Tilar Mazzeo (English)
Irena’s Children: A True Story of Courage
Gallery Books (2016)
Best-selling author Mazzeo turns her attention to the story of Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker who risked her life to smuggle some 2,500 Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Known as the “female Oskar Schindler,” Sendler used her credentials to enter the walled Jewish ghetto and implored parents to save their children’s lives by handing them over. Thousands did as Sendler and her courageous associates used sewer tunnels and secret passages to slip the children past watching Nazis.
Mazzeo’s account is vivid as she tells of parents torn by a previously unthinkable decision and children whose lives could be lost with a single cry. In one example, 6-month-old Elzbieta is smuggled out with the help of a sympathetic workman. “Irena laid the baby into a wooden toolbox and tucked the blankets around her firmly, making sure they didn’t block the little girl’s air passages. Irena shut the lid, and the hasp clicked into place.”
It’s a gripping Holocaust story of courage and sacrifice, not only on the part of Sendler but for all who, at great cost, struggled to save the lives of innocents during this unfathomable time.
Melissa Walt, Ankeney Weitz (Art), and Michelle Yun
No Limits: Zao Wou-Ki
Yale University Press (2016)
This stunning volume, and the accompanying exhibit at the Colby College Museum of Art, reintroduces Zao’s work to a North American audience. Living and painting in Paris for much of his life, he took elements of Chinese painting and European pictorial traditions to develop his own abstract style. His work, Weitz says, “inhabits a space both inside and outside the two traditions.” If, as Zao says, “he is doubly bound by his artistic inheritance, he is also doubly freed by it,” Weitz writes. The “third space” that Zao’s vision inhabits is his considerable legacy.
Earl Smith (Dean of the College, Emeritus)
Head of Falls
North Country Press (2016)
Smith introduces us to Angela, who is 15, growing up in the Lebanese neighborhood at Head of Falls in Waterville. This is 1950s milltown America and the factories are churning out cloth, paper, and shirts. Angela meets Mr. M., a widower who offers to teach his new friend to play the piano—and in the process give her a sanctuary from her abusive father. Angela persists and prevails in this tale of small-town life, with all of its trials and triumphs. The novel also is a sort of guide to Waterville and the immigrant culture that at one time defined it.
Joseph Roisman (Classics)
The Classical Art of Command: Eight Greek Generals Who Shaped the History of Warfare
Oxford University Press (2017)
Greek military prowess is legendary (think Trojan Horse), but the broader history of war during classical times includes renowned warriors and tacticians. Roisman examines the military careers of eight Greek generals, and in the process provides detailed accounts of the battlefield strategies that left a mark on Greek history. Leonidas, the Spartan king who fought in the battle of Thermopylae, the Athenian Themistocles, who used naval power to defeat the Persians, Lysander, the general who led Sparta to victory in the Peloponnesian War—these were among the leaders who changed the art of war and left an indelible mark on history.
Alan Taylor ’77
American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804
In conventional lore, the American Revolution pitted noble rebels against oppressive English rule, marksmen behind stonewalls sniping at marching redcoats. The good guys won. The bad guys got back in their ships and America was born.
Not so fast, says historian Taylor, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize. In this sequel to his earlier book, American Colonies, he shows that there was considerable difference of opinion about the wisdom of splitting with England—and it wasn’t confined to a few Anglophile Tories.
As he has in the past, Taylor puts his subject in a broad context, square in the middle of a continent with rival Spanish, British, and French empires. Even in New England, there were a variety of takes on how or if “America” should proceed. “Multiple and clashing visions of revolution” reflected the diversity of the American peoples. “The revolutionary upheavals spawned new tensions and contradictions rather than neat resolutions,” Taylor writes. One revolution has begotten another, and the ideals espoused have ramifications to this day. (See Q&A with Taylor here.)
Lyn Mikel Brown (Education)
Powered by Girl: A Field Guide for Supporting Youth Activists
Beacon Press (2016)
Brown has built an impressive canon on the intersecting worlds of gender, girlhood, and activism, and Powered By Girl condenses decades of experience into a comprehensive handbook essential for all those interested in supporting young women in authentic, meaningful ways. Through interviews with activists at all stages of life, Brown pulls back the curtain on popular narratives that can actually undermine the empowerment of youth activists and lays out a framework on which educators and community organizers can build their own practicum. (See Q&A with Lyn Mikel Brown.)
Tanya Sheehan, editor (Art)
Grove Art Guide to Photography
Oxford University Press (2016)
This guide to the history of photography, from the early 19th century to the present, explores concepts and movements that are milestones in the medium. Leading international scholars comment on areas of photography from documentary to fashion. Also provided are 75 additional biographies and a glossary of photographic processes and techniques.
L. Sandy Maisel (Government)
American Political Parties and Elections: A Very Short Introduction
Oxford University Press (2016)
Maisel’s updated edition of this popular series succinctly and accessibly explains how American political parties and elections work. It’s a timely subject, with continuing debate of the 2016 campaign, the merits of the electoral college, and related matters. Maisel, who has written and taught extensively on these topics in his career, acknowledges the challenge of differentiating in this format “what is essential and what is interesting.” He also emphasizes the importance of understanding how Americans choose their leaders, and for the nation to “have a constant goal of improving the ways in which citizens express their consent to those who govern them.”