In the monthly "Ethical Inquiry" series, we examine ethical questions, highlighting a broad array of opinion from journalism, academia, and advocacy organizations. Our intent is to illuminate and explore the complexity of some of the most vexing ethical questions of our time.

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Ethical Inquiry: December 2015

Recommended Books From the Year

For the December installment of "Ethical Inquiry" we are taking the opportunity to recommend some books published in the last year on topics related to the work of the Ethics Center and by people affiliated with the Center, as well as a few selections not as closely tied to our work that have impressed members of our staff.
(See our 2009 recommendations, our 2010 recommendations, our 2011 recommendations, our 2012 recommendations, our 2013 recommendations and our 2014 recommendations)

The following are selections from works published in 2015:

supported by the Center

ebony-axisEbony Axis edited by LaShawn Simmons ’18

With a Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation (CAST) Program grant, LaShawn Simmons '18 created "Ebony Axis," a 'zine for black women on campus Read full article from Brandeis NOW.

on ethics and justice

courtandtheworld The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities by Stephen Breyer

A justice of the Supreme Court argues the case that United States law should not live in splendid isolation from the rest of the world. []


notoriousrbgNotorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

Created by the young lawyer who began the “Notorious RBG” internet sensation and an award-winning journalist, this book takes you behind the myth for an intimate, irreverent look at Justice Ginsburg’s life and work. Read up in advance of Justice Ginsburg’s upcoming visit to Brandeis University. []

translating evidence Translating Evidence and Interpreting Testimony at a War Crimes Tribunal: Working in a Tug of War by Ellen Elias-Bursac

Ellen Elias-Bursac, former translator for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and a teacher of Slavic languages explores the dynamic courtroom interactions at the ICTY in which witnesses testify – through an interpreter – about translations; attorneys argue – through an interpreter – about translations and the interpreting; and judges adjudicate on the interpreted testimony and translated evidence. []


sistersSisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman

The story of two pioneering women and the ways they changed American law, by a scholar formerly associated with Brandeis University's Women's Studies Research Center. Hirshman will be speaking at Brandeis University in April as part of Brandeis University’s celebration of the centennial of Brandeis’s nomination and confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. []


lawandpracticeThe Law and Practice of the International Criminal Court, Edited by Carsten Stahn

This volume provides a comprehensive overview of the case law and practice of the International Criminal Court in its first 10 years, written by over 40 leading contributors, including both practitioners with experience of working at the court and eminent scholars. Editor Carsten Stahn teaches a course for Brandeis in The Hague Program students every spring at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, and is the chief academic partner for the Brandeis in The Hague programs. [Oxford University Press]


speakingfreelySpeaking Freely: Whitney v. California and American Speech Law by Philippa Strum '59

A lively account of the case from nearly a century ago that is now most famous for the concurring opinion by Louis D. Brandeis, one of the most eloquent defenses of freedom of speech in American history. Strum will be participating in two of the featured events of Brandeis University’s upcoming celebration of the centennial of Brandeis’s nomination and confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.  []


by members of the Center's extended peacebuilding and the arts community

dancing-with-dianaDancing with Diana: A Novel by Jo Salas

A novel by Acting Together project contributor Jo Salas. Visiting a school for disabled boys, the future Princess Diana singles out Alex, who uses a wheelchair, to dance with. Alex, a survivor of severe school bullying, thinks constantly of the tall girl with blue eyes – until one day he sees her on television, the new fiancée of Prince Charles. Alex’s story interweaves with Diana’s final day before her fatal accident. [Codhill Press]

books by Brandeis faculty

 love-marriage-jewishfamiliesLove, Marriage, and Jewish Families: Paradoxes of a Social Revolution edited by Sylvia Barack Fishman

This diverse anthology – with chapters focusing on demography, ethnography, and legal texts ­– illustrates the complex and diverse ways that Jews in the United States and Israel are reshaping dating, marriage, and family life – with some surprising consequences. [Brandeis University Press]

lincoln and the jewsLincoln and the Jews: A History by Jonathan Sarna

A splendidly illustrated narrative of the 16th president of the United States and his surprising wealth of connections with and support for the American Jewish community. []

selected books published by Brandeis University Press

jehuda The Individual in History: Essays in Honor of Jehuda Reinharz Edited by ChaeRan Y. Freeze, Sylvia Fuks Fried, and Eugene R. Sheppard

A collection that ranges from early modern Europe to contemporary Israel and to Brandeis University itself, by students, friends and colleagues of the historian and former president of Brandeis. []


JAMES The Nearest Thing to Life by James Wood 

In this remarkable blend of memoir and criticism, James Wood, noted contributor to The New Yorker, has written a master class on the connections between fiction and life. [Brandeis University Press]

volumes featuring contributions from the Ethics Center

promoting accountabilityPromoting Accountability under International Law for Gross Human Rights Violations in Africa: Essays in Honour of Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow edited by Charles Chernor Jalloh and Alhagi B.M. Marong

This substantive collection includes an essay by the Ethics Center's Leigh Swigart on the role of African languages in processes of international criminal justice. [Brill]

by Brandeis alumni

paradoxThe Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions by Michael Walzer ’56

The distinguished political philosopher (who spoke on the Brandeis University campus this fall) turns his attention to Algeria, India and Israel in search of understanding why it is so difficult to maintain the spirit of secular democratic cultures. []

Also see: Speaking Freely: Whitney v. California and American Speech Law by Philippa Strum '59 (above)

fiction (and beyond)

soupSoup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate our Shared Humanity by Barbara Abdeni Massaad
Acclaimed chefs and cookbook authors the world over have come together to help food relief efforts to alleviate the suffering of Syrian refugees. Each has contributed a recipe to this cookbook of delicious soups from around the world. Contributors include: Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi, Anthony Bourdain, Alice Waters, Paula Wolfert, Claudia Roden, Chef Greg Malouf, Chef Alexis Coquelet, Chef Chris Borunda, Chef Alexandra Stratou, Necibe Dogru, Aglaia Kremenzi, and many others. []

betweenBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nahisi Coates
A bestseller, and the year's must-read: a writer's open letter to his 15 year old son, a searing account of the daily struggle of being black in the United States of America.[]

light we cannot seeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The 2015 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is an imaginative and intricate novel inspired by the horrors of World War II, and written in short, elegant chapters that explore human nature and the contradictory power of technology. []

nation of enemiesNation of Enemies by H.A. Raynes
Though this thriller is set on the eve of the 2032 presidential election, its themes – including privacy, genetics, politics and refugee status – seem very current. In this novel, the US government has mandated that all citizens be issued biochips containing all of their medical information and an id number indicating a person's health. It then makes the information public – with implications both widespread and devastating. [] Special note: We’re reminded of Ethics Center Board member Jamie Metzl’s provocative 2014 novel Genesis Code: A Thriller of the Near Future, which explored some related themes.

…And two big ambitious novels set in New York City that make for absorbing reads:

city of fireCity on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
A thriller and a panoramic portrait of 1970s New York, in an era when the city was at its most distressed. []

a little lifeA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This novel follows four friends for decades after they meet in college; it is both an intensely painful account of the aftermath of abuse, and a loving tale of the bonds of comradeship. []


What do you think?

Suggestions for other selections from 2015 that we missed in our list?  Let us know.

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