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The Book Pages

by: Mike Quinn   (August 2002)

The San Francisco-based Commonwealth Club awarded the California Book Awards 2002 Gold Medal for Fiction to Susan Straight, professor of creative writing, for her fifth novel, “Highwire Moon.”

A National Book Award finalist, “Highwire Moon” tells the story of a mother and a daughter, Serafina, an undocumented Mexican-Indian immigrant torn away from her American-born daughter, Elvia, during an immigration raid. “Highwire Moon” traces their struggle to reunite despite grinding poverty, backbreaking toil, the seamy Southern California subculture of methamphetamine addicts and the foster care system.

Other literary figures who have won California Book Awards include John Steinbeck, William Saroyan, Wallace Stegner and Amy Tan. The gold medal comes with a $2,000 prize. Other gold medallists in this year’s competition are Pulitzer Prize winner Alan Taylor for his non-fiction work “American Colonies” and the poet and Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz for “New and Collected Poems 1931-2001.”

Straight’s other critically acclaimed fiction includes “Aquaboogie,” “I Been in Sorrow’s Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots,” “The Gettin’ Place,” and “Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights.” She has also written two children’s books, “Bear E. Bear” and “The Hallway Light at Night.” Straight sets all her novels in the fictional town of Rio Seco, California, a loose parallel to her hometown, Riverside. Among her awards are the prestigious Lannan Foundation Award in 1999 and a 1997 Guggenheim Fellowship.

The Commonwealth Club of California, a non-profit, non-partisan public affairs forum established in 1903, sponsors the California Book Awards competition. Since 1931, the Club has recognized more than 400 exceptional literary works by California’s writers, poets and publishers.

“Sexual Revolution in Early America”
by Richard Godbeer

In his latest book Professor of History Richard Godbeer provides an eye-opening reexamination of the sexual lives of our Founding Fathers and Mothers.

Based on archival research of sermons, laws, governmental degrees, diaries, letters and court transcripts, this sweeping study crosses two centuries and territory from New England down to the southern colonies and outward to the West Indies.

Godbeer overturns many assumptions about colonial America, including Puritan New England. Although deeply hostile to sex outside of marriage, Puritans celebrated sex within a married relationship. Indeed, they considered sexual intimacy so crucial to a healthy marriage that they excommunicated those who denied “conjugal fellowship” to their spouses. Godbeer also examines rural courtship practices in the late 1700s, including “bundling,” which allowed courting young couples to spend the night together, with undergarments on, to get to know each other better.

Godbeer’s book includes discussion of pre-marital sex, homosexuality and adultery, as well as sexual coercion. One chapter examines the rise of prostitution in post-revolutionary urban areas such as Philadelphia.

The book, published in May by Johns Hopkins University Press, has been featured as a History Book Club selection. “My intent was to examine the place that sex occupies in the moral and cultural architecture of early American society,” Godbeer said. “America’s sexual culture has always been vibrant and contentious – early Americans were no exception.”

“The Gift of Kabbalah; Discovering the Secrets of Heaven, Renewing Your Life on Earth”
by Tamar Frankiel

Tamar Frankiel, a visiting lecturer in Religious Studies, has just published a book called “The Gift of Kabbalah; Discovering the Secrets of Heaven, Renewing Your Life on Earth.” Published by Jewish Lights Publishing, it is a comprehensive guide to Jewish mystical wisdom.

She is the author or co-author of many other books, including “The Voice of Sarah: Feminine Spirituality and Traditional Judaism,” “Minding the Temple of the Soul: Balancing Body, Mind, and Spirit through Traditional Jewish Prayer, Movement, and Meditation” and “Entering the Temple of Dreams: Jewish Prayers, Movements, and Meditations for the End of the Day.”

She lectures frequently on topics of Jewish mysticism. She is also well known for her historical studies in religion, including: “California's Spiritual Frontiers: Alternatives in American Protestantism 1850-1910,” “Christianity: A Way of Salvation” and “Gospel Hymns and Social Religion: The Rhetoric of Nineteenth Century Revivalism.”

“Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can't Learn about Sex from Animals”
by Marlene Zuk

Zuk, professor of biology, is the author of the book “Sexual
Selections: What We Can and Can't Learn about Sex from Animals.” Biologists, to elucidate human behavior, often use scientific discoveries about the animal kingdom. Zuk argues in her book, however, that while animals do display a lot of interesting variation, not all of it can be extrapolated to explain human behavior. She points out that some researchers have been too quick to ignore vital information from the animal kingdom, and have instead hustled “evidence” they believe is supportive of their ideas. Zuk's motivation to write the book stemmed from her desire to respond to the general population's interest in the subject.

“Contesting Sacrifice: Religion, Nation and Social Thought in France”
by Ivan Strenski

Ivan Strenski, the Holstein Family Community Professor of Religious Studies, has written about the key role sacrifice plays in French culture and nationalist politics.

Strenski traces the history of sacrificial thought in France, starting from its origins in Roman Catholic theology. He suggests that the French army’s strategy in World War I, French fascism and debates over public education and civic morals during the Third Republic all owe much to Catholic theology of sacrifice and to Protestant reinterpretations of it.

Pointing out that every major theorist of sacrifice is French, including Bataille, Durkheim, Girard, Hubert, and Mauss, Strenski argues that we cannot fully understand their work without first taking into account the deep roots of sacrificial thought in French history. The University of Chicago Press published the book in June.

Strenski arrived at UC Riverside in 1995 after teaching at UC Santa Barbara and Connecticut College. He is also the author of “Durkheim and the Jews of France,” also published by the University of Chicago Press.

