Thursday, March 28, 2013

Secretary Kerry and Kamila Sidiqi, Protagonist of THE DRESSMAKER OF KHAIR KHANA

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, just emailed us this amazing picture of Secretary of State John Kerry with Kamila Sidiqi, the protagonist of her book, in Kabul. Kerry met with ten female entrepreneurs at the embassy on Tuesday.

For those of you who don’t know, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is former ABC News reporter Lemmon’s riveting look at the life of Kamila Sidiqi and other women of Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s fearful rise to power.

Kamila’s world changed overnight when the Taliban seized control of the city of Kabul. After receiving a teaching degree during the civil war—a rare achievement for any Afghan woman—she was subsequently banned from school and confined to her home. When her father and brother were forced to flee the city, Kamila became the sole breadwinner for her five siblings. Armed only with grit and determination, she picked up a needle and thread and created a thriving business of her own. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana tells the story of this unlikely entrepreneur who mobilized her community under the Taliban, and gives rare insight into the lives of many Afghan women.

Lemmon's inspirational book is one of our favorites for Common Read programs and received a lot of attention at FYE. Please click here if you would like access to the instructor's guide for The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Interview in ShelfAwareness with Aimee Molloy, author of HOWEVER LONG THE NIGHT

However Long the Night By Aimee MolloyShelfAwareness just published a great interview with Aimee Molloy, author of However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph. Molloy’s book follows America-to-Senegal-transplant Molly Melching and many Senegalese women as they worked together to improve Sengalese education, and bring an end to a deeply entrenched but dangerous cultural practice: female genital cutting (FGC).
Melching arrived in Senegal as a college exchange student from Illinois and decided to stay, having fallen in love with the country, and especially the villages outside the French-influenced city Dakar. Observing that all schools taught in French as opposed to the language the locals spoke at home—Wolof—Melching began to question traditional European standards of education, and worked with locals in order to tailor an education plan to what they wanted to learn, in their native tongue. This educational project, called “Tostan” or “breakthrough”, was a remarkable success. And the resulting empowerment of Senegalese women led to a highly unanticipated action on their parts: a movement to end the long-held practice of FGC.
Molloy, in her interview with ShelfAwareness, shares that she was very aware of the sensitivities that accompany any exploration of Melching’s story and FGC. She didn’t want to portray Melching as some “Great White Hope” because that’s not what she was—Melching did not come to Africa and single-handedly change anything. Rather, it was the collaboration, rooted in understanding, between Melching and the Senegalese people that made Tostan, and the eventual anti-FGC movement, work.
Furthermore, Molloy was cognizant of Western feelings on FGC—she admits that in the past, she felt anger and disgust towards anyone involved in it. But she also realized that in order to tell the story of the Senegalese women (some cutters turned activists), she had to look past Western preconceptions. Molloy relates that FGC was not borne from men’s desires to curb women’s sexual promiscuity. Rather, “The truth is that the tradition is one that is perpetuated by women themselves, and women do it in order to create a better future for their daughters. Because choosing to not cut one's daughter would be setting her up for a future of social isolation, it is in many way's a mother's greatest act of love. So regardless of the feelings we might bring to this issue, sensitivity to this reality must be part of any discussion about FGC, and certainly in any efforts to bring an end to the practice.”
It is this kind of approach, weary of Western biases, that makes Molloy’s book such a success. If you would like to read more about However Long the Night, please check out the full ShelfAwareness profile here.

Monday, March 25, 2013


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind By William Kamkwamba, Bryan MealerFor those of you who haven’t read it, William Kamkwamba’s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope is the amazing story of a Malawian boy who figured out how to build a windmill from scraps that helped his community battle the devastating drought and famine that loomed with every season.  It is a remarkable true story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity.

