Faculty books

By Sara Shostak

University of California Press, $29.95
Scientists have long known that lead is profoundly toxic to children who ingest it. But do some children have a genetic makeup that makes them more susceptible to lead’s ill effects? And why would research probing this kind of susceptibility be so controversial in some social-activist circles? An assistant professor of sociology, Shostak examines how studying toxins’ effects at the molecular level can complicate society’s understanding of and commitment to public health and environmental justice.

By Janet Zollinger Giele

Sage, $25
What constitutes a family? In this volume, Giele, professor emerita and former acting dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, takes a historical and sociological look at families and their functions. In doing so, she answers two more intricate and timely questions: What is family policy? And why does it benefit American households? Giele presents a measured, cogent and detailed argument for social policies that help families. Such protections are, she writes, “as important to the nation’s well-being as national defense, economic growth and foreign policy.”

By Eugene Goodheart

Transaction Publishers, $44.95
American politicians’ inability to navigate between a modern-day Scylla and Charybdis — the far left and the radical right — has stalled effective governance at the national level. Goodheart, professor emeritus of English, argues that political leaders must remember the wisdom of trimming, the maneuver sailors use to keep a steady course amid shifting winds. Only then, he explains, will Americans enjoy the safe harbor of a sane, humane democratic society.

Alumni books

By Eric Siegel ’91

Wiley, $28
FedEx can guess when you’re considering switching over to a competitor. Have a high credit rating? That means your insurance company believes you’re a low risk for a car accident. If you preorder a vegetarian meal on a plane, the airline reckons you probably won’t miss your flight. Organizations have become masters of collecting and parsing data to predict people’s behavior, writes Siegel, a former member of Columbia University’s computer science department. This surprising and completely engrossing book explains just how much business, government, marketing and health-care entities have figured out about you.
By Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman ’67

Belknap Press, $29.95
It comes down to a question of morality: Did Franklin Roosevelt do what he could to protect European Jews during his presidency? Yes, concludes this assessment by two Distinguished Professors of History at American University. And no. FDR’s response to the plight of the Jews was both admirable and flawed, say the authors, who analyze new primary sources to pinpoint the core values that guided an astute politician through dangerously uncertain times.
By Adam Mitzner ’86, MA’86

Gallery Books, $26
A young rapper is arrested for killing his pop-star girlfriend with a baseball bat, a crime disturbingly similar to one he describes in his signature song. The accused insists he’s innocent. His lawyer, struggling to recover from a tragedy in his own life, isn’t so sure. The taut unfolding of the truth is as assured and addictive as anything Grisham or Turow could have penned — made doubly remarkable by the fact that this is just the second novel by Mitzner, a full-time attorney. A legal-thriller star is born.

By Alexander Wohl ’83

University Press of Kansas, $39.95
In 1967, Tom Clark resigned his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court so his son Ramsey could become the U.S. attorney general. This generational “tag-team tenure in government,” writes Wohl, an adjunct professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, gave the Clarks “an unprecedented shared proximity to power and influence on policy during some of the most challenging, divisive and triumphant periods in U.S. history.” Wohl examines father and son’s impact on American law and public policy, including important decisions regarding government power and civil liberties.

By Peter Wortsman ’73

Travelers’ Tales, $16.95
A lovely book, written while the author — the American son of German-speaking Jewish refugees — was a fellow at Berlin’s American Academy. Don’t be misled by the gauziness of the title; Wortsman paints a sharply observed portrait of the city he likens to “a phoenix forever being reborn,” capturing the camaraderie among anti-Nazi demonstrators, an encounter with a homeless man who makes a menacing reference to Auschwitz, and the irresistible pleasures of German food.

By David Soll, PhD’09

Cornell University Press, $29.95
New York City has long had a mighty, mighty thirst. Soll, an assistant professor who teaches environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, details the complex social, political and environmental history of the NYC water system — the nation’s largest — including its landmark 1997 watershed protection agreement, which carefully balances an urban population’s needs with a realistic recognition of nature’s limits.
By Miriam Weiner ’93

Downtown Bookworks, $16.99
To quote “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” “Shakespeare’s Seasons” yields delights that “blow like sweet roses in this summer air.” Weiner, a theater producer and director, introduces children to Shakespeare via a collection of passages about the seasons drawn from the Bard’s sonnets and plays. Accompanying illustrations made from cut paper and fabric add their own considerable appeal. The result will enchant the most seasoned Shakespeare aficionado as it creates new generations of fans.
By Tania Grossinger ’56

Skyhorse Publishing, $24.95
Growing up at her family’s celebrated resort in the Catskills, Grossinger seemed to live a life of sunny good fortune. But her interior landscape was often gray, even as she sought to establish her professional bona fides and find a satisfying romantic relationship during the hedonistic ’60s and ’70s. Grossinger takes an unflinching look at the fraught emotional legacy bequeathed by her parents, and the pleasures and pitfalls of her path to self-understanding.

By Tania Grossinger ’56

Sky Pony Press, $16.95
The magnetic pull of Grossinger’s (see the review above) gave young Tania a chance to meet the brightest luminaries of the day, including Jackie Robinson. This illustrated book for children pays loving tribute to the bond the shy girl developed with the baseball hero, who urged her to “never be ashamed of who you are.”

