Books, Music & Film

From Ricker to Broadway

Allegiance, Jay Kuo, ’90 (music and lyrics); Marc Acito, Kuo and Lorenzo Thione (book/libretto); Longacre Theatre on Broadway, opening November 8. As a junior at Stanford, Kuo wrote and produced his first musical; it was performed in Ricker Dining Hall to a sold-out weekend crowd. He’s hoping for that kind of enthusiasm for his fourth musical, Allegiance, which tells the story of a Japanese-American farm family from Salinas sent to an internment camp in Wyoming during World War II. The story was inspired by the childhood of actor George Takei, who makes his Broadway debut starring in the show alongside Tony Award winner Lea Salonga and Michael K. Lee, ’95. Lee plays Salonga’s love interest and heads a draft-resistance movement within the camp.

A Sour History, Uncorked

Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California, Frances Dinkelspiel, ’81; St. Martin’s Press, $26.99. This eye-popping historical probe of the state’s wine business more than lives up to its title—to which the words fraud and embezzlement could be added. The author anchors her narrative to the 2005 arson attack on a Vallejo warehouse that destroyed $250 million worth of wine—including 175 bottles from her great-great-grandfather’s 1875 harvest—while chronicling the industry’s victims and victors, from its Southern California origins onward.


I have a home in my son’s hand.
The pier is out, the quay closed at noon.
You can sob, so be it, as if dates, as
though you had an oven of dough
everyone wanted. Day, I’m a over it;
out rowing an O.K. used pear,
sailing your barcode, you shop with the pain
you’re out now, avowing.
Our row cake vice squeezing through
sewer hour, I sail mystery O
sewer! Made on that pall of rat veil
A forms a dream navy
in the unclear I don’t miss saying.

Shane Book, Stegner fellow 2004-06, in Congotronic; Kuhl House Poets Series, University of Iowa Press, $18.50.

“Human nature is not a blank slate on which foragers, farmers, and fossil-fuel users just decided to write any moral systems that took their fancy.”

Ian Morris, professor of classics, in Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve; Princeton University Press, $29.95.

Night at the Fiestas, Kirstin Valdez Quade, ’02; W.W. Norton & Company, $25.95. Ten short stories form this debut collection from Quade, a former Stegner fellow in fiction (2009 to 2011). Her tales, set in northern New Mexico, evoke the region’s fiery spectrum of color and passion, religious and otherwise, and explore the mystery and tenacity of family ties.

Three Minutes in Poland, Glenn Kurtz, MA ’89, PhD ’94; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30. An old family film gave Kurtz a glimpse of life in Nasielsk in 1938—a year before the Nazi occupation of Poland began, and before the town’s Jewish population was nearly lost. While Kurtz explored the town’s history and tried to track down the stories of the faces in the footage, some of the stories—and survivors—ended up finding him.

Health Care in America: A History, John C. Burnham, ’51, PhD ’58; Johns Hopkins University Press, $34.95. Burnham, a history professor, traces the evolution of health, disease and medicine from the time of the colonies to the recent past. The book’s 616 pages are packed with details of once-trusted cures and physicians going to “heroic extremes” (e.g., dispensing doses of turpentine oil for tapeworm removal), as well as the rise of wonder drugs, big Pharma and profiteering. Captivating and enjoyable.

The Middleman Economy: How Brokers, Agents, Dealers, and Everyday Matchmakers Create Value and Profit, Marina Krakovsky, ’92; Palgrave Macmillan, $30. When was the last time you appreciated a middleman? Far from meeting a predicted Internet-fueled demise, they are more active than ever, says Krakovsky. Not only are their roles critical to how society functions, but they’re beneficial to buyers and sellers. Her argument that most of us function as middlemen (reporters, physicians, Craigslist resellers) is surprising and persuasive.

Beautiful Chaos: A Life in the Theater, Carey Perloff, ’80; City Lights Publishers, $17.95. In 1992, Perloff left New York for San Francisco for a big job: to bring the once-thriving American Conservatory Theater back from the brink of destruction. The 1980s had brought trouble to the institution; the ’89 earthquake had crumbled the ceiling of the Geary Theater into pieces. Here she shares her experience working to rebuild both—attributing her early success, in part, to her naïvete—infused with a passion for the city and the ACT.

Happiness and the Law, John Bronsteen, Christopher Buccafusco and Jonathan S. Masur, ’99; University of Chicago Press, $40. The creation of public policy today often relies on cost-benefit analyses. Masur and colleagues argue there’s a better metric: well-being analysis, which instead weighs the effects of law on people’s quality of life. As the psychological study of happiness gains traction, the authors say judges and policymakers now have the data they need to experiment with new approaches to setting criminal punishments and guiding civil litigation.

Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet, Gernot Wagner, MA ’03, PhD ’08, and Martin L. Weitzman, MS ’64; Princeton University Press, $27.95. Climate change is an especially wily problem because it is uniquely global, long-term, irreversible and uncertain. These economists explain why such traits stymie sensible solutions, like appropriately pricing carbon pollution through taxes or cap-and-trade programs, and increase the likely need for extreme action later—namely, geoengineering. Risk management, they say, demands that we create a framework for pursuing such dramatic fixes.

