Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Course Suggestions for Zora Neale Hurston's TELL MY HORSE

Tell My Horse By Zora Neale HurstonZora Neale Hurston is most often remembered for her inspiring and heartbreaking novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God—but many people don’t know that she graduated from Barnard with a degree in anthropology, and that she spent a great deal of her life and literary career exploring this intellectual pursuit.

In 1929, she began a series of research trips to the American South and the Caribbean, funded in part by Rosenwald and Guggenheim fellowships. These trips resulted in Hurston’s major anthropological works, including Tell My Horse, a first-hand account of the mysteries of voodoo. Based on her personal experiences in Haiti and Jamaica, where she participated as an initiate rather than just an observer of voodoo practices, this travelogue into an unknown world paints a vividly authentic picture of ceremonies and customs and superstitions of great cultural importance. Tell My Horse is groundbreaking in its efforts towards theorizing the African diaspora and examining the cultural continuities and differences that emerged as Blacks were scattered across the Americas and Europe as a result of the slave trade.

“Vivid, sometimes lyrical, occasionally strikingly dramatic, yet simple and unusual and intensely interesting book richly packed with strange information.”New York Times Book Review

Course Suggestions for Tell My Horse:

Tell My Horse has been adopted in anthropology, religion, Caribbean and women’s studies courses at colleges and universities across the US, including Tufts University, Wesleyan University, Macalaster College, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Wyoming, and University of Florida, among others. Most often, it is paired with Karen McCarthy Brown’s Mama Lola in ethnography studies courses.  In classes examining post-colonial works, it is often taught with Ousmane Sembene’s Black Girl, Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, and Aimee Cesaire’s A Season in the Congo. Together, these works provide a vigorous examination of the damning psychological effects colonization wrought, as well as the ways that the colonized sought to subvert colonial order—voodoo being one of them. 

Tell My Horse has also been adopted in courses using literature and film to explore the African Diaspora. In such a course entitled “African Diaspora Religions: Voodoo, Pop Culture, and the Culture Wars,” a Tufts professor chose to assign Hurston's work along with the films Divine Horseman, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Skeleton Key, and The Princess and the Frog in order to demonstrate the ways in which contemporary films have distorted scholarly and anthropological accounts of voodoo, creating and maintaining cultural and racial boundaries in the process. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

FYE Conference in Orlando

I just got back from Orlando, Florida—home to Mickey Mouse, perpetual warm-weather, and, this weekend, the Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience. FYE is our biggest conference on the Academic Marketing side, so I was excited to attend it for the first time, and meet many of the college administrators and professors who choose the Common Read books for their incoming classes.
Freshman Common Read programs have been steadily gaining converts in colleges all across the US, providing students from all walks of life with a shared reading experience as they enter college for the first time. The conference-attendees I met were all so enthusiastic about their own programs, and have such a wide-range of interests, so it was really fun to get to speak with them and try to direct them to a book suited to their needs.
Aside from meeting all the great decision makers, HarperCollins hosted two author events. The first, in conjunction with Macmillian, Penguin, and Knopf, featured Tina Seelig, author of inGenius. Our lunch, hosted with Penguin, featured Loung Ung, author of First They Killed My Father, and Andrew Blum, author of Tubes, along with three Penguin authors (pictured above). I had never met any of the authors before, so it was a real treat to meet them and listen to them speak about their inspirational books. Tina, Loung, and Andrew are such incredible speakers, and while their books vary widely in content and scope, it was clear that they all made a significant impression on the FYE directors who we spoke with afterwards.
It was a great working-weekend, and I’m definitely looking forward to staying in contact with a number of people I met at the conference. Also, I may be missing the weather in Orlando…  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Course Suggestions for JONAH'S GOURD VINE by Zora Neale Hurston

Jonah's Gourd Vine by Zora Neale Hurston
“A bold and beautiful book, many a page priceless and unforgettable.”—Carl Sandburg

Zora Neale Hurston’s first novel Jonah's Gourd Vine, published in 1934, is based on the story of her parents’ marriage. Here, John Pearson—country preacher and unfaithful husband, steps into the role of Zora’s father. Lucy, his long suffering wife, is his true love, but there is also Mehaley and Big Oman, as well as the scheming Hattie. Even after becoming the popular pastor of Zion Hope, where his sermons and prayers for cleansing rouse the congregation’s fervor, John has to confess that he is a “natchel man.” In this portrait of a man and his community, Zora Neale Hurston shows how faith, tolerance, and good intentions cannot resolve the tension between the spiritual and the physical.