By Lance Lee ’64

Birch Brook Press, $18.50
As the title’s nod to Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” suggests, natural and classical themes abound in Lee’s latest collection of poetry. The poems are both rich and accessible; many are accompanied by illustrations by noted artists. A playwright and novelist as well as a poet, Lee is a past Creative Writing Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Edited by Steven F. Bloom, MA’76, PhD’82

Salem Press, $85
Bloom, professor of English at Lasell College and past president of the Eugene O’Neill Society, edited this compilation of fifteen commissioned essays about the brilliant, tortured playwright — including one by Scott Edmiston, director of Brandeis’ Office of the Arts — along with a reprint of a program note written by Tony Kushner for a production of “Mourning Becomes Electra.” As one essayist notes, “Despite the tragic life O’Neill led, he had a unique ability to illuminate the present as he dwelled on the past, showing that everyday life contained all the elements of compelling drama.”

By Robert B. Horwitz, MA’82, PhD’83

Polity, $25
In a strange reversal, the fringe has become the center. The American conservative movement and the Republican Party have completely embraced anti-establishment fervor, paving the way for what Horwitz, a communication professor at the University of California, San Diego, calls the “stunning obduracy” of today’s right wing in the U.S. Congress. Horwitz explores how and why this tectonic shift came to be.

By Aaron Ritzenberg, PhD’06

Fordham University Press, $35
From the 1850s through the 1930s, even as faceless gray-flannel bureaucracies became the norm in American business, the language used in American novels retained its emotional and sentimental richness. Ritzenberg, associate director of first-year writing at Columbia University, examines novels by Stowe, Twain, Anderson and West to determine why this dichotomy existed — and what it says about human connection.
By Jacob Hen-Tov, PhD’69

Transaction, $24.95
Hen-Tov, a former professor of Eurasian studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, examines the Soviet Union’s strong attempts to suppress Zionism during the 1920s, and how those tensions helped shape the Middle East that exists today.

By Merrill Joan Gerber, MA’81

Dzanc Books, $15
After a hysterectomy, does a woman celebrate her new stage of life or angrily castigate doctors who have lied to her about her own body? Well, both, but with a pronounced emphasis on the latter, suggests this mordantly funny magical-realist novel. Gerber, an award-winning novelist, has taught fiction writing at the California Institute of Technology.
By Marshall Stein ’63

Post Mortem Press, $16
A TV show reminiscent of “American Bandstand” becomes a breeding ground for teenage prostitution, organized crime and bloody mayhem — a juicy premise triggering twists and turns in this murder mystery set in 1950s Philadelphia. Stein, a retired attorney, wrings plenty of suspense from his exploration of a seamy demimonde during the not-so-innocent Eisenhower years.
Edited by Carla Lipsig-Mummé ’66

Fernwood, $28.50
What impact is climate change having on work environments and the labor force? Lipsig-Mummé, a professor of work and labor studies at York University in Toronto, has assembled an anthology of essays that examine this central but seldom-discussed question. Industries covered include the energy sector, tourism, and construction.

By Amy Fish ’91

Avmor Art and Cultural Foundation, $18.95
Having logged nearly five years as an ombudsman in the Canadian health-care system, Fish seems ideally qualified to help frustrated people stand up for themselves and get what they want. With good humor, she explains the keys to successful complaining: keep calm; be polite; think with your head, not your heart.

By Daniel Morris, PhD’92

Bloomsbury Academic, $29.95
A professor of English at Purdue, Morris has written a new survey of 20th-century American poetry, which pays close attention to the ways poets speak to different audiences. The author’s scholarship, writes one reviewer, “renews our appreciation of lyric poetry through lucid and engaging reconsiderations of culturally diverse U.S. poets.”

Brandeis University Press

By Mark Cohen

Hello, muddah! Hello, faddah! Meet Allan Sherman, Jewish humorist par excellence. In the early 1960s, Sherman’s song parodies — his most famous capturing the angst of a homesick boy on a sleepaway visit to Camp Grenada — sold millions of albums. Sadly, Sherman’s personal life was less sparkling, blighted by alcoholism and rampant self-destruction, leading to his death at 48. A fascinating book about a comedy genius, whose work remains every bit as fresh and funny as it was five decades ago.

By Susan M. Weiss and Netty C. Gross-Horowitz

Many Israeli women who want a divorce find the road to freedom blocked, particularly if their husband refuses to cooperate. In Israel, only religious courts can terminate a marriage, and their actions often seem calculated to keep women under the thumb of men. The Kafkaesque stories the authors relate challenge Israel’s claim of being a democracy; in matters related to marriage and divorce, it sometimes looks more like a theocracy.

Edited by Chitra Raghavan and James P. Levine

The protection of women’s rights is by no means a lost cause in Muslim countries, argue the authors of the essays collected here. Their insights illuminate the ways in which legal reforms and self-expression can interact with religious and cultural norms to create progressive change in the areas of marriage, divorce, abortion and violence against women.
Edited by Moshe Behar and Zvi Ben-Dor Benite

This anthology of essays produced between 1893-1958 on topics related to identity, politics and culture allows readers access to seldom-seen writings by Jews from the Arab East. By providing this more detailed picture of early-20th-century thinking, the editors note, they hope to “help our contemporaries to rethink and reinvigorate the histories of both modern Middle Eastern and Jewish thought.”
Edited by Lisa Fishbayn Joffee and Sylvia Neil

In this volume, leading scholars and activists discuss the reasons why equality claims by women so often act as a flashpoint for multicultural tensions around the world. Issues covered include gender equality within marriage, the civil enforcement of marriage contracts and the determination of child custody after divorce.