Tis the Season to Buy Books

pHumanities Texas will host its annual Holiday Book Fair in Austin at the historic Byrne-Reed House, 1410 Rio Grande on Saturday, December 8, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Noteworthy authors, including H.W. Brands, Jan Reid, Sarah Bird, John Spong, Mark Updegrove, David Dettmer, Katherine Catmull, Paul Woodruff, George Bristol, Jacqueline Kelly, Gilbert Garcia, Shana Burg, Peter LaSalle, Sarah Cortez, Martha Braniff, Diana Untermeyer, John Kerr, Jenna McEachern, Arturo Madrid, David Bush and Jim Parsons, will visit with holiday shoppers and sign copies of their latest books.

Humanities Texas will have books available for purchase at a discount, along with a sale of homemade pastries and baked goods.

Free parking will be available in St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church’s large parking lot on the northwest corner of 15th and Rio Grande Streets.

All proceeds will benefit Texas libraries.

“Cancer on the Brain” author signs memoirs of baseball, business and beating the odds

Cancer_on_the_BrainUniversity of Texas at Austin alumnus Jay S. Lefevers has written his compelling memoir  titled “Cancer on the Brain” (Emerald Book Company. June, 2012).  He will be signing books at the Barnes & Noble Arboretum, 10000 Research Blvd., in Austin, 6:30 p.m., Monday, August 6.

The book chronicles a rollercoaster five-year period of Lefevers’ life, during which he coached a rough-and-tumble Little League All-Star team to victory, saw his appraisal company named to the “Inc. 5000” list, and raised three children with his wife – all while battling a brain tumor, surviving multiple operations, and then unexpectedly being diagnosed with lymphoma.

Lefevers  grew up in Austin, attended Westlake High School, and earned his Bachelor of Business Administration  from The  University of Texas at Austin in 1984, and  his Master of Business Administration in finance from Baylor University in 1986.

“More than anything else,” Lefevers said, “my life-threatening health challenges taught me the absolute necessity of being your own strongest healthcare advocate. I hope ‘Cancer on the Brain’

Jay Lefevers, BBA '84

Jay Lefevers, BBA '84

can help people see that if you don’t fight for the care you or your loved ones deserve, it can be a matter of life or death.

“I went from being a husband, father, businessman, baseball coach, and runner who thought he had all his ducks in a row, to being someone who woke up every morning in survival mode, with a tumor in my head the size of a plum and a growing incapacity to walk,” said Lefevers.  “I was fighting for my life, but also fighting to be able to provide for my family and my business – on which 10-15 employees depended for their livelihood.  At the same time, I didn’t want my physical problems to affect the chances of the inner city Little League team I was coaching – young boys and girls from our community who were battling their own hardships on and off the ball field.”

Lefevers, 50, founded his real estate company in Phoenix in 1992.  That company, now called Lefevers Viewpoint Group, was named to Inc. magazine’s “Inc. 5000” list in 2008 – recognized as being one of the fastest growing companies in America. An inveterate entrepreneur, Lefevers has often invested in new businesses, and commercial buildings, and since 2010 has been an investor in Hollywood films such as 2011’s “Another  Happy Day” starring Ellen Barkin and Demi Moore.

Lefevers  and his wife Lyn reside in Phoenix and have three college-age children: Briana, Adam, and Olivia.  “Cancer on the Brain” is his first book.

Oscar Casares Celebrates Dr. Seuss’s Legacy with Special H-E-B Reading

2Reading@HEB3.5.12To celebrate the legacy of children’s author Dr. Seuss, a Brownsville H-E-B hosted a special in-store reading on Monday, March 5 with Oscar Casares, University of Texas at Austin associate professor in the Department of English. The Brownsville native and writer treated 30 first graders from Robert L. Martin Elementary—his alma mater— to a reading of “And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street!” and “I Can Read with My Eyes Shut.”

