Holding On to Hope
Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta, Michael Copperman, ’02; University Press of Mississippi, $25. Hours after he graduated from Stanford, Copperman hopped on a plane to begin his new job with the Teach for America program. The next morning, the young men and women in his training class were flatly warned about their future students: “You will think you know what they need. You will not.” It was an understatement. In this memoir of his years as a fourth-grade teacher in the public schools of Promise, Miss., Copperman relates a candid, often painful account of the obstacles his students dealt with in school and at home. Even when a teacher “does everything right,” he realizes, the world won’t be easily changed. Well worth a read.
‘You didn’t demand a promise like that unless you had a premonition of bad things to come.’
—MICHELE CAMPBELL, JD ’89, in It’s Always the Husband; St. Martin’s Press, $26.99.
Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, Bruce Handy, ’80; Simon & Schuster, $26. Yes, children’s books can be a delight at any age. But Handy proves there’s as much pleasure in reading an analysis, critique and celebration of the genre. His engrossing ramble leads readers from preschool picture books (Goodnight Moon) to Little Women, offering insights (fairy-tale worlds mimic the real world as kids experience it) and biographical gems along the way (Maurice Sendak modeled the Wild Things in Where the Wild Things Are after his relatives). Handy even plowed through “girl books” such as the Little House on the Prairie series and found he highly recommends them for boys.
Go back to the barn, late August, the commingling
of interior shade and transported sun, shafts
illuminating volume — the drift of dust
in the vacant air. The dirt floor laid over, revised
into concrete, plank, slat. Barn become conference hall.
Pull a chair to the circle that inscribes him.
His advice? He will tell about the book contest
where all the entries failed into buckets marked Cancer,
Death of a Parent, Death of a Parent from Cancer.
The moral: Write about dust motes lazing in a barn.
Flecks resolve into bent fiber, fuzz from a pilled sleeve,
delicate curve of a lash — cast up by footfall
crisp against the wood floor. Nine hundred ninety-eight
others nod in the grief light. She is home still,
on the cusp of a descent no revision can erase.
—JANE LIN, ’92, in Day of Clean Brightness; 3: A Taos Press, $23.
The Language of Man: Learning to Speak Creativity, LARRY ROBERTSON, ’87; Daymark Press, $32. More than five dozen MacArthur fellows share their own stories and offer encouragement in Robertson’s engaging book on reviving your creative mind. Everyone possesses the capacity for tapping into big ideas, the author says, and even the most pedantic thinker can learn how to make creative inquiry an enjoyable habit — and a fruitful one.
Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation, ALAN BURDICK, ’88; Simon & Schuster, $28. Burdick, a staff writer at the New Yorker, hooks readers with his exploration of the nature and sensations of time. The details behind the “why” in the book’s title are accounted for in a single sentence on page 193. But it’s not the why that makes the book worthwhile; it’s the high return on the minutes you devote to it.
The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World, SCOTT HARTLEY, ’05; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28. Hartley explains why the smartest start-ups are hiring philosophers and theater majors in addition to the standard engineers and coders. As the nuts and bolts of the digital arena become more accessible, it’s those with a liberal arts background who will have the skills to engage data and beautify the online world.
Divergent Memories: Opinion Leaders and the Asia-Pacific War, GI-WOOK SHIN and DANIEL SNEIDER; Stanford University Press, $24.95. Shin and Sneider, the director and associate director for research of the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, respectively, examine how China, Korea, Japan and the United States differ in their historical memory of the Asia-Pacific War. Particularly interesting is the discussion of how pop culture, textbook wording and politicians play a role in shaping each country’s national narrative.
Whisper Not: The Autobiography of Benny Golson, BENNY GOLSON and JIM MEROD, PhD ’73; Temple University Press, $39.50. Few names in jazz are as important as Golson’s, for his contributions both as a performer and as a composer. With the help of Merod, Golson leaves another legacy in this collection of stories from his life and time in the spotlight; it covers his run-ins with a who’s who of jazz legends and paints a rich portrait of his life.
¿Por Qué? 101 Questions About Spanish, JUDY HOCHBERG, MA ’85, PhD ’86; Bloomsbury, $29.95. It may seem crazy, but did you know loco has its origins in Arabic, attributable to the nearly 800-year Moorish occupation of southern Spain? (That’s also where we get zanahoria, or carrot.) It’s one of many nuggets in Hochberg’s absorbing examination of common questions about the world’s second most widely spoken language.
