Tiphanie Yanique, J00
How to Escape from a Leper Colony (Graywolf)
Tiphanie Yanique, a native of St. Thomas, sets her self-assured debut book mainly in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Her characters dispel Caribbean stereotypes, running the gamut of human experience. Magic, mystery, and divinity suffuse her work, from two lepers who build an image of the Hindu goddess Kali to a pageant girl who stands in for the Virgin de Guadalupe.
A friend visited a small island off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago and brought back pictures of an abandoned leper colony. Beds were still made, and file cabinets still contained the lepers’ medical records. The place had been abandoned for more than fifty years. I discovered that no one really knew what hap-pened. The people had just disappeared. The place had a cinema, churches, a hospital—it was a full community with a full life. I wrote the story to find out what happened to them.
Jamaica Kincaid is my literary foremother. If I’m feeling stuck, all I have to do is read one of her paragraphs. I also love Gabriel García Márquez. His work gives me permission to do crazy stuff. People in his world do things like speak in tongues and live to a hundred and thirty-five, so I feel able to grasp that potential for magic, to allow, as I do in one of my stories, a promiscuous teenager to become an incarnation of the Virgin Mary.
I love the aesthetics of Catholicism—the music, the bells, the incense—and I love to look at other faiths and see where they are beautiful, whether it’s the call to prayer for Muslims or Diwali for Hindus. I’m often pissed off at religion for all the nastiness that happens when people suspend their ability to critique, but I find even that process interesting. As someone who creates fiction, I’m curious about how religion plays into the most intimate parts of people’s lives.
I would love to give my book away to tourists. When I was in school, they used to photograph us in our uniforms and ask how we learned to speak English. I want people to recognize that the Caribbean is as complicated and as full of depths and shallows as anywhere else. The Virgin Islands are a place of great beauty and delicious rum-filled drinks, but they’re also a place where people create art and fall in love. The whole world of human emotion and experience can exist even on a small island.”BOOKS
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (Oxford)Gordon S. Wood, A55, H10, begins the latest contribution to the Oxford History of the United States series with the story of Rip Van Winkle, who fell asleep before the American Revolution and awoke twenty years later to a bustling village he didn’t recognize. The formerly tranquil citi-zenry had become bold, industrious, and fluent in the strange new language of “rights,” “liberties,” and “elections.” The Founders’ enlightened cosmopolitanism had been replaced by a rough-hewn nationalism, and their determination to end slavery was eclipsed by the drive for expansion. With the shackles of foreign rule thrown off and the continent at their disposal, Americans had every reason to be optimistic, but the challenges of the republican experiment had only begun.
Citizen You: Doing Your Part to Change the World (Crown)As Jonathan M. Tisch, A76, recounts, Scott Harrison was the kind of big shot who inspires eye rolls. A nightclub promoter and party planner with a 15,000-person contact list, he jetted around the world, drinking, drugging, and dating models until a 180-degree life change co-opted his Rolodex for a nobler purpose. His networking and marketing skills have attracted 50,000 donors and more than $10 million to the nonprofit he founded that provides clean drink-ing water to people in developing countries. Harrison is one of many social entrepreneurs profiled in this inspiring and indispensable guide to active citizen-ship—which Tisch defines as the kind of civic engagement that tackles systemic social problems at their roots. (And Tisch should know: he gave his name to the Tisch School of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts.)
Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia (Spiegel & Grau)Patricia Morrisroe, J73, used to envision Sleep as John Malkovich’s seductive character, Valmont, in Dangerous Liaisons—alluring, demanding, taunting, and elusive. In her elegant investigative memoir, she matches wits with Sleep, humorously probing its history, science, and culture to answer for a lifetime of insomnia. According to the National Institutes of Health, 70 million Americans—more than the population of France—have trouble sleeping. In our 24/7 world, we manically regard sleep as a luxury, and without it, we’re turning into a nation of distracted, sick, obese zombies. After spending the night in sleep labs, visiting assorted therapists and gurus, and traveling to Florence for a thirteenth-century potion that helped the Medici family nod off, Morrisroe finally finds the keys to her longed-for z’s much closer to home.
How to Booze: Exquisite Cocktails and Unsound Advice (Harper)Ben Franklin once remarked, “There can’t be good living where there is not good drinking.” For former bartenders Jordan Kaye, A98, and Mar-shall Altier, a good mixed drink is the stuff of life. Witty meditations on everything from one-night stands to parental disappointment help you match the occasion to the drink: a Vieux Carré to drunk-dial your ex (as if a Jumbo would!), a fine-and-dandy to meet the in-laws, and a spiced colada to toast the End of Days.
