Authors and Artists

Winter 2018


Palgrave-Macmillan has published Pope Francis and Interreligious Dialogue: Religious Thinkers Engage with Recent Papal Initiatives (2018), co-edited by Harold Kasimow, George Drake Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, and the Rev. Alan Race, author of the classic text in the theology of religions titled Christians and Religious Pluralism (1983). On Aug. 29, Kasimow and Race presented Pope Francis with aplaque of the cover of the book.

Beginning with the personal foreword by Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a close friend of Pope Francis, and followed by a selection of the pope’s writings, the book consists of 12 essays by men and women from many parts of the world. The contributors write from the perspectives of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Humanism. Each author elaborates on how Pope Francis’s openness to dialogue and invitation to practical collaboration on global concerns — particularly ecological sustainability and worldwide poverty — represents a significant and hope-filled achievement.

Why do some people bounce back after a devastating loss, where as others succumb to despair? If the unimaginable happened to you, how would you cope? As a mother who has experienced the loss of a disabled child, the memoir Searching for Spenser (Anamcara Press, 2018) by Margaret Rayburn Kramar ’72 offers guidance, wisdom and inspiration. Many memoirs about deceased children drip with sentimentality, but due to Kramar’s background as a journalist and the time that has elapsed since her child’s death, she has been able to chronicle Spenser’s birth, life, and death with objectivity, yet emotional power. It not only speaks to those who have children with disabilities and those who have lost a child, but also to those who seek an amazing and surprising journey about redemption and hope.

Since the 1940s, researchers have been repeating claims about autistic people’s limited ability to understand language, to partake in imaginative play, and to generate the complex theory of mind necessary to appreciate literature. Ralph James Savarese, professor of English, challenges this view in See It Feelingly: Classic Novels, Autistic Readers, and the Schooling of a No-Good English Professor (Duke University Press, 2018). Over a period of years, Savarese has discussed fictional works with readers from across the autism spectrum and was stunned by their ability to expand his understanding of texts he knew intimately. Mixing memoir with current research in autism and cognitive literary studies, he celebrates how literature springs to life through the contrasting responses of unique individuals, while helping people both on and off the spectrum to engage more richly with the world.

Published by Duke University Press (2018), A Primer for Teaching Women, Gender, and Sexuality in World History: Ten Design Principles is a guide for novice teachers as well as experienced teachers who want to reinvigorate their courses. Authors Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks ’73 and Urmi Engineer Willoughby draw readers into the process of strategically designing courses that will enable students to analyze gender and sexuality in history, whether their students are new to this process or hold powerful and personal commitments to the issues it raises. Wiesner-Hanks is professor of history and women’s and gender studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

The fourth edition of Woe Is I, a grammar and usage guide by Patricia T. O’Conner ’71, will be published in February 2019 by Riverhead Books. Woe Is I was a national bestseller when it first appeared in 1996, and it now has more than half a million copies in print. O’Conner has also written four other books on language and writing: Words Fail MeWoe Is I Jr., and, with her husband Stewart Kellerman, You Send Me and Origins of the Specious.

She has also written the introduction for a new edition of Robert Graves’s The Reader Over Your Shoulder. The new edition, published by Seven Stories Press in January 2018, restores the original 1943 text of the landmark book on prose style that Graves wrote with Alan Hodge.

Fall 2018


These haiku poems were written as Steve Abhaya Brooks ’64 read all of Emily Dickinson’s poetry, open to her influence as he has always been. There was no attempt or intention to copy or adopt her style, focus, or language. 

Betty Moffett’s Coming Clean (Ice Cube Press, October 2018) tells stories of her days growing up in North Carolina as well as her time spent in Grinnell. She came to Grinnell with her husband Sandy Moffett, professor emeritus of theatre, and taught for nearly 30 years in the Grinnell College Writing Lab. Then she began using the advice she offered students in her own work.

In Dreams for Lesotho: Independence, Foreign Assistance, and Development (University of Notre Dame Press, 2018), John Aerni-Flessner ’01 studies the post-independence emergence of Lesotho as an example of the uneven ways in which people experienced development at the end of colonialism in Africa. The book posits that development became the language through which Basotho (the people of Lesotho) conceived of the dream of independence, both before and after the 1966 transfer of power. Aerni-Flessner went to Lesotho in 2002 as part of the third cohort of Grinnell Corps Lesotho fellows. With George Drake ’56 as his adviser, Aerni-Flessner lived and taught in Lesotho for a year and now makes it his scholarly career as a historian.

Eight friends. One game. A dozen regrets. And a night that will ruin them all, in this high stakes story of manipulation and innocence lost. The latest young adult novel (Simon Pulse, 2018) by Christa Soule Desir ’96 is partially set on the Grinnell College campus. Desir says early trade reviews have been all over the map from “refreshingly sex positive” to “way too graphic for school libraries but teenagers will probably like it.”


Vince Eckhart, Waldo S. Walker Professor of Biology, and his colleagues Monica Geber (Cornell University) and David Moeller (University of Minnesota) have received a grant of $450,000 from the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Research in Evolutionary Biology program for a five-year project, a continuation of a previous five-year grant to the three investigators. By studying Clarkia xantiana, a flowering plant native to California, Eckhart, Geber, Moeller, and their students will investigate how evolutionary adaptation contributes to population size and the geographic range of a species. They will also continue — and expand to Grinnell — a project called Market Science, which connects citizens with research scientists at local farmers’ markets.