UT’s Ultimate Summer Reading Guide 2017

images of books It’s that time of year again! The literary listing for the Freshman Reading Round-Up has arrived. Every year UT faculty members handpick books for the campus-wide summer book club that connects new students with outstanding faculty and fellow Longhorns.

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone to keep its edge,” proclaims Tyrion Lannister in the bestselling book series turned hit TV series “Game of Thrones.”

The 2017 Freshman Reading Round-Up is a celebration of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. You need to be a freshman to join the event, but you don’t have to be a student to enjoy the books. Whether you’re looking to sharpen your mind or just escape into a story for a while, the titles listed in the reading guide are a good bet.

 

 

Celebrated Author Bret Anthony Johnston Named New Michener Center Director

Image of man in gray shirt and glasses

This month, award-winning author Bret Anthony Johnston has assumed the directorship of the Michener Center for Writers, one of the most selective and prestigious writing programs in the country.

Johnston has directed the creative writing program at Harvard University for the past 12 years. A native Texan, his fiction titles include the story collection Corpus Christi and the novel Remember Me Like This.

For the past 12 years, he has directed the creative writing program at Harvard University.  A serious skateboarder for over 30 years, he also wrote the documentary film about the sport, Waiting for Lightning, which was released by Samuel Goldwyn Films and premiered at Austin’s SXSW.

Johnston was born and reared in Corpus Christi, Texas, and attended Miami University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  His many honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, a “5 Under 35″ honor from the National Book Foundation, the Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, and both the Stephen Turner Award and Kay Cattarulla Prize from the Texas Institute of Letters.  Most recently, he won the $30£ Sunday Times EFG Award, the world’s richest and most prestigious prize for a single short story for his “Half of What Atlee Rouse Knows about Horses,” originally published in American Short Fiction.

Johnston replaces outgoing director James Magnuson  who retired in May after 23 years at the helm of the Michener Center.  Magnuson was responsible for bringing the program from its inception to national prominence among MFA programs.

“Bret’s going to be great for the Center,” says Magnuson.  “He’s walking into a situation where there are extraordinary faculty and resources, and amazing students.  The students at the Michener Center have been the joy of my life, and I’m sure they will be for Bret, too.”

“With Mr. Michener’s original vision and Jim’s inspired leadership,” Johnston says, “the Michener Center for Writers has had, since its start, a hand in shaping contemporary literature. The opportunity to be part of the Center’s future is an honor and a privilege.  It’s a gift.  The students, faculty, and staff are unparalleled, and their commitment to art-making is contagious.  In most respects, my job is simply to keep the lights on and get out of their way.”

The Michener Center for Writers is a three-year interdisciplinary Master of Arts program. Admitting fiction writers, poets, playwrights, and screenwriting for fully-funded graduate study, it was created by a $20-million endowment from James A. Michener, philanthropist and author of over 50 books.

Bestselling Authors, UT Professors to Celebrate African American Culture at Annual Book Festival

Juneteenth marks the day when the last of the American slaves learned they were free. It commemorates June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, when a Union general landed in Galveston and announced that all slaves were free.

In honor of this significant point in U.S. history, also known as “Freedom Day,” we’re spotlighting the upcoming African American Book Festival, an annual event that brings bestselling authors, scholars and bookworms together for thoughtful discussions about race and society. The event, free and open to the public, will be held on Thursday, June 22, and Saturday, June 24, at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.

Events listed below are just a few highlights. A full schedule can be found here.

Thursday, June 22

April Sinclair will present Coffee Will Make You Black, a humorous coming-of-age tale set in the Civil Rights Era. The novel was selected as the 1994 Young Adult Book of the Year by the American Library Association..—11 a.m.

