Book Beat

Religious Wars and Peace

November 17, 2009 | Book Beat

Like others who felt compelled to make something good out of so much evil, Paul Moses turned to religious history after 9/11 as he struggled to make sense of the senseless. As a reporter for Newsday, Moses wrote the main story on that horrific day. Not long after, he read a story about Saint Francis of Assisi that would become the kernel of a book. Eight years later, “The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and St. Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace,” captures a meeting between St. Francis, who crossed enemy lines to gain an audience with Malik al-Kamil, the sultan of Egypt, in 1219. “If, in the middle of a Crusade, Francis and the sultan can speak to each other with great respect, than we, today, should be able to sit down and talk to each other, as Christians and Muslims,” said Moses, now a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College. In a discussion about his book, Prof. Moses draws lessons from the past and sees a future where dialogue can triumph over war.
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The Power of Music in War

September 14, 2009 | Book Beat, City College, Newsmakers

For his new book “Sound Targets: American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War,” Jonathan Pieslak, an associate professor of music at City College, interviewed soldiers who have served in Iraq to learn about the roles music they compose, write, and listen to, play in the war and in American military culture. “Some soldiers speak about how music puts them in a predatory mindset,” said Prof. Pieslak, who analyzed some of the troops’ original lyrics and explored the impact of certain musical genres, including heavy metal and rap, in contemporary military recruiting campaigns and in combat.
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Lincoln, Believer in Freedom and the Written Word

March 10, 2009 | Book Beat, Graduate Center, Queens College

If Mark Twain was the Abraham Lincoln of American literature, then Lincoln was the Twain of American politics. So says Fred Kaplan, distinguished professor emeritus of English at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center, who has written biographies on both men. His new book, “Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer,” has been generating attention, in this bicentennial year of Lincoln’s birth. Just months before his inauguration, President Obama was photographed by the Associated Press holding a copy of the book. Prof. Kaplan discusses how he seized an unprecedented opportunity to “look into the origin and development of Lincoln’s genius with language, especially since I saw that no one else had done that before.”
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Waking Giants in the Age of Jackson

January 14, 2009 | Book Beat, Graduate Center

For many Americans, the years between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars are a desert, little known, rarely visited. But David S. Reynolds, Distinguished Professor of English and American Studies at the Graduate Center, lifts the veil with his book “Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson.” Focusing on 1815 to 1848, the book reveals the United States to be a growing powerhouse, with an incredible array of fascinating individuals, including politicians (chief among them Andrew Jackson); writers (such as Melville and Thoreau); artists, scientists and wacky personalities pushing various fads. “I tried to humanize the period in ways which it hadn’t been humanized, ” says Prof. Reynolds. “I go into the literature, the music, the theater — I wanted to fill out the entire culture.”
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Being Young, Arab and Muslim in America

December 5, 2008 | Book Beat, Brooklyn College, Newsmakers

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the reports of hate crimes and harassment in Arab-American communities has exploded, says Moustafa Bayoumi, associate professor of English at Brooklyn College, and, youth, in particular, are being affected. “They are the ones in the eye of the storm today,” he says. “The ones that people are most ready to judge because of their faith or because of their ethnic background.” In his new book, “How Does It Feel To Be A Problem? Being Young and Arab in America,” Prof. Bayoumi chronicles the lives of seven, young men and women from Brooklyn and the realities of being Arab and Muslim in the post-9/11 world.
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Leopold and Loeb Revisited

November 4, 2008 | Book Beat

Set in the middle of the Jazz Age, the infamous Leopold and Loeb murder case had all the elements of a true-crime thriller. In his acclaimed book, “For The Thrill Of It: Leopold, Loeb and the Murder that Shocked Chicago,” Simon Baatz sheds new light on the brutal murder of a 14-year-old boy by two privileged and brilliant young men. Baatz, an associate professor of history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center, breathes life back into the personalities in the case, including legendary defense lawyer Clarence Darrow. “It was really my background in the history of science that persuaded me that this was a book that needed to be written,” says Baatz, who has a Ph.D. in history of medicine from the University of Pennsylvania. “I knew that it would be very complicated and intricate, as well as fascinating. It turned out to be both.”
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Peter Moskos: Cop in the Classroom

August 27, 2008 | Book Beat

As a sociology graduate student at Harvard University, Peter Moskos thought the best way to see the inner workings of a police unit in a high-crime area was to join the force himself. So he did. The result is his first book, “Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore’s Eastern District,” which was published this summer to rave reviews. Now an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Prof. Moskos discusses his year patrolling the area of Baltimore made famous by the hit HBO series “The Wire” and why he is in favor of legalizing drugs. “I prefer to say I want to regulate drugs,” explains Prof. Moskos. “The fact that anybody can go to a corner and buy any drug, is what leads to violence and overdose deaths. We cannot regulate what we prohibit.”
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Michio Kaku's "Impossible" Possibilities

June 19, 2008 | Book Beat, Newsmakers

Time travel, invisibility and teleportation may seem like fantasies, but to world-renowned theoretical physicist and City College Prof. Michio Kaku, they’re well within the realm of possibility. Co-founder of string field theory, Prof. Kaku claims that “many of these technologies will, in fact, be available in the coming decades, to maybe a few centuries.” Prof. Kaku, Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at City College, where he has taught for 25 years, discusses his New York Times best-seller “Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration Into The World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel,” in which he defines “where physics ends and science fiction begins.”
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2008 Pulitzer Prize Winner John Matteson

June 10, 2008 | Book Beat

Almost from the beginning, John Matteson felt a special kinship with his subjects, Amos Bronson Alcott and his celebrated daughter, Louisa May, author of Little Women. “They say all biography is autobiography and that’s true where my book is concerned,” says Matteson, associate professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for “Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father.” Says Matteson: “Very early on, I felt that I knew them and could tell their story with a sensitivity and balance that previous biographers hadn’t achieved.”
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Defying Type: Poet Gregory Pardlo

July 30, 2007 | Book Beat

As a teenager, Gregory Pardlo witnessed his father, the president of Newark Airport’s Professional Air Traffic Controllers union, lead his members on an unpopular and illegal labor strike. That spirit of dogged opposition inspired him to pursue his passion–poetry–and guided him to produce a wide range of work that defies simple categorization. Pardlo, an assistant professor at Medgar Evers College, reads and discusses selections from his book “Totem,” winner of the American Poetry Review’s Honickman First Book Prize.
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