Tag Archive for alumni books

“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: Meyerson ’04, Card ’04, and Fink ’77

In this continuing series, we explore a selection of the latest books by Wesleyan alumni. The volumes, sent to us by the alumni authors themselves, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

The Imperfects coverAmy Meyerson ’04, The Imperfects (HarperCollins/Park Row Books, 2020)

Generations of secrets loom large in this novel about the dysfunctional Miller family. When the eccentric family matriarch, Helen, passes away, the items she leaves behind—including a 137-carat diamond hidden in her bedroom—stir up old resentments, new tensions, and plenty of questions among her daughter and grandchildren. As the family races to determine whether they are the rightful heirs to the precious gemstone, they make startling discoveries about Helen, who immigrated to the United States from Austria, and her family’s tragic past.

A fast-paced and engaging read, The Imperfects is based on the true story of the Florentine Diamond, which went missing around 1918, after the fall of the Austrian Empire.

Amy Meyerson ’04 is an associate professor of writing at the University of Southern California. The Imperfects is her second novel. Her debut novel The Bookshop of Yesterdays, an international best-seller with translations in 11 languages, was featured in a 2018 Connection article.

Moezzi ’01 Shares Reflections, Advice on Applying Rumi’s Wisdom to Modern Life

Melody Moezzi

In The Rumi Prescription, Melody Moezzi ’01 shares her story of studying and learning from the wisdom of 13th-century mystic poet Rumi, whose verses she found relevant even in today’s world. Moezzi majored in philosophy at Wesleyan.

The timing of the release of The Rumi Prescription: How an Ancient Mystic Poet Changed My Modern Manic Life (Penguin Random House, 2020) was far from ideal. Officially out March 3, the new book by Melody Moezzi ’01 was barely in readers’ hands before social distancing restrictions were imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Moezzi was able to participate in a handful of events near her home in Wilmington, N.C. . . . and then the remainder were canceled or rescheduled in virtual form.

The Rumi Prescription coverHowever, The Rumi Prescription is the sort of book that people with extra free time on their hands—and the inclination to obtain meaning from difficult experiences—might value. Moezzi’s third book, The Rumi Prescription details how she came to interpret and apply the lessons of the 13th-century mystic poet Rumi to her modern-day world, a process that was ultimately life-changing.

An Iranian-American Muslim author, attorney, activist, and visiting professor of creative nonfiction at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Moezzi has also written about mental health in her 2014 memoir Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life. On May 18, she will participate in a live Zoom conversation about The Rumi Prescription with fellow mental wellness activist and illustrator Ellen Forney ’89, as part of a series offered by Literati bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Click here to join the event on May 18.

Moezzi recently answered questions about The Rumi Prescription, how Rumi’s words can apply to today’s world, and her advice for taking care of your mental health during a pandemic.

First of all, how’s The Rumi Prescription doing? What a time to launch a new book.

Melody Moezzi: It’s not the best time to be releasing a book, but it turns out that the topic of this book is actually something that is helpful for people right now, so I’m glad for that. At least people seem to be finding comfort in it.

“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.

Arkin ’82 to Livestream Readings of His Suspense Novel During COVID-19 Outbreak

arkin book

Matthew Arkin

Matthew Arkin ’82

Starting April 1, Matthew Arkin ’82 will read from his suspense thriller In the Country of the Blind (2013) on YouTube Live.

“I’ll be reading in an effort to fight the strain and isolation [of the COVID-19 pandemic] and perhaps provide a little entertainment,” he said.

This is Arkin’s first attempt at livestreaming, which he’s calling “social distance storytime.”

“It’s an idea I had because we’re all under quarantine right now, we’re social distancing, stuck at home, and like many of you, I wonder how I can fill fill my time, what I can do to help others fill their time … so I thought I’d share it live online. I think it’s a lot of fun.”

Arkin will begin reading the book at 10 p.m. EST, and will continue the livestreams every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. He will lead a live-chat Q&A following each chapter.

Arkin, who double-majored in English and government at Wesleyan, hopes the story will be “something for people to look forward to, something to enjoy, something to sit around together and listen to,” he said.

To subscribe or tune in, visit the Matthew Arkin Studio page on YouTube.

Eliasberg ’74, P’19 on Her Debut Novel, Hannah’s War

The book cover of Jan Eliasberg's new book, Hannah's War

Debut fiction by Jan Eliasberg ’74, P’19.

Award-winning writer/director Jan Eliasberg ’74, P’19 made her debut as a novelist with Hannah’s War, a story inspired by the real-life physicist Dr. Lise Meitner, whom an article in the Aug. 6, 1945, issue of the New York Times referred to as “a female, non-Aryan physicist,” noted for helping the Americans develop the atomic bomb.

Hannah’s War was published by Little Brown on March 3.

“Jan Eliasberg knows how to open big with strong suspense and wry humor and take us for a hurtling ride through one of America’s most complex moments,” said Amy Bloom ’75, Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing. “The wonderful characters of Hannah’s War bring together a moving love story, a high-stakes mystery, and a fascinating look into the moral compass of an exceptional woman.”

Eliasberg’s talk at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, originally scheduled for March 26, has been postponed.

Wesleyan University Magazine had profiled Eliasberg, focusing on her work in television and film; here she discusses her transition to being a novelist.

Q: As a screenwriter and director, what were the challenges you faced in writing a novel?