Bestselling young adult author Angie Thomas will present her No. 1 New York Times best-selling novel The Hate U Give. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, the story follows a teen girl who is the only witness to her friend’s fatal shooting by a police officer, leading her to confront the reality of racial injustice in America and get involved in activism.—6:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 24

Educator and editor-at-large for Salon, D. Watkins will discuss his books including The Cook Up: A Crack Memoir. This inspiring true story was a New York Times bestseller and an O Magazine Best Summer Book. Watkins is also the author of The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America.—12 p.m.

Peniel E. Joseph, UT Austin history professor and founding director of the LBJ School’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, will deliver the keynote address. Joseph’s publications include Stokely: A Life, and Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama. His career focus has been on “Black Power Studies,” which encompasses interdisciplinary fields such as Africana studies and political science. Joseph is a frequent commentator on CSPAN, NPR and PBS’s NewsHour.—1:30 p.m.

UT Austin English Professor Jennifer Wilks will lead the discourse around Raoul Peck’s critically acclaimed documentary I Am Not Your Negro, based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript. The film covers race and race relations in America.—3 p.m.


Want to know more about Juneteenth happenings in Austin? Visit the Greater East Austin Youth Association website to learn more about the Annual Juneteenth Historical Parade and Festival, happening June 17, 10 a.m. at the intersection of MLK and Comal streets. You can also learn more about the recent Miss Juneteenth Scholarship Pageant, supported, in part, by the DDCE’s Community Engagement Center.

Free Digital E-Book Features UT’s Collections of Cultural Artifacts

The University of Texas at Austin has released a digital edition of The Collections, the first encyclopedic account of the university’s repository of cultural artifacts. With more than 170 million objects, the university outpaces the largest collections in America and rivals many in variety and importance. The full 720-page volume is published at thecollections.utexas.edu. Available for free download, the broad distribution of the e-book and searchable PDF enables worldwide access to the university’s distinguished collections.

“This is the first time a publication of this kind has been produced by a public university,” said Andrée Bober, the book’s editor and director of the university’s public art program, Landmarks. “By making it available for free and online, we are putting the collection before a greater public. It’s our hope that this digital edition will increase awareness of these materials and inspire other universities to make their collections known.”

The book, released in print in January 2016, spotlights more than 80 collections — some familiar and others virtually unknown outside their fields of research — acquired since the university’s inauguration in 1883. It reveals the scale and diversity of the holdings by bringing these materials together for the first time, offering a new perspective on collections at public universities. The Collections offers an account of all the university’s irreplaceable artifacts, introducing each collection by outlining its history, highlighting its strengths and suggesting its educational function.

Highlighting materials held by some 40 academic and administrative units, The Collections covers a radical range of subjects — archaeology, ethnography, fine and performing arts, rare books and manuscripts, decorative arts, photography, film, music, popular and material culture, regional and political history, natural history, science and technology – providing insights on the formation of collections at institutions of higher learning.

Visit UT Austin’s news site for more information.

Latin American Studies Alumnus Chronicles Peace Corps Journey in ‘Different Latitudes’

image of bookAs graduation looms right around the corner, many soon-to-be UT alums will be traveling far and wide on missions to change the world. From the Peace Corps to Teach for America, our jet-setting Longhorns will be making an impact in high-need regions of the world. In a book titled “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond” (Peace Corps Writers, April 2017), Latin American Institute alumnus Mark D. Walker chronicles his Peace Corps journey in various countries beset by poverty and political corruption.

Synapsis (from the publisher): Summer, 1971. A naive young man must decide his path upon graduation from a small university in Colorado. Amidst the turmoil of the counterculture years and the looming possibility of being sent to Vietnam, he concludes that he wants to travel, serve, and, if possible, save the world. As a Peace Corps volunteer Mark embarks on a vigorous cross-cultural experience in a Caribbean and two Central American countries, with a final stop in one of the more isolated areas of the highlands of Guatemala.