One of our most popular books for Common Read programs, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind has wonderful online resources for educators:

- Alexandria City Public Schools chose The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind as a common book for 8th graders. The resources, which include detailed goals, lesson plans, and interdisciplinary suggestions for elementary school and high school, can be found here.
- BookRags also features some lesson plans on their site, in multiple formats.
- The University of South Carolina Aiken created a reading guide and research guide when The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind was their 2012 First-Year Reading Experience book.
- The Museum of Science & Industry Chicago posted a lesson plan on building a wind turbine here.
- The University of North Carolina’s School of Education published a similar lesson plan on harnessing alternative energy here.
- Our reading guide for the novel can be found here

And, you and your students can meet William in his TedTalk below:

Course Suggestions for Zora Neale Hurston's THE COMPLETE STORIES

The Complete Stories By Zora Neale HurstonZora Neale Hurston’s The Complete Stories is a landmark collection of short fiction that showcases the evolution of one of the greatest American authors. Spanning from 1921 to 1955, most of the tales in The Complete Stories only appeared in literary magazines during her lifetime. Together, they attest to Hurston’s remarkable range, and introduce themes that haunt her lengthier works. Rich in literary imagery and style, with a commanding narrative voice, the collection fully establishes Hurston as a master not just of the long-form narrative, but of the short-form as well. 
Suggested Course Use
While courses on Southern short fiction often overlook the contributions of black women writers, Zora Neale Hurston’s The Complete Stories is an indispensable addition to such a course, offering an entirely different, often marginalized perspective. A course examining the trajectory of Southern female fiction from the 19th century onwards might start with Kate Chopin’s socially progressive tales. Then, students could read Zora Neale Hurston’s The Complete Stories and selections from Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, and Carson McCullers, and in doing so, examine the commonalities of mid-century female authorship in the South, as well as the differing preoccupations of black and white writers. Topics to discuss include the roles women were expected to play; the racial tensions that exist in an unequal society; the role of religion in women’s lives; and the social consequences of sexual behavior. Moving on in the century, the course could then examine rural relationships in Bobbie Ann Mason’s Shiloh and Other Stories, and sexuality in Dorothy Allison’s Trash: Short Stories. All together, these short works of fiction will highlight the recurring aspects of Southern literature, from the gothic and the grotesque, to questions of religion, class, gender, race, and, most importantly, place.

Course Suggestions for Zora Neale Hurston's MULES AND MEN

MULES AND MEN by Zora Neale Hurston“Simply the most exciting book on black folklore and culture I have ever read”—Roger D. Abrahams
Mules and Men is a treasury of black America’s folklore as collected by Zora Neale Hurston, the storyteller and anthropologist who grew up hearing the songs and sermons, sayings, and tall tales that have formed an oral history of the South since the time of slavery.
Returning to her hometown of Eatonville, Florida, to gather material, Zora Neale Hurston recalls “a hilarious night with a pinch of everything social mixed with the storytelling.” Set intimately within the social context of black life, the stories, “big old lies,” songs, Voodoo customs, and superstitions recorded in Mules and Men capture the imagination and bring back to life the humor and wisdom that is the unique heritage of African Americans—and throws into relief the amalgamation of African and European tradition which is key to understanding African-American history and culture.
Suggested Course Use
For those who want students to understand the most important concepts, beliefs, and practices in African cultures and philosophy, Mules and Men provides deep insight into its continuing influence on African-American culture and literature. Anchoring the syllabus with a text such as Perspectives on Africa: A Reader in Culture, History and Representation edited by Roy Richard Grinker, Stephen C. Lubkemann, and Christopher B. Steiner will give students an introduction to the diverse cultures of Africa and a history of the interpretations of those cultures. With traditional folktales woven into the novel, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart can be used to familiarize students with traditional African (Nigerian/Igbo) philosophy and the essential values of the Igbo. Students should take note that these folktales disappear from the narrative with the arrival of the Christian missionaries. More recent African views can be explored in Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s Ambiguous Adventure—which addresses a critical issue—the collision of Islamic African values and Western culture.  

Next, with Zora Neale Hurston and Mules and Men as their guide, students can explore the culture and literature of the African diaspora as they journey into the rural African-American towns of the South in the 1930s.  As they hear “the big old lies” that capture the humor and wisdom that is the unique heritage of African Americans, Zora Neale Hurston invites students to the parties, front porches, jooks, and into the lives of the storytellers. They’ll even learn a few Voodoo spells along the way. And, since this is a wonderful oral tradition—you might want your students to listen to the audio edition, which is read by Ruby Dee.

