Shelf Life

May/June 2002

Reading time min

Beyond Political Correctness: Social Transformation in the United States
Michael S. Cummings, MA ’68, PhD ’75
Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001
$23.50 (politics)

The author asserts that political progressives sabotage their own aims when they avoid—or shun diverse opinions about—sensitive issues like affirmative action, white-collar crime or capitalism’s flaws. Cummings proposes ways to effect social change. Among them: three Constitutional amendments, phased in over 10 years, that would prohibit “all human activities that poison the earth or its inhabitants” except in self-defense; require extensive rehabilitation efforts for all first-time felons and long-term confinement for recidivists; and order the transfer of ownership of private enterprises to their workers.

Exit Strategies
Catherine Todd, MA ’69 William Morrow, 2002
$24 (fiction)



Becky Weston Pratt doesn’t have time for a midlife crisis. The receptionist-turned-junior-lawyer must support her two children and sick mother while coping with condescension from her younger peers, nagging manipulations by her ex-husband’s widow and the medical missteps of her first client, a successful anti-aging guru. The protagonist of Todd’s third novel faces—and eventually overcomes—all obstacles with unflappable determination and self-deprecating wit.

Called to Rise: A Journey Through Disability
Madeleine Crowley,'43
Western Books/Journal Press, 2001
$24.95 (autobiography)

In 1948, life changed overnight for Crowley, a young wife and mother, when polio paralyzed her. But she raised three children with her husband, Larry (now emeritus professor of surgery at Stanford), and led a full life. At 81, Crowley suffers from post-polio syndrome but concludes that the disease bestowed as many spiritual gains as it inflicted physical losses.

Daughter of the Game
Tracy Grant,'88
William Morrow, 2002
$25 (historical fiction)

Nineteenth-century London thoroughbreds Charles Fraser, MP, and his wife, Melanie, a socialite with a past, waltz through life until the kidnapping of their son, Colin. The two protagonists of Grant’s debut thriller must retrieve Colin’s ransom, a legendary ring, from an elusive actress. As the game plays out, the Frasers realize they cannot unlock another’s secrets without unleashing their own.

Arguing A.I.: The Battle for Twenty-First Century Science
Sam Williams, ’91
Random House, 2002
$15.95 (science/technology)

Will intelligent machines become the next new species, smarter than humans and beyond our control, perhaps driving us to extinction? Or are the proponents of artificial intelligence overestimating its potential? Williams interviewed the key players in the hot debate to offer a layman’s guide to A.I.

Stealing the Fire
Jane Ciabattari, ’68
Canio’s Editions, 2002
$15 (fiction)

In these nine short stories, individuals struggle to overcome misfortune: a father’s death, a miscarriage, estrangement from a mentally unbalanced son. In one vignette, a failed actress bemoaning her soured marriage confesses she can’t afford to leave her actor husband, who always gets tough-guy roles. But the marriage perks up when she scores a part “for muscular redheads”—and the couple’s roles reverse.

Every Step a Lotus: Shoes for Bound Feet
Dorothy Ko, ’78, MA ’79, PhD ’89
UC Press, 2002
$24.95 (China/history)

Ko challenges readers to re-examine Chinese footbinding and modern attitudes toward it. The practice “was an entirely reasonable course of action for a woman who lived in a Confucian culture that placed the highest moral value on domesticity, motherhood and handiwork,” she argues. The elaborate, colorful “lotus shoes” pictured throughout attest to their makers’ artistry, if not their comfort.

Wrongful Death
Baine Kerr, ’68
Scribner, 2002
$25 (fiction)

This medical-legal thriller follows a string of violent events and unexplained deaths to a well-crafted courtroom climax. Along the way come glimpses of post-traumatic psychosis, pharmaceutical skulduggery, forensic trickery and Serbian war crimes. Kerr is a medical malpractice lawyer based in Boulder, Colo., who recently returned from a year in Bosnia and The Hague.

A History of the Wife
Marilyn Yalom
HarperCollins, 2001
$14.95 (history/women’s studies)

Wedding vows rarely include obedience anymore and most wives work outside the home. Same-sex unions further cloud the meaning of “wife.” Before the word becomes obsolete, writes Yalom, senior scholar at Stanford’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender, “it makes sense to take stock of her inheritance.” Yalom explores the lives of married women through the ages.

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