Though beset with a fear of the unknown and feelings of profound isolation due to being the only volunteer in a remote village, he eventually gets to know and appreciate the people of the rural communities he is privileged to live among. After a near-death experience takes him to another part of Guatemala and eventually to a horse town, Mark meets the love of his life, Ligia, who will bear him three children and be part of a lifelong commitment to and appreciation of this beautiful and unique country. Much of the courtship process will take place on a coffee plantation owned by Ligia’s family, where Mark experiences a different side of Guatemalan society.

While Ligia selflessly abandons her own career to focus on establishing a stable bi-cultural home for their three children during the violent Guatemalan Civil War, Mark’s “wanderlust” takes him on a four month solo trek through Latin America and then a country change based on threats from a guerrilla group. Mark’s 13-year career promoting rural development through various international NGOs begins when he sets up a local development agency in Guatemala to help the poorest of the poor, whose plight is at least partially due to the policies of his own government.

Eventually family circumstances force a radical career change and a return to the United States to begin a 30-year calling. Inspired by the “extreme do-gooders” he’d met along his journey, he takes some of the wealthiest American families in the world to meet some of the world’s poorest in some of the most isolated, unstable countries. This leads to many adventures, with both wealthy and poor growing from their shared experiences.

Mark’s career comes to a sudden and unexpected turn after he is let go as the CEO of one of these international NGOs, and this frees him up to focus on his three children and  six grandchildren. This twist in the road also provides a new opportunity to reflect on what he has accomplished, where he’s failed, and where the international NGO community has come up short. Different Latitudes is more than a travel memoir. It is a tale of physical and spiritual self-discovery through Latin American, African, European, and Asian topography, cuisine, politics and history.

Visit the author’s website to learn more about his good work in publishing and human rights advocacy.

GSC Education Coordinator Kristen Hogan Nominated for Lambda Literary Award

image of bookDr. Kristen Hogan, education coordinator at the Gender and Sexuality Center, has been nominated for a 2017 Lambda Literary Award, a prestigious honor that celebrates the best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender books of the year.

Hogan’s book “The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability,” is one of eight publications nominated for the award under the LGBTQ nonfiction category. The nationally and internationally renowned award (known as the “Lammys”) brings together 600 attendees—including nominees, celebrities, sponsors and publishing executives—to celebrate excellence in LGBTQ publishing.

Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on Monday, June 12  at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Visit this website for more details.

Check out her ShelfLIfe Q&A for more about the book.

Save the Date! Novelist Margot Livesey to Give Reading Feb. 16

image of author The UT Michener Center for Writers‘ author in residence, Margot Livesey, will give a reading on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302 on UT campus at the southeast corner of Speedway and 24th Streets.

Livesey published her first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, with Penguin Canada in 1986. Since then she has published seven novels: Homework, Criminals, The Missing World, Eva Moves the Furniture, Banishing Verona and The House on Fortune Street, and The Flight of Gemma Hardy. Her eighth novel, Mercury, was published in September 2016 by HarperCollins.

Margot has taught at several prominent universities, including Boston University, Carnegie Mellon, Emerson College, Brandeis University, Bowdoin College, Tufts University, UC Irvine, and Williams College. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the N.E.A., the Massachusetts Artists’ Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts.  Margot is currently teaching at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Alice Sebold says, “Every novel of Margot Livesey’s is, for her readers, a joyous discovery. Her work radiates with compassion and intelligence and always, deliciously, mystery.”

Parking is available in the nearby UT San Jacinto Garage, and the event is free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Marla Akin, MCW assistant director, 512-471-8444.

 

Faculty Book Talk: ‘The Price for Their Pound of Flesh’

Image of book Tonight Daina Berry, professor of history and African and African Diaspora Studies, will discuss her book “The Price for Their Pound of Flesh” (Beacon Press, ’17) at 6 p.m. in the Gordon-White Building.