The following did not appear in the print version of Stanford.

Murder on the Switzerland Trail, MIKE BEFELER, ’66; Five Star, $25.95. A group of day travelers are preparing to head home when one of their party stumbles back to the train and drops dead, a knife protruding from his back. In this historical mystery novel set along a real-life Colorado rail line, officer Harry McBride has only a train ride back to Boulder to determine which of the passengers is the killer.

Electric Santería: Racial and Sexual Assemblages of Transnational Religion, AISHA M. BELISO-DE JESÚS, MA ’03, PhD ’09; Columbia University Press, $30. Beliso-De Jesús, an associate professor of African-American religions at Harvard Divinity School, discusses “copresences,” or engagement with racialized, gendered beings that invite the practitioner to take another look at his or her spiritual realities.

Letting Go: How One Entrepreneur Energized Her Business, Empowered the Next Generation, and Embraced a Bold New Vision, SUSAN SOKOL BLOSSER, ’66; Your Town Press, $19.95. After leaving the Farm, Blosser opted for the vineyard life, becoming president of her family’s Oregon winery. Her memoir details how she eventually handed control of the business to her children and tells of the unexpected journey that followed.

One Murder More, KRIS CALVIN, ’77; Inkshares, $21. Lobbyist Maren Kane is on her way to a fund-raiser just outside Sacramento, when the elderly driver in front of her runs off the road and into a water-filled ditch, grandchildren strapped in the backseat. The chance encounter sets off a series of events, culminating in a legislative aide’s murder inside the capitol, and Maren’s desperate race to find the killer.

Dead Soon Enough: A Juniper Song Mystery, STEPH CHA, ’07; Minotaur Books, $26.99. The third installment in the Juniper Song series, this new novel follows Song on her first case as a fully licensed private investigator. A key activist goes missing in the midst of a public struggle over an Armenian genocide memorial, and Song must navigate the complex ties of the Armenian-American community if she hopes to find the woman before it’s too late.

The Power of Ideals: The Real Story of Moral Choice, ANNE COLBY and WILLIAM DAMON; Oxford University Press, $29.95. It can be easy to grow disillusioned and cynical about the modern world, but it’s not impossible to change it. By considering the lives of six seminal figures who pursued a variety of important moral causes in the 20th century, Colby and Damon, professors in the Stanford Graduate School of Education, have created a case study in hope for effecting real world change.

Jiggles, Rolf, and the Remarkable Finale to Frank Stone’s Career, WENDELL A. DUFFIELD, MS ’65, PhD ’67; iUniverse, $10.95. Semiretired geologist Frank Stone is grappling with a waning career when he’s offered a new project by university colleague Richard Stewart. The two men, polar opposites in nature, must work together to predict what will happen after a Southwestern volcano fills the Grand Canyon with molten lava.

Her Final Breath, ROBERT DUGONI, ’84; Thomas & Mercer, $15.95. When a string of young women start turning up dead in the little motels of North Seattle, Tracy Crosswhite is tasked with tracking down their killer, known only as the Cowboy. But with few clues to work on and the appearance of threats from a mysterious stalker, Crosswhite begins to wonder who is tracking whom.

Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution, JAMES FERGUSON; Duke University Press, $24.95. Amid the constant noise over the efficacy of government welfare programs, Ferguson, a Stanford professor in the department of anthropology, holds up the example of South Africa: More than 30 percent of its population benefits from a program that provides low-income citizens with cash payments. Through this example, Ferguson reconsiders the relationship between citizen and state.

The Telomerase Revolution: The Enzyme That Holds the Key to Human Aging...and Will Soon Lead to Longer, Healthier Lives, MICHAEL FOSSEL, PhD ’78, MD ’81; BenBella Books, $24.95. Telomeres and an enzyme to relengthen these cells, keeping them “young,” are at the center of this book. Fossel delves into the current research on human aging and the possibility of telomerase’s potential for slowing or even reversing the process.

Once Upon a Yugoslavia: When the American Way Met Tito’s Third Way, SURYA GREEN, MA ’74; New Europe Books, $17.95. Green was in grad school when she was selected for a writing job at an animation studio—albeit one in Yugoslavia, still a tight-fisted Communist state then, in 1968. Her journey forced her to confront her family’s history and her own biases, and eventually helped her to understand the human bonds that transcend national boundaries.

Shrapnel: A Journey Toward Psychological Healing, SANDRA HARRIS, ’60; Outskirts Press, $14.95. In Harris’s debut novel, eight Vietnam War veterans return to the country that has haunted each of their psyches for the 30 years since the war ended. Through reliving the events where they first took place, the men attempt to finally bury the past.

