Working Families: Navigating the Demands and Delights of Marriage, Parenting, and Career
A writer, college professor, Christian minister, and mother of three, Jordan-Lake distinguishes her “faith-based” treatise on work-family balance from other such books by emphasizing equality between husband and wife. Both men and women, she insists, have an obligation to hone their God-given talents. Personal experiences, insights from other highly accomplished working mothers, and practical advice—“blowtorch the television” and “develop community with other parents who are passionate about their callings”—merge with an acute sense of social responsibility: doing for others is key to the author’s formula for a meaningful life.
Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man
When a lissome blonde debutante with no scientific training reported that apes not only used but also made their own tools—a declaration that called into question the very definition of humanity—eyebrows were raised. One respected scientist warned his colleagues not to be misled by her “glamour.” For many, that quality is exactly what Jane Goodall—often romantically viewed as the National Geographic pinup girl quietly observing chimpanzees along Africa’s Edenic Lake Tanganyika—has embodied for the past 40 years. Drawing upon the author’s close friendship with his subject, as well as unprecedented access to letters, diaries, and field notes, this first full biography of Goodall, 10 years in the writing, reveals a woman whose complexity, not unlike that of the animals she studied, frequently goes unacknowledged. Her life—from Dr. Doolittle-reading girl to world-renowned primatologist to conservationist and peace activist—is as much a testament to personal possibility as to scientific discovery.
Cabin Pressure: One Man’s Desperate Attempt to Recapture His Youth as a Camp Counselor
Three months before his wedding, 34-year-old Josh Wolk, a senior writer for Entertainment Weekly, eschewed raucous bachelor parties for one final summer as a counselor at the Maine boys’ camp where he spent his youth. This hilarious, nostalgic chronicle of too-short beds, food fights, and competition with a legendarily cool 42-year-old counselor (also back for a last hurrah) encases a deeper reflection on making the final leap to adulthood in an era when many thirty-, and even forty-, somethings are reluctant to do so.
What does one make of a Jewish artist who was obsessed with Christ? The latest offering in the “Jewish Encounters” book series grapples with the many contradictions in the life and work of Marc Chagall, who narrowly escaped the Holocaust, then symbolically rendered its horrors in painting after painting of a crucified Christ. He used the modern techniques of Cubism and Fauvism in romanticized images recalling his shtetl upbringing in Belarus and created stained-glass masterpieces for more churches than synagogues.
Jim Cullen, A85
Schoolchildren once learned that presidents were bastions of unsullied virtue. The days of cherry trees and log cabins are long over, though, and many students are now more likely to dwell on Washington the slave owner and Lincoln the suspender of habeas corpus. Jim Cullen, who has taught at Harvard and Brown universities and currently works at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City, wrote Imperfect Presidents: Tales of Misadventure and Triumph (Palgrave Macmillan) in part to restore balance to our perceptions of those who lead us.
“Many presidential flaws are the flipsides of virtues. One example is John Quincy Adams. In many respects, he was a rigid traditionalist whose moral rectitude put him out of touch with most of his contemporaries. But the very qualities that served him so poorly as president, especially the fact that he was unyielding to political compromise, were what enabled him to speak out against the great moral issue of his time—slavery—as a member of the House, following his presidency. Theodore Roosevelt was as dramatic as Adams was reserved. Critics regarded him as a buffoon, but his flair for self-dramatization allowed him to call attention to the things he found important, like regulating monopolies.
In trying to see presidents whole, we get a more informed and realistic sense of who they are, what their priorities are, and what our priorities should be in choosing them. We have to understand both that they’re fallible and that they’re human and can grow.
The book is a direct result of my teaching experiences. As a high school educator, I feel very strongly about attending to the moral and civic vision of adolescents. The kids I teach are sophisticated, skeptical, and really have a tendency to question authority, as indeed we’d like them to do in many ways. But I want to give students a textured, legitimate basis for authority that doesn’t require reverence or perfection but does take into account that the way we live our lives is rooted in traditions, values, and aspirations worth striving for even if they’re not always attained. Our national default setting is skepticism about politicians and government, and I worry deeply that this has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Coming to terms with the president of my youth, Ronald Reagan, was a reckoning for me. As Andrew Jackson was for the nineteenth century, Reagan was an outsize figure who will define the presidency for generations to come. I was quite hostile to Reagan my whole adult life, and in many ways I still am, but I came to the reluctant conclusion that at least in the way he handled the Cold War, he was right.
I wrote partially out of a sense of alarm that the country in the last half-dozen years has taken a frightening and decisive turn for the worse. I was trying to draw comfort from the fact that at other times in history, many Americans have felt the same way.
Straining against my own ideology, I’ve tried to give the current president his due. I believe he’s done much of what he’s done out of a sense of sincere conviction. Bush could end up like John Quincy Adams, whose life really began after he was president. History is an unpredictable business—Bush may wind up looking more attractive in hindsight than he does now. Stranger things have happened, though the odds are against it.”
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