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Book Beat

Helping Working Families Move Forward

March 14, 2012 | Book Beat, Brooklyn College, Newsmakers

Third Way initiatives that would combine both liberal and conservative ideas could help the millions of Americans who are out of work, said Robert Cherry, co-author of a new book, Moving Working Families Forward: Third Way Policies That Can Work. “We propose that the government buy up a million housing units and turn them into subsidized housing,” says Cherry, professor of economics at Brooklyn College and at the Graduate Center. “This policy would combine the liberal view that government should spend money to help people move forward and the conservative idea of efficiency-it’s the cheapest way for the government to create affordable housing.”

Haiti Since the Quake: Relief in Question

March 6, 2012 | Book Beat, Newsmakers, York College

Billions of dollars in pledged foreign aid and private donations have poured into Haiti since the catastrophic earthquake that struck the capital, Port-au-Prince, in January 2010, but much has been wasted by inept nongovernmental organizations in charge of relief efforts. “The problem is that we don’t really know what’s going on with the NGOs — there’s a lack of transparency,” says Mark Schuller, assistant professor at York College and co-editor of new, wide-ranging anthology, Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake. “As of last fall only 6 percent of the displaced people camps have had any kind of water or sanitation services because the NGOs have spent out their money.”

Louis Armstrong’s Bountiful Later Years

November 1, 2011 | Book Beat, Newsmakers, Queens College

The author of a critically acclaimed new book, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years, insists that although much has been written about the early and middle stages of Armstrong’s career, he was every bit as busy and creative in the last 25 years of his life. “There was only one Armstrong,” says Ricky Riccardi, who is also the project archivist for the Louis Armstrong House Museum research archive at Queens College. “The man who was making those canonical works in the 1920s was also a very funny man who loved doing pop songs, and, in the 1950s and ’60s still played an incredible trumpet,” adds Riccardi, “So why not take all of him.”
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‘The Colonel’ Was Writing to Unger

April 28, 2011 | Book Beat, City College, CUNY Lecture Series

Many artists have a source of inspiration that forever holds a place in their heart, and for Guatemalan-born David Unger it is Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his book, “No One Writes to the Colonel.” “That book forged my identity as a Latin American native and writer,” says Unger, who, through a shared language and culture, felt a kinship with Marquez. Today, Unger, who teaches translation at City College’s MFA program, is the author of four books, including his latest novel, “The Prince of Escape.” As part of the City College Center for Worker Education Book Talk Lecture Series: Writers on Writing, Unger reads from his work and talks about his brief encounter with Marquez as a graduate student at Columbia University.
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New York in Turmoil: The Draft Riots

March 31, 2011 | Book Beat, City College, CUNY Lecture Series

The draft riots in New York City, which took place during the summer of 1863, remain to this day the worst civil disturbance in American history. In his 2002 book, “Paradise Alley,” Kevin Baker used the chaotic event as a backdrop for the critically acclaimed historical novel. “This really was more of a revolution than a riot, as one observer noted, it was a pitched battle.” At a Book Talk Lecture Series: Writers on Writing, sponsored by City College’s Center for Worker Education, Baker describes the mob of mostly poor, Irish Catholics, as overcome with anger at the Protestants who had exploited them and with resentment toward African Americans for being forced to fight for their freedom by the newly enforced Civil War draft. What happened during the riots was horrific, says Baker, including “killing, raping and looting.”

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‘Everything Was Gone’

March 10, 2011 | Book Beat, Queens College

A year after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, Nicole Cooley saw the scale of destruction for the first time, as she drove from Florida to her hometown of New Orleans to visit her parents. “Everything was gone,” says Cooley, a professor of English at Queens College, recalling the ride with her husband and two daughters along Highway 90. “It was as if someone had erased all of the towns — from Mississippi to New Orleans.” Cooley, a poet and founding director of the MFA program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at the college, was so affected by what she witnessed, she devoted her next book of poems, “Breach,” (April 2010), to the tragedy and its aftermath. “I had to spend the next year working on this book about Katrina.”
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If There Are Humans, There Will Be Eavesdropping

November 2, 2010 | Book Beat, Lehman College

Eavesdropping is a vital part of human communication, says John Locke, professor of linguistics at Lehman College and language sciences at the Graduate Center. “It’s essential,” Locke says, it’s one of the ways humans gather needed information. “You can tell people not to — but they’ll do it anyway.” In his new book, “Eavesdropping: An Intimate History,” Locke draws on documentation of the practice from centuries ago right up to today’s world of Facebook and YouTube. But Locke does have some fears about the ocean of personal postings in cyberspace. “I worry about those who could be seriously damaged in the future. All of us need to be on guard if we donate information about ourselves in the form of words or visual images that the recipient will respect that material.”

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Inside the World of Human Guinea Pigs

October 6, 2010 | Book Beat, Graduate Center

Since 1980, when Phase 1 drug tests were banned in the United States, the pharmaceutical industry has relied on medical volunteers to participate in safety trials of new drugs. In his recently published book, “The Professional Guinea Pig: Big Pharma and the Risky World of Human Subjects,” Robert Abadie, an anthropologist and a visiting scholar in the health sciences program at the Graduate Center, examines this subculture of paid “volunteers.” “Most of these guys have 50 to 100 trials over the course of five to ten years,” says Abadie, who spent 18 months living among some of them in youth hostels and group houses in Philadelphia. “My worry is that 20 to 30 years from now these drugs, which are toxic, may interact with each other to create serious health problems.”
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Warm and Fuzzy Science (and other nonsense)

August 11, 2010 | Book Beat, Lehman College, Newsmakers

Intelligent design, global warming, and UFOs–what distinguishes science from pseudoscience? Massimo Pigliucci, chair of the philosophy department at Lehman College, tackles that question and raises some more in his recently published book, “Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk.” There’s no problem “if you open your horoscope and just read it for fun,” explains Pigliucci, “on the other hand, if you plan your financial investments based on what your horoscope tells you, you’re likely to run into trouble.” In an interview, Pigliucci, who previously taught evolutionary biology at SUNY at Stony Brook, also discusses the difference between “hard” sciences, like physics and chemistry, and “soft,” including sociology and anthropology, and how they both shape our world.
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National Book Award Winner Colum McCann

December 16, 2009 | Book Beat, Newsmakers

“I’m bursting with joy and pride — and a certain amount of terror, to be honest,” said Colum McCann on winning the 2009 National Book Award for fiction, now in its 60th year. “But one must go on to the next book, and that, sometimes, is the more difficult.” McCann’s bold novel, “Let the Great World Spin,” which uses Philippe Petit’s famous high-wire walk between the Twin Towers in 1974 as a prism to examine the story’s main characters, took home the top prize on Nov. 18. Author of two short-story collections and five previous novels including bestsellers “Dancer” and “Zoli,” McCann has taught in Hunter College’s MFA Creative Writing program for nearly five years. At his office, he discussed his teaching approach and how his love for American literature began early in Ireland. “My father was a literary editor for a newspaper in Dublin and he would come home with books by Steinbeck and Faulkner. I remember holding them in my hands.”
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