Category Archives: Books and Arts

Paul Robeson Paved the Way for Many, Writes Horne ’70

Gerald Horne ’70 (Courtesy Pluto Press)

Gerald Horne ’70 (Courtesy Pluto Press)

The book: Paul Robeson, who was born in “Jim Crow” Princeton in 1898 to a former slave, was called “the best known American on earth” in the 1950s. By the time he graduated from Rutgers University  — where he was the only African American student during his years there — and Columbia Law School, he already was on a trajectory to fame as an athlete and actor. But the higher calling of social justice caused Robeson to abandon the arts and become one of the leading political activists of his generation. In Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary, Gerald Horne ’70 argues that Robeson pioneered the early struggle against segregation, and that his fall enabled black leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to emerge.

The author: Gerald Horne ’70 is a professor of history and African American studies at the University of Houston. He is the author of numerous books, including Race Woman: The Lives of Shirley Graham Du Bois and Race War!: White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire.

Horne T02919[1]Opening lines: “Paul Robeson — activist, artist, athlete — experienced a dramatic rise and fall, perhaps unparalleled in U.S. history. From consorting with the elite of London society and Hollywood in the 1930s, by the time he died in 1976, he was a virtual recluse in a plain abode in a working-class neighborhood of Philadelphia.”

Reviews: Robin D.G. Kelley, a professor of history at UCLA and the author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, says, “In this powerful, concise account of one of the greatest internationalists of the 20th century, Gerald Horne returns Paul Robeson to his rightful place in history, squarely at the center of the black freedom movement and the global struggle for human rights.”

Wolff ’79 Chronicles Obama’s Love of Hoops, from Childhood to Baracketology

Audacity-of-Hoop_emaOn Tuesday, for the eighth and final time in his presidency, Barack Obama completed his NCAA Tournament brackets on a giant whiteboard in the Oval Office. The tradition of “Baracketology” is one of several nods that the president has made to his favorite sport. As Alexander Wolff ’79 writes in The Audacity of Hoop: Basketball and the Age of Obama, “other than golf to Ike, no game has been as tightly lashed to a president as basketball to Obama.”

Eisenhower’s fanatical devotion to golf inspired at least three books; for Obama and hoops, Wolff’s is the first.

Wolff, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, explains Obama’s basketball biography as a long and meaningful thread in his life story, dating back to the year when his father, Barack Sr., gave him a ball for Christmas. And the game may have helped to pave his way to the White House in 2008: Hoops-themed campaign stops aided strong primary performances in places such as North Carolina and Indiana. Continue reading

Knock *82 Captures the Life of George McGovern

Thomas J. Knock *82

Thomas J. Knock *82

The book: George McGovern had a life and impact that went well beyond his defeat in the 1972 presidential election, but that defeat is nearly always what he is remembered for. The Rise of a Prairie Statesman: The Life and Times of George McGovern tells the story of McGovern as senator, statesman, historian, and presidential nominee. Thomas J. Knock *82 uses McGovern’s private papers and in-depth interviews to provide a portrait of his life from his rustic boyhood in South Dakota through the high point of his political career at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Knock explores the pivotal moments in McGovern’s life, detailing his expansion of the school lunch program and his controversial criticism of the Vietnam War.

The author: Knock teaches at Southern Methodist University, specializing in foreign relations and 20th century history. He is also the author of To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order. Continue reading

Examining American Race Relations Through ‘The Little Rascals’

Julia Lee ’98 (R. Marsh Starks)

Julia Lee ’98 (R. Marsh Starks)

The book: Our Gang: A Racial History of the Little Rascals tells the story of Our Gang, later known as The Little Rascals, a television series that portrayed interracial friendships during a time of racial tension in America. Produced first as silent shorts in the 1920s and transitioning to television in the 1950s, Our Gang was progressive for its time, but still promoted many stereotypes. Author Julia Lee ’98 focuses on the personal history of four of the show’s stars as they navigated the changing and often contradiction-filled racial landscape of America.

The author: Lee, a professor at the University of Nevada, specializes in African American literature. Her first book was The American Slave Narrative and the Victorian Novel. Continue reading

Do We Have a Right to More Than One Child? Conly ’75 Says No

Sarah Conly ’75

Sarah Conly ’75

The argument driving Sarah Conly ’75’s latest book is stated unambiguously in its first sentence: “I’m going to argue here that we don’t have a right to more than one biological child.” In her new book, Conly makes clear that she feels it would be morally permissible to pass government legislation restricting how many children a couple can have.