Suggested Course Use

In courses on literature and religion, Jonah's Gourd Vine, paired with works from various historical periods and cultures, will focus students on concepts such as good and evil, self and self-realization, oppression and tolerance, spiritual quest, love and friendship, family, and authenticity. A course that included Jonah's Gourd Vine, Antigone, excerpts from Moby Dick, Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Il’ch, Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, and contemporary works such as Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams and Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine would allow students to discern common problems, values, and aspirations that all humans share across time periods as they are introduced to various literary modes.

Rich in wordplay and proverbs, Jonah's Gourd Vine will help students imagine themselves into Southern life in the early 20th century—a world that is disappearing—yet is still accessible through Zora Neale Hurston’s works. For a course on Southern literature that includes a variety of genres from novels, short stories to plays and autobiographies, pairing Jonah's Gourd Vine with such works as The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,  Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain, William Faulkner's As I Lay I Dying, Celia, A Slave by Melton A. McLaurin, Tennessee Williams's A Street Car Named Desire, and Tom Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter will allow students to explore how class, race, gender, sexuality,  religion, and slavery and its legacies have factored into southern literary writing. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Announcing the Updated Genocide Studies Catalog

Prague Winter By Madeleine AlbrightWe're very happy to announce that our updated Genocide Studies Catalog has been released. The improved catalog features the paperback editions of Madeleine Albright's Prague Winter, Anna Funder's All That I Am, and Caroline Moorehead's A Train in Winter, along with a new title, Useful Enemies by Richard Rashke.

You'll find links to this subject catalog and many others in the sidebar to your right or click here to enter the catalog.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Course Suggestions for DUST TRACKS ON A ROAD by Zora Neale Hurston

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston
Dust Tracks on a Road is Zora Neale Hurston’s candid, funny, bold, and poignant autobiography, an imaginative and exuberant account of her rise from childhood poverty in the rural South to a prominent place among the leading artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance.

As compelling as her renowned fiction such as Their Eyes Were Watching God and Jonah's Gourd Vine, Hurston’s very personal literary self-portrait offers a revealing, often audacious glimpse into the life—public and private—of an extraordinary artist, anthropologist, chronicler, and champion of the black experience in America.
Suggested Course Use
Maya Angelou wrote in her introduction, “Zora Neale Hurston chose to write her own version of life in Dust Tracks on a Road,” and this makes it fit beautifully into courses that ask students to explore how women writers have depicted their lives in fiction and autobiography as they investigate feminist theories of women’s writing and consider how women have both adopted and rejected the traditions of typical autobiographies and fiction that were primarily developed by men. Combined with other classics such as Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood, The Woman Warrior by Maxine Kingston, and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Dust Tracks on a Road gives students access to the overarching themes, richness, and diversity of women’s writing and asks them to contemplate the challenges women face in writing their own lives.
Lucy Anne Hurston, a sociologist and niece of Zora Neale Hurston, reads excerpts from Dust Tracks on a Road—giving voice to the vibrancy of Hurston's language and the intensity of her life.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Mandiant Report and Cyber-Warfare

Cyber War By Richard A. Clarke, Robert Knake“On the outskirts of Shanghai, in a run-down neighborhood dominated by a 12-story white office tower, sits a People’s Liberation Army base for China’s growing corps of cyberwarriors.”—New York Times

No, that’s not the start to our latest futuristic dystopian novel. It’s the beginning of David E. Sanger, David Barboza, and Nicole Perlroth’s article in the New York Times today, “Chinese Army Unit Is Seen as Tied to Hacking Against U.S.” In the buzzed-about piece, the three journalists unravel the Mandiant report—a 60-page study that concludes that P.L.A. Unit 61398 is behind a great mass of cyber-hacking attempts on American companies, government agencies, and critical infrastructure.

