Tag Archive for alumni books

Lerer ’76 Interviewed By Slate Magazine on the Evolution of Children’s Literature

Seth Lerer ’76, literary critic and Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of California at San Diego, spoke to Slate.com on the complex history of children’s literature.

“The earliest kids books…were largely designed to teach moral behavior,” he said. “They were about social decorum and a particular way of being a child, especially in relation to parents and teachers. Some children’s books—many of the early medieval romances, for instance—had an adventure quality to them, but always a moral and spiritual quality too.”

He also observed the increasing focus on young women in today’s literature. “When you look at the trajectory of modern books, Harriet the Spy, Judy Blume—books from the ’60s and ’70s—and then at Hermione in Harry Potter, who’s very much a modern YA heroine, and at The Hunger Games, you see children’s literature really moving toward an audience of younger women in particular, who face particular challenges and really develop their heroic lives.”

Lerer, the author of Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter, was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism in 2009 and the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in 2010.

Read the full interview here.

New Novel by Parkhurst ’92 Tells a Gripping Family Tale

Carolyn Parkhurst '92 (Photo by Nina Subin)

Carolyn Parkhurst ’92. (Photo by Nina Subin)

Carolyn Parkhurst (Rosser) ’92 is the author of the new novel Harmony (Pamela Dorman Books, Viking), in which a mother does everything she can to save her family. The Hammond family’s seemingly normal life is disrupted when oldest daughter Tilly shows signs of abnormal development. Her social behavior is considered undiagnosable and she is asked to leave the last school in Washington, D.C. that will have her.

To help Tilly, the Hammonds move to Camp Harmony in the New Hampshire woods, seeking the guidance of a child behavior expert Scott Bean and testing the bonds of the family. Parkhurst expertly tells her suspenseful story from the points of view of Alexandra, the mother, and younger daughter Iris, who may have the clearest perspective of what is happening to her family.

In her review in The Washington Post, novelist Amy McKinnon writes: “…in Parkhurst’s deft treatment, Harmony becomes a story of our time, a compassionate treatise on how society judges parents, how parents judge themselves and how desperation sometimes causes otherwise rational people to choose irrational lives.”

Novel by Carolyn Parkhurst '92

Novel by Carolyn Parkhurst ’92

For the A. V. Club, reviewer Caitlin Penzey Moog says: “The rare alchemy of achingly powerful words that also induce fevered page riffling is in abundance in Harmony, Carolyn Parkhurst’s sumptuously written, eminently compelling novel about a family and its desperation. Readers will be torn between a desire to pause to admire a golden paragraph and the compulsion to hasten on to find out what happens next.”

Parkhurst is the author of three other novels, The New York Times best seller The Dogs of Babel, Lost and Found and The Nobodies Album. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children. Harmony was edited by Pamela Dorman ’79.

Arnold ’91 Writes Companion to Turner Classic Movies “Essentials” Series

Author and film historian Jeremy Arnold has written the companion book to Turner Classic Movies Essential series with The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter (Running Press, 2016).

Author and film historian Jeremy Arnold has written the companion book to Turner Classic Movies Essential series with The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter (Running Press, 2016).

Jeremy Arnold ’91, author, film historian and longtime contributor to Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is the author of The Essentials: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter, recently published in collaboration with Running Press and Turner Classic Movies.

A graduate of the Film Studies Department at Wesleyan, Arnold credits Professor Jeanine Basinger as instrumental in his work, both researching and writing the book. “I took five courses with Professor Basinger and she was the best teacher I ever had. She remains a close friend to this day,” he said.

The book serves as a companion to TCM’s weekly on-air “Essentials” series, hosted by Robert Osborne and others, which showcases the most influential and impactful movies ever made. Arnold made an appearance at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood to introduce two screenings, and on Sunday, May 15, at 8 and 10 p.m. EDT, Arnold also will be appearing on TCM, to discuss the book and introduce a James Cagney double feature of White Heat (1949) and Footlight Parade (1933).

