Featured book: The beast in me
How did a family dog breed favored by Teddy Roosevelt, Helen Keller, and The Little Rascals come to be seen as dangerous? In Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon (Knopf), essayist and journalist Bronwen Dickey ’03 reveals the complex social and cultural history behind the dog so many love to hate. Here, she shares what piqued her interest:
I grew up fearing pit bulls and being suspicious of both the dogs and their owners. That changed in 2008, when friends introduced me to their adopted pit bull. The frightening, unpredictable creature I expected was actually very sensitive and affectionate. I then began to wonder [whether] she was an outlier or [whether] my assumptions needed some scrutiny. In 2010, I adopted a shelter dog that was labeled a “pit bull” and noticed that most of the people in my life had an opinion as to my dog’s “true” nature, even the ones who hadn’t met her. The more deeply I examined the history and science of this diverse group of dogs, the more I was shocked to discover that the cultural narrative around them is filled with bad science and human prejudice on one hand, and feel-good folk wisdom on the other. The story we tell about pit bulls says a great deal about who we are as a society and what we value, but the dogs don’t get to be dogs in either scenario.
In Trespassing Across America: One Man’s Epic Never-Done- Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland (Blue Rider Press), Ken Ilgunas A.M. ’11 chronicles his 1,700- mile adventure hoofing it from the Alberta tar sands to the Gulf Coast of Texas.
Case studies in big- and small-data usage are analyzed in Adaptive Marketing: Leveraging Real-Time Data to Become a More Competitive and Successful Company (Palgrave Macmillan) by Norm Johnston M.B.A. ’95.
Brewery heiress Frances Stroh ’89 lays bare the dysfunction that ruined her family’s company and drained their fortune in Beer Money: A Memoir of Privilege and Loss (Harper).
By tracing the stories of more than 2,500 women who staffed Mississippi’s early Head Start program, Crystal R. Sanders ’05 renders a portrait of community organizing and political activism in the civil rights-era South in A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi’s Black Freedom Struggle (UNC Press).
What's your nightstand reading, Brian Hare?
The professor of evolutionary anthropology, founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, and author of The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think (Penguin) is reminded of man’s best friend even in his nightly reading:
"... Almost every night I read Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French. My kids (three and five) are half Australian, and they love reading about Australian animals. The book is about a wombat who, on the surface, is not very impressive—she mainly eats and sleeps—but in just under a week she manages to domesticate a human family, getting them to feed her the choicest foods and give her a warm place to live. Not to spoil a good ending, the wombat finally says, “Have decided that humans are easily trained and make quite good pets.” I get a kick out of that because it reminds me of the way people talk about how we domesticated dogs, when in all likelihood, it was dogs who domesticated us. I tell my students that one type of intelligence is not necessarily better than another, and that every species is a genius in [its] own way. Even if [it is] adorably dopey and slightly lazy."
Hare is a DAA Faculty Fellow and will host a dog cognition weekend for alumni October 28-30.