System: The Shaping of Modern Knowledge, CLIFFORD SISKIN, ’72; MIT Press, $32. “System” has been used to describe Enlightenment-era inquiries of knowledge, the arrangement of the stars, the mechanisms that operate our cell phones, and the nefarious alignment of forces that keep us from getting what we desire. Siskin investigates how we arrived at our “world full of systems” and argues that the best way to understand the abstract concept is found not in theory but in literature: as a genre of knowledge.
The following did not appear in the print version of Stanford.
An American on the Western Front: The First World War Letters of Arthur Clifford Kimber, 1917–18, PATRICK GREGORY and ELIZABETH NURSER; The History Press, $35. In 1917, Arthur Clifford Kimber left his studies at Stanford to join America’s entry into World War I. “President Wilbur announced that all students who left the University because of the war to go to France or into military training, etc., would be given full University credit for the term’s work. . . . My duty called me to France,” he wrote a few months after he left campus. A spirit of idealism and optimism motivated Kimber to volunteer as an ambulance driver, which would speed his entry to the front. In An American on the Western Front, Gregory (a veteran journalist for the BBC) and Nurser (a historian and Kimber’s niece) compile the letters that Kimber regularly sent home to his mother and brothers; photos, maps and historical context frame his missives into a riveting firsthand account. Kimber shares the exhilaration of battle and the mundane details of everyday life on the front line, from his journey from springtime Palo Alto to Manhattan to France; his training, risks and adventures as a fighter pilot with the French Air Service and U.S. Air Service (the 22nd Aero Squadron, now part of the U.S. Air Force); and his dinner with a rather famous “ace” French aviator, whose attire—white pajamas and slippers—was singular among the sea of uniforms. Kimber’s letters came to a halt just a few weeks before the Armistice; tragically, the young man perished when his plane exploded in one of the last offensive pushes of the war. A fascinating and poignant read.
Challenges in the Process of China’s Urbanization, edited by KAREN EGGLESTON, JEAN C. OI, WANG YIMING; Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, $24.95. This collection of essays from leading social scientists from the U.S. and China explores and addresses urban China’s current and upcoming challenges, including finances, affordable housing, environment impact, education and other social services. With China’s recent and swift urbanization, innovations to policies and governance must accommodate the growing needs of the country. Eggleston is the director of the Asia Health Policy Program at the Shorenstein APARC and a fellow at Stanford’s Center for Health Policy/Primary Care and Outcomes Research; Oi is the William Haas Professor in Chinese Politics in the department of political science. They are both senior fellows at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford.
Thinking and Acting Systematically: Improving School Districts Under Pressure, ALAN J. DALY and KARA S. FINNIGAN, MA ’94; American Educational Research Association, $29.95. Daly and Finnigan assemble multiple experts’ commentary on how to implement systematic changes to education that start not in individual schools but in the district. They argue that a centralized district is more capable of instituting reforms than individual schools are and examine a variety of topics such as Common Core, urban school districts and district organization.
The Flood Year 1927: A Cultural History, SUSAN SCOTT PARRISH, PhD ’98; Princeton University Press, $35. The Great Mississippi Flood was the first natural disaster to be addressed in popular culture and receive extensive media attention. While previous historical research has provided an extensive blow-by-blow account of the flood, Parrish focuses on how the research became meaningful. Investigating responses to the flood across a variety of media, including journalism, poetry, fiction and music, she outlines how the disaster gained public meaning.
The Social Life of Inkstones: Artisans and Scholars in Early Qing China, DOROTHY KO, ’78, MA ’79, PhD ’89; University of Washington Press, $45. Vessels for grinding ink, inkstones were art objects, tokens of exchange and signs of a changing material culture during the early Qing dynasty. The production of inkstones blurred the line between scholars and craftsmen, with the former having been more highly revered than the latter. Through her study of the history and cultural significance of the inkstone, Ko traces the influence that one group of artisans and stonecutters had on the broader Qing empire.
Whose Global Village? Rethinking How Technology Shapes Our World, RAMESH SRINIVASAN, ’98; New York University Press, $35. Communities across the world are connecting via social media, mobile phones, the internet and other digital technologies — yet the resulting “global village” tends to be largely Western-focused. Srinivasan reimagines digital media from a broader perspective, focusing on the potential for diverse and marginalized voices to come into their own in the digital world.
