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
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.
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
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
Richard S. Dunn *52 *55
Historian Richard S. Dunn *52 *55 has spent the last 40 years constructing a portrait of the final decades of slavery. In A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia, Dunn draws a richly compelling history of the lives of three generations of slaves at the Mesopotamia sugar estate in Jamaica and the Mount Airy plantation in Virginia.
“Slavery caused terrible suffering to the black people in both regions,” Dunn writes, “but in strikingly dissimilar ways.” At Mesopotamia, Dunn found, life was marked by deadly work regimens, rampant disease, and dependence on the slave trade for new laborers. At Mount Airy, families often were broken up as “surplus” slaves were sold or moved to other work sites. More than 200 of the estate’s slaves were sent 800 miles away, Dunn found in his study of the papers left behind by the owners. Dunn provides a detailed account of the lives of two enslaved women: field hand Sarah Affir from Mesopotamia and Winney Grimshaw at Mount Airy. Continue reading
Professor Julian Zelizer
In the three years between November 1963, when he became president, and November 1966, when the Democratic Party was routed in the midterm elections, Lyndon Johnson pushed through Congress the legislative accomplishments of the “Great Society:” the Civil Rights Act, the War on Poverty program, Medicare and Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act, and the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.
Previous assessments of Johnson’s presidency have attributed his success to a receptive Congress and his force of personality, buttressed by his 6-foot-4-inch stature and his use of “the Treatment,” which history and public affairs professor Julian Zelizer describes as “physically and verbally bullying, cajoling, lobbying, and threatening.”
In The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society, Zelizer questions that view. He examines the crucial role Congress played in passing and eventually blocking initiatives driven by the president, as well as the larger political climate that was conducive to change-making legislation. He argues that “the work of grassroots activists and changes in the power structure of Congress enabled a liberal president to fulfill his grand legislative ambition — the creation of a second New Deal that would complete the work of Franklin Roosevelt.”
Kirkus Reviews calls The Fierce Urgency of Now “a smart, provocative study.” Alan Krueger, a Princeton professor of economics and public policy and former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, writes, “Zelizer’s book is a valuable antidote to all those who say we just need Barack Obama to be more like Lyndon Johnson to get things done in Washington.”