reflects on the art of the poem itself, and Garrison cites other poets, including Langston Hughes and Thomas Lynch, several times throughout the collection. Garrison’s style is effortless and self-aware, and his is the perfect book to keep on your bedside table if you’re looking for a nugget of wisdom and humor before calling it a night.

David Lee Garrison ’67 is a poet who lives in Oakwood, Ohio. He earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University and taught Spanish and Portuguese at Wright State University for 30 years. He has translated and published the poems of several notable Spanish poets, and his poems have appeared in several journals and anthologies.

“You Just Have to Read This…” An Interview with Madam C.J. Walker Author Erica L. Ball ’93

Madam CJ Walker coverErica L. Ball ’93 is a historian and the Mary Jane Hewitt Department Chair in Black Studies at Occidental College, who specializes in 19th and 20th-century African American history. Her second book, Madam C.J. Walker: The Making of an American Icon (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021), tells the life story of one of the most influential women in American history. Throughout the biography, Ball unravels Walker’s importance as a hair- and skin-care trailblazer, a philanthropist, and an activist.

Annie Roach ’22, editorial student assistant, recently interviewed Ball about Walker and the process of writing the book.

Annie Roach ’22: What first inspired you to write this book? How did you first hear about Madam C.J. Walker?

Erica L. Ball ’93: Getting to the project was a circuitous route. A former professor from grad school was doing a series on famous American women, and she floated the idea of me potentially writing one on Madam C.J. Walker. That didn’t work out, but I’d already started the research and had gotten pretty far along down that road and knew I really wanted to continue working on the project.  A friend put me in touch with the editors at Rowman & Littlefield, and that’s when the project really took off. That’s the short and technical answer to how this book came into being.

There’s actually a longer answer that stretches all the way back to Wesleyan, and to my history senior honors thesis project. Madam C.J. Walker actually makes an appearance in Chapter 3. There I talk a little bit about her work as a philanthropist and her prominent role the in purchase of the Frederick Douglass home. Weirdly, the roots of this book go all the way back to my senior year of college.

Erica L. Ball

Erica L. Ball ’93 is the author of Madam C.J. Walker: The Making of an American Icon.

A.R.: What was the process of researching and writing like?

E.B.:I think of it as a three-stage process that actually took place simultaneously. One, the book is designed not just to introduce readers to Madam C.J. Walker the person; it’s also designed to serve as a lens onto the broader sweep of African American history. To do that, I had to make sure that I not only stayed current and up on all of the trends in African American history, but that I also allowed these historiographical trends to help me make sense of the larger political and cultural significance of Madam Walker’s life experiences.

The second aspect of the research process involved digging into the work that had already been written on Madam C.J. Walker, and of course, her great-great granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles, has a wonderful cradle-to-grave biography of Madam Walker. Other folks have written great books on Madam Walker or published work analyzing the history of African Americans’ hair-care or beauty practices; all of that was very useful and helped to contextualize Madam Walker’s story.

The other critical aspect of the research process involved digging into the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company papers at the Indiana Historical Society. I found a wealth of material during my visits there.

A.R.: What did you find in your research that was most surprising?

E.B.: Two things, I would say. As I went through the papers held at the Indiana Historical Society, I was stunned by the number of requests for donations that she received. The files contain daily requests from random people all over the country, and outside of the United States, as well. Many requests come from well-known figures who are heads of institutions and presidents of HBCUs. And then there are other letters, like one from a fellow who was incarcerated at the infamous Angola Prison Farm in Louisiana. After hearing about Madam Walker, he writes a letter to tell her about his plight and to ask for help and a few dollars. Seeing that range of people reaching out to her was quite extraordinary. That ultimately led me to one of the key arguments I make in the book: Madam Walker was someone who fashioned herself into a modern celebrity—someone whom masses of individuals identified with, looked up to, and sought to reach out to—right at the moment when modern celebrity itself [was] being invented.

A.R.: In the context of our current world, what exactly makes this story so important and applicable now?

E.B.: Maybe it goes in two directions. On the one hand, I think of Madam Walker’s story as emblematic of a long freedom struggle. This is a person who insisted on not being limited by the terms that society set for her. She refused them. She didn’t believe them. And this was the starting point for her participation in the Black freedom struggle. This is a woman who moved, who would not be contained in one particular location, and who consistently defied Jim Crow limitations on Black freedom of movement. This is a woman who not only searched for opportunities for herself, but went on to create and expand opportunities for other people. Madam C.J. Walker was a person who refused to be satisfied with the political status quo for African Americans but engaged in a concerted, intense civil rights campaign—a multifaceted civil rights campaign—to fight for better conditions for people of African descent. I think she represents the capacious nature of the African American freedom struggle. And I think that can be a useful lesson for us today. It’s a long journey, a long struggle, one that can take many forms and requires different types of actions.

There might also be another lesson in there for folks who are well-positioned, like wealthy celebrities. Madam Walker’s life story raises some questions for them: What do you do with your money? What do you do with your fame? Is it just for you, or do you do what someone like Madam C.J. Walker did, and insist on using it for the public good?

A.R.: What is the most important takeaway that you hope readers will get out of reading about Madam C.J. Walker?

E.B.: She was more than a lady who was just interested in something that people often think of as frivolous (beauty culture) and she was not focused on helping Black women imitate white standards of beauty. She spoke in terms of health, she spoke in terms of agency, and she advocated for the independence of Black women. She was much more than some of the caricatures that emerged in the ’60s and ’70s made her seem. That’s why her memory was so important to African Americans for much of the 20th century.

A.R.: What was your time at Wesleyan like?

E.B.: I grew up in a military family and went to high school in Arizona, where my father was stationed at the time. I’d never been to Connecticut. It was a big change for me. I spent a lot of time hanging out at WesWings, I was a member of the Cardinal Sinners a capella group, and I sang in a blues band called Johnny Vess and the Westones. I had a great time and I learned so much; Wesleyan was a formative experience for me.

Sometimes I think if I hadn’t gone to Wesleyan, my life would have been very different. There were paths that I didn’t know were possible for me to take. One was becoming a researcher, a scholar, a professor. As I worked on my honors thesis, I got it into my head that this is something I might want to keep doing with my life. I also made some great friends. I actually live fairly close to one of my Foss 9 dormmates from frosh year. It’s a small world.

A.R.: Anything else you want to add about your book or about Wesleyan?

E.B.: Wesleyan taught me how to think differently, how to think broadly, how to wrestle with new ideas, how to be open in ways that I didn’t know that I could be. It’s an extraordinary institution that develops habits of mind that are conducive to better world-making. It opens people up in ways that are extraordinary and profound. And I will always be grateful for having had the opportunity to attend Wesleyan.

United Way Creates Fellowship Honoring Cooney ’81

J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. '81

J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. ’81

The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) is honoring Wesleyan alumnus Gordon Cooney ’81 by establishing the J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. Fellowship in Criminal Justice.

Cooney, a government major at Wesleyan, works as a senior partner for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, where he oversees the firm’s litigation operations across the globe and has a long history of fighting for social justice. He served as regional board chair for UWGPSNJ from 2017–2020, and the fellowship was made in recognition of his significant leadership to United Way.

The J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. Fellowship in Criminal Justice is a six-month fellowship presented to people who have lived experience with the criminal justice system in Philadelphia, aspire to a career in criminal justice or community organizing, and who have shown a commitment to social equity. The Cooney Fellowship is coordinated with Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE), a UWGPSNJ-supported nonprofit agency that, since its founding in 2011, helps low-income Philadelphians clean up their criminal records.

“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.