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I’ve always loved exploring history. It’s like an uncharted hemisphere, and when you look at it closely, it has a tendency to change everything about your own time. I’m also drawn to outsiders, people who have swum against the tide. I often feel like a kind of detective hired to go find people who have been lost to history, and discover why they were lost. Whodunnit?
In this case, I found solid evidence that, of all people, Napoleon did it: he buried the memory of this great man – Gen. Alexandre Dumas, the son of a black slave who led more than 50,000 men at the height of the French Revolution and then stood up to the megalomaniacal Corsican in the deserts of Egypt. (The “famous” Alexandre Dumas is the general’s son – the author of The Three Musketeers.) Letters and eyewitness accounts show that Napoleon came to hate Dumas not only for his stubborn defense of principle but for his swagger and stature – over 6 feet tall and handsome as a matinee idol – and for the fact that he was a black man idolized by the white French army. (I found that Napoleon’s destruction of Dumas coincided with his destruction of one of the greatest accomplishments of the French Revolution – racial equality – a legacy he also did his best to bury.) (more…)
Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida has adopted Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, and Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains for use in their fall 2013 course, Quest for Meaning. The class, which is required for all seniors, will have approximately 400 students. The course will be divided into 20 sections.
Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers was the winner of the National Book Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and American Academy of Arts and Letters Award. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award
Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, winner of the 2000 Tony Award for Best Play, has been selected for Common Reading at 10 schools including The Ohio State University, Lehigh University, The University of Pennsylvania, and Cleveland State University.
Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Pulitzer Prize Winner Tracy Kidder, is a New York Times and ALA Notable Book. It has been selected for Common Reading at over 100 institutions of higher learning including Boston College, Dartmouth College and University of Connecticut, as well as numerous high schools. (more…)
Watch Susan Cain’s 2012 TED Talk at www.thepowerofintroverts.com
Science and psychology is beginning to recognize how dramatically the introvert-extrovert spectrum shapes culture every bit as profoundly as gender or race. In a new paradigm-shifting book, Quiet, author Susan Cain highlights how misunderstood and and undervalued introverts often are, and gives introverts the tools to take full advantage of their personalities, while showing extroverts how they can learn from them. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with stories of real people, Quiet shows why the world will depend on the strengths of introverts in the decades to come.
Quiet has been selected for common reading at Case Western Reserve University and is now being used in several courses at these following colleges:
Bucknell University; Colby-Sawyer College; Queens University Of Charlotte; University Of North Dakota Main Campus; University Of North Florida; and Wheaton College
Here is a Message from Susan Cain: (more…)
In the spring of 2008, I was living in Washington, D.C. and working as a freelance editor. I enjoyed the work, but missed having someone besides my dog to talk with during the day. So when I came across a job posting for part-time work on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, I jumped at the opportunity.
I had never worked in the reproductive rights field, but I had always believed that women should have the right to choose: I grew up in a politically liberal town (Ann Arbor) in a politically liberal family, where I took lots of rights for granted.
And I thought that I knew plenty about abortion before I began working on the NAF hotline: the legendary court cases, the anti-choice violence, the reasons that a woman would make this choice. But working on the hotline was a real eye-opener. Every day, I heard from women of all racial, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds that were unable to access a legal medical service because of their income, their lack of reliable transportation, or the restrictions their state placed on abortion care. (more…)
Winner of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine’s Communication Award for Best Book
Winner of the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction
Winner of the Wellcome Trust Book Prize
Named by more than 60 critics as one of the best books of 2010, including: Best Book of the Year at: O, The Oprah Magazine, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Bookmarks Magazine, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Entertainment Weekly, East Bay Express, and Kansas City Star, A Discover Magazine 2010 Must Read, National Public Radio, Best of the Bestsellers
In 1951, an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks, stricken with cervical cancer, became an involuntary donor of cells from her cancerous tumor, which were propagated by scientist George Otto Gey to create an immortal cell line for medical research. These cells are now known worldwide as HeLa. In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, award-winning science writer Rebecca Skloot brilliantly weaves together the Lacks’s story–past and present–with the story of the birth of bioethics, the story of HeLa cells, and the dark history of experimentation on African Americans. Important, powerful, and compassionate, this is a remarkable work of science and social journalism. (more…)
Professors: Free Examination Copy Available. The Taste of Ashes by Marci Shore, professor of history at Yale
Interweaving archival history, scholarly research, personal recollections, and first-person vignettes, Yale historian and professor Marci Shore has written a unique treatise on post-communist Eastern Europe. Drawing on recently opened communist archives, and the memories of colleagues, acquaintances, and family members, Shore gives a platform to former communists and dissidents, Zionists, Stalinists, and their children and grandchildren. Moving across Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Warsaw, Bucharest, and Moscow, The Taste of Ashes is a scholarly yet personal portrait of events that, even as they recede into history, continue to resonate and reverberate today.
Here is a message from Marci Shore:
I was at an impressionable age when the revolutions came. This is the short answer I often give when asked by Poles or Czechs or Russians why I became interested in their part of the world. In 1989, I was seventeen years old and knew nothing about Eastern Europe. Yet growing up in suburban Pennsylvania, it was impossible not to absorb that we were locked in a struggle with the Evil Empire that might well bring about the end of the world. (more…)
Recommended for Common Reading and Social Science Courses: Full Body Burden, Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats
Selected for Common Reading at Four Colleges & Universities: California State University, Sacramento; Fort Lewis College; Michigan Technological University; and Virginia Commonwealth University
Full Body Burden is a haunting work of narrative nonfiction about a young woman growing up in a small Colorado town close to Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant once designated “the most contaminated site in America.” It’s the story of growing up in the shadow of the Cold War, in a landscape at once startlingly beautiful and—unknown to those who lived there— tainted with invisible yet deadly particles of plutonium.
It’s also a book about the destructive power of secrets—both family secrets and government secrets. Her father’s hidden liquor bottles, the strange cancers in children in the neighborhood, the truth about what they made at Rocky Flats (cleaning supplies, her mother guessed)—best not to inquire too deeply into any of it. But as Iversen grew older, she began to ask questions. In her early thirties, she even worked at Rocky Flats for a time, typing up memos in which accidents were always called “incidents.” And as this memoir unfolds, it also reveals itself as a brilliant work of investigative journalism—a shocking account of the government’s sustained attempt to conceal the effects of the toxic and radioactive waste released by Rocky Flats, and of local residents’ vain attempts to seek justice in court. Based on extensive interviews, FBI and EPA documents, and class action testimony, this taut, beautifully written book promises to have a very long half-life. (more…)