Southard ’78 Receives Lukas Book Prize

Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War, by Susan Southard ’78, has been awarded the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, administered by the Columbia University School of Journalism and Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism.

Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear WarOne of three annual Lukas Prizes honoring the best in American nonfiction writing, the Book Prize is given to a book exemplifying “the literary grace, commitment to serious research, and the social concern that characterized the distinguished work of the award’s namesake, J. Anthony Lukas.”  The prize comes with a $10,000 award.

“I couldn’t be more honored that Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War has been included among the remarkable books of narrative journalism that have received the Lukas Book Prize since 1998,” said Southard. “And I am elated that, 70 years after the atomic bombings of Japan, the survivors’ stories have been recognized in this way.”

The judges in their citation noted, “Susan Southard’s Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War will upset you. With lean and powerful prose she describes the indescribable taking the reader almost minute by minute through the bombing of Nagasaki and then the aftermath. With thorough careful research she exposes a half-century of lies and half-truths about the reasons for the bombing and the results, even denying that radiation poisoning was real. Seventy years later, following the lives of survivors, she reaches the final chapter and at last tells the complete story. Without diatribes or polemics she leaves the reader with a resolve that such a thing must never happen again.”

Wall Street Journal Names Fossel ’73 Book a “Best Book for Science Lovers”

telomerase revolutionThe latest book by Michael Fossel ’73, The Telomerase Revolution: The Enzyme That Holds the Key to Human Aging . . . and Will Soon Lead to Longer, Healthier Lives, published by BenBella Books, was recently selected as one of the Best Books for Science Lovers in 2015 by the Wall Street Journal. Fossel has been writing about the telomerase theory of aging for 20 years and is considered the foremost expert on the clinical use of telomerase for age-related diseases.

“As a doctor, my emphasis has always been on clinical results,” says Fossel in his introduction. “Understanding the nature of aging is essential, of course. But the goal isn’t simply to achieve understanding. The goal is to develop techniques to extend lives, cure diseases, and reduce suffering.”

Each time a cell reproduces, its telomeres (the tips of the chromosomes) shorten, decreasing the cell’s ability to repair its molecules. While most of our cells age in such a way, sex cells and stem cells can reproduce indefinitely, without aging, because they create telomerase, which re-lengthens the telomeres and keeps the cells young. In The Telomerase Revolution, Fossel describes how telomerase might soon be used as a powerful therapeutic tool, with the potential to extend lifespans and maybe even reverse human aging.

Fossel earned both his PhD and MD from Stanford University, where he taught neurobiology and research methods. A past recipient of a National Science Foundation fellowship, he was a clinical professor of medicine for almost 30 years, executive director of the American Aging Association and the founding editor of Rejuvenation Research. He wrote the first ever book on the telomerase theory of aging, Reversing Human Aging (1996), followed by Cells, Aging, and Human Disease (2004), and The Immortality Edge (2011). He currently teaches The Biology of Aging at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., and is working to bring telomerase to human trials for Alzheimer’s disease.

Season’s Readings!

alu_books_2015-1210214425+Every year we review dozens of books and publish several author essays, and a book excerpt or two, by Wesleyan alumni in the pages of Wesleyan magazine. With the holidays upon us, ’tis the season to take another look at just a handful of the many selections made by Wesleyan magazine Arts and Culture Editor David Low this year. Happy reading!

Fins ’82 Discusses the Treatment of Brain Injury Patients and His New Book

Former Wesleyan Trustee Dr. Joseph Fins, M.D. ’82 returned to campus Nov. 5 to speak on “Giving Voice to Consciousness: Neuroscience, Neuroethics and the Law" as part of the Russell House Series on Prose and Poetry. Several students and faculty attended the talk.