Those inhabiting the planet today have a moral obligation to future generations, Conly asserts in One Child: Do We Have a Right to More? Given the environmental degradation occurring as a result of a growing global population — it increased sevenfold during the 19th and 20th centuries, from 1 billion in 1825 to 7 billion in 2011 — shrinking the world’s population is urgently important, she believes. Some would argue that state regulation would infringe on one’s right to choose how to live, but Conly argues that what people have a right to do is limited by how much harm it will cause others, including people who have yet to be born. Everyone has a right to procreate, she writes, but that right is not a right to procreate as many times as desired. Continue reading

Discovering Flavor: Mindfulness for Food

Helen Labun Jordan ’02

Helen Labun Jordan ’02

The book: We are surrounded by a world of flavors, says Helen Labun Jordan ’02, and we each have the capacity for that exploration. But Jordan’s curiosity may be greater than that of most diners. In Discovering Flavor, she recounts sampling rotted shark, pan-fried crickets, and a cocktail concoction of whiskey, gin, maple syrup, and pickle juice that, she recounts, tasted like vomit. But gourmet sensibilities aren’t necessary for appreciating food, Jordan says. She explains how to understand flavor using everyday foods — such as coffee, bacon, wine, and pie — and how to distinguish the subtle flavor differences of foods, as well as how to develop a vocabulary to identify them.

The author: Jordan ’02 has been writing about food for more than a decade, covering everything from pie contests to the future of apples for magazines and radio programs. She works at Bear Pond Books, an independent bookstore in Montpelier, Vt., where she reviews new cookbooks. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University. Continue reading

An Uncensored Look into the Pentagon’s Brain

Annie Jacobsen ’89

Annie Jacobsen ’89

For nearly 60 years, the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has been a hub of innovations generated by some of the country’s top scientific minds. The agency’s best-known inventions include the Internet, GPS, and drones. In The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency, Annie Jacobsen ’89 examines questions about the implications of DARPA’s work.

Housed in the Pentagon until 1972, what is known as the “Pentagon’s Brain” now has its headquarters in a nondescript glass and steel building in Arlington, Va. Within the walls of that unmarked building, work is being done that is “10 to 20 years ahead of the technology in the public domain,” all of it in secret, Jacobsen writes. One example is the development, beginning in the 1960s, of the technology that in 2001 brought drones to the battlefield for the first time. By 2014, more than 80 countries had military-grade drones, underscoring the need for DARPA’s secrecy, she writes. Jacobsen, who conducted 71 interviews with insiders and relied on private documents and declassified memos to write the book, asks if DARPA’s activities help safeguard democracy or encourage America’s willingness to plunge into war. Continue reading

Agus ’87’s Pens Guide to Harnessing the Advances of the ‘Lucky Years’

David Agus ’87

David Agus ’87

Health care isn’t a right; it’s a responsibility. That’s one of the premises of The Lucky Years by oncologist David Agus ’87. What Agus calls “the lucky years” is the era we live in now, the first time “we have at our disposal all the information we need to design our own health.” Thanks to a wealth of technology and data available, those living in developed countries have the potential to live longer than ever. But with those advances comes the potential for confusion and misinformation.

Drawing on his experience as a physician and a biomedical researcher, Agus writes about everything from genetic testing to mobile apps, helping readers navigate the sometimes contradictory information about new technologies and debunking misconceptions, such as the necessity of surgery to cure appendicitis. (In 2015, he writes, studies showed that 70 percent of appendicitis patients who took antibiotics did not need surgery.) He also addresses advances in cancer treatment, such as the benefits and perils of sequencing tumors to reveal gene variants that can be targeted with drugs. Continue reading

A Debut Novel by Professor Idra Novey Tackles Translation

Professor Idra Novey

Professor Idra Novey

The protagonist of Idra Novey’s debut novel Ways to Disappear is a translator of Brazilian literature named Emma, who lives in Pittsburgh with her rather boring boyfriend. When Beatriz Yagoda, the author Emma has spent her career translating, disappears, Emma takes the next flight to Brazil to contend with loan sharks, washed-up literary agents, and the unfinished draft of Beatriz’ latest book to search for the missing novelist.

