Recent Releases: James L. Martin, Zachary Shapiro, Jody Zorgdrager


New books from alumni authors.


Turnaround: Leading Stressed Colleges and Universities to Excellence
Turnaround: Leading Stressed Colleges and Universities to Excellence
James L. Martin ’70 and James E. Samels
Johns Hopkins University Press (2009)

At the time this book was written, the economic downturn hadn’t yet added to the ranks of stressed universities and colleges. But endowment decline isn’t the only factor that puts colleges and universities at risk. Sagging enrollment, loss of accreditation, even hurricanes are threats. Martin, a professor of English at Mt. Ida College and academic vice president of The Education Alliance, and Samels, head of the same organization and a lawyer specializing in higher education, have produced a guide for running colleges and universities. A roster of administrators provides informed advice on risk
analysis and turnaround strategies.

We’re All in the Same BoatWe're All in the Same Boat
Zachary Shapiro ’92 and Jack E. Davis
Putnam (2009)

Shapiro’s wacky retelling of the Noah’s Ark story, accompanied by Davis’s zany and whimsical illustrations, is a tale of a cruise gone sour. The rain is unrelenting and the animals turn alphabetically grumpy. “The camels were complaining. The dogs were demanding. The elephants were enraged.” But when an exasperated Noah, in cruise-director garb, invokes the line in the title, the animals come around. Sure enough, the sun comes out and the ark sails off into the sunset, leaving in its wake a lesson for all of us.

Of ConsequenceOf Consequence
Jody A. Zorgdrager ’89
The Backwaters Press 2008

Of Consequence offers an intimate glimpse into the concerns of poet Jody A. Zorgdrager ’89, whose reflections transform seemingly prosaic details and moments— “a black thick umbrella,” “dirty hands,” and “watching TV”—into matters truly of consequence. In this, Zorgdrager’s first book, childhoods and relationships are the forces that most powerfully shape the selves we become. She conveys this knowledge through smart, original observations and metaphors, in language that is simple yet innovative. Central to Zorgdrager’s consciousness are her mother’s chemotherapy treatments, the behavior in childhood classrooms, and love. No stranger to pain, she confronts cruelty, loss, and heartbreak.   
  —Lauren Pongan ’09

Jody A. Zorgdrager '89
Jody A. Zorgdrager '89

(If you were a bird, you’d be a swallow.
If a tree, a weeping willow.)
Outside your window meanwhile
a season changes: the oaks
are letting down their leaf-rain,
their used and crumpled pages,
like excuses or like tissues stiffening
in the bed you didn’t make but lie in.

Listen to Zorgdrager read from her book »

Woman Who Speaks Tree: Confessions of a Tree HuggerWoman Who Speaks Tree: Confessions of a Tree Hugger
Linda Tatelbaum (English, emerita)
About Time Press (2009)

Sshhhh … The trees have something to say.

In Woman Who Speaks Tree, Tatelbaum offers a “memoir with a mission,” from which all of us—even non-tree-huggers—can learn, like her, to “respect nature for the lessons it offers on how to live.”

Tatelbaum’s playful but thoughtful chapters highlight important phases of her life: homesteading, parenting, teaching, aiding aging parents. As the chapters unfold we witness Tatelbaum’s ability to decipher nature’s wisdom in order to navigate a world riddled with dualities. “Where’s the boundary between use and abuse?” Tatelbaum asks early on. Treading gently on the earth gets complicated when vexing decisions arise, like whether to cut down a tree if it’s blocking your solar panels. “Life choices are not as simple as weeding in the garden, where it’s clear what goes, what stays.” Can “speaking tree” help us accept the gray areas?

Yet speaking tree is no walk in the park. The language of trees is “gestural, cyclical, and inclusive,” a language that encourages flexibility, grace, and pride, Tatelbaum writes. She demonstrates this most powerfully in her final chapter, “The College and the Woods,” which recounts her 2005 effort to save two beech trees threatened by the expansion of Cotter Union.

Uncertain how, or if, to challenge the architectural design, she received advice from an old maple near Runnals, she writes. “Leaf,” the tree suggested—but leaving the College would accomplish nothing. “Bark,” it offered, and Tatelbaum found her voice. “Branch,” it said. Then “stump.”

Heeding the tree’s advice, Tatelbaum formed Friends of the Beeches. Petitions were passed; ultimately, one tree was cut down. An angry Tatelbaum eventually softened—when she adopted tree thinking: A tree would stand with dignity and accept its fate.

Tatelbaum writes that trees have taught her to “accept and defend. Love, and be furious if that’s what gets you moving.” After all, “Maybe you can only change people by accepting who they are. And you become changed in the process.”

Woman Who Speaks Tree offers hope and inspiration in a time of environmental crisis. We would be wise to follow Tatelbaum’s example. “Being green,” she suggests, “isn’t just about saving the environment, but actually learning from it.” —Laura Meader

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