A pair of biographies from Dolores Flamiano ’85 and Sally Palmer Thomason ’55, new fiction from Morgan Matson ’04, new music from Nite Jewel (Ramona Gonzalez ’12), and more
Women, Workers, and Race in Life Magazine: Hansel Mieth’s Reform Photojournalism, 1934-1955, by Dolores Flamiano ’85 (Routledge; $149.95). The tension between social reform photography and photojournalism is examined through Flamiano’s study of the life and work of German émigré Hansel Mieth (1909-1998), who made an unlikely journey from migrant farm worker to Life photographer—only the second woman in that role, following Margaret Bourke-White. Unlike her colleagues, Mieth was a working-class reformer with a deep disdain for Life’s conservatism and commercialism. Some of her most compelling photo essays used skillful visual storytelling to offer fresh views on controversial topics: birth control, vivisection, labor unions, and Japanese American internment during World War II. Today Mieth’s life and photographs stand as compelling reminders of the vital yet overlooked role of immigrant women in 20th-century photojournalism. Flamiano is professor and interim director of James Madison University School of Media Arts & Design in Harrisonburg, Va.
Delta Rainbow: The Irrepressible Betty Bobo Pearson, by Sally Palmer Thomason ’55 with Jean Carter Fisher (University Press of Mississippi; $26). A seventh-generation, plantation-born Southerner, Betty Bobo Pearson grew up in her namesake town, Bobo, Miss., and in Clarksdale. However, after she and Bill Pearson married in 1947, their basic beliefs about race were fundamentally at odds with those of Betty’s established cultural heritage. After an all-white jury returned a not-guilty verdict (all evidence to the contrary) to two white men charged with the 1955 murder of 14-year-old African-American Emmett Till, she became a courageous and dedicated supporter of the civil rights movement in a culturally and racially divided Mississippi—at the cost of estranging friends and family. Gathered from in-depth conversations with Betty and Bill, their daughter Erie, and many friends and colleagues, Delta Rainbow captures the ups and downs in the life of a fiercely independent woman who made a significant difference in the lives of many. California native Sally Palmer Thomason has lived in Memphis over 50 years. She retired as the dean of continuing and corporate education at Rhodes College and has written three books.
The Unexpected Everything, by Morgan Matson ’04 (Simon & Schuster; $17.99). Andie always sticks to her plan, and she’s got her summer all planned out until a scandal involving her Congressman father costs Andie a summer pre-med internship, and lands the two of them back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all—working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting a super-cute writer named Clark get closer than she expected. Best friends Palmer, Bri, and Toby tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control? A feel-good story of friendship, finding yourself, and all the joys in life that happen while you’re busy making other plans, The Unexpected Everything is the fourth young adult novel by Matson, whose Since You’ve Been Gone (2015) was a New York Times bestseller. She lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Murphy.
The Stigma of the Mentally Ill: Bob Does Everything Backwards, by Robert N. Franz ’75 (CreateSpace; paperback, $15.95; Kindle, $6.95). A self-described “community mental health activist,” Franz documents the treatment of his mental health and the search for spirituality as a young adult in late 20th-century America. Always with honesty—sometimes with humor—each chapter examines a new aspect regarding mental health care. A chemistry major at Oxy, Franz has worked in addictions, gerontology, mental health, and as a swim instructor for children and youth. Now he writes to motivate. He and his wife, Leslie, live in North Wilmington, Del., with their tabby, Misty.
Briefly noted: The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, tells the story of a South Vietnamese army officer who is secretly a Communist spy and escapes to Los Angeles with other South Vietnamese after the war. (No spoilers here—his “secret” is revealed in the first line.) It turns out that he speaks perfect English because he studied at Occidental College in the early 1960s—and his first job in L.A. after the war is as an assistant to the chair of the fictional Oxy department of Oriental studies. “Nguyen, who is a USC professor, doesn't really use the picturesque Oxy campus,” Paul Robert Walker ’75 reports. “His interest lies more in the symbolism of Oxy’s motto, Occidens Proximus Orienti: ‘The West is nearest the East.’ It’s a really good book. Powerful and original.”
Liquid Cool, by Nite Jewel (Gloriette; available on iTunes and other streaming services and at nitejewel.com). On her first album since One Second of Love (2012), Ramona Gonzalez ’12 returns to her DIY roots in a nine-song collection (including lead single “Boo Hoo”) that “explores the theme of aloneness in a crowded and disconnected world,” according to a press release. “I put all my gear—including my 8-track—in a walk-in closet,” Gonzalez wrote in announcing the new album. “I had left my label and was back in my element. I felt like I had found my identity again.” Nite Jewel begins a 15-city European tour in Dublin on September 15.
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