The article highlights the growing and necessary focus on cyber-security in recent years, quoting a senior-level defense official who claims that the U.S. government now pays as much attention to computer servers in Shanghai as they paid to nuclear command centers in Moscow during the Cold War.

If you want to learn more about the real and present threat of cyber-warfare and cyber-terrorism, you may be interested in a much-lauded title of ours on the subject, Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It by Richard A. Clarke and Robert Knake. The book, written by a former presidential advisor and counter-terrorism expert, offers a comprehensive exploration of the menace of this new kind of warfare, and the steps we need to take to protect ourselves against it.

Praise for Cyber War:

“Chilling... [A] harrowing — and persuasive — picture of the cyberthreat the United States faces today.”Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

TED-Ed: "Inventing the American Presidency"

Don't Know Much About the Presidents (revised edition) By Kenneth C. Davis Illustrated by Pedro Martin Yesterday, TED-Ed posted Presidential historian Kenneth C. Davis’s latest video, entitled “Inventing the American Presidency.” The animated short details the division of government that the Founding Fathers spent the longest time debating: the executive branch. With massive opposition against instating a monarchy in the proposed United States, the Founders had to start from scratch. Davis narrates the piece himself, and explores how and why our American model of the Presidency originated, prompting the following question for your students: If you had to do it all over again, how would YOU design the executive branch?

Friday, February 15, 2013

February Is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. It is so sad to think that we need to have a month highlighting awareness of this tragic cycle of behavior, but as a recent New York Times Motherlode:  Adventures in Parenting blog essay depicts, violence against young women while dating is a very real and escalating phenomenon. 

One of the great backlist books that we publish addresses this frightening issue:  But I Love Him:  Protecting Your Teen Daughter from Controlling, Abusive Dating Relationships by noted psychotherapist Dr. Jill Murray.  Dr.  Murray is constantly approached by teenage girls in miserable relationships who refuse to break up with their boyfriends, exclaiming, "But I love him!" Many young womenand their parentsdon't know what a potentially abusive relationship looks like. The warning signs are some of the behaviors that girls find most flattering, but which often escalate into blame, isolation, threats, humiliation, and sexual and physical abuse. Dr. Murray describes what draws young women to an abusive relationship, why they have a hard time discussing it with their parents, and what's going on in the mind of a teen abuser. She illustrates what a respectful relationship looks likeand teaches teens the importance of the valuable lesson of respecting themselves.

What Are We Celebrating on Monday After All?

Washington's Secret War By Thomas FlemingHappy Friday, everyone! As we venture into the long weekend, you may be wondering about the history of this national holiday. Well, Kenneth C. Davis, our resident President scholar and author of Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents, wrote a blog post in honor of the occasion. I was surprised to find that we’re not actually celebrating Presidents Day. Rather, we’re celebrating the birthday of a President, George Washington. To learn more about how this holiday came to be, check out Kenneth’s blog post here.

Speaking of George Washington, we’d like to remind everyone of two great titles on our list, George Washington's War: The Saga of the American Revolution by Robert Leckie and Washington's Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge  by Thomas Fleming. Click on the links to begin browsing these books on our first President!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Esther Perel, Author of MATING IN CAPTIVITY, Featured in Valentine's Day TED Talk

Mating in Captivity By Esther PerelIn honor of Valentine’s Day, Esther Perel, author of the celebrated Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, is featured on a TED Talk entitled “The Secret to Desire in a Long-term Relationship.” In Perel’s words, the talk focuses on answering the following questions:

  • Why does great sex so often fade for couples who claim to love each other as much as ever?
  • Why doesn’t good intimacy guarantee good sex? Why is the forbidden so erotic?
  • Can we want what we already have?
  • Why does sex make babies and babies spell erotic disaster in couples?
  • When you love, how does it feel and when you desire, how is it different?