“The Biology of Science Fiction Cinema”
by Mark C. Glassy (’78 Ph.D.)

Science fiction films of the 1930s and 1940s were often set in dark laboratories that had strange looking glass containers with bubbling fluids and mad scientists conducting glandular and hormonal experiments. In the 1950s, films were more focused on radiation-induced mutations. The 1960s and 1970s brought more sophisticated biological sciences to the movies and focused on such relatively new concepts as immunology, cyrobiology and biochemistry. In the 1980s and 1990s, the focus of science fiction films has been DNA.

This work of film criticism relates 71 science fiction films to the biological sciences. The author covers cell biology, pharmacology, endocrinology, hematology, and entomology, to name just a few topics.

An analysis of each film includes a brief plot synopsis, the author's favorite quotations, the biological principles involved, the accuracy of the laboratory and correct and incorrect biological information. In his analyses, the author sets out what would be required to achieve in real life the results seen in the movies and whether these experiments or events could actually happen.

“Planning for Integrated Systems and Technologies: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians”
by John M. Cohn, Ann L. Kelsey (’68), and Keith Michael

“Planning for Integrated Systems and Technologies” is a practical guide meant to assist librarians in planning for today's technological environment – everything from assessing infrastructure to migrating to new systems. The guide is intended for medium and small libraries of all types.

Whether installing a system for the first time or replacing one, the book contains information and techniques for assessing, acquiring, using, and maintaining an automated library system. A step-by-step section on selection and implementation covers everything from preparing RFPs and evaluating vendor proposals to negotiating contracts, testing, and training.

Ann L. Kelsey, a founding partner of DocuMentors, has been associate director of the Learning Resource Center, County College of Morris, since 1983. She has held staff and management positions at public libraries in New York and New Jersey, and has consulted for special libraries in pharmaceutical and chemical companies in New Jersey since 1978.

“Cochlear Implants in Children: Ethics and Choice”
by John B. Christiansen (’76, Ph.D.) and Irene W. Leigh.

A cochlear implant is a relatively new technology that enables many deaf and hard of hearing people to perceive sounds, including speech. The implant is also somewhat controversial, particularly for deaf children. Written for the general reader, “Cochlear Implants in Children” addresses every facet of the ongoing controversy about implanting children as young as 12 months old (and, in some cases, even younger).

Using data from a nation-wide survey, interviews with dozens of parents, and published literature, the authors, along with two contributors, discuss a number of issues concerning deaf children and cochlear implants, including: the history of cochlear implants and how they work; how parents, most of whom are hearing and have never even met a deaf person before, learn of and react to their child’s deafness; why parents decide that a cochlear implant is appropriate (or not) for their child; and how children are doing with the implant, especially in terms of their progress with language and speech acquisition and in school.

Deaf communities in many countries have often been quite critical of cochlear implants, particularly for children, and the book discusses how the views of many people in the deaf community have changed over the years. The book also examines some of the ethics of implanting young deaf children without their consent, and it makes recommendations for parents and professionals.

John B. Christiansen is a professor of sociology at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

“Outer Perimeter”
by Ken Goddard (’68)

A man of reason and science, Colin Cellars has earned a reputation as a top crime scene investigator. But Cellars finds himself disgraced because of a bizarre episode that led to a horrifying shoot-out right in front of his eyes. And what Cellars thinks he knows about the victim’s identity — and about her death — has plunged him into a deadly search for a killer who may or may not be quite of this world.

Meanwhile, as Cellars investigates a case involving dozens of missing victims, he realizes that the three people he trusts most each hold a piece of the puzzle — and that they have their own ideas about what to do with the information. Soon Cellars finds himself on a chilling and unforgettable voyage, one that takes readers through tunnels of violence and intrigue — and out into the unknown.

Ken Goddard is the author of seven previous novels. He has served as a criminalist in three California police and sheriff’s departments and as an instructor in crime scene investigation and forensic techniques in law enforcement academies. He lives in Ashland, Oregon, where he is currently director of the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, the only full-service wildlife crime laboratory in the world.

“The Cultivation of Body and Mind in Nineteenth-Century American Delsartism”
by Nancy Lee Chalfa Ruyter (’64)

In 19th-century America, there were various movements to battle limitations on women’s freedom and opportunities. An important element in this direction was the American Delsarte system, which furthered women’s physical education, non-transgressive performance possibilities, clothing reform and agency.

This book is an historical and analytical study of the American adaptation of the theory and practice of François Delsarte (1811-71), a French teacher of acting, singing, and aesthetics who had developed a theory of expression that he believed was relevant to all the arts. The book provides biographical chapters on Delsarte and his followers.

Nancy Lee Chalfa Ruyter is professor of dance at UC Irvine where she has been on the faculty since 1982. She received her B.A. degree in History from UC Riverside in 1964, and her Ph.D. in History from Claremont Graduate School.

“Choosing the Right Stuff: The Psychological Selection of Astronauts and Cosmonauts”
by Patricia A. Santy (’71)

For the first time, the history of the psychological and psychiatric evaluation of astronaut and cosmonaut candidates is detailed. The general public and many professionals assume that psychological issues have been and will be extremely important factors in successful space exploration.

This book, however, documents how NASA underutilized, downplayed, then ultimately ignored psychiatric and psychological characteristics in selecting astronauts until very recently.

The book represents the accumulated work of many people over a period of 30 years of space exploration. It covers material that is not a well-known part of that history.

Patricia A. Santy was formerly a Medical Officer at NASA Johnson Space Center and was the crew surgeon for a number of shuttle missions, including Challenger.

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