The children gave a shout out by helping him read the first book by adding the story’s refrain of “…ON MULBERRY STREET!” And Casares actually read “My Eyes Shut” twice, the second time so they could all read it together with one of their eyes shut.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of Dr. Seuss’s first children’s book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street!” The event is part of H-E-B’s Read 3, an early childhood literacy initiative encouraging parents to read to their children three times a week and making books accessible and affordable for Texas families. The reading also kicked off a six-week long book drive to help H-E-B reach a 1 million-book goal.

Oscar Casares is the author of two critically acclaimed books of fiction, “Brownsville” and “Amigoland,” which have earned him fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Copernicus Society of America and the Texas Institute of Letters. His essays have appeared in the New York Times, Texas Monthly and NPR’s “All Things Considered.” In 2011, The University of Texas at Brownsville presented him with their Distinguished Alumnus Award. He now teaches and directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at The University of Texas at Austin.

Suiting up for Wall Street, UT Alumna Shares Her Memoirs

Suits_coverNina Godiwalla’s memoir of working on Wall Street begins with a sweaty walk to work through New York City, catching her heel in a grate, begging for help from a nearby blood-soaked fishmonger and eventually arriving at the JP Morgan office only to discover that she was at the wrong building.

Little did she know that temperamental high heels would be the least of her troubles in the years ahead.

Godiwalla, BBA ’97, chronicles the rest of her harrowing finance career in her book, “Suits: A Woman on Wall Street” (2011, Atlas & Co. Publishers). Described by The New York Times as “The Devil Wears Prada” for investment banking, “Suits” details Godiwalla’s experiences at Morgan Stanley, where, as a second-generation Indian American woman from Texas, she fought daily to overcome her outsider’s position.

Godiwalla saw tremendous success on Wall Street, but found herself struggling with the consequences of her ambition and the choices it forced her to make. Critics praised the book as “heartwarming, heartbreaking” and “a must-read for anyone aspiring to a career in high-finance.”

What made you decide to write a book about your life on Wall Street?Nina_Godiwalla_3x4[1]

One of the courses I took [for my master’s degree in liberal arts] was a creative writing course and I wrote one short story about my experience on Wall Street and one short story about my family. [My professor] loved the writing. We ended up pulling [short stories] together to become a thesis for my degree. There was never an intentional “I’m going to sit down and write about this.” It was more that I had someone telling me that I had a lot of potential. The story was worth hearing and it was different. 

Growing up, did you consider yourself to be a good writer?

Before that I had a very big insecurity about my writing. I actually once failed a class with a writing component. I just avoided writing. What I didn’t realize until later is there is a big difference between research-type writing, where you’re just passing on information, and creative writing, where it’s really about story and narrative. I think we all just take for granted the word “writing.”

Did you keep a journal while you worked on Wall Street, or did you start completely fresh for this book?

I never went to the experience thinking that I would write about it, so I did have to start fresh. I kept a long document that had these notes, stories I remembered. If I had kept detailed notes of everything, it would have been harder to write that book because there would have been so much information. This was just what was memorable enough about the experience. If it didn’t stick in my mind, it didn’t get in the book.

Did you ask other people about their memories to help fill in the gaps?

At first I started to try that, but when you’re writing a memoir you start to realize that everyone remembers things a little bit differently. So then I started to get confused, specifically with a lot of the family stories. Everyone had a different version, but that wasn’t what I remembered and so in the end I just decided that it would be what I remembered.

Do you think the essence of a memoir is really more about that personal feeling rather than trying to get a 100 percent completely accurate retelling of events?

The only way you’re going to get that is if it’s recorded and everyone can go back and look and see exactly what happened. I think there’s a continuum of everyone’s idea of what you can do with memoir, but to me it’s really how you remember it, to the extent that you’re not completely making stuff up. It’s your interpretation of the situation; I think everyone interprets and remembers life differently.

Why did you choose to start the book the way you did, with your horrible walk to work on the first day of your internship?

