The following books have been published recently by Hamilton alumni and members of the faculty. We welcome other new or recent books for annotation in future issues. Please email bibliographic information to email@example.com or, preferably, send a copy of the book to Hamilton Alumni Review, Hamilton College, 198 College Hill Road, Clinton, NY 13323.
Amy Zhang ’18, Falling into Place (New York: HarperCollins, 2014). Last year at this time, Heqing “Amy” Zhang ’18 was finishing her senior year at Sheboygan Falls High School in Wisconsin. Little did she know then that she would be balancing her first semester as a college student with a book tour.
Zhang recounted her whirlwind journey to becoming a published author. “This particular project began as two short stories, one of which I wrote as an English assignment. I wrote the short story knowing that I wanted to later develop it into a novel-length work,” she explains. “The second was more of a piece of flash fiction that I wrote for pleasure, the narrator of which became the narrator of Falling into Place.”
Zhang wrote the first draft during National Novel Writing Month in November and finished it within the month. Getting her novel sold was not as difficult as she first expected. “I queried [Emily Keyes of Foreword Literary Agency] without telling her how old I was, and when she offered representation and I finally confessed, she rolled with it,” Zhang says. “We revised for a month or two before she sent it on submissions, and it sold. I went through several rounds of revisions with my editor as well.”
Falling into Place is told from the perspective of Liz Emerson, the most popular girl in the junior class at Meridian High, who seems to have it all. So why, on the same day her physics class reviews Newton’s laws of motion, does she apply them by running her Mercedes into a tree? In non-linear fashion, the author explores the questions: “How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect?”
Zhang’s book received several positive reviews, sometimes mentioned in the same sentence as the wildly popular The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and If I Stay by Gayle Forman. The School Library Journal described it as “breezy yet powerful” with an “exceptionally perceptive writing style, multifaceted characters, surprisingly hopeful ending and pertinent contemporary themes.”
During her first semester at Hamilton, Zhang enrolled in Chaucer: Gender & Genre, Conversations in Hispanic Culture, Classic Mythology and Intro to Sculpture. She also managed to squeeze in a tennis class, piano lessons and time to work on her writing. The promising young author is under contract for two more novels. She provided a hint about one, tentatively titled This is Where the World Ends. “It’s about a boy obsessed with apocalypses and a girl whose goal in life is to make the entire world fall in love with her,” she says. “There’s spray paint and a coffee shop full of origami cranes and wings, and it’s set to publish in fall 2015.”
— Holly Foster
Amy Biancolli ’85, Figuring Sh!t Out: Love, Laughter, Suicide and Survival (Burlington, Iowa: Behler Publications, 2014). In this inspirational memoir, the author tells of her “shockingly single” life following her husband’s suicide. Left with three children, a three-story house and what may seem like insurmountable psychological complications, she “learns that ‘figuring sh!t out’ means accepting the horrors that come her way, rolling with them, slogging through them, helping others through theirs and working her way through life with love and laughter.” Biancolli, an arts writer and columnist for the Albany Times Union, has written several novels and a play.
Peter F. Cannavò, associate professor of government (co-editor), Engaging Nature: Environmentalism and the Political Theory Canon (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2014). This collection of essays examines the intersections between well-known canonical political thinkers, such as Plato, Machiavelli, Locke and Marx, and current environmental political theory. According to the publisher, “In examining and explicating how these great thinkers of the past viewed the natural world and our relationship with nature, the essays also illuminate our current environmental predicament.”
James Revell Carr ’90, Hawaiian Music in Motion: Mariners, Missionaries, and Minstrels (Champaign, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 2014). The first in the Music in American Life series to focus on Hawaiian music, this book explores “the performance, reception, transmission and adaptation of Hawaiian music on board ships and in the islands, revealing the ways both maritime commerce and imperial confrontation facilitated the circulation of popular music in the 19th century.” The author is an associate professor of ethnomusicology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Stephen Lewis Fuchs ’68, What’s In It For Me? Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives (Salt Lake City: ECKO Publishing, 2014). Some believe biblical narratives represent the literal word of God; others liken these stories to quaint folktales. In this, his first book, the author “invites the reader to discover a middle ground that takes biblical narratives seriously without regard to their historical or scientific truth. The ‘truth’ of these stories has nothing to do with, ‘Did this really happen?’ Their truth emerges in the valuable lessons these stories can teach all of us.” Fuchs has served for 40 years as a pulpit rabbi and for 18 months as president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
Andrew Horton ’66 (co-editor), Screenwriting (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2014). This volume in the Behind the Silver Screen series provides a comprehensive look at the art and business of screenwriting as it “explores the social, political and economic implications of the changing craft of American screenwriting from the silent screen through the classical Hollywood years, the rise of independent cinema and on to the contemporary global multimedia marketplace.” Horton is the Jeanne H. Smith Professor of Film and Video Studies at the University of Oklahoma. An award-winning screenwriter, he is author of 26 books.