Wesleyan Trustee Emeritus Dr. Joseph Fins, M.D. ’82 returned to campus Nov. 5 to speak on “Giving Voice to Consciousness: Neuroscience, Neuroethics and the Law” as part of the Russell House Series on Prose and Poetry. The talk was open to members of the Wesleyan community.

eve_Joe fins_hcf_2015-1105213525

Fins, the Kim-Frank Visiting Writer at Wesleyan, discussed his most recent book, Rights Come to Mind: Brain Injury, Ethics, and the Struggle for Consciousness, published by Cambridge University Press in August 2015. The book traces the evolution of the medical classification of severe brain injury and recognizes what he calls “a deeply marginalized class” of society. Prior to writing the book, Fins interviewed more than 50 families of people with brain injuries who are identified as in a minimally conscious state and reveals that patients are often incorrectly categorized as in a vegetative state, or having an absence of responsiveness or awareness.

Read more about the discussion in this Wesleyan Argus article and more about his book in this Q&A, below:

Fins also is currently the chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College and director of ethics at Weill Cornell Medical Center, as well as an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of more than 250 books and articles.

Fins also is currently the chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College and director of ethics at Weill Cornell Medical Center, as well as an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of more than 250 books and articles.

Q: What motivated you to write the book?

A: I wrote it to give voice to patients and families touched by severe brain injury and chose this genre because it was a complex interdisciplinary problem that needed a broader frame than that afforded by the typical truncated article in a medical journal. Rights Come to Mind is a story that straddles the sciences and the humanities and fundamentally is a question of how scientific advance compels us to change our views about ethics and moral obligation. I have been working with these patients and families for more than 15 years and have seen how new knowledge about the brain and consciousness made the status quo of neglect increasingly untenable and wrong. We now know that patients we thought were permanently unconscious are sometimes, in fact, conscious, albeit minimally conscious. They are often misdiagnosed and undertreated, leaving conscious individuals in the lurch. How this scientific progress informed our ethics and what it means for these patients and families is the subject of this book.

Q: How have a large number of patients with severe brain injuries been misdiagnosed?

A: That is a complex question which I explain at length in the book, but there are three key reasons for the diagnostic challenge.

Whedon ’87 Is Subject of New Biography

Joss Whedon '87 delivered Wesleyan's Commencement address in 2013.

Joss Whedon ’87 delivered Wesleyan’s Commencement address in 2013.

Award-winning film and television director, producer and writer Joss Whedon ’87 is the subject of the informative and entertaining Joss Whedon: The Biography (Chicago Review Press) by Amy Pascale, a director at MTV.

The book begins by tracing Whedon’s growth from a creative child and teenager who spent years away from his family at an elite English boarding school (Winchester College in Hampshire), through his early successes—which often turned into frustration in television (Roseanne) and film (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The biography then covers his breakout career turn as the creator, writer, and director of the highly successful Buffy television series, which garnered a passionate fan base.

Book about Josh Whedon '87.

Book about Josh Whedon ’87.

Following Buffy, Whedon directed, produced or wrote more television series (Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and the current ABC hit Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), several movies, Marvel comic books, and an innovative web series, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which gave him his first Emmy win. He went on to direct and write The Avengers film in 2012, which earned a worldwide box office of $1.5 billion. He followed this blockbuster with his film of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, a critically acclaimed personal project shot in black-and-white at his home with a cast of friends.

One of the chapters of the biography deals with Whedon’s time at Wesleyan, where he majored in film. As an undergraduate, he further developed his keen interest in gender studies and feminism. He also wrote a paper on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which focused on four themes: the Watcher, the Watched, Isolation, and the Role of the Viewer, themes that would appear in his own creative work. Whedon became a TA for film classes and made a student film. He studied with Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English Emeritus, and with Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, who says: “His lectures were absolutely brilliant. They had … a kind of poetry that showed how his heart and soul really understood the medium, as well as his brain … He wasn’t just intellectually sharp about film, he was also emotionally, creatively sharp about it.”

Pascale conducted extensive interviews with Whedon and his family, friends, collaborators and stars, resulting in candid, behind-the-scenes accounts of the making of his groundbreaking TV series and films, and new stories about his work with Pixar writers and animators during the creation of Toy Story.