To end on a contemporary note, the stories in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck take place in Nigeria and American as they explore the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Course Suggestions for Zora Neale Hurston's MULE BONE

Zora Neale Hurston's MULE BONE
Mule Bone succeeds in creating a startling, linguistically lush folk comedy that nonetheless reflects the tragic legacy of slavery.”—New York Times
In 1930, two giants of African-American literature, Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, joined forces to create a lively, insightful, often wildly farcical look inside a rural Southern black community—the three-act play Mule Bone. In this hilarious story, Jim and Dave are a struggling song-and-dance team, and when a woman comes between them, chaos ensues in their tiny Florida hometown. This theatrical work broke new ground while triggering a bitter controversy between the collaborators that kept it out of the public eye for sixty years.
This edition of the classic features Zora Neale Hurston’s original story, “The Bone of Contention,” as well as the complete recounting of the acrimonious literary dispute that prevented Mule Bone from being produced or published until decades after the authors’ deaths.
Suggested Course Use
Women have been writing plays for centuries—but most of your students will be able to name only a very few female playwrights. A course entitled "Women in the American Theater" should correct this, and the curriculum will also allow students to study women’s history in the United States as well as feminist and gender theories as they have influenced and been reflected back by American theater.
Anchoring the class with Helen Krich Chinoy and Linda Walsh Jenkins’s Women in American Theatre will give students insight into the heritage of women in American theater through interviews and essays that address the contributions of women to theater as well as the problems and successes they have encountered in developing their careers.
In addition to Zora Neale Hurston’s Mule Bone, plays such as Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour, Marsha Norman’s Getting Out, Alice Childress’s Wedding Band, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles, and Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive will allow students to become familiar with women who have been instrumental in American theater; further understand the ways in which gender, class, race, and politics have influenced women's access to careers in the theater; and contemplate how women in American theater have challenged conventional attitudes towards women.

Course Suggestions for SERAPH ON THE SUWANEE

Seraph on the Suwanee by Zora Neale HurstonAcclaimed for her pitch-perfect accounts of rural black life and culture, Zora Neale Hurston explored new territory in her novel Seraph on the Suwanee—a story of two people at once deeply in love and deeply at odds, set among the community of poor white Southerners  at the turn of the 20th century. Full of insights into the nature of love, attraction, faith, and loyalty, the novel follows young Arvay Henson, convinced she will never find true happiness, as she defends herself from unwanted suitors with hysterical fits and religious fervor. But into her life comes bright and enterprising Jim Meserve, who knows that Arvay is the woman for him, and nothing she can do will dissuade him.

Alive with the same passion and understanding of the human heart that made Their Eyes Were Watching God a classic, Hurston’s Seraph on the Suwanee masterfully explores the evolution of a marriage and the conflicting desires of an unforgettable young woman in search of herself and her place in the world.

Course Suggestions

Zora Neale Hurston’s Arvay and Jim are part of a Western literary tradition that features a couple overcoming obstacles in order to marry and to stay married—making Seraph on the Suwanee a wonderful addition to any course that focuses on marriage and gender roles. Hurston's novel will help students explore questions such as: Why has marriage been central to so many modern Western narratives? How has the cultural construction of marriage changed over time? What part has literature played in informing as well as reflecting these constructions? What does marriage represent? What are the politics of marriage? Does marriage mean different things to men and women? Are our expectations of marriage realistic?

To give students some historical perspective, the reading list might begin with Stephanie Coontz’s Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage, which will remind students that marrying for love is a very new development. Next, Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well could be followed by Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre or Jane Austen’s Emma, Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, Zora Neale Hurston’s Seraph on the Suwanee, and, to end on a contemporary note, Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain, Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot, or Ben Greenman’s forthcoming novel The Slippage.

The syllabus might also add or substitute the film adaptations for some of these novels, and include films such as George Cukor’s Adam’s Rib and Sam Mendes’s American Beauty.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Course Suggestions for EVERY TONGUE GOT TO CONFESS