Novey, a lecturer in creative writing, is the author of two books of poetry, including Exit, Civilian, which was a National Poetry Series winner, and a translator of Spanish and Portuguese authors. She teaches translation at Princeton. Novey spoke with PAW about the art of translation, loan sharks, and surviving a monsoon.

The novel deals with the art of translating and Emma’s complicated relationship to her author. How much do these relationships draw on your own experience?

I translated a novel by a Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, who died long before I translated her, which meant I couldn’t ask her any of the questions I had about her work. As a result, she became a kind of phantom voice in my head. Continue reading

Seabrook ’81 Explains How Deeply Infectious Hit Songs Are Made

John Seabrook ’81

John Seabrook ’81

By Marc Fisher ’80

There’s a bedrock belief in the world of popular music: people’s taste is established in their late teens and early 20s, and doesn’t change thereafter. There’s even some good social-science data to back this up. So John Seabrook ’81 is very much the exception when he reacts to his son’s interest in rhythmic pop — from Flo Rida’s “Right Round” to Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” — by diving headlong into new sounds.

The spawn of that exploration is The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory, a portrait of the largely unknown producers who manufacture today’s digitally manipulated, multi-layered hit songs. Seabrook is a New Yorker writer who also plays guitar in The Sequoias, a Stones- and Neil Young-heavy cover band of journalists that includes Seabrook’s boss, David Remnick ’81.

In the Internet age, when we’re empowered to wander into the infinite niches of the digital culture, hugely popular hit songs by Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and Britney Spears play an enhanced role in building community, Seabrook says: “When I hear one of these songs on the radio of a passing car, it creates a feeling, a bond. It connects you to other people in a way that other art forms don’t.” Continue reading

Laqueur *73 Unearths the History of Mortal Remains

Thomas Laqueur *73

Thomas Laqueur *73

From the monumental pyramids of Egypt to the modern cemeteries of Arlington, humans always have cared deeply about the dead and the work of attending to their remains. When Diogenes told his students to treat his corpse as an empty husk and toss it to the wild animals, he violated one of humankind’s only universal taboos. In The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains, Thomas Laqueur *73 argues that human society is profoundly shaped by the activity of caring for the dead. The process promises meaning and remembrance, and helps us to live with the knowledge of our own mortality, Laqueur points out, writing, “The living need the dead far more than the dead need the living.” Continue reading

Fast ’70 Explores the Links Between Shame and Violence

Jonathan Fast ’70

In Beyond Bullying: Breaking the Cycle of Shame, Bullying, and Violence, Jonathan Fast ’70 explains that some researchers trace the roots of all criminal violence back to shame. Many agree that shame is an inborn emotion — one that once served an evolutionary purpose and continues to be a teaching tool, but that nowadays often has complex, even violent consequences.

Fast explores the idea that “the lion’s share of human misery is the result of shame that is misdirected, unidentified, or unacknowledged.” He adds, “We avoid naming shame and retreat from discussing it, as Harry Potter’s friends avoid mentioning Voldemort.” He argues that beyond its usual associations with childhood, shame remains a large part of adult life, even if it is no longer recognized explicitly as such. Continue reading

Holiday Reading: PAW Asked Six Alumni Authors for Their Holiday-Reading Suggestions

Boris Fishman ’01

Boris Fishman ’01 (Rob Liguori)

Boris Fishman ’01 (Rob Liguori)

One book held me so hard I barely went outside for three days: Peter Godwin’s When A Crocodile Eats the Sun, a heartbreaking account of his father’s decline alongside the decline of their beloved and native Zimbabwe. Godwin is that rarest of writers: A master craftsman whose work is also profoundly moving. He’s also a former Princeton professor. I recently read Doris Lessing’s The Fifth Child, about a bad egg in an otherwise decent family, and am still rattling.

Fishman is the author of the novel A Replacement Life . His new novel, Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo , comes out in March.

Dan-el Padilla Peralta ’06

Dan-el Padilla Peralta ’06 (Courtesy Dan-el Padilla Peralta)

Dan-el Padilla Peralta ’06 (Courtesy Dan-el Padilla Peralta)

Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies is an engrossing depiction of a marriage from two perspectives. It is masterful in the craft of its sentences, the architecture of its plot, the dexterity of its classical allusions.

Shea Serrano’s The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed is a gorgeously illustrated, witty, and often pointed dissection of the genre.

Padilla is the author of Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League.

