Monday, June 29, 2009

College Orientation for Parents: LETTING GO

At a long ago Conference on College Composition and Communication, a young professor told me that a student's mother had called in the middle of the semester to ask if she would give her son a "wake-up call." At first, I misunderstood. I thought, "Well, she wants it made clear to her son that he is failing because he is skipping classes." I was wrong: The mother wanted the professor to provide a hotel-style wake-up call so her son wouldn't miss the 8 a.m. composition class that he was, indeed, failing. My jaw dropped. However, the authors of Letting Go: A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years have heard and seen it all--and I imagine they would have nodded sympathetically and given this professor solid advice on handling this situation.

Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger, veterans of Washington University, speak at orientation programs throughout the country--giving parents compassionate and practical advice on the emotional and social changes of the college years. They let parents know:

  • When they should encourage independence
  • When they should intervene
  • What issues of identity and intimacy await students
  • What are normal feelings of disorientation and loneliness for students—and for parents
  • What is different about today’s college environment
  • What new concerns about safety, health and wellness, and stress will affect incoming classes

By addressing these and other important issues in their workshops, the authors of Letting Go give administrators and faculty the opportunity to set the ground rules for students and parents.

You can use their free workshop guide--or you can invite the authors to speak at your campus. Plus, you can send parents this free audio--which will get them ready to let go.

Hiking and Reading: THE LAST OF HIS KIND

Today is my first day back in the office after a week of hiking in the Adirondacks. It was a week without television. Cell phone and Blackberry reception were iffy--depending--it seemed--on which way the wind was blowing.

It was essential to bring only essentials. OFF! bug repellent is a must for everybody. For me, a good book and a reliable flashlight are necessities. The Last of His Kind: The Life and Adventures of Bradford Washburn, America's Boldest Mountaineer by David Roberts was the perfect choice. (Yes, it's a hardcover--but an Exacto knife and a few rubber bands can turn any hardcover into a paperback. And, the pages read are good kindling.)

I don't have much in common with Bradford Washburn. I don't do any technical climbing. I don't want anything to do with ice crampons. I haven't made nine first ascents. I am not much of a photographer, and I have no skills as a cartographer. I will never be asked to address The National Geographic Society. Still, I've managed to haul myself through the Himalayas, the Grand Canyon, and assorted mountain ranges by putting one foot in front of the other--inspired by and following maps created by true mountaineers like Bradford Washburn.

Was The Last of His Kind worth its weight in my knapsack? Yes.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New York Times Profile On Julie Metz, Author of PERFECTION: A MEMOIR OF BETRAYAL AND RENEWAL

There is a compelling in-depth profile of Julie Metz, the author of Perfection:  A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal in today's New York Times (One Dead Husband and 5 Other Women) that provides the complex and intimate backstory to her heartbreakingly candid bestseller. In Perfection, Metz vividly recounts how she discovered the numerous infidelities that her husband committed during the course of their marriage after his untimely death from a pulmonary embolism (one affair was astoundingly with the mother of her daughter's best friend). It is every spouse's movie-of-the-week nightmare scenario come to life, yet Metz survived to tell the tale.

Monday, June 22, 2009

FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER Recommended for College Bound and Lifelong Learners by Young Adult Library Association

Loung Ung's memoir First They Killed My Father is a book that the staff at HarperAcademic feel very passionate about. If you are not familiar with this title, it is a riveting narrative of war, desperate actions, and the unnerving strength of a child and her family. Ung lived in Phnom Penh, one of seven children of a high-ranking government official. When Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into Phnom Penh in April 1975, her family was forced to flee their home. Eventually, they dispersed in order to survive; with Ung trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans while her other siblings were sent to labor camps. Only after the Vietnamese destroyed the Khmer Rouge were Ung and her surviving siblings slowly reunited.

The accolades for First They Killed My Father continue. The book was just included on the 2009 Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners, compiled by the Young Adult Library Association, and the book will listed as a recommended title until 2014.

In addition, Lizz Graham, a sophomore at Judge Memorial Catholic High School, was named the state winner of the Letters about Literature contest sponsored by the Library of Congress. For the competition, students were asked to write a personal letter to an author, living or dead, from any genre--fiction or nonfiction, contemporary or classic--explaining how that author’s work changed the students’ way of thinking about the world or themselves. Graham wrote to Loung Ung.



Kenneth C. Davis On Galileo's Battle Between Science and Reason vs. the Inquisition

In his blog entry today, Ken Davis, author of America's Hidden History and Don't Know Much About the Universe, muses about how on this day in history, June 22, 1633, the astronomer Galileo went before the Inquisition in Rome to learn his fate about the crime he had committed. His crime? Publishing a book titled Dialog on the Two Chief World Systems, in which he presented the revolutionary (and in the opinion of the Inquisition, highly blasphemous) argument that the Earth revolved around the Sun and not the other way around.

Galileo’s Sentence

This is a day to ponder the power of science and reason against the power of religious authority. On this date, reason lost.