Every Tongue Got to Confess By Zora Neale Hurston“Zora Neale Hurston’s representation of the folk voice in her anthropological work, autobiography, and fiction expanded the idea of what counts as literature, reframing the relationship between spoken and written verbal art, high versus low culture, affirming folk voices, female voices.”—John Edgar Wideman, from the forward to Every Tongue Got to Confess
Zora Neale Hurston journeyed through the American Gulf States for an anthropological study funded by Charlotte Osgood Mason, a wealthy philanthropist. Mules and Men, Hurston’s first major anthropological text, emerged as the published result of this late-1920s study. But much more of Hurston’s collected folklore from this period was published posthumously in 2001 in Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-tales from the Gulf States.  
Every Tongue Got to Confess features nearly 500 folktales, ranging in length from one sentence to a few pages. Together, this bittersweet, often hilarious collection weaves a vibrant tapestry of African-American life in the rural South, covertly revealing attitudes about faith, love, family, slavery, race, and community in the process.
Course Suggestions
Hurston’s collection, written in the Southern black vernacular of the 1920s, has been used in narrative theory, ethnography, African-American literature, and women’s literature courses. It is often used in conjunction with books like Charles W. Chesnutt’s The Conjure Woman (and Other Tales), in order to examine the complicated concept of “oral literature,” and the process of translation, and thereby interpretation, that must occur in any adaptation from the oral to the written form.
Aside from examining what is gained and lost in this interpretation, any examination of Hurston’s work must also examine its political implications, especially when referring to the continuing conflicts between black and white Americans. Euro-American culture has traditionally validated only written works as “literature,” therefore casting African “orature” as unfit and unworthy. In light of this, many intriguing questions for your students will arise:

- Is working within the European-framework of written literature debasing African oral tradition by suggesting that stories must be written in order to be valued?
- Or, are Hurston’s written folktales spreading these stories to a wider audience, celebrating them in the process?
- Alternatively, in writing these stories down in the black vernacular, is Hurston compelling those of European backgrounds to become complicit in the oral tradition as well, as reading the vernacular is easiest when the words are sounded out and pronounced out loud?

For your students who are tackling Hurston’s folktales, reading aloud is actually a useful strategy. To illustrate, we have a video of Zora’s niece, Professor Lucy Anne Hurston, reading sections from Every Tongue Got to Confess online. Click here if you'd like to see it!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Still By Lauren F. WinnerFor the religious studies professors out there, we'd like to draw your attention to a wonderful memoir on the murky "middle-stage" of spiritualityStill: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisiswhich just came out in paperback this month. Written by Lauren F. Winner, author of the critically acclaimed Girl Meets God, Still is the remarkably rare, candid, and ultimately hopeful examination of a crisis of faith.

After experiencing the death of her mother and a failed marriage, Winner found her sense of religion slipping away. But instead of abandoning Christianity completely, she committed herself to an in-depth exploration of its texts and tomes, and underwent counseling by church leaders. Through investigating her own struggle with the gray areas of faith and emerging stronger for it, Still is an inspirational tale for all spiritual travelers, which teaches how, in times of great darkness, we may see the light we do encounter more clearly.

If you're interested, click here to begin browsing the book, or check out Lauren F. Winner's revealing interview in Publishers Weekly here!

Praise for Lauren F. Winner's Still:

“Anyone committed to truly examining the shape of personal faith, unfolding over the years in a broken world, should sense a fruitful opportunity, if not a solemn obligation, to expound at length…[Winner] probes these depths as deftly and eloquently as anyone writing today… An instant spiritual classic.”—Christianity Today

“[A] provocative memoir . . . an open, honest contemplation of a spiritual impasse.”—Kirkus Reviews

Friday, March 15, 2013


On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition By William ZinsserWith Diane at the Conference on College Composition & Communication, we've already got composition on the brain here in the academic department. And funnily enough, a Wednesday Washington Post column by Pulitzer Prize-winner George F. Will seems to have renewed interest in our much-beloved composition title, William Zinsser's On Writing Well. Zinsser's classic guide to writing nonfiction was published over 30 years ago, but its insights on style and form remain as important as ever.

With over a million copies sold, it is certainly one of the most popular didactic texts on writing ever published, and for good reason, according to George F. Will in his article "William Zinsser and Good Writing as Art". Will says that to read Zinsser's work is to "see craftsmanship" in the mastery of the English languageZinsser may not toot his own horn, but, "others...who cherish the craft of writing should toot it for him." While Zinsser's book always does well, Will's column propelled it to #45 on the Amazon bestsellers list yesterday. If you're interested in learning more about the classic On Writing Well, please click here.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Free Educator Passes to Denver Comic Con

Having just posted about the graphic novel trend in academia, we got word of an offer that may interest you. The brother of HarperCollins’s Tavia Kowalchuk founded Denver Comic Con last year, which is working with Comic Book Classroom to provide free passes to educators for an all-day event on Friday, May 31st.They’ve planned a number of programs for educators and students to come learn how to use comics in their classes, as well as enjoy the show!
Educational Opportunities/Programming Topics:
- Chris Ware offers a keynote on his comic work and artistic development
- Comic book classroom graduates present their final projects
- Using comics in the classroom for middle school and high school
- How to prepare for a career in comics
- Can comics change the way that kids look at the world?
- Violence in popular media
- How to draw simple characters
If you’ll be in the Denver area, or want to make a trip out of it, apply online here—the first 200 teachers will receive a free pass! And with a purchase of 10 or more tickets, students receive a discount as well. While these offers are only for Friday, Denver Comic Con continues on Saturday and Sunday, and is sure to be a lot of fun.