William Fox and the Fox Film Corporation: A Biography and a Chronicle, MERRILL T. MCCORD, MA ’54; Alhambra Publishers, $45. McCord details the life of 20th-century film producer William Fox and the development of Fox Film Corporation, which later merged with 20th Century Pictures to form 20th Century Fox. The biography contains a wealth of detail about movies, directors and actors from the early 1900s.
Practical Anesthetic Management: The Art of Anesthesiology, C. PHILIP LARSON JR., ’55, MS ’87, and RICHARD A. JAFFE; Springer International Publishing, $109. In this text for both practicing physicians and anesthesiology residents in training, Larson (emeritus professor, anesthesia and neurosurgery) and Jaffe (professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine and, by courtesy, of neurosurgery) explore areas of anesthesiology, including airway management and blood-gas analysis, and discuss striking a balance between the art of anesthesia and evidence-based approaches.
Peaceful Conversations: Preventing Conflict in Communication: Across Cultures, in the Workplace, Among Family and Friends, GAIL NEMETZ ROBINSON, PhD, ’81; RiversMoore Books, $25.99. Drawing upon original research, anecdotes and media references, Nemetz Robinson discusses psychological traps that undermine peaceful conversation. She outlines six basic principles for better communication and provides practical solutions to implement these principles. Nemetz Robinson’s advice will develop the listening and conversational skills of a reader who places a higher value on avoiding conflict than on dominating a conversation.
Classical Traditions in Science Fiction, edited by BRETT M. ROGERS, PhD ’05, and BENJAMIN ELDON STEVENS; Oxford University Press, $35. As our knowledge of the modern world is so mediated by technology, it appears to diverge from how the ancient Greeks and Romans understood their world. Through this collection of essays focusing on how science fiction draws upon the classics, Rogers and Stevens examine the deep similarities in how science and technology shape human beings and their actions in worlds separated by millennia.
Measuring the Harlem Renaissance: The U.S. Census, African American Identity, and Literary Form, MICHAEL SOTO, ’92; University of Massachusetts Press, $24.95. Journeying through U.S. census history and a broad range of thinkers and writers, Soto maps out a new way of understanding how the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s came into being: not only as an explosive era of black art and cultural production, but also as an age that would profoundly shape our understanding of African-American literature and identity today.
Mosquitoes Don’t Bite Me, PENDRED NOYCE, MD ’83; Tumblehome Learning, $16.95. Nala may seem like the average seventh grader, but she has a secret superpower: a genetic variation that makes her resistant to mosquitoes and safe from mosquito-borne illnesses. To learn more about her family’s genetic history, she travels to Kenya, where she draws the interests of pharmaceutical scientists. Within its coming-of-age tale, Mosquitoes Don’t Bite Me ponders the ethical question of who has the right to know and own a person’s biological information.
Cold War Ruins: Transpacific Critique of American Justice and Japanese War Crimes, LISA YONEYAMA, PhD ’93; Duke University Press, $25.95. In this interdisciplinary enterprise between East Asian studies, American studies and anthropology, Yoneyama discusses how Cold War politics led to the emergence of what she terms a “transborder redress culture.” Examining the legacies of colonialism and empire in the Pacific, Yoneyama offers a historical analysis of these geopolitical entanglements and gives a fresh look on the ongoing conflicts between Asia, the Pacific Islands and North America.
Subterranean Estates: Life Worlds of Oil and Gas, edited by HANNAH APPEL, MA ’06, PhD ’11, ARTHUR MASON and MICHAEL WATTS; Cornell University Press, $29.95. The oil industry, valued at trillions of dollars, has hardly escaped the scrutiny of scholars. For more than 100 years, the social sciences have explored oil as an economic powerhouse, a cultural institution and an environmental controversy. However, three scholars of the oil industry — Appel, Mason, Watts — believe that much of the research on oil has ignored the actual industry itself. In their new book, the three academics turn their attention directly to the process of pulling oil from the earth and investigate the labor, technology, and sale of the ubiquitous commodity.
The Case for U.S. Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century, BRAD ROBERTS, ’76; Stanford University Press, $29.95. This award-winning book challenges the traditional attitude that the United States ought to reduce its stockpile of nuclear weapons and diminish nuclear force’s relevance in defense policy. Roberts, calling on his experience in the Obama administration, argues that the post-Cold War world requires new ways of thinking about nuclear weapons. He believes that until other countries can commit to reducing their own arsenals, the U.S. must engage in strategic patience and demure disarmament.