Summer Reading List 2016

six spines of arts and sciences faculty
The seven books on this year’s list were written by faculty in New College, English, history, and anthropology.

While you prepare for the fall semester, pick up these books written by A&S faculty on various topics:

Enter Your Initials for Record Keeping, by Brian Oliu

This nostalgic essay collection introduces a particular vision of basketball, courtesy of the classic arcade game NBA Jam. By using the personal experiences the authors had with both the video game and the sport, Enter Your Initials illuminates how the intensity of pushing big plastic buttons or shooting a ball can come to mean something more.

“When NBA Jam came out, it was amazing to me. You could not only embody your favorite players, but they were ‘hyper-real’ and could do things that were beyond the scope of reality,” Oliu said. “Before, you wished that you could be as good as, say, Karl Malone, which is, of course, impossible.”

Oliu, an instructor in the English Department and director of Slash Pine Press, has written on the impact of video games on their players before, in his 2014 book Leave Luck to Heaven.

New Approaches to Gone With the Wind, by Andy Crank

One of the first pieces of literary scholarship on the controversial classic Gone With the Wind, this collection of nine essays addresses topics ranging from the aesthetic influence of the film on contemporary works, to the critical reception of Gone With the Wind by Irish and gay communities. With essays accessible to both laymen and scholars, this book aims to prove that Gone With the Wind’s appeal goes beyond popular culture.

“In some ways, we are hoping to offer pathways to consider, or even reconsider, central parts of Gone With the Wind as critically important in the discussions we have about race, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity in American — and more specifically — southern culture,” said Dr. Crank, a professor of English.

The Locust Diagrams, by Nathan Parker

The esoteric world of dreams has something more to communicate to us, according to Nathan Parker, instructor in the English Department. In his month-long poetic transcription of his dreams, he showcases some of what he calls communications from God. Dimensions away, God can only bridge this distance directly through our dreams as Parker interprets it. A long-time veteran of keeping up with dreams, Parker has been transcribing them since 2005 and hopes that this collection can help soothe all those hurt by this vast distance between them and God.

Remember Me to Miss Louisa, by Sharony Green

A history of the hidden interracial relationships in antebellum America, this book uses primary sources to tell of the complex connections between three different groups of Southern slave owners and freed African Americans. The first of these case studies discusses a Midwestern “fancy girl,” or enslaved woman sold for use as a prostitute or mistress, and how her relationship with her former master continued via letters.

“Mistress, first and foremost, referred to white women, of course, as in ‘mistress of the house.’ Less spoken of is the degree to which some women of color, even enslaved ones, manifested as being a ‘mistress,’ too,” said Dr. Green, professor of History.

However, some women of color manifested as mistresses to their white owners as well. The other two case studies discuss a New Orleans mistress, freed while her white master was on his deathbed, who fled to Cincinnati and joined a community of mixed race people there, and 10 enslaved children in Alabama who received their freedom and an inheritance from a white planter.

Winesburg, Indiana, by Michael Martone

Telling the tale of a forgotten Midwest backwater by way of its extreme memoirs, Winesburg, Indiana is a collection of short stories written by Martone, University of Alabama professor of English, and other authors originally published in BOOTH magazine. Taking inspiration from both Winesburg, Ohio and Spoon River Anthology, these stories paint a picture of the dramatic interior lives of the fictional town’s residents, the tension between urban and rural life, and how the modern era can alienate even small town folk. This forgotten town includes ghost conjurers, cafeteria zombies, and a park custodian who cleans up aliens’ scat, and all within its lackluster borders serve to show that, just as Thoreau said, “most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Happily Ever After, by Catherine Roach

The romance story has a long history, with examples to be had from the Bible all the way to modern rom coms, but the tradition is most clearly continued in the romance novel. Catherine Roach, a New College professor of cultural studies and gender studies, alongside her romance-writing alter ego Catherine LaRoche, explains the particular hold these stories have on popular culture and how they form the backbone of much of today’s media. Both celebrated for their sexually liberating stories and derided for their frequent male-female pairings and glossy happy endings, the romance novel has maintained its popularity even today. In approaching them from both an academic and a writing viewpoint, Roach helps to explain how to understand the meaning of the romance novel and how it relates to many of the stories and narratives we hear every day.

Being and Becoming European in Poland, by Marysia Galbraith

Since joining the European Union in May of 2004, Poland has undergone a transformation of identity. While the country has always been a part of the continent of Europe, under the socialist government it had until 1989, it was politically very distinct from the countries west of it. Being European is not something modern Poles take for granted, Galbraith argues. The national identity of Poland is of a European country, but at the same time, the people are becoming European in the sense of integrating with the European Union and Western Europe. By using personal stories of people from Poland, Galbraith illustrates the shifting and complex attitudes towards the supranational identity known as European. Galbraith holds a joint appointment with New College and the Department of Anthropology.