Newsmakers Summer 2012
The stage director John Tiffany RI ’11 workshopped his musical Once at the A.R.T. while he was a fellow at the Institute. Now the musical has earned a bevy of nominations and awards, including Drama Desk Awards for best musical, direction, lyrics, and orchestration and Tony Awards for best direction of a musical, best musical, best actor, best book of a musical, best sound design of a musical, best orchestrations, best scenic design, and best lighting design.
Natasha Trethewey RI ’01 has been appointed the 19th US poet laureate by the Library of Congress. She will assume her post in the fall. Trethewey, who is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing and incoming director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University, earned the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and a Lillian Smith Book Award for her collection Native Guard in 2007.
Nancy Hopkins ’64, PhD ’71, the Amgen, Inc. Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a pioneering molecular biologist, was honored by the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with its Centennial Medal, which recognizes alumni who have made notable contributions to society that emerged from their graduate study at Harvard. It is the school’s highest honor.
Reginald Dwayne Betts RI ’12 received a phone call from President Barack Obama in late April alerting him to his presidential appointment as a member of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Betts, an award-winning writer and poet who spent more than eight years in prison, is the first directly affected person appointed to the council.
In March, the faculty at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University and an honorary committee of alumni selected “the 100 Outstanding Journalists in the United States in the Last 100 Years.” Among NYU’s journalistic stars are Frances FitzGerald ’62, Linda Greenhouse ’68, and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc BI ’95.
Mildred Spiewak Dresselhaus AM ’53, SD ’95, an Institute Professor Emerita of Physics and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has earned one of America’s highest scientific honors: the Enrico Fermi Award. The award is administered on behalf of the White House by the US Department of Energy.
We’re proud to be able to claim some of Newsweek’s 150 Fearless Women as our own: Jill Abramson ’76, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie RI ’12, Sheryl Sandberg ’91, MBA ’95, and Elizabeth Warren AM ’93, RI ’02.
Quiet Americans (Last Light Studios, 2011), a short-story collection by Erika Dreifus ’91, EdM ’93, AM ’95, PhD ’99, recently received honorable mention for the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Award (for outstanding achievement in Jewish literature). Quiet Americans also received notable-book and top-10-book nods for 2011 from the Jewish Journal and Shelf Unbound magazine, respectively.
In “Job Retraining for the Unemployed: A Popular Fix That Might Not Work,” published in the Washington Post on February 17, Amy Goldstein RI ’12 explained why the conventional wisdom may be flawed.
In a June 16 New York Times opinion piece, “The Strange Career of Juan Crow,” Diane McWhorter RI ’12 reflected on what Alabama’s H.B. 56—the “attrition through enforcement” or “self-deportation” law—has meant for the state.
Writer Junot Díaz RI ’04 recently published a couple of short stories in the New Yorker: “Monstro” appeared in the June 4 special science fiction issue, while “Miss Lora” appeared in April 23 issue. His second collection of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her (Riverhead, 2012), forthcoming in the fall, has been praised by Publishers Weekly—“Raw and honest, these stories pulsate with raspy, ghetto hip-hop and the subtler yet more vital echo of the human heart.”
An article by Alma Guillermoprieto RI ’07 in the June 7 issue of the New York Review of Books, “Drugs: The Rebellion in Cartagena,” analyzed a recent summit in Cartagena, Colombia, about the present and future of the drug wars.
Maile Meloy ’94 published a short story, “The Proxy Marriage,” in the May 21 issue of the New Yorker.
I Am an Executioner: Love Stories (Knopf, 2012), the debut collection of short fiction by incoming fellow Rajesh Parameswaran RI ’13, was reviewed in the May 11 issue of the New York Times Sunday Book Review. “Parameswaran’s stories combine narrative brio, ringing voices and beguilingly looped plots,” said Chandrahas Choudhury in her review.
Bunting alumna Jill Lepore BI ’00, AM ’03 gave her take on Time magazine’s controversial breastfeeding cover in “Overexposed: Breastfeeding in America,” which appeared in the May 11 New Yorker. She chose a daguerreotype from the Schlesinger Library’s collections to lend some historical perspective.
Alice Randall ’84, author of Ada’s Rules: A Sexy Skinny Novel (Bloomsbury, 2012), tackled the relationship between black women and fat in a New York Times opinion piece on May 5. Her recent novel follows a determined heroine as she struggles to lose weight and to love herself again. Booklist praised Randall’s “keen observations of black culture and the human condition.”