Alice Eve Cohen ’76

Alice Eve Cohen ’76 (Janet Charles Photography)

Alice Eve Cohen ’76 (Janet Charles Photography)

As a memoirist, I’m fascinated by fiction that reads like memoir and memoir that reads like fiction. Two years after first reading A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, I still dip into it on a regular basis, savoring the language and trying to unravel its mysteries. A woman named Ruth (like the author) finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox on a beach in the Pacific Northwest, probably washed up by the 2011 tsunami. Inside the lunchbox is the diary of a 16-year-old Japanese girl with a fabulous imagination, sardonic wit, and suicidal fantasies.

I was already a fan of the new musical Fun Home, based on Alison Bechdel’s book, when I read her graphic novel-memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. With lush language and beautifully detailed cartoon panels, Bechdel draws the reader into her story of a lesbian cartoonist looking back at her childhood to try to understand her complicated, closeted gay father. Heartbreaking, funny, and profound.

Cohen’s most recent book is the memoir The Year My Mother Came Back. Continue reading

Orr ’96 Transforms the Reading of America’s Most Beloved Poem

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

David Orr ’96

David Orr ’96

These are among the most famous lines of American poetry ever penned. People all over the English-speaking world can conjure them up, quoting the conclusion of Robert Frost’s most famous poem, The Road Not Taken. The poem’s clean language, simple cadence, and easy rhymes have become a part of America’s cultural fabric, appearing in television commercials, song lyrics, and video games. Yet, as poetry critic David Orr ’96 explains in The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong, Frost’s beloved poem is anything but easy to understand.

It is a familiar story: The lonely traveler stands paralyzed at the fork in the road, forced to make a decision. Eventually he takes one road, and years later he imagines himself reflecting on how this decision made all the difference in his life. Is this a poem about rugged individualism and self-assertion? Or is it about indecision and our indulgent justification of decisions that at the time were mostly arbitrary? Has the poem tricked its audience for all these years? After all, Frost is careful to tell us that the road “less traveled” is “worn … really about the same” as the unpicked route. The difference lies only in the narrator’s imagination. Continue reading

Unlike ‘The Girl Who Could Not Dream,’ Durst ’96 Can Conjure Up Fantasy

Sarah Beth Durst ’96

Sarah Beth Durst ’96

When author Sarah Beth Durst ’96 had the idea for The Girl Who Could Not Dream, she knew right away what kind of book it would be: a children’s novel geared to readers ages 8 to 12.

“The story dictates the genre,” says Durst, who always wanted to be a writer. In her latest book, she tells the story of a girl experiencing her first adventure with her best friend, who is a wisecracking, cupcake-loving, multi-tentacled monster.

Durst has written nine fantasy novels for young-adult and middle-grade readers. She finds freedom in writing for children because she can be silly and sincere, chasing her imagination “down any rabbit hole.” The secret to writing for kids is not to write for them, but to “write for yourself through the eyes of a child. Your 10-year-old self must think it’s awesome,” says Durst, who won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature in 2013. Continue reading

Busker’s Holiday: A Nostalgia-filled Tale of Buddies and the Blues

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Adam Gussow ’79 *00

The book: After a failed romance, McKay Chernoff, a 26-year-old Columbia grad student and blues harmonica player, decides to spend the summer in Europe as a busker (a street performer who plays for money) and heal his broken heart. Flying to Paris with friend Paul Goldberg, Chernoff meets Billy Lee Grant, who goads him into a wild romp of wine, women, and running from the police. Their odyssey continues through France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland as they meet colorful characters and play music on the way. Part road-trip novel, part buddy story, Busker’s Holiday recounts a trip of a lifetime.

The author: Adam Gussow ’79 *00 is an associate professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi and a professional blues harmonica player and teacher. He has written three books on the blues, including Mister Satan’s Apprentice. Like his Busker’s Holiday protagonist, he busked in the streets of Paris in his youth. Continue reading

Professor Michael Wood Fends off Conspiracy Theories to Award a Highly Regarded Literary Prize

Professor Michael Wood

Professor Michael Wood

Every year a panel of five judges spends the better part of a year reading, analyzing, and debating the best literature that the English-writing world has produced in the last 12 months. At the end of that year, the judges award the Man Booker Prize for the best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom. For years, this process has been the center of intense scrutiny.

