Nonfiction

  • ⇢ Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity


    Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (Random House). 

    From the Publisher:  From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century's great, unequal cities.  In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human.  Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees "a fortune beyond counting" in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter — Annawadi's "most-everything girl" — will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call "the full enjoy."  But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.

    Allison Kirkland, on behalf of the New School Graduate Writing Program and the NBCC, discusses Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity with the author, Katherine Boo.  Behind the Beautiful Forevers is among the final five selections, in the category of Nonfiction, for the 2012 NBCC awards.  The interview was conducted via phone on 1/20/13.

    Katharine Boo talking to Allison Kirkland, Part 1

    Katharine Boo talking to Allison Kirkland, Part 2


    Allison Kirkland, a North Carolina transplant with a degree in English from Duke University, is an MFA student at The New School Graduate Writing Program.

  • ⇢ Steve Coll, Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power


    Steve Coll, Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power (The Penguin Press). 

    In Private Empire, Steve Coll investigates the largest and most powerful private corporation in the United States, revealing the true extent of its power.  ExxonMobil's annual revenues are larger than the economic activity in the great majority of countries. In many of the countries where it conducts business, ExxonMobil's sway over politics and security is greater than that of the United States embassy. In Washington, ExxonMobil spends more money lobbying Congress and the White House than almost any other corporation. Yet despite its outsized influence, it is a black box.  Private Empire pulls back the curtain, tracking the corporation's recent history and its central role on the world stage, beginning with the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989 and leading to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The action spans the globe, moving from Moscow, to impoverished African capitals, Indonesia, and elsewhere in heart-stopping scenes that feature kidnapping cases, civil wars, and high-stakes struggles at the Kremlin. At home, Coll goes inside ExxonMobil's K Street office and corporation headquarters in Irving, Texas, where top executives in the "God Pod" (as employees call it) oversee an extraordinary corporate culture of discipline and secrecy.  The first hard-hitting examination of ExxonMobil, Private Empire is the masterful result of Coll's indefatigable reporting. A penetrating, newsbreaking study, Private Empire is a defining portrait of ExxonMobil and the place of Big Oil in American politics and foreign policy.

    Christopher Hermelin, on behalf of the New School Graduate Writing Program and the NBCC, discusses Private Empire:  ExxonMobil and American Power with the author, Steve Coll .  Private Empire is among the final five selections, in the category of Nonfiction, for the 2012 NBCC awards.  The interview was conducted telephone chat on 2/26/13.


    Christopher Hermelin lives in Brooklyn, and is an MFA student at The New School Graduate Writing Program.  More on twitter, @cdhermelin

  • ⇢ Jim Holt. Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story


    Jim Holt, Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story (A Liveright Book: W. W. Norton).  

    From the Publisher: Whether framed philosophically as "Why is there a world rather than nothing at all?" or more colloquially as "But, Mommy, who made God?" the metaphysical mystery about how we came into existence remains the most fractious and fascinating question of all time. Following in the footsteps of Christopher Hitchens, Roger Penrose, and even Stephen Hawking, Jim Holt emerges with an engrossing narrative that traces our latest efforts to grasp the origins of the universe. As he takes on the role of cosmological detective, the brilliant yet slyly humorous Holt contends that we might have been too narrow in limiting our suspects to God vs. the Big Bang. Whether interviewing a cranky Oxford philosopher, a Physics Nobel Laureate, or a French Buddhist monk, Holt pursues unexplored and often bizarre angles to this cosmic puzzle. The result is a brilliant synthesis of cosmology, mathematics, and physics — one that propels his own work to the level of philosophy itself.

    Marina Petrova, on behalf of the New School Graduate Writing Program and the NBCC, discusses Why Does the World Exist?  An Existential Detective Story with the author, Jim Holt. Why does the World Exist is among the final five selections, in the category of Nonfiction, for the 2012 NBCC awards.  The interview was conducted on 1/20/13.



    Marina Petrova lives in New York City, and is an MFA student at The New School Graduate Writing Program.

  • ⇢ David Quammen, Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic


    David Quammen, Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic (W.W. Norton). 

    From the Publisher: The emergence of strange new diseases is a frightening problem that seems to be getting worse. In this age of speedy travel, it threatens a worldwide pandemic. We hear news reports of Ebola, SARS, AIDS, and something called Hendra killing horses and people in Australia —but those reports miss the big truth that such phenomena are part of a single pattern. The bugs that transmit these diseases share one thing: they originate in wild animals and pass to humans by a process called 'spillover.' David Quammen tracks this subject around the world. He recounts adventures in the field — netting bats in China, trapping monkeys in Bangladesh, stalking gorillas in the Congo — with the world's leading disease scientists. In Spillover, Quammen takes the reader along on this astonishing quest to learn how, where from, and why these diseases emerge, and he asks the terrifying question: What might the next big one be?

    Latria Graham, on behalf of the New School Graduate Writing Program and the NBCC, discusses Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic with the author, David Quammen.  Spillover is among the final five selections, in the category of Nonfiction, for the 2012 NBCC awards.  The interview was conducted via video chat on 1/20/13.


    Latria Graham, a graduate of Dartmouth College, made her publishing debut in the 2008 anthology Going Hungrya. Since then, her articles have been featured in CosmoGIRL!, O, Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, and COED Magazine; as well as on the Today Show,  and ABC's Eyewitness News. A fourth generation farmer, Latria spends the growing season in Spartanburg, SC.  The rest of the year, she lives in New York City, where she is an MFA student at The New School Graduate Writing Program.

  • ⇢ Andrew Solomon, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity


    Andrew Solomon, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (Scribner).  

    From the Publisher:  From the National Book Award–winning author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression comes a monumental new work, a decade in the writing, about family. In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so.

    Solomon's startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter.

    All parenting turns on a crucial question: to what extent parents should accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves. Drawing on forty -thousand pages of interview transcripts with more than three hundred families, Solomon mines the eloquence of ordinary people facing extreme challenges. Whether considering prenatal screening for genetic disorders, cochlear implants for the deaf, or gender reassignment surgery for transgender people, Solomon narrates a universal struggle toward compassion. Many families grow closer through caring for a challenging child; most discover supportive communities of others similarly affected; some are inspired to become advocates and activists, celebrating the very conditions they once feared. Woven into their courageous and affirming stories is Solomon's journey to accepting his own identity, which culminated in his midlife decision, influenced by this research, to become a parent.

    Diane Masucci, on behalf of the New School Graduate Writing Program and the NBCC, discusses Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity with the author, Andrew Solomon. Far from the Tree is among the final five selections, in the category of Nonfiction, for the 2012 NBCC awards.  The interview was conducted on 2/16/13.


    Diane T. Masucci is a 2013 candidate for an MFA in Fiction at The New School. She writes essays and short stories that mine family life. An award-winning journalist for 15 years, Diane is the mother of two children and lives in Montclair, N.J. with her husband and insatiable labrador retriever. 



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