Category Archives: Books and Arts

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.

Kardos ’92 Pens Psychological Thriller

Michael Kardos ’92

Michael Kardos ’92

In 2012, The New York Times Book Review wrote, “Michael Kardos’ first novel, The Three Day Affair, is so disturbing it makes you wonder what he might have in mind for his second book.” That novel, Before He Finds Her, takes readers to a small town on the Jersey Shore where, 15 years before, Ramsey Miller murdered his wife and three-year-old daughter. Everyone in the town of Silver Bay knows the story, but the story they know isn’t correct. Ramsey’s daughter, Melanie Denison, wasn’t murdered. She is living in a witness-protection program and, at 17, is pregnant.

Driven by the hope of providing a normal life for her child, Melanie returns to Silver Bay to find her father before he finds her. Kardos intertwines the story of Melanie’s search with an account of the days leading up to the murder. Probing the complex psychology of his characters, Kardos investigates a fundamental question: Can people really change? Filled with characters who have gone down dangerous paths, the novel explores relationships distorted by blind faith.  Continue reading

From Ballet to B-Boying: Margaret Fuhrer ’06 Writes a History of American Dance

Margaret Fuhrer ’06

Margaret Fuhrer ’06

Famed choreographer Jerome Robbins originally conceived the plot of the musical West Side Story as a tale between rival Italian and Irish gangs on the Lower East Side, so the show would have been called East Side Story. Breakdancing, the 1980s street dance phenomenon, actually was called “b-boying” by its practitioners. These are a few of the nuggets unearthed by Margaret Fuhrer ’06 for her book American Dance: The Complete Illustrated History.

Fuhrer explores the history and evolution of dance, from Native American rituals that are hundreds of years old to the hip-hop move known as the Dougie. Fuhrer, who is editor-in-chief of Dance Spirit magazine, trained as a classical ballerina until a knee injury in high school derailed her dreams of a career as a dancer. After graduating from Princeton, she earned a master’s degree at New York University in cultural reporting and criticism so she could combine her passions for writing and dance. “Having been inside dance, having felt the way it feels, really does inform the way you write about it,” she says.

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David Treuer ’92’s Novel Explores Secrets and Desire in World War II-era America

David Treuer ’92

David Treuer ’92

It is August 1942. Frankie Washburn has left his life as a Princeton student to return to the Pines, his family’s rustic Minnesota home on an Indian reservation, one last time before he joins the Air Force. Waiting for him are his parents; the Indian caretaker he spent childhood summers quietly shadowing; Billy, a longtime friend who has become something much more intimate; and the news that a German prisoner-of-war has escaped from the camp across the river.

The search for the German soldier culminates in a shocking act of violence with consequences that will shape the characters’ lives. In Prudence, David Treuer ’92 pushes the boundaries of gender, race, and sexual orientation to tell a story of loss and desire in World War II-era America. Nobel Prize-winning author and professor emeritus Toni Morrison calls the novel “a wondrous and mesmerizing narrative — intricate, seductive, and wholly gratifying.” Continue reading

100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go, by Marcia DeSanctis ’82

Marcia DeSanctis ’82

Marcia DeSanctis ’82

The book: From food and wine to art and fashion, the 100 vignettes in this guidebook seem to cover all that typifies France. Like any good Baedeker, the book explains not only where to go but why to go there. Essays describe tourist meccas — the châteaux of the Loire Valley, for example — as well as easily overlooked but fascinating sites such as Christian Dior’s childhood home on the coast of Normandy and the memorial museum to 44 Jewish children seized by the Nazis in Izieu. Woven throughout is practical advice for women travelers: When walking La Croisette, Cannes’ fabled avenue frequented by film stars, the author says, “leave the sweats and Dos Equis T-shirt at the bottom of your canvas tote.” Since its publication in November, 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go has spent three months on The New York Times Best Sellers list in the travel category.

The author: Marcia DeSanctis ’82 is an award-winning travel writer who spent several years living and working in Paris. Her essays and articles have appeared in Vogue, Town & Country, and The New York Times, among many other publications. Before becoming a writer, she spent 18 years as a television news producer. Continue reading