This year, the chair of judges was literary critic and Princeton professor of comparative literature emeritus Michael Wood. On Oct. 21, a week after the winner was announced, Wood hosted a public conversation at Princeton about the judging process, telling his audience that it involved a lot more reading — and a lot less excitement — than people like to believe. “The more interesting aspect of the prize is not what actually happens, but what people think happens — the conspiracy theories, who bribed who, theories about passing on drugs. Actually, we had this fairly boring meeting by those criteria. No promises of future employment, no twisting of people’s arms,” Wood said. “It’s less like a conspiracy theory than game theory.” Continue reading

Killer Care: Can the Medical Profession Learn From Its Mistakes?

James B. Lieber ’71

James B. Lieber ’71

In Killer Care: How Medical Error Became America’s Third Largest Cause of Death, and What Can be Done About It, James B. Lieber ’71 recounts enough medical tragedies — a college freshman’s death from a drug interaction, a young girl’s death due to a mismatched blood type — to make the most willing patient worry.

Lieber, a Pittsburgh-based lawyer, spent more than a decade researching medical errors after his mentor, a prominent attorney, died from a prescription overdose following a lung transplant. A victim of misdiagnosis himself — he almost had his toes amputated in a “never event,” a surgery the medical profession admits never should have happened — Lieber wants to give consumers a wake-up call.

“My goal is to bring this atrocious social problem that kills upwards of a quarter of a million people per year to the attention of the public,” Lieber says in an email. “Like Ralph Nader [’55], I think people have a right to be free from physical mayhem caused by businesses, including health care.” Continue reading

Sociologist Czerniawski ’03 Goes Undercover as a Plus-Sized Model

Amanda Czerniawski ’03

Amanda Czerniawski ’03

Amanda Czerniawski ’03 was a trained sociologist, a former child actor, and a graduate from two of America’s best universities when she decided to spend more than two years working as a model in New York City. At a size 10, Czerniawski had always thought of her body as average-sized, but in the fashion industry, she — like all women who wear more than a size eight — is considered plus-sized.

Fashioning Fat: Inside Plus-Sized Modeling is part memoir, part academic study. Czerniawski, who has a Ph.D. from Columbia University and is on the faculty of the sociology department at Temple University, punctuates her experiences as a model with interviews, sociological theory, and research on the modeling industry. Going from casting calls and agency meetings to hours-long hair and make-up sessions, Czerniawski discovered that plus-sized modeling both validated and challenged her self-esteem. “Here I was, a Princeton grad, the product of these super institutions, and it didn’t matter,” she says. “In fact, it hindered me because I wanted to speak up, and I wasn’t allowed to. I was judged before I even opened my mouth.” Continue reading

Masello ’74’s Novel Combines World War II, Einstein, and the Supernatural

Robert Masello ’74

Robert Masello ’74

It is 1944, and World War II is still roiling Europe. Lucas Athan, the hero of Robert Masello ’74’s novel The Einstein Prophecy, has just returned to his post as an art history professor at Princeton after a stint as an army lieutenant. Sometimes it almost feels as if he never left — and then he remembers the black patch that now covers the spot where his left eye used to be, before he lost it in an accident on his last army mission.

The Egyptian sarcophagus he was sent to recover is at Princeton for study, and Lucas starts to suspect that there might be more to it than initially appears. Archaeologist Simone Rashid arrives with cryptic warnings about the sarcophagus, which she claims to have discovered with her father. Then strange events involving Albert Einstein, who is Lucas’ neighbor, begin to occur. As Lucas and Simone work together to untangle the mystery, it becomes clear that their work has landed them in a struggle between good and unmitigated evil. Continue reading

Williams ’87 Writes of Shipwreck and Ruin on the High Seas

Naomi Williams ’87

Naomi Williams ’87

In 1785, two frigates with 200 men aboard left Europe intending to circumnavigate the globe. For the glory of France and the chance to put their names on the ever-expanding map, these men and their leader, La Pérouse, took their microscopes, telescopes, and Enlightenment ideals to the high seas. Less than four years later, both ships had mysteriously disappeared, wrecked on a coral atoll in the South Pacific. Every man on board was lost, his final story destined to be forgotten. But what happened in those intervening years as they sailed from the southern tip of South America to the eastern coast of Russia and on to the newly mapped continent of Australia?

landfallsIn Landfalls: A Novel, Naomi Williams ’87 follows the historic journey of the La Pérouse expedition. Drawing on extensive research, she narrates each chapter from a different perspective and place. In one chapter, a native Alaskan Tlingit child tries to make sense of the Europeans’ arrival in her bay. In another, a lieutenant mourns the massacre of his shipmates in the Navigator Islands. The story ends in tragedy, but the shipwreck is by no means the most interesting thing that happens in this novel — cultures, storm systems, and individuals clash in fascinating ways.