Esther is one of the world’s most respected voices on erotic intelligence, drawing on more than 20 years of experience as a couples and family therapist. In addition to her practice, she is on the faculty of the International Trauma Studies program at Columbia University, is a member of the American Family Therapy Academy, and has appeared on many television programs, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Day New York, CBS This Morning, and HBO's Women Aloud.

If you’re interested, you can check out the TED Talk here! Or, you can click on the picture above to begin browsing her book.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

LITTLE PRINCES Chosen as St. Cloud State University's Common Read

Little Princes By Conor GrennanCongratulations to Conor Grennanthis morning we got word that his book, Little Princes, is St. Cloud State University’s Common Read 2013! Little Princes has been one of our most successful First-Year books (it was recently chosen as Villanova’s One Book), and we’re so happy St. Cloud State has chosen it for their incoming class of freshman.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Conor’s book, here’s short description:
In search of adventure, twenty-nine-year-old Conor Grennan embarked on a yearlong journey around the globe, beginning with a three-month stint volunteering at an orphanage in civil war-torn Nepal. But a shocking truth would forever change his life: these rambunctious, resilient children were not orphans at all but had been taken from their families by child traffickers who falsely promised to keep them safe from war before abandoning them in the teeming chaos of Kathmandu. For Conor, what started as a footloose ramble became a dangerous, dedicated mission to unite youngsters he had grown to love with the parents they had been stolen from—a breathtaking adventure, as Conor risked everything in the treacherous Nepalese mountains to bring the children home.

Praise for Little Princes:

"In the tradition of Three Cups of Tea and Mountains Beyond Mountains, this book provides proof (there cannot be too much) of the value of volunteer work."—
Los Angeles Times
"The beauty of this book is partly the fact that it is a memoir. But it is also more than that. I defy you to not be inspired or moved by this saga.”New York Journal of Books

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

NOT FOR SALE author David Batstone profiled in USA TODAY

USA TODAY has a feature profile on their website of David Batstone, author of Not for Sale:  The Return of the Global Slave Trade—and How We Can Fight It. Written by technology writer Jon Swartz, the article beautifully highlights the organization Not for Sale and their unique approach for fighting modern-day slavery.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy 204th Birthday To You Abraham Lincoln

The political and personal life of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States, has undergone a fascinating renaissance among historians and the general public alike. The current cinematic blockbuster, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, has earned 12 Academy Award nominations, and Barack Obama has proclaimed Lincoln his favorite President and political idol, but the sheer magnitude of Lincoln's life and times has always deserved to be treated with awe and respect: he was the first elected Republican President, led the country through the trauma of the Civil War, was a member of the House of Representatives, delivered the epic Gettysburg Address speech, and introduced the Emancipation Proclamation that ultimately abolished slavery.

Abraham Lincoln's 204th birthday is February 12th, and Kenneth C. Davis, author of Don't Know Much About History, has created a video tribute to Lincoln.

To continue teaching the inspiring legacy of Abraham Lincoln with your students, here are some books recommended for classroom use:

Harold Holzer, one of the world's leading experts on Abraham Lincoln, has just published an authorized companion to Steven Spielberg's LincolnHolzer served as content consultant on the movie, and has authored, co-authored, and edited an amazing forty-two books, including Emancipating Lincoln, Lincoln at Cooper Union, and three award-winning books for young readers: Father Abraham: Lincoln and His Sons; The President Is Shot!; and Abraham Lincoln, The Writer.

A fascinating close-up view of the Abraham Lincoln White House through the eyes of Lincoln's three personal secretaries: John Nicolay, William Stoddard, and John Hay. Sheds a new light on Lincoln—his brilliance and vision in a time of national turmoil and Civil War—by focusing on his relationships with the men who worked closely by his side.

Fred Kaplan explores the life of Abraham Lincoln through his use of language both as a vehicle to express complex ideas and feelings and as an instrument of persuasion and empowerment. This unique account of Lincoln's life and career highlights the shortcomings of the modern presidency, reminding students that the careful and honest use of words is a necessity for successful democracy.