The book is the culmination of more than ten years of Berry’s research on enslaved values, drawing on data unearthed from sources such as slave-trading records, insurance policies, cemetery records and life insurance policies. Writing with sensitivity and depth, she resurrects the voices of the enslaved and provides a rare window into enslaved peoples’ experiences and thoughts, revealing how enslaved people recalled and responded to being appraised, bartered and sold throughout the course of their lives. Reaching out from these pages, they compel the reader to bear witness to their stories, to see them as human beings, not merely commodities.

The event is free and open to the public.

New Book Illuminates Interdisciplinary Insights into National Security

image of book cover As the presidential election draws to a close, many voters are asking how our next president will handle national security threats. In a forthcoming book, “Sustainable Security: Rethinking American National Security Strategy,” co-editor Jeremi Suri brings this critical issue to the forefront.

The book (Oxford University Press, December 1, 2016) brings together 16 leading scholars from across political science, history, and political economy to highlight a range of American security considerations that deserve a larger role in both scholarship and strategic decision-making.

In these chapters, scholars of political economy and the American defense budget examine the economic engine that underlies U.S. military might and the ways the country deploys these vast (but finite) resources. Historians illuminate how past great powers coped with changing international orders through strategic and institutional innovations. And regional experts assess America’s current long-term engagements, from NATO to the chaos of the Middle East to the web of alliances in Asia, deepening understandings that help guard against both costly commitments and short-sighted retrenchments.

This interdisciplinary volume sets an agenda for future scholarship that links politics, economics, and history in pursuit of sustainable security for the United States – and greater peace and stability for Americans and non-Americans alike.

More about the co-editor: Jeremi Suri holds the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at UT Austin. He is a history professor in the College of Liberal Arts and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Suri is the author and editor of seven books on contemporary politics and foreign policy. His research and teaching have received numerous prizes. In 2007 Smithsonian Magazine named him one of America’s “Top Young Innovators” in the Arts and Sciences. His writings appear widely in blogs and print media. Suri is also a frequent public lecturer and guest on radio and television programs.

The 2016 Texas Book Festival is Upon Us!

Whether you are looking to find your next read or just a fun weekend excursion, look no further than the Texas Book Festival! The annual book fest is slated for Nov. 5-6 at the Texas Capitol and surrounding areas. Hundreds of authors will showcase their works in panel discussions, book tents, cooking demonstrations and more.

In addition to the many celebrity authors, the lineup also features UT Austin alumni, faculty and staff, including Dr. Leonard Moore, professor of history and senior associate vice president of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. He will be moderating a book talk with Derek Chollet, author of The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World on Sunday, Nov. 6 in the C-SPAN2/ Book TV Tent.

27217264About the book: In this inside assessment of Barack Obama’s foreign policy legacy, Derek Chollet tackles the prevailing consensus to argue that Obama has profoundly altered the course of American foreign policy for the better and positioned the United States to lead in the future.

The Long Game combines a deep sense of history with new details and compelling insights into how the Obama Administration approached the most difficult global challenges. With the unique perspective of having served at the three national security power centers during the Obama years—the White House, State Department, and Pentagon—Chollet takes readers behind the scenes of the intense struggles over the most consequential issues: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the meltdown of Syria and rise of ISIS, the Ukraine crisis and a belligerent Russia, the conflict in Libya, the tangle with Iran, the turbulent relationship with Israel, and the rise of new powers like China.

An unflinching, fast-paced account of U.S. foreign policy, The Long Game reveals how Obama has defied the Washington establishment to redefine America’s role in the world, offering important lessons for the next president.

The 2015 winners of the Youth Fiction Writers Contest.

Winners of the 16th annual Youth Fiction Writing Contest.

The festival will also include its annual Youth Fiction Writing Contest. Hosted by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, the contest encourages and rewards creative writing in Texas schools. Junior and high school Texas students are invited to submit a piece of original fiction, no more than 2,000 words in length. The submissions are judged by Texas Book Festival authors, local educators and leaders in the publishing industry.

Visit the Texas Book Festival website for the full schedule of events.