Fall 2016

Mixed Media

Our Books and Creative Milestones

CREATIVE VOICE
A MEMOIR OF POVERTY

Catherine Marenghi

Catherine Marenghi, J76, G77, grew up in a primitive one-room farmhouse with four siblings and hardworking parents who were frustratingly evasive about why they lived that way. She eventually graduated from Tufts, started a successful public relations firm, and helped her family buy their first decent house, but her past continued to haunt her. Her memoir Glad Farm (Tate) details her unconventional upbringing and her eventual discovery of the long-buried family secrets that helped her make sense of it all.

“I was at a writer’s retreat, and we were telling stories around the dinner table. People were surprised that I had such extreme poverty in my background—they’d assumed I was very privileged—and encouraged me to write a memoir.

It was around the time that I was going through my mother’s attic and cedar chest to prepare her house for sale and found all kinds of artifacts that helped me start to understand my childhood. When I started writing, houses were a theme that strung the whole thing together—how people live in their houses and feel about them and become who they are because of them. That’s why I decided to donate a portion of the book’s proceeds to Habitat for Humanity.

When I was very little, I didn’t feel that there was anything wrong with my life. I lived in a lovely, rural area with woods; my family grew beautiful flowers, and I loved the beauty of the outdoors. But when I got to school, I started picking up on the fact that other people lived very differently.

They had names for different rooms of the house. Because we all lived in one large room, I didn’t know how a living room was different from a dining room. We had no indoor plumbing, no telephone, no central heating—so many things that other people take for granted.

I was very introverted and isolated, so I think I looked to my inner life for solace and inspiration. I was a lone creator in my little corner of the house. I drew pictures and wrote stories and poetry. I got very nice encouragement from teachers, so I was lucky. I think there was also a certain creativity in the kind of outdoor play I did—making mud pies and playing with flowers and mosses, putting lovely things together in a way that entertained me.

So many times I felt conflicted that I wasn’t pursuing writing full time. In college, I was very fortunate to study with Denise Levertov. She felt strongly that you couldn’t have a nine-to-five job and still be a poet. I ran into her in the airport once when I was dressed in business attire, and she was so disapproving.

She felt like you should choose poverty if it meant you could put your art first. I had come from poverty, and I knew what it was like—not just the deprivation of it, but putting your health and life at risk. I wanted to acquire wealth so I could help my family. I didn’t feel like that was a dishonorable choice, but it was tough to defer the kind of writing I wanted to be doing.”

 

BOOKS

Architecture’s Odd Couple Bloomsbury
Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson were the frenemies of twentieth-century architecture—one known for his romantic, earthbound Prairie style and the other for his soaring experiments in postmodernism. Historian Hugh Howard, A74, unpacks the rivalry between these two outspoken, charismatic, and artistically polarized innovators and shows how their contentious relationship and their iconic buildings—from Fallingwater and the Glass House to the Guggenheim Museum and the Seagram Building—provoked generation-defining conversations about living and public spaces.

 

From Crisis to Calling: Finding Your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions

From Crisis to Calling: Finding Your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions Berrett-Koehler
As an aid worker in war-torn Congo, Sasha Chanoff, F04, N04, arrived in a refugee camp with strict orders to evacuate exactly one hundred twelve massacre survivors. When he discovered an additional thirty-two widows and orphans who also needed to be moved to safety, he was forced to choose between jeopardizing the entire mission, or leaving them behind to face certain death. Writing with his father, the journalist David Chanoff, Sasha Chanoff dissects that agonizing decision and illuminates the transformative potential of choices that demand moral courage. Accounts of pivotal decisions by eight other leaders, including a Navy SEAL, a government official, and a Holocaust survivor turned entrepreneur, illustrate the steps that go into making moral decisions and show how we can harness the power of ethical intuition to turn crises into opportunities for altruism.