An interview with Tayari Jones RI ’12, “Tayari Jones Knows Why She Sings,” which appeared in the Huffington Post on May 9, revealed details about the author’s work, life, and plans.
“Other Ways to Use a Book,” in the Boston Globe’s Ideas section on May 6, looked at the creative work done by Leah Price ’91, RI ’07 about books as objects. Price is the director of our humanities program as well as a professor of English and the chair of the history and literature program at Harvard.
In a Slate article from June 6, “Did Ray Bradbury Even Write Science Fiction?” John Plotz ’89, PhD ’97, RI ’12 reflected on the significance of Ray Bradbury’s body of work. In another article, from May 8, “What Do Where the Wild Things Are and Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’ Have in Common?” he expressed admiration for the recently deceased author Maurice Sendak, calling him a “crazed worldmaker.”
The innovative 1,000-square-foot-home of Anne Griswold Tyng ’42, MAR ’44—the groundbreaking architectural theorist, inventor of the Tyng Toy, and “Kahn’s geometrical strategist,” who died on December 27, 2011—was featured in “Small Wonder,” a slide show on the New York Times website, on May 1.
Elizabeth S. Spelke ’71, a Harvard cognitive psychologist, talked to the New York Times about what babies know in the April 30 article “Insights from the Youngest Minds.” The newspaper characterized her as “a pioneer in the use of the infant gaze as a key to the infant mind.”
“It Takes Two to Fight Over a Documentary,” published on April 27 in the New York Times, profiled the filmmaking pair David Redmon RI ’11 and Ashley Sabin, who married in June. (See more about their recent films in On Stage and Screen, below.)
In a Newsweek cover story from April 16, “Spanking Goes Mainstream,” Katie Roiphe ’90 looked at the implications for feminism of working women’s submission fantasies, as represented by the mega-seller Fifty Shades of Grey and the HBO series Girls.
In “And the Winner Isn’t . . .” Ann Patchett BI ’94 weighed in on the lack of a fiction prize in this year’s Pulitzers with the opinion that Binocular Vision, by Edith Pearlman ’57, would’ve made a fine winner. The article appeared in the New York Times on April 17. Meanwhile, in “The Great Pulitzer Do-Over,” from the New York Times Magazine on May 7, other experts chose books by Tayari Jones and Ann Patchett herself as possible winners of the “lost Pulitzer.”
The article “Chasing Ghosts of Poets Past,” which appeared in the New York Times on March 30, featured “Passing Stranger,” a poetry tour that guides visitors through the East Village’s literary history. The website for the site-specific audio tour, eastvillagepoetrywalk.org, is powered by Zeega, the storytelling platform cofounded by Kara Oehler RI ’12.
Barbara Kahn AM ’00, RI ’11 is the senior author of a new study showing that fat cells protect against diabetes. The study, which challenges popular notions of body fat and health, was published online in the journal Nature on April 1.
Kayla Laserson ’87, SM ’92, SD ’97 has traveled to far-flung places in an attempt to solve some of our greatest global health issues. On March 6, she published “What I Learned Far Away From Public Health School,” a post about what she’s learned along the way, for WBUR’s CommonHealth blog.
In an article that appeared on allAfrica.com on February 17, “Africa: Women Filmmakers Tell Their Stories,” Salem Mekuria BI ’91, RI ’06 reflected on her journey in independent filmmaking—it’s taken her from Africa to the United States and back again.
Beverly McIver RI ’03 was featured in two profiles upon the release of Raising Renee, her film collaboration with Jeanne Jordan BI ’93, RI ’03 and Steven Ascher ’82. ARTINFO published “Painter Beverly McIver Balances Art and Family, Barely, in the HBO Documentary ‘Raising Renee’” on February 22, and the New York Times published “Painting on a New Canvas” on February 8. HBO debuted the documentary on February 22.
Claire Messud RI ’05 contributed a short memoir piece, “The Road to Damascus,” to Granta 118: Exit Strategies. In the piece, she recounts her attempt to connect to her father through the city where he spent a portion of his childhood. The same issue also includes poetry from Adrienne Rich ’51, “Endpapers,” and Sophie Cabot Black BI ’95, “Pay Attention.”
The February winning streak that suddenly brought the New York Knicks’ Jeremy Lin ’10 to the limelight set public intellectuals abuzz: Melissa J. Brown RI ’12 was tapped to comment on the political repercussions of Lin’s sudden renown for the International Business Times, in an article titled “Jeremy Lin: The Tug of War Between Taiwan and China” and published on February 22. Gish Jen ’77, BI ’87, RI ’02 weighed in on Lin’s stereotype busting in a New York Times opinion piece, “Asian Men Can Jump,” published on February 16.
