Timothy Parrish, AM’88, writes about Ralph Ellison (above) in his new book Ralph Ellison and the Genius of America. (Library of Congress)

The Magazine lists a selection of general-interest books, films, and albums by alumni. For additional alumni releases, browse the Magazine’s Goodreads bookshelf.

Ralph Ellison and the Genius of America

Timothy Parrish, AM’88

Some critics believe that Ralph Ellison, whose 1952 novel Invisible Man described the early 20th-century African American experience, was a black intellectual out of touch with his time. But Florida State University English professor Timothy Parrish argues that Ellison is the most important American writer since William Faulkner. Parrish, drawing on archival materials and unpublished correspondence, uses jazz artist Wynton Marsalis’s characterization of Ellison as the unacknowledged “political theorist” of the civil-rights movement as a jumping-off point to maintain that Ellison in fact understood the cultural implications of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision better than any other American intellectual.


Queen Salome: Jerusalem’s Warrior Monarch of the First Century BCE

Kenneth Atkinson, MDV’94

As the ruler of Judea from 76 to 67 BC, Queen Salome Alexandra, who was appointed the kingdom’s high priest when she was in her 60s, led its men in battle, subjugated neighboring kings, and stopped the religious violence that plagued her society. According to University of Northern Iowa historian Kenneth Atkinson, Salome Alexandra was such an exceptional figure that historians “have largely ignored her, rather than try to explain the perplexing circumstances that brought her to power.” Using the Dead Sea Scrolls and related texts, Atkinson reconstructs Queen Salome’s life and times in the first biography of the sole legitimate female monarch of ancient Judea.


The Supreme Court and McCarthy-Era Repression: One Hundred Decisions

Robert Lichtman, AB’52, JD’55

In this comprehensive history of the US Supreme Court’s decisions in “communist” cases during the McCarthy era, lawyer Robert Lichtman places each decision in the context of political events to reveal the depth of the period’s political repression. Drawing from the justices’ papers, Lichtman examines the court’s changes in leadership and the relationships and rivalries among Justices Felix Frankfurter, Earl Warren, and William J. Brennan Jr. In the process, he demonstrates the vulnerability of one of the nation’s most venerated institutions to public criticism and political attacks.


In the Himalayan Nights

Anoop Chandola, PhD’66

Two lesbian research assistants accompany an Indian American anthropologist and his wife to Dehradun, a capital city in the foothills of the Himalayas, to witness the religious, cultural, and political undercurrents stirred up by the “holy-war” dance of the Mahabharata—and end up falling in love. Told from the perspective of the anthropologist, the new novel from University of Arizona professor emerita of East Asian Studies Anoop Chandola details 18 days and nights in 1977, a seminal period of Indian history. When their local hosts discover the women’s affair and turn against them, the research team’s existence is threatened, raising questions on the nature of morality, the authenticity of folk heroes, and the justifications of inequality.


America, But Better: The Canada Party Manifesto

Brian Calvert and Chris Cannon, AM’02

The Canada Party, comprised of Brian Calvert and Chris Cannon, has announced its candidacy for president of the United States. Based on the duo’s viral video campaign launched this past January, the satirical party’s book balances the doctrine of American exceptionalism with Canadian humility and common sense to position Canada as the new leader of the free world, by proxy. Among its promises: the phrase “job creators” will be changed to “job creationists,” and they will be given seven days to actually create some, and corporations will still be people, but if they can’t provide a birth certificate they will be legally obligated to care for your lawn.


Retirement on the Line: Age, Work, and Value in an American Factory

Caitrin Lynch, AM’92, PhD’00

The median age of the employees at the family-owned Vita Needle Company of Needham, Massachusetts, is 74. As people live longer and want—or need—to work past the traditional retirement age, Vita Needle follows an unusual business model, seeking out older workers. In a five-year study of the company, Olin College anthropologist Caitrin Lynch examines societal assumptions about aging and employment alongside the implications of Vita Needle’s approach for the employer, the workers, the community, and society.


The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame

Peter Dreier, AM’73, PhD’77


A hundred years ago soapbox orators who called for women’s suffrage, a federal minimum wage, or environmental laws were called utopian dreamers or dangerous socialists. Now these ideas are taken for granted. Occidental College politics professor Peter Dreier examines the organizers, activists, writers, artists, and progressive politicians of the past century who challenged the status quo and changed history—including UChicago’s John Dewey; Saul Alinsky, PhB’30; Studs Terkel, PhB’32 (right); and Michael Harrington, AM’49. Dreier also discusses 21st-century activists trying to shape our future.