Conference on College Composition & Communication 2013

Diane left on Tuesday night to set up for the Conference on College Composition & Communication (CCCC/4Cs for those in the know) in Las Vegas, hosted by the National Council of Teachers of English. We're very proud of our new banner, which, as you can see, highlights some of our best titles for college composition classes.

Our books permeate a wide variety of genres and topics, from the economic (Superfreakonomics), to the philosophical (Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat), to the didactic (How to Write a Sentence) and the inspirational (Little Princes). They prove that good writing knows no bounds, and traverses all academic disciplines.

Diane has been having a great time so far, and has already had a particularly wonderful run-in with one conference-attendee. She just emailed to tell me that she met Ben Fountain's professor and friend, Linda A. Rubel of the Rochester Institute. I think it's safe to say that Fountain's novel Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (National Book Critics Circle Award winner) is one of the most—if not the most—celebrated works of literary fiction in the past year (see our previous post). Meeting his composition professor was a real treat for Diane, as his novel is truly an exemplar of stellar literary composition.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Disney Education's "Lincoln Learning Hub"

Lincoln: How Abraham Lincoln Ended Slavery in America By Harold HolzerDisney Education has a great "learning hub" dedicated solely to our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. The site is perfect for middle grade and high school students interested in really delving into Lincoln’s presidency, and features sections on the contemporaneous “who’s who of congress,” “team of rivals,”  the Lincoln legacy, and resources. Additionally, the site presents an interactive abolition timeline, adapted from preeminent Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer’s new book Lincoln: How Abraham Lincoln Ended Slavery in America (the official companion to Steven Spielberg’s film). Click here to be redirected to the Disney website—the perfect spot for student immersion in all things Lincoln.


The 10 Best Books to Read for Easter: Selections to Inspire, Educate, & Provoke By James Martin, C. S. Lewis, N. T. Wright, Desmond Tutu, Mpho Tutu, Catherine Wolff, Ann Patchett, Candida Moss, John Dominic Crossan, Father Jonathan MorrisATTN: TEACHERS OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES. Check out New York Times bestselling author James Martin’s The 10 Best Books to Read for Easter: Selections to Inspire, Educate, & Provoke. This FREE eSampler is a curated volume of excerpts from leading authors in the field, including C. S. Lewis, N. T. Wright, Desmond Tutu, Ann Patchett, Candida Moss, John Dominic Crossan, Father Jonathan Morris, and Thomas H. Groome.

The sampler features an introduction from James Martin, SJ, and excerpts from:

Together on Retreat by James Martin, SJ
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright
Made for Goodness by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
Not Less Than Everything by Catherine Wolff (Editor)
The Worthless Servant by Ann Patchett
The Myth of Persecution by Candida Moss
The Greatest Prayer by John Dominic Crossan
God Wants You Happy by Father Jonathan Morris
Will There Be Faith? by Thomas H. Groome
The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin, SJ

To download this great FREE eSampler in time for Easter, please click here!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"A Dialogue with Kenneth C. Davis" via UStream

Don't Know Much About the Presidents (revised edition) By Kenneth C. Davis Illustrated by Pedro Martin We have a cool opportunity for your students to interact with our resident presidential scholar! Kenneth C. Davis, author of the bestselling Don’t Know Much About series, is coming to the Downington STEM Academic to speak with students about the American Presidency, with a strong emphasis on post-World War II history. The event will take place from 12:45-2:00pm EDT on Friday, March 15, and will be available on a live-stream via a STEM teacher’s UStream channel, which can be accessed here. Students from all schools are encouraged to watch and partake in the conversation through the twitter hashtag #KCD1. If you or your students are interested, please submit questions before the session—they will be balanced with questions from the Downington STEM class and presented to Davis during the stream.

BEING WRONG Is Washington State University's Common Read for 2013!