The New York Times says Williams’ debut novel is “ambitious and meticulous” while Kirkus calls the book “literary art of the first order, intelligent and evocative in the way of the best of historical fiction.”

Continue reading

A Peek at the Art that Artists Live With

Amanda Benchley ’91 and Stacey Georgen ’90

Amanda Benchley ’91 and Stacey Goergen ’90

Artists Living With Art provides a peek into the homes of 30 New York-based painters, sculptors, and photographers — and a window into how they think about their art. The book, by Stacey Goergen ’90 and Amanda Benchley ’91, features more than 200 color photographs of the lofts, apartments, houses, and a former Harlem church where the artists live, along with interviews with each artist.

“It’s very delicate to ask somebody to go into their home and photograph their personal things,” says Goergen, who is an independent curator and journalist. But seeing the images and objects they surrounded themselves with provided “great insight into the artists’ practices.” Those who had their homes photographed “were very interested in seeing what the other artists featured in the book lived with,” says Benchley, a freelance filmmaker and journalist. Continue reading

Rieff ’78 Examines the Roadblocks to Ending Global Hunger

David Rieff ’78

David Rieff ’78

In 2000, the prices of food staples such as wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans had fallen to a record low. Some experts assumed the trend would continue, and access to inexpensive food for the three billion people who survive on less than two dollars a day would drastically improve.

However, “they could not have been more wrong,” David Rieff ’78 writes in The Reproach of Hunger. By 2008, the global food crisis was in full bloom — the price of wheat, for example, had risen by 130 percent. This spelled disaster for the many for whom food staples are often not just one part of a varied diet but the only buffer between survival and starvation. Though more than enough food is produced to feed everyone on the planet, food prices continue to swing to record-breaking highs and lows, thanks to factors such as climate change and the use of crops for livestock feed and fuel instead of food, writes Rieff, who spent six years reporting the book. Continue reading

Girls Coming to Tech! by Amy Sue Bix ’87

Amy Sue Bix ’87

Amy Sue Bix ’87

The book: In the 1950s, women made up less than one percent of students in American engineering programs. By 2010, that number had skyrocketed — women were earning 18 percent of bachelor’s degrees and almost 22 percent of doctorates in the field. Amy Sue Bix ’87 explores how the few women who did enter engineering overcame gender biases before World War II, when wartime needs channeled women into defense work. Through case studies of postwar engineering coeducation at Georgia Tech, Caltech, and MIT, Bix discusses the various stereotypes women faced: They would waste their education, they wouldn’t be good at engineering, and they must be unfeminine to be interested in science.

The author: Amy Sue Bix ’87 is an associate professor of history at Iowa State University, where she also is director of the Center for Historical Studies of Technology and Science.

Continue reading

It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! And Black Power Television by Gayle Wald *95

Gayle Wald *95

Gayle Wald *95

The book: It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! And Black Power Television tells the story of the groundbreaking but understudied television program Soul!, which was broadcast on public TV between 1968 and 1973. The only nationally televised program of that time dedicated to cultural expressions of the black freedom movement, Soul! provided a stage for black-culture heroes such as Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte as well as a forum for activists Stokely Carmichael and Louis Farrakhan. Airing at the height of the Black Power era, the show also serves as an archive of black performance.

The author: Gayle Wald *95 is a professor of English and American studies at George Washington University. She is the author of two other books, including Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and has published articles on race, popular music, and feminist and gender studies. Continue reading

Nights in the ER: Muñoz ’00 Chronicles His Journey to Becoming a Doctor

Daniel Muñoz ’00

Daniel Muñoz ’00

Daniel Muñoz ’00 was a medical resident at John Hopkins University when a 39-year-old having a heart attack was wheeled into the emergency room. After serving as part of the team that saves the man’s life, Muñoz discovered something: “I knew where I wanted to be: not watching but doing, on the side of the glass where I can help shape a patient’s fate. I would be a cardiologist.”

