Books: January-February 2009

January 31, 2009
Harvest of Blossoms: Poems from a Life Cut Short

Harvest of Blossoms: Poems from a Life Cut Short.
Edited by Irene and Helene Silverblatt.
Northwestern University Press, 2008. 147 pages. $18.95.

Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, a Romanian Jew, died in a Nazi labor camp in 1942 at the age of eighteen. Harvest of Blossoms, the first English translation of her poems, is edited by Irene Silverblatt, a professor of cultural anthropology at Duke, and her sister, Helene Silverblatt, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. The Silverblatts, who are cousins of Meerbaum-Eisinger, provide a rich historical context to frame the young girl's work. In a voice that has been compared to Anne Frank, Meerbaum-Eisinger writes of young love (she dedicated the poems to her boyfriend), the beauty and fragility of nature, and her despair over rising anti-Semitic and nationalist sentiments in Europe. This past fall, Silverblatt taught a course on the politics of memory and a graduate seminar on nationalism, both of which grew out of her experience bringing Meerbaum-Eisinger's poems and story to life.

 
The Nonprofit Career Guide: How to Land a Job That Makes a Difference. By Shelly Cryer '89

The Nonprofit Career Guide: How to Land a Job That Makes a Difference.
By Shelly Cryer '89.
Fieldstone Alliance, 2008. 300 pages. $16.95.

More than 14 million Americans work in the nonprofit sector, from small-town community groups to national organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill Industries. Cryer offers how-to advice for young professionals interested in landing a job with a nonprofit (search strategies, salary negotiation), as well as topics related to senior-level management positions (administration and finance, development). Cryer is the founder of the Initiative for Nonprofit Sector Career, a research and advocacy project designed to cultivate the next generation of skilled, diverse leaders for these organizations.

 
Upbuilding Black Durham: Gender, Class, and Black Community Development in the Jim Crow South. By Leslie Brown A.M. '93, Ph.D. '97

Upbuilding Black Durham: Gender, Class, and Black Community Development in the Jim Crow South.
By Leslie Brown A.M. '93, Ph.D. '97.
University of North Carolina Press, 2008. 429 pages. $24.95, paper.

Using interviews, narratives, and family stories, Brown paints Durham in the Jim Crow era as a place of dynamic change where, despite common aspirations, gender and class conflicts emerged. Shifting the historical perspective away from viewing solidarity as essential to effective struggle or dissent as a measure of weakness, Brown demonstrates that friction among African Americans generated rather than depleted energy, sparking many activist initiatives on behalf of the black community.

 
Strength & Compassion. By Eric Greitens '96

Strength & Compassion.
By Eric Greitens '96.
Leading Authorities Press, 2008. 176 pages. $65.

Photographs and essays by Greitens—Rhodes and Truman Scholar, Navy SEAL, marathon runner, Golden Gloves boxer, former White House Fellow, founder and chair of the Center for Citizen Leadership—illustrate the strong humanitarian impulse that shapes his life. The book shows the lives of genocide refugees, street children, war orphans, and landmine survivors in eight countries, encouraging readers to consider what it takes to overcome extreme hardship. With a foreword by Paul Rusesabagina, recipient of the 2005 Presidential Medal of Freedom, whose life story inspired the movie Hotel Rwanda.

 
Brighter Leaves: History of the Arts in Durham

Brighter Leaves: History of the Arts in Durham.
Preservation Durham, 2008. 300 pages. $50
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Filled with photographs and essays, Brighter Leaves weaves together Durham's earliest artistic efforts with its industrial and social history. Using oral histories and first-person interviews, Brighter Leaves celebrates numerous artists, including African Dance Ensemble founder Chuck Davis and gospel singer Shirley Caesar, and features such arts institutions as the Durham Arts Council, the Carolina Theatre, and the Hayti Heritage Center. The book also includes in-depth entries on hundreds of artists, individuals, and groups who were important to the development of the arts in Durham, and highlights the role that Duke and other academic institutions played in shaping the city's vibrant arts community. Inspired by the late arts supporter Patrick Kenan M.D. '59, Brighter Leaves was published under the guidance of Preservation Durham and supported by local foundations and private donors.

