Category Archives: Books and Arts

Mourning — and Celebrating — Abraham Lincoln’s Death

Martha Hodes *91

Martha Hodes *91

The president literally stopped the show when he walked into Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary, had arrived late to that night’s performance; the comedy Our American Cousin already had begun. As they took their seats in the dress circle, the actors onstage paused and the audience cheered. Lincoln bowed. Around 10:15 p.m., as Lincoln laughed at a line in the play, John Wilkes Booth shot him in the back of the head. The next morning, Lincoln was dead.

The nation’s seemingly universal reaction to the first presidential assassination is well documented in contemporary newspapers, in the formal expressions of condolences that followed, and in memoirs published in later decades. In Mourning Lincoln, Martha Hodes *91 asks: What were the “raw reactions” of people on the street, with their families, and by themselves when they heard the news? Some felt that “North and South are weeping together” but others thought the news was “glorious,” Hodes writes. She also explores how the aftermath of the assassination ultimately shaped the legacy of the Civil War. Continue reading

Two Princetonians and a Motorcycle, Along the White Nile

John Hopkins ’60

John Hopkins ’60

It is 1961, and John Hopkins ’60 and Joe McPhillips ’58 have just returned from Peru. After responding to the letter of a fellow Ivy Club alumnus who has invited those traveling to Kenya to stay with him, Hopkins and McPhillips decide to board a ship to Naples and from there travel through Europe to Africa. In Munich, they buy a white BMW motorcycle they christen “The White Nile” for the African river they will follow during their journey. Hopkins’ The White Nile Diaries retraces the two friends’ long ago adventures and offers a glimpse into a time when Africa was a tantalizing adventure for some young men.

The book intersperses accounts of the pair’s sojourns in each country with letters from their host in Kenya. Along the way, Hopkins and McPhillips are set upon by a group of armed men seeking revenge for violence in Tunisia and are shot at by Libyan soldiers as they try to slip unnoticed across the border with their undocumented motorcycle. They experience the 120-degree dry heat of the Sahara, the inside of a jail cell in Libya, and the wonders of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Like a North American Che Guevara and Alberto Granado, Hopkins and McPhillips travel 6,000 miles and arrive at Impala Farm, which turns out to be very different from what they expected. Continue reading

Capturing the Struggles of Military Families In Blue Stars, a Novel

Emily Gray Tedrowe ’95

Emily Gray Tedrowe ’95

When Emily Gray Tedrowe ’95’s brother, a Marine, was serving in Iraq in 2006, she ignored news of the war and tried to stay focused on caring for her newborn baby: “I was just so focused on getting through the experience that for a long time I didn’t want to read or write about war at all,” she says.

But after her brother’s safe return, she found herself thinking about the lives of those who remain behind when their loved ones go to war. Drawing on her own experiences and extensive research about military families and veterans, Tedrowe wrote Blue Stars, a novel about the struggles of families coping with a wounded soldier returning from war.

Tedrowe introduces readers to two women: Ellen, a bookish literature professor who sends short stories to her adopted son during his deployment; and Lacey, a wayward young mother who marries a soldier for stability and struggles to play the dutiful Army wife. When both soldiers are injured, the women relocate to apartments near Walter Reed Army Medical Center, enduring months of unresponsive doctors and bureaucratic mismanagement as they fight for better care for the men, who have psychological wounds. Continue reading

For Busy Adults, a Hands-on Approach to Becoming More Creative

Danny Gregory ’82

Danny Gregory ’82

Who has time for art these days? “You don’t have a second to catch your breath. To smell the roses or the coffee. Your life is getting more and more full and crazy,” Danny Gregory ’82 writes in Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to Be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are. Gregory believes that art can make people “saner and happier,” and help them be present and really see the beautiful things they already have. He offers pages filled with striking illustrations, accompanied by instructions for drawing activities that readers can do in a few minutes every day.

Readers learn how to make “art with a small ‘a’,” starting on the first day by drawing the contours of their breakfast. Next, Gregory encourages them to draw their medicine cabinets, their reflections in the coffee pot, their napping children, passing strangers, and animals in a zoo. There are activities to do during traffic jams, at the doctor’s office, and with groups of friends. Ultimately, Gregory writes, “Creativity can become a habit that fits into your life, like Pilates or flossing, only a lot more fulfilling.” Continue reading

Heather Butts ’94 Chronicles the Lives of African American Health Care Workers During the Civil War

Heather Butts ’94

Heather Butts ’94

In African American Medicine in Washington, D.C: Healing the Capital During the Civil War Era, Heather Butts ’94 chronicles the largely unsung service of African American health care workers during the Civil War.

Obtaining health care training was a difficult task for African Americans. Alexander Augusta learned to read in secret and had to leave the United States to study at a medical school in Canada, Butts writes. Augusta wrote to President Abraham Lincoln and the secretary of war, seeking an appointment as a physician in an African American regiment, and eventually was appointed surgeon of the United States Colored Troops. But even as he provided care for soldiers, Augusta faced racism. While traveling from the D.C. area to Philadelphia, he was surrounded by an angry mob that threatened his life. Continue reading

Q & A: Maya Rock ’02 on Her Novel Scripted

Maya Rock ’02

Maya Rock ’02

Q: What is your novel about?

A: The book is set on an island whose inhabitants are on a reality show that’s filmed 24 hours a day. They’re all aware of it. If characters get poor ratings, they’re cut, and no one knows what happens to them.

Scripted explores identity using the lens of reality television.  The people on the show — the characters — have to figure out how much of their identity is self-generated and how much comes from performing for an audience.

Q: You worked as a literary agent. How did that background help you?

A: Having been a literary agent kept me from romanticizing publishing. It was easier for me to believe that rejection and criticism weren’t personal because I had rejected and criticized so many manuscripts.

9780399257339_large_Scripted (1)Q: Your book is for young adults, a category that has soared in popularity recently and has lots of adult readers. Why did you want to write a YA book?

A: When I was growing up just outside New York, I had access to the New Rochelle Public Library, which has a great children’s and young adult collection. I started writing as a hobby, and I experimented with writing in a lot of different genres, but this was the only one I’d managed to write a novel in. On a gut level, YA always felt fun to me.