Book by Williams ’60 Studies History and Forensic Analysis

Robert C. Williams '60

Robert C. Williams ’60

In his new book, The Forensic Historian: Using Science to Reexamine the Past (M. E. Sharpe), Robert Williams ’60 demonstrates how seemingly cold cases from history have been solved or had new light shed on them by scientists and historians using new forensic evidence. He provides examples ranging in time from Oetzi the Iceman—who died 5,300 years ago in the Swiss Alps from an arrow wound, yet is known to have had brown eyes Lyme disease, type-O blood, an intolerance to lactose, cavities, and tattoos—to the process of identifying Osama Bin Laden’s body in 2011.

Book by Robert C. Williams '60

Book by Robert C. Williams ’60

“Since World War II, forensic pathology and anthropology have slowly given way to genetics and DNA ‘fingerprinting,’ along with computer hardware and software, as scientific evidence that can stand up in court,” Williams comments in his introduction. “This book highlights that transition through specific case studies showing how modern forensic historians and scientists do their work and what kinds of evidence they must obtain.”

Samples of Beethoven’s hair and bones were found to have abnormally high levels of lead, suggesting he may have died from lead poisoning. The Shroud of Turin was carbon-dated back to the 14th century, not the 1st. The Titanic was found to have been assembled using low-quality rivets that almost certainly played a part in its sinking in 1912. These high-profile cases continue to hold the public’s fascination, and Williams provides a concise synopsis of the methods used to reach conclusions for each. Be forewarned, however, that what you hear in the news relating to cases like these will not always convey the hard science correctly.

“The media cannot wait patiently until forensic historians and scientists finish their plodding work,” writes Williams. “Thus the media often rush to create a virtual reality that encourages forensic historians to publicize their findings prematurely, often without peer review.”

Williams retired in the spring of 2003 as Vail Professor of History at Davidson College, where he served for 13 years as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty. He is the author of the best-selling Historian’s Toolbox and of numerous articles and books on Russian history, including Ruling Russian Eurasia: Khans, Clans, and Tsars; Russian Art and American Money, 1900–1940 (nominated by Harvard University Press for the Pulitzer Prize); Klaus Fuchs: Atom Spy; and Russia Imagined: Art, Culture, and National Identity, 1840–1995.


Frank ’70 Receives New England Book Prize

Stuart Frank '70

Stuart Frank ’70 (Photo by Mary Malloy)

Stuart Frank ’70, has been awarded the Historic New England Book Prize for 2013, for Ingenious Contrivances, Curiously Carved: Scrimshaw in the New Bedford Whaling Museum, published in Boston by David R. Godine. The award was formally presented on Nov. 3 at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The book is also the recipient of the Boston Bookmakers Prize for the year’s best work in the pictorial category.

Book by Stuart Frank '70

Book by Stuart Frank ’70

Frank’s book brings his expert’s eye to the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s intriguing collection. By the middle of the 19th century, the New England port of New Bedford was among the five richest cities in America, and it derived its wealth from whale oil, the “fossil fuel” of the early Industrial Revolution. The New Bedford whaling fleet was the most numerous, adventurous, and far-ranging in the world, taking long voyages as far as the Antarctic and Siberia.

In their spare time, some whalemen carved materials harvested from the whales themselves: the teeth and bones of sperm whales, baleen from right and bowhead whales, and walrus tusks acquired by barter from Native people in the Arctic. These resulting practical and decorative objects made from ivory and bone were often intricately carved and carefully crafted and served as mementos and treasured souvenirs to take back home. The objects included not only decorated sperm whale teeth that the word “scrimshaw” ordinarily brings to mind, but also crimpers and canes, umbrellas, and swifts.

Stuart Frank '70 and photographer Richard Donnelly examine a whale bone banjo which was displayed earlier this year at the New Bedford Whaling Musuem.

Stuart Frank ’70 (right) and photographer Richard Donnelly examine a whale bone banjo which was displayed earlier this year at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
(Photo by Arthur Motta)

The collection at the New Bedford Whaling Museum is the largest, most varied, and most representative in the world. Frank, who is senior curator at the museum, covers every possible permutation of these whalemen’s fancies. The comprehensive survey has 700 detailed and dramatic photographs by Richard Donnelly with compelling stories behind the objects themselves.