Jan Eliasberg: There were far more advantages than challenges. I would say that the biggest challenge was the idea of sitting down for almost nine months with no collaborative contact. As a director, you do not have a minute to yourself, from the moment you start the job to the moment you finish: You’re on location with eight, 10 people; you are on a set with all 60 others asking you questions. But this was nine months of going for days without really talking to anyone. I mean, how lovely in retrospect, but slightly terrifying to contemplate.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News
1. The Open Mind: “Democratizing the Jury”

Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti is interviewed in connection with her new book, Radical Enfranchisement in the Jury Room and Public Life, in which she offers a “full-throated defense of juries as a democratic institution.” “I am very interested in how ordinary people engage with political institutions, and juries are the place where ordinary people have the most power,” she says. Chakravarti calls for more robust civic education, continuing into adulthood, in order to have a “more effective, modern jury system.”

2. Hartford Courant: “Sen. Murphy, Aiming to Expand Pell Grant Eligibility for Incarcerated Students, Hears from Inmates at York Correctional Institution”

Senator Chris Murphy, who is the co-sponsor of a bill to expand the federal Pell grant program for college students to include inmates, met with 11 inmates who have participated in educational programs at York Correctional Institution through the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education and other college-in-prison programs.“What’s important about the REAL Act is that college affordability should be accessible to all students regardless of where they are,” said CPE program manager Allie Cislo. “It’s one thing rhetorically to commit to reentry,” she said, but resources like educational programs “can make or break it for people.”

3. American Theatre: “Digging for New Roots”

This article on “climate change theatre” features Ocean Filibuster, a play by Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl through her theater company, PearlDamour. Commenting on the play’s premise, in which a new Senate bill proposes sentencing the world’s oceans to death and the ocean stands to speak in its own defense, Pearl said, “We thought, well, what if the ocean finally got fed up with taking all of our crap, and started talking and didn’t stop until we actually shut up and listened?” American Theatre, a leading publication in the theater industry, writes: “Ocean Filibuster recalibrates the human experience by reminding us of the comparatively small scale and depth of our own existence.”

“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

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. Hartford Courant: “Jeanine Basinger, the ‘Professor of Hollywood,’ Is Wesleyan University’s Homegrown Screen Legend”

Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita Jeanine Basinger, whom this article notes has been dubbed “the professor of Hollywood” and “an iconic figure in American cinema, one of the most beloved and respected film history professors in the history of film studies” by The Hollywood Reporter, is interviewed on the occasion of her 60th year at Wesleyan, and the 50th since she created its film program. She talks about her next book on American film comedy, shares some of her favorite things, and muses on which actress would play her in a movie of her life.

2. Los Angeles Review of Books: “‘We Need More Vigorous Debate’: A Conversation with Michael S. Roth”

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, managing editor of Modern Intellectual History, interviews President Michael Roth in connection with his latest book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. Roth discusses his career path from intellectual historian to university administrator and professor, and offers his unique perspective on debates surrounding freedom of speech and political correctness.

3. Los Angeles Times: “Kirk Douglas Dead at 103; ‘Spartacus’ Star Helped End Hollywood Blacklist”

Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, comments on Kirk Douglas’s legacy following the film icon’s death at 103. Recalling when she first saw him on-screen in the 1940s, she said, “He wasn’t a traditional leading man, really, in looks, and yet he had an unmistakable charisma and power on screen—not just the glamour of the movie star, though he did have that, but real acting chops. So you knew he was going to be a star.” She added, “He was a very modern American antihero type, but he could also play anything, really.”

Klaber ’67 Presents RFK Assassination Research at Dublin Festival of Politics

Klaber

William Klaber ’67, author of Shadow Play: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy, spoke at the Dublin Festival of Politics last November. (Photo by Siena Klaber)

William Klaber ’67, investigative journalist and co-author of Shadow Play: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy, was invited to speak on his research at the Dublin Festival of Politics last November. The book, originally published in 1998 and written with political scientist Philip Melanson, coordinator of the Robert F. Kennedy Archive, was revised and updated in 2018 for the 50th anniversary of the assassination. Additionally, Klaber was featured as a host on the podcast The RFK Tapes, which debuted at #1 on the iTunes chart last year. Created by the producers of Crimetown​ and Cadence13, the audio documentary series re-examines the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

The assassination, says Klaber, was initially investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department, which presented it as a clear-cut open-and-shut case, with Sirhan Sirhan as the admitted perpetrator captured at the scene, gun in hand, and now serving a life sentence. All records had been sealed for 20 years following the crime, and since the release of information in 1988, Klaber has been one of the individuals re-examining and questioning the facts as they were presented. In 1993, Klaber made an hour-long audio program called The RFK Tapes, which aired on 160 public radio stations. After the program’s release, Time magazine reviewed the questions raised in the program with a full-page article on June 7 of that year, concluding, “Alas, considering how much evidence has disappeared, it’s an open question whether … a probe would resolve old doubts—or create new ones.”

Noting the significant response to the original audio production, St. Martin’s Press invited Klaber to write a book about what he and UMass Professor Melanson had found in examining the facts of the case: the 1998 version of Shadow Play.

This fall at the Dublin Festival of Politics, John Lee, the political editor of The Irish Mail on Sunday newspaper as well as a book author, joined Klaber onstage to discuss points of contention in the investigation that Klaber raises, including ignored witness accounts, audiotapes of coerced testimony, and bullet-hole evidence, which had been destroyed but indicated that more than one gun had been fired.

“The Irish love their Kennedys and so they’re particularly interested in who killed John and who killed Bobby,“ said Klaber, explaining his invitation to the Dublin political festival. Additionally, he added that many of those who were eyewitnesses or initially interested in the Kennedy murders have passed away. “There are not a lot of us left, in terms of people who really understand the case and who have mucked around in the police files.”

Klaber, who is currently working on a podcast series that takes a new look at the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., is also the author of The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell: A Novel (St. Martins Press, 2016). He was a College of Social Studies major at Wesleyan.

“People sometimes refer to me as a conspiracy guy,” said Klaber, “which serves to dismiss my work. But I’m not that. I’m an evidence guy. In Shadow Play, we talk about what we know.”