The first new biography in almost 20 years of Mary Todd Lincoln, one of the most enigmatic First Ladies in American history. Abraham Lincoln is the most revered president in American history, but the woman at the center of his life—his wife, Mary—has remained a historical enigma. One of the most tragic and mysterious of 19th-century figures, Mary Lincoln and her story symbolize the pain and loss of Civil War America.

The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild twelve-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror and sadness. Manhunt is a fascinating tale of murder, intrigue, and betrayal.

Historian Stephen B. Oates's acclaimed and enthralling portrait of America's greatest leader. Oates masterfully charts, with the pacing of a novel, Lincoln's rise from bitter poverty in America's midwestern frontier to become a self-made success in business, law, and regional politics. The second half of the book examines his legendary leadership on the national stage as president during one of the country's most tumultuous and bloody periods, the Civil War years, which concluded tragically with Lincoln's assassination. In this award-winning biography, Lincoln steps forward out of the shadow of myth as a recognizable, fully drawn American whose remarkable life continues to inspire and inform us today.

Explores the complex mythology surrounding the sixteenth President, including iconic images of Lincoln as Honest Abe, the Rail Splitter, and the Great Emancipator, this work offers a penetrating look at Lincoln’s life and impact, indispensible for any student of great leadership, the Civil War, and American history. 

The Civil War was the first "modern war." Among the many modern marvels that gave the North an advantage was the telegraph, which Lincoln used to stay connected to the forces in the field in almost real time. By paying close attention to Lincoln's "lightning messages," students see a great leader adapt to a new medium. Watching Lincoln carefully word his messages—and follow up on those words with the right actions—offers a striking example for those who spend their days tapping out notes on computers and BlackBerrys.

THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST Wins the 2012 Montana Book Award

The Miseducation of Cameron Post By emily m. danforthCongratulations to Emily M. Danforth! Her book, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, just won the 2012 Montana Book Award.

When Cameron Post’s parents die in a car crash, her first reaction is not grief. Instead, it’s relief—they will never have to know that she was kissing a girl just hours before. But the sense of relief is fleeting, as she is forced to move in with her ultra-conservative aunt and well-meaning, but old-fashioned grandmother. When her aunt discovers the truth about her sexuality, she sends Cameron to a religious conversion camp in order to “fix” her, bringing Cameron face-to-face with the cost of denying her true identity.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a significant literary debut, perfect for 9th grade and up. Click on the picture above to begin browsing now.

“Rich with detail and emotion, a sophisticated read for teens and adults alike.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[An] ambitious literary novel, a multidimensional coming-of-age.”Booklist (starred review)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Lois Leveen, author of THE SECRETS OF MARY BOWSER, Tours Chicago

The Secrets of Mary Bowser By Lois LeveenAuthor and historian Lois Leveen has been visiting colleges to talk about The Secrets of Mary Bowser, her historical novel about real-life slave-turned-spy, Mary Bowser, who risked her own freedom to change the course of history. Bowser was freed before the Civil War by the daughter of the family that owned her, and sent north to be educated. When the Civil War broke out, she made the courageous decision to pose as a slave in the Confederate White House, and pass along Jefferson Davis’s plans to the Union. Leveen, a Harvard educated former professor, combines impeccable research and ingenius speculation to bring Bowser’s story to life, creating an enthralling read that interrogates our androcentric view of war-time history.

Leveen just returned from Chicago, where she spoke at Loyola University, DePaul University, Temple Beth Israel, and the Pritzker Military Library (video available online here). Several of her talks were chosen as Critics’ Picks by TimeOut: Chicago, she was highlighted in the author events listings in the Chicago Tribune, and she will have an essay running in the Tribune slated for February 24th in the “Books and Films” issue.

She will be speaking at the University of Detroit-Mercy on 2/12 and at Indiana University-Bloomington on 2/18.  Click on the picture above to begin browsing The Secrets of Mary Bowser.