A selection of books, films, and recordings by UChicago alumni.
By Sharony Green, AM’08; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2023
Facing a decline in her career as well as political and artistic tensions with her peers, Zora Neale Hurston traveled south, spending nearly 10 months in Honduras in 1947–48, hoping to find the ruins of a lost Mayan city. Though she did not find any ruins, Hurston wrote to her editor that in Honduras she rediscovered herself. Sharony Green meticulously reconstructs this overlooked time in Hurston’s career, complicating our understanding of her life and work. Throughout, Green offers a portrait of postwar politics, literary and cinematic culture, and the complex dynamics between the United States and Central America.
By Hannah Pittard, AB’01; Henry Holt, 2023
We Are Too Many opens with a conversation in which Hannah Pittard learns that her husband has been having an affair with her best friend. In a tone by turns ironic and earnest, Pittard recounts a decade of conversations around the dissolution of her marriage. Yet the book defies the constraints of a traditional memoir: these remembered encounters are accompanied by short essays and speculative dialogues that read like film scripts. Pittard also sheds light on more universal experiences that are difficult to talk about: outgrowing relationships, eating disorders, and female rage.
By Nash Jenkins, AM’19; The Overlook Press, 2023
Nash Jenkins immerses readers in a New Jersey boarding school in 2008, where transfer student Foster Dade falls in with the popular crowd but struggles to cope with the new environment. He becomes the center of a tragic scandal and is expelled. The following school year, the novel’s unnamed narrator inherits Foster’s former dorm room. The traces Foster left behind compel the narrator to investigate his story. He spends years interviewing Foster’s classmates and poring over blog posts recovered through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. As the narrator lays bare the school’s secrets, he uncovers terrible pain in his schoolmates’ lives, but also moments of joy and tenderness.
By Luis Manuel Garcia-Mispireta, PhD’11; Duke University Press, 2023
Contemporary electronic dance music parties can be inclusive spaces where strangers find intimacy through shared sensory experiences. Ethnomusicologist Luis Manuel Garcia-Mispireta studies the house and techno music scenes of late-aughts Chicago, Paris, and Berlin to explore how music, gesture, and touch create a sense of excitement and belonging. These parties, the author argues, are utopian projects, seeking to embody an ideal community. But exclusionary practices often hide behind efforts to ensure a party will “attract the ‘right’ crowd” for getting the desired “vibe.” Garcia-Mispireta explores new ways of thinking about intimacy and its limits.
By David Ray, AB’52, AM’57; Whirlybird Press, 2023
“Have we lost the chance to live in the light?” writes David Ray in “Planning the Decade That’s Past,” one of 56 poems in At Midnight. In simple, straightforward language, Ray writes about the environment, social inequities, religion, aging, and grief. Meditations on visual art form a thread throughout, and the book’s final section includes a sequence of reflections on the life and work of Edward Hopper. Amid the challenges of human experience, Ray uncovers glimpses of beauty and levity.
For additional alumni book releases, use the link to the Magazine’s Goodreads bookshelf at mag.uchicago.edu/alumni-books.