HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: 12 BOOKS BY GRADUATE CENTER FACULTY, STUDENTS, AND ALUMNI THAT BEND GENRES AND OFFER COMPELLING TAKES ON CULTURAL ISSUES
Haven’t yet tried a book by Maggie Nelson? Want to delve into the complexities of the fracking debate or learn why calls for civility hold back racial justice? Or are you interested in a genre-defying memoir or two? These books by Graduate Center professors, students, and alumni make thoughtful and thought-provoking gifts, but you might also want to gift yourself.
1. Up to Heaven and Down to Hell: Fracking, Freedom, and Community in an American Town by environmental sociologist Colin Jerolmack (Ph.D. ’09, Sociology) is a gripping read and a nuanced take on an incendiary issue.
2. Designing Motherhood: Things that Make and Break our Births, by Art History Ph.D. candidate and design historian Michelle Millar Fisher and Amber Winick, looks at how objects from breast pumps to Snuglis shape women’s experiences as mothers.
3. The genre-bending Tastes Like War by CUNY Staten Island Professor Grace M. Cho (Ph.D. ’05, Sociology), a National Book Award finalist, is both a food memoir and an exploration of the traumas of war, dislocation, and mental illness.
4. Shades of Black by Professor Nathalie Etoke (French) examines the paradoxes of race and identity, analyzes news events including the death of George Floyd, and interprets the celebration of icons such as Barack Obama and Kamala Harris.
5. War and the Arc of Human Experience, a memoir by Professor Glenn Petersen, who flew 70 missions as a 19-year-old in Vietnam before becoming an anthropologist, (GC/Baruch; Liberal Studies and Anthropology/Anthropology and International Affairs) will also challenge your expectations of the genre.
6. Antiquity in Gotham: The Ancient Architecture of New York City by Professor Elizabeth Macaulay (Liberal Studies, Middle Eastern Studies) reveals the mashup of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian influences, filtered through an Art Deco lens, found in many of the city’s architectural treasures.
7. Philip Payton, the Father of Black Harlem by Kevin McGruder (Ph.D. ’10, History) explores the complicated legacy of a trailblazer who largely created the neighborhood that gave rise to the Harlem Renaissance.
8. Forget Russia by Lisa Williams (Ph.D. ’96, English) draws on her Cold War-era experiences in Moscow and her family’s history in this novel that illuminates the little-known history of Americans who fled the Depression at home with the hope of building the Russian Revolution.
9. Against Civility: The Hidden Racism in Our Obsession with Civility by intellectual historian Alex Zamalin (Ph.D. ’14, Political Science) introduces the idea of civic radicalism as a way to engage in direct action in the fight for racial justice.
10. The splendor of lichens, those colorful not-quite-plants, not-just-fungi organisms you might see clinging to tree bark and city buildings, is celebrated in Urban Lichens: A Field Guide for Northeastern North America, by Jessica Allen (Ph.D. ’17, Biology), Professor James Lendemer ( Ph.D., ’12, Biology), and Ph.D. student Jordan Hoffman (Biology)
11. The 1975 landmark study Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves is revisited in New Directions in the Study of Women in the Greco-Roman World, by Professor Ronnie Ancona (GC/Hunter, Classics) and her former student Georgia Tsouvala (Ph.D. ’08, Classics).
12. MacArthur Fellow Maggie Nelson’s (Ph.D. ’04, English) latest book, On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint, is powered by her willingness “to linger amid uncertainty,” The New York Times said in a profile that described Nelson as a writer who “thrives in the intellectually murky spaces that politics wants to simplify.”
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