Alpha Docs: The Making of a Cardiologist, written with James M. Dale, is his account of his transformation from medical student to professional as he completes the first year of a cardiology fellowship at Hopkins. Muñoz describes how he arrives at diagnoses, counsels worried family members, and struggles to stay awake for days and nights on end. “As a trainee, you’re hungry to become competent, and you look for opportunities to try something,” says Muñoz, who now is an assistant professor of medicine and the medical director for quality at Vanderbilt University’s Heart and Vascular Institute. “At the same time, you recognize the patient wants it done right the first time, so there’s a tension between the two.” Continue reading

Who Do You Love: A Novel, by Jennifer Weiner ’91

Jennifer Weiner ’91

Jennifer Weiner ’91

The book: When Rachel Blum and Andy Landis meet in a hospital emergency room, about the only thing they have in common is their age: 8. Rachel, born with a heart defect, is the privileged daughter of overprotective Jewish Floridians, while Andy, who is biracial, is the son of an impoverished single mother in Philadelphia. Though they think they will never meet again, they connect on a high-school volunteer trip and fall in love. Who Do You Love follows their relationship — filled with twists and turns — over the next three decades. The book explores the differences between people and also touches on issues of race, class, religion, and the costs of fame.

The author: Jennifer Weiner ’91 is the bestselling author of 12 novels, including Good in Bed, All Fall Down, and In Her Shoes, which became a 2005 motion picture starring Cameron Diaz. She has written for The New York Times and has appeared on The Today Show and Good Morning America. In an interview on CBS News, Weiner said Who Do You Love was inspired by her own romance. Continue reading

What To Read? Hankin ’10 Recommends

Laura Hankin ’10

Laura Hankin ’10

Laura Hankin ’10’s new novel, The Summertime Girls, is a story of two lifelong friends who reunite for one more summer in small-town Maine and must bridge the gap that has grown between them. PAW asked her to share her favorite books by Princetonians.

 


 

9780195378238Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical

By Stacy Wolf, Princeton professor of theater

If you’re a fan of Broadway musicals and/or feminism, you’ll delight in Wolf’s insightful history. If you’re not a fan, perhaps it’s time to reconsider.

 

louisameetsbearLouisa Meets Bear

By Lisa Gornick ’77

In her series of interconnected stories, Gornick creates a compelling world of characters so flawed and realistic, it makes you ache in recognition.

 

71sJpKGagtLMiddlesex

By Jeffrey Eugenides, Princeton professor of creative writing

You’ve probably read this one already. (After all, it won the Pulitzer Prize.) But in case you haven’t, get on it! Sweeping, hilarious, and heartbreaking, with an unforgettable narrator.

 

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Is The Working Mother’s Juggle Really So Harried? Vanderkam ’01 Finds Out

Laura Vanderkam ’01

Laura Vanderkam ’01

The image of the harried mom struggling to juggle a career and children is ingrained in our notion of modern life. But is it accurate? Writer Laura Vanderkam ’01 decided to gather some hard data on the subject. She collected time logs for 1,001 days in the lives of women who make at least $100,000 a year and found that most were not as frenetic as pictured: the women averaged a little under eight hours of sleep a night, and about three-quarters of them had time to do something personal during the workday. The logs revealed very few women consistently worked more than 60 hours a week, even if they claimed to.

“It turns out having a demanding career and a family means you will not be a sleep-deprived mess,” says Vanderkam, who describes her findings — and offers examples of strategies her subjects use to get everything done — in I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time.
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Nye ’58 Says Reports of America’s Decline are Greatly Exaggerated

Joseph Nye ’58

Joseph Nye ’58

Some people think that the United States has already been — or soon will be — eclipsed as the world’s leading power. But Joseph Nye ’58, the former dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, argues in Is the American Century Over? that America’s preeminence will continue for decades to come.

If having the world’s largest economy makes a country the world’s most powerful nation, then “the American century” — roughly defined as the 20th century — may already be over, since some calculations indicate that China already has a GDP that has surpassed that of the United States, Nye writes. Though China’s huge market can overtake the United States in economic size, we will not automatically witness “the Chinese century” if we consider economic, military, and “soft power,” Nye points out in the slim book, which takes the form of an essay. (By “soft power,” a term he coined in the 1980s, Nye means the ability to affect others through attraction and persuasion.) China has the world’s largest army but spends far less on defense than the United States, its population is aging, and it lacks soft power. Continue reading