For an East Coast reader, who’s so comfortable with all these things, they don’t have a sense for how different it is. For a New Yorker that’s just like, “Well, this is normal.” I was trying to give people an idea of how different the world I was coming from was, when you’re coming out of a suburb or something. I became part of that New York scene, but it very much wasn’t where I was from and it was all very new to me. I wanted to paint that picture for a start.

You share fairly intimate—and not always flattering—moments in the book, both personal and professional. How did your family and former coworkers respond?

I think from my colleagues, it was amusing because it was a very intense experience. Some of them were bad memories, some of them were just kind of funny to rehash and think about. My family was surprised that something like this was going to get published. They are fairly private, so they don’t really want information about them out there. At the same time, they saw the bigger picture and what the story is about. I think their first reaction was surprise. Then after that it was, “Yes. Go for it,” and “Hope it does well.”

In your opinion what is the bigger picture and the point of the book?

This process helped me redefine my idea of success. Part of the back story about my family is giving people an idea of how my idea of success and the American dream was formed; the epitome of it was being on Wall Street. I had to rethink my whole life’s idea of what success is, and that was a turning point for me.

One of the things for me was that there was kind of a silencing amongst women. I would see so many women have that embarrassing story, a story they’re not so proud of. I felt I kind of carried this story around like a secret. Here I am later, this very comfortable businesswoman, in control of situations, and I kind of cringe every time I remembered that experience. I saw a lot of women who had that shame. I wanted to bring a voice to that type of experience because I think so many people go through that early in their career. I wanted people to be more empowered if they were to go through a situation like that.

After nearly a decade working for Fortune 500 companies, Godiwalla founded MindWorks, which trains professionals in meditation, creating positive corporate culture and stress management.

“The Secret Life of Pronouns” Book Signing, Sept. 1

Pennebaker, Jamie 2010The words people use are like fingerprints, revealing amazing insight into their personalities, emotional health, thinking style, group status and relationships. Social psychologist James W. Pennebaker, uses his groundbreaking research in computational linguistics to analyze pronouns, articles, prepositions, and a handful of other small function words in his latest book “The Secret Life of Pronouns:  What Our Words Say About Us” (Bloomsbury Press, August 2011).

“On their own, function words have very little meaning,” says Pennebaker, the Liberal Arts Foundation Centennial Professor and Psychology Department chair. “In English, there are fewer than 500 function words yet they account for more than half of the words we speak, hear and read every day. Who would have guessed that words like I, you, the, to, but, and and could say so much about us.”

Pennebaker has been able to detect everything from when a person is lying to how well his or her relationship is going. He even delves into politics, discovering why President Barack Obama uses “I” less than any modern president of the United States.pronounsjacketSL

“People across the board think that Obama uses the word ‘I’ at incredibly high rates, but if you do an analysis he uses the word ‘I’ at lower rates than any modern president, by a lot,” Pennebaker says.

Comparably, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush used “I” at very high rates. Pennebaker finds that people who use “I” at higher rates tend to come across as more personal, warm and honest. While people who use “I” at lower rates come across as more self-confident. He attributes people thinking of Obama using “I” at such high rates, due to his self confidence and the misconception that confident people must use “I” all the time. He also finds that the highest status person in a relationship tends to use “I” the least, and the person who is the lowest status tends to use the word “I” the most.

Don’t miss the book signing at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 1, at BookPeople located at the corner of Lamar and 6th Street in Austin.

Texas Institute of Letters Selects “Quest for Equality” as Most Significant Scholarly Book for 2010

Equality_webHistorian Neil Foley’s book, “Quest for Equality: The Failed Promise of Black-Brown Solidarity” (Harvard University Press, May 2010) was selected by the Texas Institute of Letters as the most significant scholarly book for 2010.

“Quest for Equality” examines the complicated relationship between African Americans and Mexican Americans in Texas and California during World War II and the post-war era.

