A selection of books, films, and recordings by UChicago alumni.
By June Cummins, with Alexandra Dunietz, PhD’90
The 1951 publication of All-of-a-Kind Family was a milestone for Jewish representation in mainstream children’s literature, writes Jane Cummins with Alexandra Dunietz in the first biography of author Sydney Taylor. The five All-of-a-Kind Family books, which chronicle the lively adventures of a Jewish family in New York City, draw on the happier elements of Taylor’s Lower East Side upbringing; not included were her mother’s struggles with mental illness and the death of an infant brother. Taylor, who left home in her teens, was a dancer for the Martha Graham Dance Company and a drama teacher before writing her beloved series.
By Ed Roberson; edited by Andrew Peart, AM’16, PhD’18
In 2015 poet Ed Roberson discovered in his New Jersey home a lost manuscript of poems inspired by a cross-country motorcycle trip he took in 1970. With the help of editor (and Magazine staffer) Andrew Peart, who searched through the poet’s personal archive, Roberson uncovered more material inspired by the journey; that work, the once-lost manuscript, and several new pieces make up MPH and Other Road Poems. The collection, written with Roberson’s characteristic feel for the music in vernacular speech, chronicles a formative period in his life and work when, as he writes in the introduction, he sought to communicate “the art that is latent in the poetry I lived as a Black man in America.”
By Chris Begley, AM’92, PhD’99
The end of the world won’t look how we imagine, contends archaeologist Chris Begley. Pop culture depictions of precipitous collapse obscure a more complicated truth: societies decline gradually and for many reasons. Take the Maya, who are often portrayed as having vanished overnight. In fact, the seven million Maya living in Central America today are a testament to the resilience of ancestors who left their ancient cities and started a new way of life. Begley argues the rise and fall of past civilizations teaches us that communities, not heroic individuals, have the best chance of weathering severe crises.
By Barbara Ballentine and Jeremy Hyman, AB’93
The dazzling tapestry of birdsong we love and listen for is a surprisingly rich form of communication that helps our feathered friends navigate mating, migration, and territorial disputes. Drawing on the latest avian research, Western Carolina University biologists Barbara Ballentine and Jeremy Hyman explore how and why birds learn to sing. The sumptuously illustrated Bird Talk also highlights birds’ visual communication, such as aggressive wing-waving and strategic displays of plumage.
John N. Maclean, LAB’60
Norman Maclean’s (PhD’40) autobiographical collection A River Runs Through It enshrined Montana’s Blackfoot River in the popular imagination. In Home Waters, his son John N. Maclean returns to that same ground to explore his family’s connection to the American West. The memoir tells the real stories of the figures made famous in A River Runs Through It—Norman; his charismatic but troubled brother, Paul; and the stoic Reverend Maclean—alongside the history of the river itself.
By Benjamin Storey, AM’01, PhD’05, and Jenna Silber Storey, AM’02, PhD’10
Trying to be happy hasn’t helped humans find happiness, observe married Furman University professors of politics and international affairs Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey. The problem isn’t new: Alexis de Tocqueville observed in 1831 that Americans were “restless in the midst of their well-being.” Where did this unease come from, and how might it be combated? The Storeys look to the contrasting visions of happiness presented by Montaigne, Pascal, and Rousseau to understand our present difficulties and argue for turning “pointless busyness into a pointed quest” for deeper meaning.
By Danny Lyon, AB’63
Best known for his photographs of the US civil rights movement, artist Danny Lyon has also written about American social change. This collection of essays, speeches, and fragments includes a satirical piece on capital punishment from a UChicago student magazine, The Bug; reflections on the state of photography as an art form; and Lyon’s recent writings on topics including the Black Lives Matter movement. Together, writes editor Randy Kennedy, they reveal Lyon as “a world-class talker: funny, wise, sanguine, and indefatigable.”
For additional alumni book releases, use the link to the Magazine’s Goodreads bookshelf at mag.uchicago.edu/alumni-books.