The Kojiki: An Account of Ancient Matters, O NO YASUMARO, translated by GUSTAV HELDT, ’92; Columbia University Press, $27. First penned in the 8th century, The Kojiki reveals the mythical origins of Japan and its early rulers. In a new translation of this Japanese classic, Heldt works to preserve the piece’s rhythm and dramatic storytelling, while contextualizing and clarifying its importance for the modern reader.

Kissing Tomatoes, HELEN HUDSON, ’74; self-published, $15. When Granny Jo moves in with newlyweds Helen and John, the couple takes on the trials and gifts of caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease. Hudson’s memoir is a tribute to her grandmother as well as a tender, tough, no-holds-barred look at caregiving for a beloved relative in one’s home.

Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration From Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least, JESSICA JACKLEY, MBA ’07; Spiegel & Grau, $28. Kiva began in an apartment at Stanford; now, it’s a global platform for microlending that’s generated more than $700 million in funding for small businesses around the world. Jackley shares the story of how she cofounded the company and the lessons she’s taken from the entrepreneurs Kiva has empowered.

The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths About What You Eat, ALAN LEVINOVITZ, ’03; Regan Arts, $24.95. In this work of science journalism, Levinovitz sheds light on nutrition myths and fad diets and argues that our health problems boil down to how—not what—we eat.

Do the KIND Thing, DANIEL LUBETZKY, JD ’93; Ballantine Books, $26. In 2004, Lubetzky founded KIND Healthy Snacks with the goal of having a company that could both earn a profit and make the world a better place. He details how he’s brought that philosophy to the business as a whole, and how a new crop of social entrepreneurs might use it to challenge traditional boundaries and improve the world.

The True Spirit of Christmas, DOROTHY THURGOOD MANNING, ’89; 33 Loretta Kids' Books, $17.99. Spoiled brat Maddie learns a time-tested lesson when her complaints about the number of presents under the tree threatens to put her on the outs with Santa. 

The Underwriting, MICHELLE MILLER, ’06, MBA ’11; G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $26.95. Dating app Hook is preparing to go public, and the investment team overseeing the deal, led by Wall Street womanizer Todd Kent, is set to make millions. In this modern-day peek into the lives of the young and wealthy, the six are all ready to finalize their fortunes when a dead body turns up that could torpedo everything.

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, ANNA NORTH, ’05; Blue Rider Press, $26.95. Is portrayal betrayal? In a novel that explores the consequences of art, voices of those who knew Sophie best tell about the woman whose films won critical acclaim but alienated her from the loved ones they portrayed.

Elephant Don: The Politics of a Pachyderm Posse, CAITLIN O’CONNELL; The University of Chicago Press, $26. Friendship. Heartbreak. Loyalty. Betrayal. The group of friends at the center of this book share in many of life’s defining experiences; the only thing is, they’re elephants. O’Connell, a consulting assistant professor at the medical school, draws on more than 20 years of research to offer readers a peek into the surprisingly social lives of bull elephants and to show us what we can learn from them.

The Biology and Ecology of Giant Kelp Forests, DAVID R. SCHIEL AND MICHAEL S. FOSTER, MS ’00; University of California Press, $75. In this desk reference and textbook, the authors discuss the history of, current research on and ecological influences of Macrocystisalso known asgiant kelp, the largest seaweed and the fastest-growing plant on earth.

Living with the Stars: How the Human Body is Connected to the Life Cycles of the Earth, the Planet, and the Stars, KAREL SCHRIJVER and IRIS SCHRIJVER; Oxford University Press, $29.95. Stanford School of Medicine professor Iris Schrijver and her husband, Karel, an astrophysicist, combine their expertise to present an uncommon look at our common home: the human body. They examine the links between our biology and the cosmos, to reveal “just how ephemeral and transient our existence is.”

Insight Out, TINA SEELIG, PhD ’85; HarperOne, $26.99. Plenty of people have great ideas but just can’t figure out how to bring them to life. Drawing on her experience teaching at Stanford, Seelig presents readers with her “Invention Cycle” model, a clear set of instructions that apply to everyone from educators to entrepreneurs.

The Tick Rider, WILLIAM STREET, ’51; iUniverse, $28.95. Retired rancher Street penned this Western thriller set about a young cowboy in Texas who falls for a Mexican rancher’s daughter. The violent realities of border life quickly intervene, testing (and proving) the power of love.

Playing Juliet, JOANNE STEWART WETZEL, MA ’80; Sky Pony Press, $15.99. Beth and Zandy race to save a children’s theater from being transformed into a “real” theater—as well as Beth’s fervent dream of becoming a real actress, starting with the role of Juliet.

The Creator’s Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, AMY WILKINSON, ’94, MA ’95, MBA ’02; Simon & Schuster, $27. After exhaustive research and 200 interviews with the founders of some of America’s most successful companies (LinkedIn, Tesla Motors and Under Armour, to name a few), Wilkinson has developed an expertise in entrepreneurship. In this new book, she reveals six critical business-starting skills and shares how entrepreneurs can put them into practice.