Named by the Huffington Post as one of the 17 “best political and social awareness books of 2010, “Quest for Equality” provides a historical context for understanding many of the issues that divide Latinos and African Americans today.

In 2003, the census announced that Hispanics had become the nation’s largest minority group, while the percentage of African Americans had declined in many cities. This includes seven of the 10 largest cities in the United States — New York, Los Angeles, Houston, San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio.

As a result, the book addresses: Will Latinos displace African Americans from positions of power locally? And what are the prospects for black-brown coalition politics when more than half of all Hispanics identify themselves as “white” in the 2010 census?

Today African Americans and Latinos have found common ground over issues such as de facto school segregation, unequal school financing, immigration reform, racial profiling, redlining, and the prison-industrial complex — challenges, Foley argues that remain central concerns of contemporary American life.

Foley is an associate professor in the Department of History and American Studies. He was honored at the Texas Institute of Letters’ annual awards banquet in Dallas on April 30. The Texas Institute of Letters was established in 1936 during the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas to foster and promote Texas literature. The state’s oldest literary organization, it has held competitions for outstanding achievements in literature since 1939.

Michener Center Graduate First Poet to Win Keene Award for Literature

Josh Booton, 2011 Keene Prize Winner

Josh Booton, 2011 Keene Prize Winner

Josh Booton, a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers (MCW) at The University of Texas at Austin, has won the $50,000 Keene Prize for Literature for his collection of poems, “The Union of Geometry and Ash.”

The Keene Prize is one of the world’s largest student literary prizes. An additional $50,000 will be divided among three finalists.

Booton’s collection of poems was chosen from more than 60 submissions in drama, poetry and fiction. The title sequence is a traditional double or “heroic” crown of sonnets, 14 poems in which the last line of the first poem becomes the first line of the next.

“The technical inventiveness of these poems never overwhelms their substance, a profound meditation on how to sustain a working marriage,” says Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, chair of the Department of English and the award selection committee. “All of the judges found Josh’s work hauntingly memorable and compassionate, as well as formally compelling.”

Booton received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon, and his master’s degree in speech and hearing sciences from Portland State University. A finalist for the 2010 Missouri Review Editors’ Prize, his poems have appeared in The Missouri Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review,Poetry Northwest, Raleigh Review and The Grove Review.

The three other finalists are:

  • Carolina Ebeid, MCW student, for her collection of poems, “An Iceboat Will Carry Us Through the Ice.”
  • Nicole Cullen, MCW graduate, for her story, “Long Tom Lookout.”
  • Fiona McFarlane, MCW student, for three stories, “Rose Bay,” “The Movie People” and “Unnecessary Gifts.”
  • Members of the selection committee were: Cullingford; Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts (ex officio); Brant Pope, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance; Joanna Hitchcock, director of The University of Texas Press; and author Tom Zigal, novelist and senior communications writer for The University of Texas System.

    Established in 2006 in the College of Liberal Arts, the Keene Prize is named after E.L. Keene, a 1942 graduate of the university who envisioned an award that would enhance and enrich the university’s prestige and reputation in the international market of American writers. The competition is open to university undergraduate and graduate students, and the prize is awarded annually to the student who creates the most vivid and vital portrayal of the American experience in microcosm. Students submit poetry, plays and fiction or non-fiction prose.

    Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Among Keynotes at Lozano Long Conference

    51fgw2VqywLThe 2011 Lozano Long Conference “From Natural Events to Social Disasters in the Circum-Caribbean,” will include keynote addresses from Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey, distinguished chair in poetry at Emory University, and novelist Evelyne Trouillot, a native of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, who has written about human rights issues.

    Hurricane Katrina’s hit to New Orleans and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti revealed historical and ongoing social inequality, environmental hazards and political crisis that plague the circum-Caribbean region. Both sites will serve as focal points for these writers’ keynote addresses.

