Eight Reading Recommendations from Radcliffe’s 2020–2021 Fellows

December 3, 2020

The 2020–2021 cohort of Radcliffe fellows includes scholars, scientists, artists, writers, and practitioners. Below, a few of them share books that inspired their research, activated their imaginations, and sparked their enjoyment.

These fellows provided reading recommendations as a thank you to Radcliffe’s donors, whose support is critical to advancing the Institute’s people, programs, and research collections.


Recommended by Ira Dworkin RI ’21, ACLS Frederick Burkhardt Fellow

In a unique but fitting take on the biographical genre, Jeffers reimagines the life and work of the 18th-century Black poet Phillis Wheatley through a collection of poems. Ira praises the “rigorous research” conducted by Jeffers to compose this “epic archive of lost letters, found poems, and other evocative innovations.”





These Are Not Gentle People (MacLehose Press, 2019), by Andrew Harding

Recommended by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela BI ’99, RI ’21, Walter Jackson Bate Fellow

In this true-crime story written by Harding, an award-winning foreign correspondent and author, the complex reality of apartheid and its effects on people’s lives are detailed through a rich narrative. Pumla praises how the book “deals with different layers of South African reality—male violence, land and racism, poverty, and the sorrow of the wretchedness of life.”




Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? (Ecco, 2016), by Kathleen Collins

Recommended by Christopher Harris RI ’21, Radcliffe-Film Study Center Fellow/David and Roberta Logie Fellow

In this posthumously published collection, Collins explores the issues of race, gender, family, and sexuality in the context of Black bohemia and what was referred to in the early 20th century as the Talented Tenth. Christopher notes the “idiosyncratic and singular” nature of her short stories and concludes that the world “lost an important writer at her passing.”




The Yellow House (Grove Press, 2019), by Sarah M. Broom

Recommended by Leslie M. Harris RI ’21, Beatrice Shepherd Blane Fellow

The Yellow House reveals a New Orleans most tourists will never see. Amid praise of Broom’s skillful narrative, Leslie notes how the author “speaks to the aspirations of African Americans throughout the United States, rooted in home owning, and the ways those aspirations are truncated by personal failings as well as the structural issues that have existed—and continue to exist—in our country today.” 





American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (Viking, 2011), by Colin Woodard

Recommended by David Hemenway ’66, PhD ’74, RI ’21, Elizabeth S. and Richard M. Cashin Fellow

Woodard provides an insightful perspective on American history through the examination of struggles along our regional divides, the 11 “American nations.” In a thoughtful self-reflection, David acknowledges the extent to which his own viewpoint was shaped by his being “born and bred in Yankeedom rather than the Deep South, Tidewater, Greater Appalachia, or the Far West.”





 Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance (Amistad, 2020), by Zora Neale Hurston 

Recommended by Ibram X. Kendi RI ’21, Frances B. Cashin Fellow

From one of the greatest writers in American history, this short story collection centers on many themes—love and migration, racism and sexism, gender and class—and proudly reflects African American folk culture. Ibram says that the stories made him “laugh, think, cry, shout, and reflect—the full range of humanity’s emotions and thoughts.”





The Overstory (W.W. Norton, 2019), by Richard Powers 

Recommended by James P. O’Dwyer RI ’21, Hrdy Fellow

Powers’s novel, awarded a Pulitzer Prize in fiction, is one of activism, resistance, and the natural world. James describes being “hooked” from the first chapter of this book, praising how “the life of a single tree and its species is told in beautiful parallel with the life of a family and its history.”





The Deportation Machine: America’s Long History of Expelling Immigrants (Princeton University Press, 2020), by Adam Goodman

Recommended by Miriam Pawel ’79, RI ’21, Frieda L. Miller Fellow

A book notably relevant in our times, Goodman’s work traces the almost century-and-a-half-long history of the US government’s systematic efforts to expel immigrants. Miriam notes how the “deep research, synthesized in a compelling narrative, offers insight by placing the current crisis in a fresh historical perspective.”




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