On June 22, 1633, the 70-year-old astronomer Galileo went before the Inquisition in Rome. He wore the white shirt of a penitent. Then he heard sentence passed:

Read more.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Today in History: The End of Slavery in the US

In his blog post for today, Kenneth C. Davis, author of America's Hidden History, reminds us that June 19, 1865 marked the end of slavery in America.

In a bit of publishing kismet, I started off the day with an email exchange about a novel that I've long admired: Sherley A. Williams's Dessa Rose.

This acclaimed historical novel is based on two actual incidents: In 1829 in Kentucky, a pregnant black woman helped lead an uprising of a group of slaves headed to the market for sale. She was sentenced to death, but her hanging was delayed until after the birth of her baby. In North Carolina in 1830, a white woman living on an isolated farm was reported to have given sanctuary to runaway slaves. In Dessa Rose, Sherley Williams asks the question: "What if these two women met?"

There's a
reading guide for those of you who are considering this one for a class or for your reading group.

Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal

Many months ago, I went to a meeting about Hyperion's upcoming summer list. As I sat listening—an author's name jumped out at me: Julie Metz. Could she be the Julie Metz who had been a jacket designer at HarperCollins so many years ago? The quiet, artsy woman who made many of our most beautiful book jackets? Was she the same person who at 20-something seemed to me to have the makings of a perfect life: intelligence, beauty, talent, and a cute boyfriend? Yes. Julie Metz is the author of Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal--which just debuted on The New York Times bestseller list.

Deeply honest and intelligent, Julie's memoir deals with the complexities of forgiveness and betrayal when she discovers her husband's infidelities after his death. She shares her journey through chaos and transformation as she creates a different life for herself and her young daughter. It is the story of coming to terms with painful truths, of rebuilding both a life and an identity after betrayal and widowhood. It is a story of rebirth and happiness—if not perfection.

The New York Times said, “She brings refreshing candor to a startling, painful tale.”

Of course, Perfection has a beautiful jacket--designed by its author.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Online Social Networks

A few days ago, I noted the announcement of a shutdown for scheduled maintenance on our Twitter homepage. Next, I noted the barrage of protests: Not today! You'll shut out Iranians at a critical time.
Twitter rescheduled that scheduled maintenance. The next day, I overheard a conversation on the subway. The man seated next to me greeted a young man who got on at 145th Street, "Oh! How's your family in Tehran?" "They are fine. They had access to Twitter--and I heard from them throughout the day."
Today, The New York Times ran an article about online social networks and what's happening in Iran. And, Thomas Friedman weighed in with an op-ed.

All of this made me think of Joe Trippi's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything. Trippi was one of the first campaign managers to use online social networks and the Internet in a political campaign. His book focuses on American politics--but the lessons of using online social media and the Internet are valid everywhere--as you can see from the entry he posted on his blog today.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

National Recording Registry Adds Zora Neale Hurston and Dylan Thomas to Library


Twenty-five culturally significant recordings--including Their Eyes Were Watching God author Zora Neale Hurston on "The Mary Margaret McBride Program" on January 25, 1943 and Dylan Thomas's 1952 reading of A Child's Christmas in Wales--will be preserved in a special sound archive. 

Every year the Library of Congress selects sound recordings to include in the National Recording Registry. The recordings are nominated by members of the public and a panel of music, sound, and preservation experts, the library's National Recording Preservation Board. The panel also aids the appointed librarian at the Library of Congress in selecting what recordings to add to the archive. 

Besides Zora Neale Hurston and Dylan Thomas, this year's additions also include such signature audio performances such as The Who's 1966 album The Who Sings My Generation and the hilarious Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner 1961 comedy routine 2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. With these 25 new additions the archive now contains 275 fragments of sound. 

To see the complete list of the recent sound inductees and to hear samples of these culturally significant recordings, please visit the National Recording Preservation Board website.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer Reading for Historians

In January at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, a young professor greeted me: "Hey, Hyperion is publishing my wife's novel!" He had spotted the sign that told attendees that we distribute and sell Hyperion titles. He went on to tell me--with great pride--that his wife, Katherine Howe, is the author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. Well, he has a lot to be proud of. The just-published novel received a starred review in Booklist--which was followed by more terrific reviews.

A great summer read--the novel tells the story of a young graduate student who finds out that she is related to a "witch" who was condemned in the 1692 Salem trials--and she discovers that she, too, has special powers.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is a wonderful mix of history and contemporary events that spring from the author's life: Katherine Howe's ancestors settled Essex County, Massachusetts in the 1620s, and stayed there through the twentieth century. Family members included Elizabeth Proctor, who survived the Salem witch trials, and Elizabeth Howe, who did not. Katherine Howe got a Ph.D. in American and New England Studies at Boston University, which included a research seminar on New England witchcraft. The idea for this novel developed while she was studying for her Ph.D. exams.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Twittering Religion 101

This summer, Boston University professor of religion Stephen Prothero, author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know--And Doesn't, will use his Twitter account, sprothero, like a microcourse, posting tweets on eight of the world's major religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Yoruba tradition.

If you follow Professor Prothero throughout the summer, you could be religiously literate by the fall semester.



