Authors and Artists

Summer 2019


Gary Giddins ’70 released the second volume of a multipart biography, Bing Crosby — Swinging on a Star: The War Years, 1940–1946 (Little, Brown, 2018). In this follow-up to Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams — The Early Years, 1903–1940 (Little, Brown, 2001), Giddins focuses on Crosby’s most memorable period, the war years and the origin story of “White Christmas.” Set against the backdrop of a Europe on the brink of collapse, this work traces Crosby’s skyrocketing career. While he would go on to reshape both popular music and cinema more comprehensively than any other artist, Crosby’s legacy would be forever intertwined with his impact on the home front, a unifying voice for a nation at war.

Why does everyone from tech experts to business moguls to philanthropists believe blockchain is a paradigm-shifting technology, bound to revolutionize society as significantly as the internet? In Blockchain: The Next Everything (Scribner, 2019), a deft, easy-to-digest introduction to blockchain, Stephen P. Williams ’79 reveals how cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are just one example among dozens of transformative applications that this relatively new technology makes possible. He interprets the complexity into digestible anecdotes, metaphors, and straightforward descriptions for readers who don’t know tech and explains all of blockchain’s most important aspects, including why this so-called digital ledger is unhackable and unchangeable and what its widespread use will mean for society as a whole.

Joe Rosenfield ’25 was a classic out-of-the-box thinker. From his days as a Grinnell student in the early 1920s to serving as the chairman at Younkers to becoming an instrumental figure in Grinnell College history, Rosenfield’s thinking and warm personality made a positive impact on almost everyone he met. 

In Mentor: Life and Legacy of Joe Rosenfield (Business Publications Corporation, 2019), George Drake ’56 chronicles Rosenfield’s life, wit, and steadfast love for Grinnell College. Rosenfield served on the College’s Board of Trustees from 1941 until his death in 2000. His favorite sport, even counting his 5% stake in the Chicago Cubs, was making money for Grinnell. His own smarts and close friendship with famous investor Warren Buffett helped grow Grinnell College’s endowment from $78,000 at the beginning of Rosenfield’s board service to just over $1 billion more than a half-century later. Mentor is available for sale at the Pioneer Bookshop.

Cornelius Conover ’95 follows the life and afterlife of an accidental martyr, San Felipe de Jésus, to track the global aspirations of imperial Spain. In Pious Imperialism: Spanish Rule and the Cult of Saints in Mexico City (University of New Mexico Press, 2019), Conover analyzes Spanish rule and Catholic practice from the consolidation of Spanish control in the Americas in the 16th century to the loss of these colonies in the 19th century.

The moment she discovers the existence of Richard, a long-lost relative, at Israel’s Holocaust Museum, Margaret McMullan ’82 begins an unexpected journey of revelation and connectivity as she tirelessly researches the history of her ancestors, the Engel de Jánosis. Propelled by a Fulbright cultural exchange that sends her to teach at a Hungarian university, McMullan, her husband, and teenage son all eagerly travel to Pécs, the land of her mother’s Jewish lineage. After reaching Pécs, a Hungarian town both small and primarily Christian, McMullan realizes how difficult her mission is going to be. Where the Angels Lived (Calypso Editions, 2019) documents the relentless determination of a woman picking up the pieces of her family’s fragmented history throughout the Hungarian Holocaust.

In Winterset (NeoLeaf Press), Dennis Maulsby ’64 relates the supernatural adventures of Father Patrick Donahey in 12 linked stories. The Irish-born priest has retired after many years of service in South America to Winterset, Iowa, but it’s not to be the life of books and long rural walks that he expects. The community and the surrounding area are awash with supernatural creatures. Some friendly, some not, but all must be dealt with in order to protect his new parish, state, country, and the wider world from chaos and destruction.


Merry Alpern ’77 had a photography exhibition, Dirty Windows, at the Galerie Miranda in Paris this spring. The series was originally made in the 1990s and features black-and-white images captured through a bathroom window at an illegal lap-dance club in New York City.

Shown at film festivals in 2018, this film by Noga Ashkenazi ’09, which is set in Grinnell, is now available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. 

In the fall of 2017, Jon Richardson ’10 left Boston, his home of seven years, and moved to Cape Cod; now he has released his second album, When I Left. That winter, some terrible storms hit the Cape, and it was during this turbulent first winter that he wrote most of the songs that became this album:

Spring 2019


This simple, lyrical picture book by Natalie Publow Ziarnik ’88 and illustrated by Madeline Valentine is as warm, reassuring, and filled with joy as a vacation at the beach. Readers will join a little girl and her siblings as they wind down from a perfect day — hanging up towels, eating dinner, and getting ready for bed — each activity sparking a memory of their day — playing catch with the dog, chasing waves, and looking at sailboats along the shore. And when the lights of the family beach house go off, young listeners will be lulled to sleep themselves. For ages 3–8. Published by Schwartz & Wade in 2018.