Television, Power, and the Public in Russia. By Ellen Mickiewicz.

Television, Power, and the Public in Russia.
By Ellen Mickiewicz.
Cambridge University Press, 2008. 220 pages. $29.99, paper.

Mickiewicz, the James R. Shepley Professor of public policy studies and professor of political science at Duke, examines how messages shaped and dispersed through government-controlled media outlets are perceived by the Russian people. Using extensive focus groups and new developments in cognitive theory, Mickiewicz reveals major discrepancies between the messages intended by state-sponsored broadcasts and their reception by viewers.

 

Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins: Black Daughter of the Revolution. By Lois Brown

Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins: Black Daughter of the Revolution.
By Lois Brown '87.
University of North Carolina Press, 2008. 704 pages. $45.
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Born into an educated, free black family in Portland, Maine, Hopkins was a pioneering playwright, journalist, novelist, feminist, and intellectual. In this critical biography, Brown includes descriptions of Hopkins' earliest-known performances as a singer and actress; textual analysis of her major and minor literary work; information about her most influential mentors, colleagues, and professional affiliations; and details of her battles with Booker T. Washington, which ultimately led to her professional demise as a journalist. Brown is an associate professor of English and director of the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts at Mount Holyoke College.

 
Mediterranean Passages: Readings from Dido to Derrida

Mediterranean Passages: Readings from Dido to Derrida.
Edited by miriam cooke, Erdag Göknar, and Grant Parker.
University of North Carolina Press, 2008. 416 pages. $24.95, paper.

The Mediterranean is the meeting point of three continents—Asia, Africa, and Europe—as well as three major monotheistic religions—Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Focusing on global networks and cultural exchanges, the book collects writings from across 3,000 years to provide a pan-Mediterranean perspective of the cultural, political, and economic relations that crisscross the region, linking people and places from antiquity to the present. At Duke, cooke is professor of Arabic literature and culture, and Göknar is assistant professor of Turkish studies. Parker, a former assistant professor of classical studies at Duke, is now assistant professor of classics at Stanford University.

 
All Aboard. By Joe Ashby Porter

All Aboard.
By Joe Ashby Porter.
Turtle Point Press, 2008. 187 pages. $15.95.

Porter, a fiction writer and Duke professor of English and theater studies, ventures into new, sometimes unprecedented territory, from the luxe restraint of "Merrymount," through the eroticism of "Pending," to the distilled heebie-jeebies of "Dream On." In these six short stories, reading, travel, and sexual orientation (and disorientation) loom larger than in his previous works. In addition to his published works—short-story collections, novels, nonfiction books on William Shakespeare—Porter's accomplishments include an Academy Award from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, Pushcart prizes, NEA/PEN Syndicated Fiction awards, and fellowships from the NEA.

 
Jack Coombs: A Life in Baseball. By John P. Tierney

Jack Coombs: A Life in Baseball.
By John P. Tierney.
McFarland & Company, 2008. 214 pages. $29.95.
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During his nearly quarter century of coaching Duke's baseball program, former Major League pitcher Coombs was a popular campus figure—close friend of president William Preston Few, colleague of football coach Wallace Wade, and mentor to hundreds of student-athletes, building a 382-171 record before retiring at the age of seventy. Tierney, a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, writes with a fan's attention to detail as he tracks Coombs' rise to fame in the pros, his debilitating bout with typhoid fever, and his indelible mark on Duke athletics.

 
The Best Day of Someone Else's Life. By Kerry Reichs

The Best Day of Someone Else's Life.
By Kerry Reichs J.D. '99, M.P.P. '00.
Avon/HarperCollins, 2008. 464 pages. $13.95.
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In her debut novel, lawyer-turned-writer Reichs offers a humorous take on friendships, relationships, and family bonds. Her protagonist, Kevin "Vi" Connelly, is a serial bridesmaid, whose attendance at eleven weddings in eighteen months forces her to consider "the blind impetus to marry, and the nexus between commitment and ritual." Reichs knows her material: She's a frequent maid of honor and bridesmaid—five times in each role, and counting.