BEING WRONG by Kathryn Schulz
We’re very excited to announce that Kathryn Schulz’s Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error has been chosen as Washington State University’s Common Read for 2013! The co-chair of the selection committee writes:

“My co-chair, and I are excited with the selection and with the possibilities it offers for discussion and programming for incoming freshmen.  It was, in fact, the students on our selection committee who initially championed this book, believing that it offers a positive way to approach the many transitions and new ideas that freshmen students face.”

Being Wrong explores what it means to be in error, and why homo sapiens tend to tacitly assume (or loudly insist) that they are right about most everything. Kathryn Schulz, editor of Grist magazine, argues that error is the fundamental human condition and should be celebrated as such. Guiding students through the history and psychology of error, from Socrates to Alan Greenspan, Being Wrong will change the way they perceive screw-ups, both of the mammoth and daily variety, forever.

When asked in a New York Times interview, "Is there any book you wish all incoming freshmen at Harvard would read?," Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard, said, "Kathryn Schulz's Being Wrong advocates doubt as a skill and praises error as the foundation of wisdom. Her book would reinforce my encouragement of Harvard's accomplished and successful freshmen to embrace risk and even failure."

Schulz’s book has been one of our top contenders for commons reads because it serves as not just an account of human error but a tribute to human creativity—the way we generate and revise our beliefs about ourselves and the world. Washington State University made a wonderful choice, and it’s great to hear that students were its original advocates. Congratulations, Kathryn!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Updated Film Studies Catalog

The Friedkin Connection By William FriedkinOur Film Studies catalog and just been updated with two wonderful new additions: The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir by Oscar-winning director William Friedkin and Zero Dark Thirty: the Shooting Script by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Mark Boal.

The Friedkin Connection, written by one of the legendary directors (The French Connection and The Exorcist) who ushered in Hollywood’s second Golden Age in the 1970s, takes readers on a journey through the numerous chance encounters and unplanned occurrences that led a young man from a poor urban neighborhood to success in one of the most competitive industries and art forms in the world.

One of the most critically acclaimed and controversial films of the past year, Zero Dark Thirty highlights the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which preoccupied the world and two American presidential administrations for more than a decade. The script uncovered significant parts of the highly secretive intelligence operation that eventually brought bin Laden down—a true testament to Boal’s powers as not just a screenwriter, but a journalist as well.

Click on the links above to take a closer look at the two new additions, or to begin browsing the Film Studies catalog as a whole. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Graphic Novel Trend

The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel By Paulo CoelhoReading the review of The Cartoon Guide to Genetics got me thinking about a huge trend we’ve noticed in the academic department: graphic novels. In fact, most of the books that teachers were really excited about (especially teachers of boys) at the National Council of Teachers of English Conference were graphic originals or adaptations. So I thought I’d share a few of our graphic books that the teachers I’ve met seem to really love.
Scott McCloud is kind of a god in comic book and graphic novel circles. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more like Santa than when we gave his books out at NCTE. Professors assigned me his book Understanding Comics twice while I was in college: once in a course on women’s bodies and texts, and once in a post-modern literature course—a nod to the post-modern breakdown of high/low culture. If you’re ever teaching a graphic novel, McCloud’s text is such a wonderful supplement to explain the theory (sign, signifier, etc.) and history of the progressively academically accepted comic form. And, obviously, you won’t get too many students complaining about reading it, because it’s a really engaging comic itself. McCloud has also published Making Comics (more of a how-to guide), Reinventing Comics (a treatise on the new revolutions in comics, including the digital age), and Zot! (McCloud’s groundbreaking comic collection).

Another book that definitely got teachers' attention at NCTE was The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel. Yes, you read that correctly. Paolo Coehlo’s perennially bestselling and beloved tale of self-discovery has come out in graphic novel form, making his beautiful book even more accessible to all students. Artist Daniel Sampere’s evocative illustration brings readers alongside Andalusian shepherd Santiago as he journeys from country to country learning the truths of life and experience. And apparently Coehlo was pleased with the finished result:

“It was an old dream of mine to have The Alchemist as a graphic novel. This version exceeds my expectations and is a beautiful manifestation of what I originally imagined while crafting this story.”—Paulo Coelho

The graphic version of Coelho’s book can be read on its own, but also as a part of a study on adaptation, and what is gained and lost in the transition from one artistic form to another.

Click on the links above if you’re interested in browsing some of these wonderful books, perfect for voracious and reluctant readers alike.