A New York Times Arts Beat blog post revealed the surprising literary mind involved in editing the books of physicist Lisa Randall ’84, PhD ’87, RI ’03. “Cormac McCarthy, Quantum Copy Editor,” published on February 20, revealed how the celebrated author lent his know-how for both Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions and Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World.
Elizabeth Wurtzel ’89, best known for her memoirs about depression and addiction, looked for meaning in pop singer Whitney Houston’s unfortunate death in a February 14 article, “The Strange Lessons of Whitney Houston’s Addiction,” for theatlantic.com.
What did College alumna Katha Pollitt ’71 think of the Komen–Planned Parenthood debacle? She shared her perspective for the Nation in an article titled “The Komen Foundation Pinkwashes Anti-choicers, Punks Planned Parenthood,” published on February 1.
The February 2012 issue of Scientific American featured a profile of Joanna Aizenberg AM ’07, RI ’09–’11, the director of our science program and the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor. “Designers of Exotic Materials Learn New Tricks from Animals” reveals what Aizenberg knows about nature’s design secrets.
On January 11, the day after Mitt Romney carried the New Hampshire Republican primary, Ellen Fitzpatrick RI ’09 contributed her perspective to a live Q&A, “What History Tells Us about the New Hampshire Primary Winner,” for the Washington Post’s website.
Kiri Miller PhD ’05, RI ’11 has published Playing Along: Digital Games, YouTube, and Virtual Performance (Oxford University Press, 2012). The book, which Miller researched at Radcliffe, looks at how video games and social media bring together virtual and visceral experience.
The Red Book (Voice, 2012) is the second novel from Deborah Copaken Kogan ’88. Publishers Weekly called it a “smart, funny, engrossing, and action-packed meditation on women’s lives.”
In April, Anne Fadiman ’74 celebrated the publication of the 15th anniversary edition (Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks, 2012) of her book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, which won the 1997 National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction. It includes a new afterword by the author.
Leah Price ’91, RI ’07 examines all the ways in which Britons of the 19th century used books—yes, other than for reading—in How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain (Princeton University Press, 2012).
The Secrets of Mary Bowser (William Morrow, 2012), by Lois Leveen ’90, is based on the true story of a former slave who became a spy for the Union during the Civil War by posing as a slave in the Confederate White House. “I never thought I’d write a spy novel, or a Civil War novel,” says Leveen. “But there was a footnote in my PhD dissertation about Bowser, and it grew into this wonderful story.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Against Wind and Tide: Letters and Journals, 1947–1986 (Pantheon, 2012)—edited by her youngest daughter, Reeve Lindbergh ’67—provides a deeper look at the life of the celebrated aviatrix and author.
Imperfect Bliss (Atria, 2012) is the latest novel by Susan Fales-Hill ’84. Publishers Weekly says, “Fales-Hill whips an old-fashioned comedy of manners into a stylish, sharp-edged satire.”
In Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (University of Georgia Press, 2012), Megan Kate Nelson ’94 brings together environmental and cultural histories to look at the power of the “dead heaps of ruins”—of cities and of soldiers’ bodies—that resulted from the Civil War.
Vivian Gornick RI ’08 contributes the latest volume to the Jewish Lives series, Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life (Yale University Press, 2012), her biography of the noted political theorist and anarchist.
Amanda Bennett ’75, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, chronicles her life with husband Terence Bryan Foley—and her desperate quest to save it after a cancer diagnosis—in The Cost of Hope: A Memoir (Random House, 2012).
Soul Music: The Pulse of Race and Music (Gibson Square Books, 2012), a nonfiction book by novelist Candace Allen ’71, was just published in the United Kingdom. Allen describes the book as “an extended essay on the criss-crossings of music and identity.”
Debra Spark BI ’93 has a new book out called The Pretty Girl (Four Way, 2012). Most of the book’s novella and stories circle around the theme of art and deception.
The Psychotherapy of Hope: The Legacy of Persuasion and Healing (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), edited by Julia Frank ’73 and Renato Alarcón, has just been published. In it, 20 distinguished psychiatrists and psychotherapy researchers critically evaluate the interplay between demoralization and hope at the center of all effective psychotherapies.
Margo Taft Stever ’72, EdM ’74 has published her third collection of poetry, The Hudson Line (Main Street Rag, 2012), and coauthored Looking East: William Howard Taft and the 1905 US Diplomatic Trip to Asia (Zhejiang University Press, 2012) with James Taft Stever and Hong Shen. She is the founding editor of Slapering Hol Press.