Friday, June 12, 2009

High School Summer Reading: THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN

Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain has just published in paperback. It's a wonderful novel for adults--AND teens. My niece (15 years old) loved this book. Plus, the NASCAR aspect will appeal to boys.

Publishers Weekly recommended this novel as a teen read.

It's great to see the book making appearances on lists for teen summer reading for pleasure:

It's even more exciting to see it land on required summer reading lists for high schools:

If you'd like to consider The Art of Racing in the Rain for your class, please order an examination copy.


Anne Frank's 80th Birthday

In his Don't Know Much blog, Kenneth C. Davis reminds us that today would have been Anne Frank's 80th birthday. Most of us can remember reading Anne's The Diary of a Young Girl--and it continues to be a beloved classic. In fact, few books have as influential--but--perhaps--it's time to take a closer look at Anne's life and work.

Francine Prose's Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife will publish in October. As she told us in Reading Like a Writer, Francine is an advocate of close reading--and she gives teachers and students a new way to look at The Diary of a Young Girl: Francine argues that the diary is as much a work of art as a historical record. It is a deliberate work of art. During her last months in hiding, Anne furiously revised and edited her work, crafting a piece of literature that she hoped would be published after the war.

I have five galleys of Anne Frank. If you'd like to receive one to review for your blog or to consider for adoption, please let me know via email.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

California Moves to Digital Texts

Since Governor Schwarzenegger announced his plan to ease California's budget deficit by replacing "outdated" textbooks with digital formats, the blogs and nings have been weighing in. There's an interesting discussion on The English Companion that is still buzzing.

What's your opinion?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Summer Reading List of Ken Davis: Water, Water Everywhere!

Kenneth C. Davis, author of Don't Know Much About History and America's Hidden History has come up with a very special summer reading list. In his own inimitable style Ken presents a list of some of his favorite history books with a common theme running through them all--water.

Summer Reading: A List With a Twist

Summer Reading Lists tend to be light and frothy “beach reads.” Here’s a historian’s summer reading list with a slight twist: a “water” theme. These are some of my favorite history books--recent and not-so recent--that may help you keep cool by taking you down to the water. Go ahead, dive in!

Read more.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eugene Mirman's 2009 LHS Commencement Speech

This year, as usual, many high schools asked famous alumni to give the commencement speech. This year, Eugene Mirman, author of The Will to Whatevs, spoke to the 2009 Lexington High School graduating class in Massachusetts. What's unusual is Eugene's take on life after high school: “The main difference for you, between life yesterday and life tomorrow, is you can go to the bathroom whenever you want. It’s a pretty big responsibility, but you’ve earned it.”

Neil Gaiman's Summer Reading

At last week's Book Expo, Neil Gaiman, author of The Graveyard Book, answered the question, "What are you reading this summer?"

Twitter in the Classroom

In celebration of our 1000 followers on Twitter, I made a word cloud. It's good to see a big teacher in that word cloud.

If you're not using Twitter with your students, here are 50 reasons why you should consider doing it.

And, here's another reason: Kenneth C. Davis's daily tweets will give you and your students plenty of opportunities to discuss America's history--and its sway on our present and future.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What is Mary Karr Reading This Summer?

At last week's Book Expo, Mary Karr, author of the upcoming memoir Lit and the bestseller The Liar's Club, answered the question, "What will you read this summer?"

Friday, June 5, 2009

David Carradine's KILL BILL DIARIES

The news of David Carradine's death spun me back to the 1970s. Kung Fu was the favorite show in our house. All of us watched it—a rare overlapping of taste among the five of us. We were very proud when an episode (1974's Arrogant Dragon) written by my cousin Barbara Melzer aired.

Nobody was happier to see David Carradine's comeback in Kill Bill than I was. David shared the experience of making that movie in The Kill Bill Diaries.

David Carradine and Kung Fu were the start of my passion for martial arts movies. In the late 70s and 80s, I spent many hours in Chinatown theaters watching movies made in Hong Kong. Most weren't subtitled—but it didn't matter to me. They were beautiful and tragic—or zany and frantically funny. In his prime, Jackie Chan was as gifted a physical comedian as Buster Keaton--and Jet Li as dashing as Errol Flynn.


For a detailed look at Asian films--from the highbrow to the lowbrow--turn to Asian Cinema by Tom Vick. It belongs on every film student's bookshelf.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Required Summer Reading: High School

It's that time of year: high schools have posted their summer reading lists--a mix of classic and contemporary titles.

Thomas C. Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor appears on list after list. It's become a mainstay in AP Literature classes. There's a terrific discussion about summer reading on the English Companion--and Foster's book is mentioned many times.

If you'd like a peek at what other schools have required, here's a sampling:

What's on your school's reading list?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lambda Literary Award Winners: FIRE TO FIRE and WE DISAPPEAR

Congratulations to Mark Doty and Scott Heim. Doty’s poetry collection, Fire to Fire, and Heim’s novel, We Disappear, have won Lambda Literary Awards. The Lambda Literary Awards seek to recognize excellence in the field of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender literature. For more information, including a complete list of the winners, please visit their website.