A selection of books, films, and recordings by UChicago alumni.

Juneteenth: The Story Behind the Celebration

By Edward T. Cotham Jr., AM’76

Issued in Galveston, TX, on June 19, 1865, General Orders No. 3 states in its first sentence that “all slaves are free.” The Juneteenth order, as it came to be known, gave rise to many local celebrations in the southern United States commemorating emancipation and now stands at the center of a national holiday. Its prominence in this regard seems far from a foreordained outcome: the order was not the only one of its kind issued by Union Army officers, and much of it is less about emancipation than civil order. Historian Edward T. Cotham Jr. takes readers back before the start of the Civil War and well beyond Texas to trace how and why Juneteenth became the important tradition that it is today, offering the first comprehensive account of the event that signified actual freedom for the last large group of enslaved people in the Confederacy.

Lakefront: Public Trust and Private Rights in Chicago

By Joseph D. Kearney and Thomas W. Merrill, JD’77

The Lake Michigan shoreline that Chicagoans enjoy today is the product of more than a century and a half of legal controversies, argue Columbia University law professor Thomas W. Merrill and his coauthor. In 1852 the City of Chicago enacted an ordinance granting the Illinois Central Railroad right of way along the lakefront. The ensuing battles drew in Illinois legislators, wealthy landowners, private corporations, and ultimately the US Supreme Court, whose ruling in a major 1892 case placed the public trust doctrine at the center of disputes about the lakefront’s future. The accidents of history, rather than any grand design, the authors show, have shaped Chicago’s lakefront into an asset for residents relatively free of commercial development.

The Shomer

By Ellen Sazzman, AB’73

In mshemira, the Jewish funerary tradition of guarding the dead, the shomer watches over the body and safeguards the spirit of the deceased in the intermediate state before burial. For poet Ellen Sazzman, the shomer is also one who, more generally, attends to those needing protection and bears witness to transitional states. Divided into three sections, Sazzman’s debut collection includes poems that keep this kind of watchfulness over the passage of family members, communal traditions, and the individual body from one phase to the next. As Sazzman suggests in her preface, these poems enact a kind of devotion: “May our memories be a blessing,” she writes, “to the living and to the dead, just a word, a breath apart.”

Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food

By Brandon Jew and Tienlon Ho, JD’05

San Francisco chef Brandon Jew trained in Mediterranean haute cuisine. But after the death of his grandmother, the “head cook” in his family, he returned to his culinary roots. His restaurant Mister Jiu’s (a more accurate transliteration of the chef’s surname) opened in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 2016, restoring the building of the legendary Four Seas banquet hall and aiming to help write another chapter for a neighborhood some fear is losing its identity. This cookbook from the restaurant’s kitchen, cowritten by author and attorney Tienlon Ho, includes 90 recipes for such novel takes on tradition as mushroom mu shu and liberty roast duck.

It’s in the Action: Memories of a Nonviolent Warrior

By C. T. Vivian, with Steve Fiffer, JD’76

Baptist minister and civil rights organizer C. T. Vivian—“the greatest preacher ever to live,” according to Martin Luther King Jr.—galvanized and led activists in key integration and voting rights campaigns of the 1950s and ’60s. In his memoir, cowritten by author and community activist Steve Fiffer, Vivian describes learning nonviolence in an Illinois schoolyard, putting that principle into practice during the sit-ins that desegregated Nashville, and pushing the movement forward with King as a director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Fiffer, who completed the book after Vivian’s 2020 death, supplements the narrative with appendices that include eulogies for the Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen: The Emotional Lives of Black Women

By Inger Burnett-Zeigler, LAB’98

The image of the strong Black woman can be an obstacle to addressing the traumas and associated mental and physical problems many Black women experience, observes clinical psychologist Inger Burnett-Zeigler. Using case studies and personal anecdotes, Burnett-Zeigler’s self-described guidebook for healing emphasizes the benefits of acknowledging suffering and embracing vulnerability. “This thorough analysis effectively pulls back the curtain on the emotional and health barriers Black women face to suggest practical strategies for change,” writes Publishers Weekly.

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