In No Citizen Left Behind (Harvard University Press, 2012), Meira Levinson RI ’03 advocates closing the empowerment gap by bringing back civic education. Levinson, who has taught in an Atlanta public middle school, is now an associate professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Jennifer Goodman Wollock ’74, AM ’77, PhD ’81, a professor of English at Texas A&M University, has published Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love (Praeger, 2011). The book explores the interaction of these two ideals from medieval times to the present day in global popular culture, in the arts, and in society. Two podcast interviews—in which the author discusses aspects of this book—can be found on the website Chivalry Today.
Susan M. Seidman ’50 has published her second book about pets, Cat Companions: A Memoir of Loving and Learning (CreateSpace, 2011), in which she relates how living with 21 felines over the course of five decades has enriched her life.
The Lives of Machines: The Industrial Imaginary in Victorian Literature and Culture (University of Michigan Press, 2011), by Tamara Ketabgian ’92, explores the emergence of a modern and more mechanical view of human nature in Victorian literature and culture—and why, even today, we still commonly describe ourselves as machines that “let off steam” or feel “under pressure.”
Natalie Wexler ’76 has published her second novel, The Mother Daughter Show (Fuze Publishing, 2011), a satire about mother-daughter relationships and private school culture, inspired by her experience as a parent at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC.
When People Wrote Letters: A Family Chronicle, by Martha Tuck Rozett ’68, is a tale told through letters, photographs, and other primary and secondary sources. The book’s central narrative concerns the relationship between Betty and Edith Stedman, two eloquent and adventurous women who happen to be the author’s mother and great-aunt, respectively.
Viola Canales ’79, JD ’89 has published El Gusano de Tequila (KingCake Press, 2012), the Spanish translation of her young adult novel The Tequila Worm (Wendy Lamb Books, 2005), which won the 2006 Pura Belpré Award and a PEN Center USA Literary Award and has sold more than 50,000 copies.
Judith Peterson ’82, a physician who is board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation and sports medicine, has published Dance Medicine Head to Toe: A Dancer’s Guide to Health (Princeton Book Company, 2011). The handbook includes information about injury prevention and the treatment of common dance-related problems.
Forthcoming in September is a chapbook of poems by Nadine France Martine Pinede ’86 that evoke her origins, identity, and hope, An Invisible Geography (Finishing Line Press, 2012).
Fluxus artist Alison Knowles RI ’10 tossed a bounty of vegetables at the High Line park in New York City on April 22. Her piece Make a Salad was performed in celebration of Earth Day.
The Asia Society Museum in New York City recently mounted a solo exhibition of the work of Sarah Sze RI ’06. Infinite Line, which was on view from December 13 to March 25, featured a new series of installations.
The Brooklyn gallery Pierogi presented an exhibition of paintings by Jane Fine ’79, Formulas for Now, from March 23 to April 22. For this series, Fine set aside the saturated colors she has been known for and replaced them with a limited, neutral, predominantly dark palette.
Anne Seelbach BI ’90 had a solo exhibition, Troubled Waters, at the PMW Gallery in Stamford, Connecticut, from May 20 to July 1. In the paintings, she explores the effects of pollution on fish and the marine environment. Seelbach was also accepted to NYFA’s MARK11 Woodstock, which included an associated group show at the BYRDCLIFFE Kleinert/James Center for the Arts in Woodstock, from March 30 to April 29.
The legacy of award-winning photojournalist Paula Lerner ’83 will live on at the Schlesinger Library, which now holds her papers. Lerner passed away on March 6 after a long battle with breast cancer, with which she was diagnosed in 2004.
On Stage and Screen
Two documentaries by the filmmaking team of Ashley Sabin and David Redmon RI ’11, Downeast and Girl Model (which they worked on during Redmon’s fellowship), have been making the festival rounds, appearing at the likes of the Independent Film Festival Boston, SXSW, and the Tribeca Film Festival. Pulitzer Prize–winning critic Wesley Morris singled out Downeast as a must-see, saying, “The entire movie is an elegy.” Girl Model, meanwhile, has been picked up for distribution by First Run Features and will air on PBS’s POV in the fall.
Bel Canto, a novel by Ann Patchett BI ’94, will soon be an opera, thanks to soprano and creative consultant Renee Fleming.