Frank, who earned master’s degrees at Yale and Brown and a Ph.D. in American civilization at Brown, is director emeritus of the Kendall Whaling Museum, and founder/director of the Scrimshaw Forensics Laboratory®. His previous books include Herman Melville’s Picture Gallery (awarded the John Lyman Book Award of the North American Society for Oceanic History), Dictionary of Scrimshaw Artists (also received the John Lyman Book Award), More Scrimshaw Artists, The Book of Pirate Songs, Jolly Sailors Bold: Ballads and Songs of the American Sailor (expanded from his doctoral dissertation), The New Book of Pirate Songs, and Scrimshaw and Provenance (published this year by Mystic Seaport).

With his wife, Mary Malloy, he has performed concert tours on four continents, presenting traditional sailors’ songs and ballads excavated from shipboard manuscripts in the New Bedford Whaling Museum collection.

Rabban ’71 Analyzes Late 19th-Century Legal Scholarship

David M. Rabban '71

David M. Rabban ’71

David Rabban ’71 is the author of Law’s History: American Legal Thought and the Transatlantic Turn to History (Cambridge University Press), concentrating on the central role of history in late 19th-century American legal thought. In the decades following the Civil War, the founding generation of professional legal scholars in the United States drew from the evolutionary social thought that pervaded Western intellectual life on both sides of the Atlantic. Their historical analysis of law as an inductive science rejected deductive theories and supported moderate legal reform, conclusions that challenge conventional accounts of legal formalism.

Book by David M. Rabban '71

Book by David M. Rabban ’71

The book is unprecedented in its coverage and its illuminating conclusions about major American legal thinkers from the Civil War to the present. It considers transatlantic intellectual history, legal history, the history of legal thought, historiography, jurisprudence, constitutional theory, and the history of higher education. American scholars who are the primary focus of this book include Henry Adams, James Barr Ames, Melville M. Bigelow, James Coolidge Carter, Thomas McIntyre Cooley, William Gardiner Hammond, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., John Norton Pomeroy, Roscoe Pound, James Bradley Thayer, Christopher G. Tiderman and Francis Wharton.

Rabban is Dahr Jamail, Randall Hage Jamail, and the Robert Lee Jamail Regents Chair in Law and University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas School of Law. He also is the author of Free Speech in Its Forgotten Years (1997).

Whitmore ’62 Co-Edits Essential Anthology About Vietnamese History

Book co-edited by John Whitmore '62.

Book co-edited by John Whitmore ’62.

John Whitmore ’62 has co-edited Sources of Vietnamese Tradition (Columbia University Press), a fascinating guide to 2,000 years of Vietnamese history and a comprehensive overview of the society and state of Vietnam. Well-chosen selections deal with key figures, issues, and events, and they create a thematic portrait of the country’s developing territory, politics, culture and relations with neighbors. The volume explores Vietnam’s remarkable independence in the face of Chinese and other external pressures while it recognizes the complexity of the Vietnamese experience over the years.

The anthology begins with selections that cover more than a millennium of Chinese dominance over Vietnam (111 B.C.E.–939 C.E.) and follows with texts that illuminate four centuries of independence ensured by the Ly, Tran and Ho dynasties (1009–1407). The earlier cultivation of Buddhism and Southeast Asian political practices by the monarchy gave way to two centuries of Confucian influence and bureaucratic governance (1407–1600), based on Chinese models, and three centuries of political competition between the north and the south, resolving in the latter’s favor (1600–1885).

The book’s final sections cover the colonial era and the modern age, and selections recount the ravages of war and the creation of a united, independent Vietnam in 1975. Each chapter includes readings that relate to the views, customs, outside influences on, and religious and philosophical beliefs of a rapidly changing people and culture.

Whitmore is a research associate at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, and a specialist on premodern Vietnamese and Southeast Asian history. He has taught at Yale University, the University of Virginia and the University of California-Los Angeles.