 

The Making of Asian America

The Making of Asian America Simon & Schuster
Over the past fifty years, Asian Americans have become the fastest growing group in the United States, but most Americans are profoundly ignorant of just how deep Asian roots run in our country. Drawing on sources such as the 1570 world atlas, newspaper accounts, and immigrant biographies, this ambitious, compulsively readable history by Erika Lee, J91, tells the little-known story of how generations of Asian immigrants—sailors who came on the first trans-Pacific ships in the 1500s, Chinese railroad workers, Indian nationalists, Japanese “picture brides,” Korean adoptees, Hmong refugees, and so many others—have transformed the American cultural landscape. Lee argues that while there is great diversity in the Asian immigrant experience, there are also significant similarities that shed light on the complicated role of race in American life.

 

Return to Cold War

Return to Cold War Polity
“Cold war,” Robert Levgold, F63, F67, points out, is often convenient shorthand for a relationship gone bad. But in a world where the threats of stateless terrorism and sectarian violence loom large, is it really the best way to understand the current toxic dynamic between Russia and the U.S.? Unfortunately, yes, argues Robert Levgold, a leading expert on Soviet and Russian foreign policy—and the confrontation over Putin’s annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine are only part of the story. This compact but penetrating analysis examines the similarities between the original Cold War and today’s conflict and traces the tortuous, decades-long path to our current predicament. Underscoring the disastrous global consequences of maintaining our present postures, Robert Levgold closes by suggesting a way out of the impasse.

 

Bulletins From Dallas Skyhorse
Most Americans heard about President Kennedy’s assassination from Walter Cronkite, but Cronkite got his information from dispatches filed by UPI White House reporter Merriman Smith, who broke the news just minutes after the first shots were fired on Kennedy’s motorcade. Bill Sanderson, A81, shares the inside story on how Smith, one of the most influential journalists of his time, landed the scoop of the century. With a cranky, dogged personality straight out of a mid-century newsroom flick, Smith got his start on the White House beat covering FDR. His accuracy and “cold” look at the presidency won him both fans and detractors, including Jacqueline Kennedy, who was determined not to let Smith’s factual reporting undermine the “Camelot” legacy.

 

Hold Still

Hold Still W.W. Norton
By the time you get to the tragedy at the heart of this captivating debut novel by Lynn Steger Strong, A05, the richly textured specificity of its characters’ individual miseries weighs so heavily that the precipitating event hardly seems to matter. The story’s central character, Maya Taylor, is a Virginia Woolf scholar, and its shifts in time and perception pay the bard of Bloomsbury subtle homage. As buttoned-up Maya tries to wrap her head around the irrevocable mistake her troubled daughter, Ellie, has made while looking after a friend’s son in Florida, Strong’s fearlessly observed details force us to wrestle with the reverberations of guilt and the limits of love.

 

FILM/VIDEO

“We don’t create music; we download music from the Cosmos,” says Mr. Natural, the subject of the documentary short What I’m Hearing in My Head, produced and directed by Ashapurna Ghosh, E95. “It comes into our consciousness, and then we frame it and try to put it on paper.”

Mr. Natural

Mr. Natural is his real name—he officially adopted the identity of a character from Robert Crumb’s comics and goes by nothing else—and he settled in San Francisco in 1968, dividing his time between establishing the San Francisco Free Theater, working as a technical draftsman and electronics engineer, and playing music in the Haight-Ashbury district.

In the early Nineties he started a music school that was based on the innovative approach he pioneered—teaching students through the use of numbered intervals rather than lettered notes. This is a skill that many advanced musicians have, but Mr. Natural believes it is a method that helps beginners learn to play and compose more intuitively.

Mr. Natural has been unable to patent any of his teaching tools, and he struggles to attract students. Ghosh’s film acknowledges the tension between creativity and survival and pays tribute to the persistence of Sixties iconoclasm in one individual’s life.

 

Veda Shastri, A09, produced and directed the documentary Return to Chernobyl, which was released in April by Frontline PBS and Facebook 360 video to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine.