Caridad Svich RI ’03 continues her steady takeover of the theater world: There have been dozens of readings of her play The Way of Water in venues across the United States and internationally. In Your Arms/En Tus Brazos also received readings, in both its English- and Spanish-language versions. Guapa played as part of Teatro Vivo’s Austin Latino New Play Festival in Austin, Texas, in April. Svich was also cocurator and organizer of “Dreaming the Americas,” the 6th annual NoPassport Theatre Conference, which took place at Arizona State University at Tempe in April. Meanwhile, her play In the Time of the Butterflies/En los Tiempos de las Mariposas continues performances, now in its second year, at Repertorio Español in New York.
Victor Valle RI ’12 appears in Departures, an online documentary series produced by KCET-TV that maps Los Angeles neighborhoods through interactive portraits. His interview is part of a larger cultural history of Highland Park—in particular his role in Chisme Arte, a journal that for 11 years documented the creative endeavors of California Chicano artists. His appearance led to an invitation to become a contributing editor and curator for ARC, a forthcoming KCET-TV online series focusing on southern and central California arts and culture.
Composer and musician John Aylward RI ’12 performed live improvisations on April 4 in a program developed by the East Coast Contemporary Ensemble and Goethe-Institut Boston.
Released on June 18, the Variations for Judith project includes a songbook (Chester, 2012) and an audio recording (NMC Recordings, 2012) of 11 new piano variations—including one, “Diomedes,” by composer Tarik O’Regan RI ’05.
Best-selling author Mary Karr BI ’91 has teamed up with singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell to create Kin: Songs by Mary Karr and Rodney Crowell (Vanguard, 2012). “I called out to her in the darkness because she was a bona fide poet I knew could write songs,” says Crowell of the collaboration. “And despite her professor’s pedigree, she’d ridden a bike in a mosquito truck’s fog.” The album, released on June 5, features vocalists Norah Jones, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Lucinda Williams, and Lee Ann Womack.
Pianist Donald Berman RI ’11 appeared in May at the Beijing Modern Music Festival, performing Asian premieres of works by established and emerging composers. He organized a night of classical music, “From the Lower East Side to Carnegie Hall,” for the Boston Jewish Music Festival. It took place on March 7 at MIT. Berman also traveled to Nassau in February to accompany violist Gilad Karni in a well-received classical program.
On June 2, Elizabeth Warren AM ’93, RI ’02 secured enough delegate votes at the Massachusetts Democratic Convention—more than 95 percent—to run against the incumbent Republican junior senator, Scott Brown, this coming November.
Next year, Claudia Goldin AM ’90, RI ’06 will become president of the American Economic Association—only the third woman to do so.
Radcliffe Day panelist Linda Greenhouse ’68 delivered a lecture titled “A Very Short Introduction to the Supreme Court” at the Boston Public Library’s Allston-Honan Branch on May 22 as part of the John Harvard Book Celebration.
Mark Robbins RI ’03 assumed his new position as executive director of the International Center of Photography on July 1. Robbins, dean of the School of Architecture and a senior advisor on architecture and urban initiatives at Syracuse University, has focused on broadening awareness of and support for contemporary art and design in his roles as curator, national arts administrator, professor, and dean.
Celebrated writer Gish Jen ’77, BI ’87, RI ’02 delivered the William E. Massey, Sr., Lectures in the History of American Civilization at Harvard from April 30 to May 1. The three lectures, a series titled Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self, were “The Lure of Narrative,” “My Father Writes His Story,” and “What Comes of All That.”
We bid a fond farewell to poet Adrienne Rich ’51, longtime friend, who died at the age of 82 on March 27. In her obituary, the New York Times called her “a poet of towering reputation and towering rage.” Rich’s papers are housed at the Schlesinger Library. In November, Later Poems Selected and New: 1971–2012 (Norton), her final volume of poems, will be published.
On March 20, Tayari Jones RI ’12 appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered with her story “Trayvon Martin: The Lingering Memory of Dead Boys,” a personal reflection on the Florida case. July 22–27, Jones will be on the faculty at the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, along with Lan Samantha Chang MPA ’91, RI ’01.
Jill Abramson ’76, executive editor of the New York Times, appeared at SXSW Interactive on March 12 talking about the paper’s future in the digital age. Poynter.org live-blogged the talk, and the resulting post, “Jill Abramson on the NYT as local vs. international paper: ‘We can have it all,’” is online.
Sheryl Sandberg ’91, MBA ’95 was the only woman cochair at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. The Guardian published a profile of the Facebook chief operating officer, “Sheryl Sandberg: The First Lady of Facebook Takes the World Stage,” on January 24.
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