A selection of books, films, and recordings by UChicago alumni.
By Caitlin Doughty, AB’12 (Class of 2006)
“All death questions are good death questions, but the most direct and most provocative questions come from kids,” writes mortician Caitlin Doughty, an advocate of more open conversations about death in American culture. The best-selling author and host of the web video series Ask a Mortician explores 35 real queries from young fans, including the one that inspired the book and supplied its title (the frank answer is yes). Discussing what happens when a person dies on an airplane and whether a corpse can be claimed as property, Doughty gives both children and adults license to be curious about death.
By A. K. Sandoval-Strausz, AM’97, PhD’02
Richard Florida’s concept of a “creative class” who revitalized American cities in the late 20th century leaves out a community that deserves much of the credit, argues Penn State historian A. K. Sandoval-Strausz. Before high-earning professionals headed back to urban centers, Latino immigrants were reviving neighborhoods and setting the stage for what’s been called the back-to-the-city movement. Focusing on Dallas’s Oak Cliff neighborhood and Chicago’s Little Village, Sandoval-Strausz finds that Latinos joined other immigrant groups in repopulating cities at a time marked by white flight and the Great Migration’s end.
By David Dann, MFA’78
In the early 1960s, blues-rocker Michael Bloomfield honed his chops at Wednesday-night twist parties at Woodward Court and Ida Noyes Hall, as music historian and commercial artist David Dann recounts in the first comprehensive biography of the musician. Bloomfield joined the band of Paul Butterfield, LAB’60, and went on to become one of rock’s first guitar superstars, infusing an electric sound into Bob Dylan’s music and forming the Electric Flag, a genre-bending interracial psychedelic group. Bloomfield, who died of a drug overdose at age 37, was “the man who introduced blues to white America,” Dunn writes.
Written, directed, and produced by Aleem Hossain, AB’00
In a near-future Los Angeles wracked by economic, environmental, and social degradation, Jack Chaney has finally received a visa that will allow him to start a new life on an off-world colony, but it’s restricted to married couples. Searching for the wife he abandoned six years ago, Jack has to face his past and ask himself what he’s seeking in a new future. Available on Apple TV, filmmaker Aleem Hossain’s award-winning science fiction feature opens in select theaters in February.
By Jean K. Carney, AM’84, PhD’86
In 1960s Chicago, Catholic high school student Mary Kay O’Donnell is confronted with an unwanted pregnancy and the sudden death of her teacher and mentor Sister Michaeline, who nurtured her faith and encouraged her passion for singing. At the funeral, she notices a man she later learns is a local jazz musician named Lucius. He gives her Sister Michaeline’s decades-old diary and a spot in his band. Journalist and psychologist Jean K. Carney’s novel interweaves the nun’s diary with Mary Kay’s story, showing how the discovery of Sister Michaeline’s history becomes a catalyst in the younger woman’s coming of age.
Translated by Clinton B. Seely, AM’68, PhD’76
Now regarded as one of Bengali literature’s leading modernists, poet Jibanananda Das (1899–1954) achieved literary fame at the end of his career and remains extremely popular in Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal. Das biographer Clinton B. Seely, professor emeritus of South Asian languages and civilizations, translated 35 poems by Das, including selections from his famous Bengal the Beautiful sonnets. Seely’s introduction situates the poet’s work in its cultural and historical contexts.
For additional alumni book releases, browse the Magazine’s Goodreads bookshelf.