Return to Chernobyl

Shot with 360-degree cameras from inside the exclusion zone—the deserted, one-thousand-square-mile area surrounding the reactor, which still has dangerously high radiation levels—the film follows tour guide Aleksander Sirota, who was just nine years old when the accident occurred. It offers a haunting, on-the-ground look at the ruins of Pripyat, the planned community where most of the power plant’s workers lived, and the Chernobyl station itself, as well as efforts to seal the reactor behind the meltdown with a radiation confinement shelter. Watch it at bit.ly/chernobylreturn.

 

Also of Note

In Loss of Innocents, Alvin Bojar, A50, spins a spellbinding tale out of the tragic sex trafficking scandal that launched the career of Victorian editor William Stead, the founder of tabloid journalism.

Written for both professional naturalists and casual nature lovers, The Next Step (McDonald & Woodward), by David Brown, A63, is an encyclopedic guide to animal tracking that will help readers not only identify tracks, but interpret the behavior of the animals whose signs they find.

With its straightforward question-and-answer format, Alzheimer’s Disease (Mercury), by Alia Bucciarelli, M.S.05, an adjunct assistant professor of family medicine and community health at Tufts, gives families and caregivers easy access to practical information about Alzheimer’s, which currently affects five million adults in the U.S.

In Mounting Frustration (Duke), Susan E. Cahan, J82, investigates the strategies used by African American artists and museum professionals to gain a voice in the direction of New York City’s elite museums.

The poems in Imperfect Tense (Whitepoint), by Melissa Cahnmann-Taylor, J92, are a meditation on language—the acquisition of Spanish as a foreign language, the experiences of a language teacher, and the language of family.

Rather than telling pregnant women what they can’t eat, Healthy, Happy Pregnancy Cookbook (Atria), by Stephanie Clark, N06, and Willow Jarosh, N06, serves up a delicious, nourishing collection of recipes designed to satisfy cravings and alleviate the discomforts of pregnancy, from an orange carrot cream smoothie for leg cramps to a salsa and cheddar microwave egg sandwich for fatigue.

Ben Dedrick, A02, makes his debut as a novelist with A Love Predestined, a fictionalized tribute to his mother, a radiologist who died following a two-year battle with leukemia.

In Wild Maine Adventure (Haley’s), modern-day Thoreau William Emrich, A69, chronicles the ups and downs of living his dream—building a cabin on a secluded pond in the Maine woods.

Highlighting the role of protest in shaping educational policies, Educational Reconstruction (Fordham), by Hilary Green, G03, reveals how black citizens of Richmond, Virginia, and Mobile, Alabama, and their white allies created a system of African American schools in the two decades following the Civil War.

Tammy Donroe Inman, J95, cleverly combines word puzzles with social media snark in Twitterati Cryptograms (Puzzlewright), the first puzzle book inspired by Twitter.

Most godparents are content to send birthday cards and checks, but Marny Jaasted, J91, spent two years emailing life lessons to her preteen godson, Evan. The result is BE, a heartfelt meditation on what it means to be human.

Pat Libby, J79, and Laura Deitrick give practical heft to topics ranging from risk management and advocacy to ethics and grant making in Cases in Nonprofit Management (Sage).

State Department crisis manager Judd Ryker is back in Ghosts of Havana (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), the latest diplomatic thriller by Todd Moss, A92

In the Wake (Duke), by Christina Sharpe, an associate professor of English at Tufts, ponders the multiple associations of “wake”—keeping watch with the dead, the path behind a slave ship, coming to consciousness—and their relationship with literary and visual representations of black life.

Thirty Seventh Illinois (English Garden), by J.H. Wilder, A65, tells the story of one of the longest-serving volunteer units to fight in the Civil War.

Edited and translated by Rebecca E. Karl and Xueping Zhong, a professor of Chinese literature at Tufts, Cai Xiang’s Revolution and Its Narratives is a series of critical analyses illuminating the cultural and social legacies of contemporary China.