Three Wishes (Little, Brown)The most remarkable thing about this story—three friends meet their soul mates after planning to get inseminated using the same sperm donor—is that it’s true. The authors, Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand, J87, were successful career women who had everything but a husband and chil-dren. Soon after Goldberg embarked on the journey to become a single mom, she fell in love and got pregnant the old-fashioned way, bequeathing her eight vials of sperm to Jones, who experienced the same fate. Ditto for Ferdinand, the sperm’s final recipient. The ultimate twenty-first-century fairy tale.
other books of note Chronicling the designer’s hardscrabble youth, glamorous rise, and shocking murder, House of Versace (Crown), by DEBORAH BALL, J90, is based on hundreds of interviews with Gianni Versace’s family and associates. PETER BEREN, A69, is editor of the visually stunning Hidden Napa Valley: Photographs by Wes Walker (Welcome). The Wedding Gift, by MARLEN SUYAPA BODDEN, J83, is inspired by an 1840 case in which a plantation owner divorced his wife and won the property rights to a young slave. Bridginess: More of the Civil Engineering Life (ASCE) is another collection of witty essays musing on everything from urban sprawl to, of course, bridges by BRIAN BRENNER, professor of the practice in civil and environmental engineering at Tufts. MARK COHEN, G83, is editor of Missing a Beat (Syracuse), the collected writings of Seymour Krim, the little-known Beat writer who covered the postwar American scene from a Jewish angle. BARBARA DELINKSY, J67, tells the story of three teenage girls and a pregnancy pact in her latest novel, Not My Daughter (Doubleday). Green is the Orator (University of California), the second poetry collection by SARAH GRIDLEY, G92, addresses the challenge of representing nature through language. In The Power of Pause (Jossey-Bass), NANCY GUILMARTIN, J76, argues that star performers are distin-guished by their ability to communicate clearheaded decisions in the midst of chaos. In his poetry collection, MySoloFolio (Troy Book Makers), ROBERT W. HORNE, A60, captures life in Maine with sweetness and gratitude—and wit: “With cheeses you get what you pay for. With Jesus you get what you pray for.” GEORGE PERKINS, A53, and Barbara Perkins have circumnavigated Cape Horn, seen the Taj Mahal at sunrise, and marveled at the moai statues of Easter Island, all while sailing Around the World on the QE2 (Shires). LEIGHTON J. REYNOLDS, E79, has penned From the Other Side of the Moon (iUniverse), a thriller set amidst Cali-fornia wildfires. JESWALD W. SALACUSE, the Henry J. Braker Professor of Law at the Fletcher School (and a columnist for this magazine), analyzes the various protections granted to foreign investors in The Law of Investment Treaties (Oxford).FILM & VIDEO
The 99: The Animated SeriesThe Islamic comic-book series The 99, the brainchild of Naif Al-Mutawa, A84, is set to become an animated TV show. Al-Mutawa’s publishing group, Kuwait-based Teshkeel Media, has partnered with Endemol U.K., the production giant behind Big Brother, Deal or No Deal, and Fear Factor. The series will follow the comic’s story line: ninety-nine young heroes who embody the virtues of Allah must pool their unique talents to solve the world’s problems. The comic is widely distributed throughout the Middle East, South Asia, and Indonesia. Its characters will soon appear on water bot-tles licensed by Nestlé, and the first of six The 99 Village theme parks opened in Kuwait last year. Forbes included the comic in its “Top 20 Trends Sweeping the Globe,” and in April, President Obama commended Al-Mutawa at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship.
Weekly broadcasts will begin late this year or early next and will be distributed in North America via cable and satellite. Catch a preview at www.the99.org.
That’s News to MeWilliam Lancaster, an instructor of public health and community medicine at Tufts Medical School, wrote and produced this short documentary on the challenge posed to mainstream news media by the digital revolution. Scholars and journalism luminaries such as NBC anchor Brian Williams and 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt add their perspectives to those of twentysomething bloggers and online media junkies. It’s at vimeo.com/7108259.
10 YearsTrevor Martin and Julian Roberts, both A08, produced this documentary, an analysis of the links between the Colombian government and right-wing narco-paramilitaries. The filmmakers distill interviews with human rights lawyers, victims of violence, and others. The project was funded by the Wendling Foundation and the Tufts Institute for Global Leadership and was produced in association with the Colombia Human Rights Commission. View the film and background material at 10yearscolombia.com. MUSIC
Voices from the MountainThe high, lonesome sound of Appalachian folk song filled Tufts’ Cohen Auditorium last October in a musical production based on the life of Olive Dame Campbell, J1903. Campbell traveled through Appalachia in 1907, collecting old English and Scottish folk songs whose purity had been preserved by the geo-graphic isolation of their singers. She and the musicologist Cecil Sharp published the songs in an influential volume, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, in 1917. The production, staged by the Boston-area Revels Repertory Company, played to a capacity audience of Tufts alumni. Video excerpts at bit.ly/Campbell_Voices.
Fountain of TearsIf you’ve ever played the popular “Rock Band” videogames, you’ve seen Chris Mascara, A91, before. He modeled the moves for all the games’ lead-singer avatars. He’s more than just a pretty set of hip gyrations, though. His Boston-based band, MASCARA, recently released this CD, a collection of ragged-edged garage punk leavened by epic ballads. Anchored by Mascara’s avant-garde guitar stylings, Fountain pays tribute to tragic artists, in-cluding the poet Federico García Lorca, who inspired the album’s title. The band will tour regionally this fall. Samples and more at mascaramusic.com.