Lynn Kanter K’76, Her Own Vietnam (Albany, N.Y.: Shade Mountain Press, 2014). When Della Brown receives a letter from a former Army nurse whom she had served alongside in Vietnam, she discovers that painful memories may not be as far removed as she had thought. As one reviewer noted, “A powerful and necessary reminder that the violence which happens in wars ‘over there’ never stays there — it echoes and rebounds throughout the world, creating wounds in the head and heart that never quite heal.” A writer for the Center for Community Change, a national social justice organization, Kanter has authored two previous novels in addition to works of short fiction and essays.
Ross Guberman and Gary Karl ’75, Deal Struck: The World’s Best Drafting Tips (Washington: Legal Writing Pro Press, 2014). After scouring thousands of pages of drafting books and consulting dozens of corporate lawyers, the authors created this user-friendly manual that serves as an authoritative guide to the best contract-drafting tips for commercial agreements. The handy reference is a must-have tool for lawyers as well as anyone who reviews agreements encountered in everyday life. Karl has decades of experience as a corporate partner and head of transactional training at a major law firm.
Christopher Kostow ’99, A New Napa Cuisine (Berkeley, Calif.: Ten Speed Press, 2014). In his debut cookbook that “celebrates the local artisans, products, growers and wilds that have played a role in the creation of a nascent style of cooking specific to this small American valley,” Chef Kostow discusses the transformative effect that the Napa Valley has had on his approach to cooking and craft. In addition to recipes, the book is packed with thoughtful essays and stunning photography. The author is the critically acclaimed chef of The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, Calif.
David Lahey ’83, Predicting Success: Evidence-Based Strategies to Hire the Right People and Build the Best Team (Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2014). By applying the principles and tools of human analytics to the workplace, businesses can avoid “bad culture fits, mismatched skill sets, entitled workers and other hiring missteps that drain the team of productivity and morale.” So says Lahey, whose experience growing people and business units has led him from a position as enterprise global manager, financial services, at Microsoft to found Predictive Success, an international management consulting company.
Scott MacDonald, visiting professor of art history, Avant-Doc: Intersections of Documentary & Avant-Garde Cinema (Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2014). Over the past half century, a hybrid genre of nonfiction cinema known as the “avant-doc” has emerged in independent film, expanding the way cinema captures and chronicles events. Drawing on interviews with 19 of the form’s chief practitioners, MacDonald has amassed an oral history that provides an insider’s look at this blend of the avant-garde and documentary. Many of the filmmakers included in Avant-Doc have visited Hamilton.
Joseph Epoka Mwantuali, professor of French, Le Discours africain à l’ère des exorcistes (Paris: Panafrika/Silex/Nouvelles du Sud, 2014). This book suggests that Africa must deal with the effects of mental colonization in order to benefit from the postcolonial “rendezvous du donner et du recevoir” or “give and take rendezvous.” According to the author, “The ‘Prometheus’ (or ‘fire stealers’) that Africa sends to acquire knowledge from the West have first to ‘get fit’ and ‘learn to swim’ in order to bring back the ‘fire.’ That is to say, since colonialism destroyed African identities, these incarnations of ‘Prometheus’ have to be culturally well-rooted in order to acquire new knowledge from new cultures.” Mwantuali’s study reframes the debate over where contemporary francophone African literature fits in the colonial/postcolonial continuum.
John Roger Paas ’67, America Sings of War: American Sheet Music from World War I (Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2014). In an effort to sway public opinion in favor of U.S. engagement in World War I, some 30,000 war songs were introduced, most with catchy tunes and lyrics designed for commercial success. “Sung in parlors and halls, performed on vaudeville stages and recorded for phonographs, they illuminate the change in Americans’ reaction to the war from initial neutrality, to preparedness, to patriotic fervor.” The author is the William H. Laird Professor of German at Carleton College.
Zhuoyi Wang, assistant professor of East Asian languages and literatures, Revolutionary Cycles in Chinese Cinema, 1951-1979 (Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). This book examines how conflicts during the Maoist revolutionary campaigns influenced the development of early cinema in China. The author “investigates how film artists, Communist Party authorities, cultural bureaucrats, critics and audiences negotiated, competed and struggled with each other for the power to decide how to use films and how their extensively different, agonistic and antagonistic power strategies created an ever-changing discursive network of meaning in cinema.”
Ernie Wood ’69, One Red Thread (Blue Ash, Ohio: Tyrus Books, 2014). “It can be dangerous to pull on a thread from the past. But Eddy McBride, an architect and rather selfish guy, does it anyway ... launching readers into a time-hopping journey across the generations.” So noted the Minneapolis Star Tribune in its review of the author’s first novel — one that finds the protagonist traveling decades back in time to discover everything from the traumatic to the enlightening. Yet it’s when he returns to the present that his problems really begin. A former journalism teacher, Wood has written several non-fiction books, documentary film scripts and newspaper and magazine articles.
Last issue’s Bookshelf section included news of New York’s Legal Landmarks by Robert Pigott ’81. His class year was noted as 1949; Robert Pigott ’49 is the author’s late father.