    Natasha Trethewey

    Natasha Trethewey

    Trethewey’s talk “Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” titled after her creative nonfiction book published in September 2010, will be held at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, February 23 at the Thompson Conference Center Auditorium, TCC 1.110. She is a native of Gulfport, Miss., who received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her collection “Native Guard.”

    Evelyne Trouillot

    Evelyne Trouillot

    Trouillot’s talk “Haiti and the ‘Experts,’” will be at held at 4 p.m., Thursday, February 24 at the Santa Rita Room 3.502, Texas Union Building. She lives in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she works as a  professor of French and pedagogy. Since her first book of short stories, “ (1996), she has published two other books of short stories, tales and stories for children, two books of poems (in French and Creole), and an essay on human rights and childhood in Haiti.

    The conference is organized by the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and cosponsored by the departments of African and African Diaspora Studies, English, History, Spanish and Portuguese, and the Program in Comparative Literature. See conference program for details.

    “Beyond El Barrio” Symposium and Book Signing

    847881Despite the hyper-visibility of Latinos and Latin American immigrants in recent political debates and popular culture, the daily lives of America’s new “majority minority” remain largely invisible and mischaracterized. Editors Frank Guridy (University of Texas at Austin), Gina Pérez (Oberlin College) and Adrian Burgos, Jr. (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) assemble a collection of essays in “Beyond El Barrio” (NYU Press, Oct. 2010) — that together, provide analyses that not only defy stubborn stereotypes, but also present novel narratives of Latina/o communities.

    The book has a lot of University of Texas at Austin ties. Four of its 10 scholars who contributed essays are from the university and the cover art is inspired by Rhthmo del Pueblo, a print in the Serie line run by the university’s Center for Mexican American Studies.

    The Center for Mexican American Studies, and the Departments of American Studies and History will host a symposium and book signing for “Beyond El Barrio: Everyday Life in Latina/o America.” The panel will include contributors Gina Pérez (Oberlin College), Frank Guridy, Cary Cordova and John Mckiernan-González (University of Texas at Austin).  Contributor Deborah Paredez (University of Texas at Austin) will moderate.

    The event will be from 6 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, November 16, at the San Jacinto Conference Center, Room 207 AB, located on the first floor of the San Jacinto Residence Hall (SJH), at the corner of 21st Street and San Jacinto Boulevard.  Entrances can be found on 21st Street and facing the Brazos Parking Garage. Public parking is available in the Brazos Parking Garage (BRG), 210 East Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

    Author Ghada Abdel Aal Discusses Best-Selling Book “I Want to Get Married!”

    9780292723979Ghada Abdel Aal will discuss her best-selling book “I Want to Get Married!” (University of Texas Press, Oct. 2010) at an event hosted by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Arabic Flagship Program, and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.

    After years of searching for Mr. Right in living-room meetings arranged by family or friends, Ghada Abdel Aal, a young Egyptian professional, decided to take to the blogosphere to share her experiences and vent her frustrations at being young, single, and female in Egypt. Her blog, I Want to Get Married!, quickly became a hit with both men and women in the Arab world. With a keen sense of humor and biting social commentary, Abdel Aal recounts in painful detail her adventures with failed proposals and unacceptable suitors. There’s Mr. Precious, who storms out during their first meeting when he feels his favorite athlete has been slighted, and another suitor who robs her in broad daylight, to name just a few of the characters she runs across in her pursuit of wedded bliss.

    “I Want to Get Married!” has since become a best-selling book in Egypt and the inspiration for a television series. This witty look at dating challenges skewed representations of the Middle East and presents a realistic picture of what it means to be a single young woman in the Arab world, where, like elsewhere, a good man can be hard to find.

    The book was translated by University of Texas at Austin alumna Nora Eltahawy, who earned her master’s degree in comparative literature in May 2010.

    The author will discuss her book 3:30 p.m., Thursday, October 28, at the AT&T Conference Center, Classroom 105. A book signing will follow at 7 p.m. at BookWoman, located at 5501 North Lamar, A-105.