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Shelf Life

New Books by Stanford Authors Including Bamboo People

The Madonnas of Echo Park, Brando Skyhorse, '95; Free Press , $23.

In a fictional "author's note," debut novelist Skyhorse recalls a time he discriminated against a sixth-grade classmate who moved away before he had a chance to apologize. This book is his tour de force of recanting: a vivid and ingratiating portrait of interlocking Mexican-American lives in Los Angeles. The cast swirling around young Aurora Esperanza describe day labor in the shadow of wealth, an ethnic confrontation on a bus route, the apparition of a sharp-tongued Lady of Guadalupe, a con artist's obsolescence, the significance of '80s rocker Morrissey and the search for a runaway border collie. Someone warns Aurora that the dog symbolizes envy—but in a book where many unforgettable characters mingle their deadly sins and redeeming virtues, Blackjack the dog fetches home an ending of unstinting grace.


Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, Jack Rakove; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30.

Revolutionaries are not born, but made—painstakingly and reluctantly—in this group biography of America's founders by history professor Rakove. Focusing on the evolving intellectual struggles of two cohorts of early Americans (John and Samuel Adams, George Washington and the not-much-remembered Henry Laurens among the older group; John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in the younger), Rakove shows how provincial men became creative and calculating leaders.

apple trees

The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems, Robert Hass, PhD '76; Ecco, $34.99.

This collection by the former poet laureate draws from five previous books, starting with 1973's Field Guide. New work includes a blues-inflected elegy for Hass's difficult, streets-dwelling younger brother, playful experimentation with storytelling ("Two jokes walk into a bar") and "Some of David's Story," in which the world's sorrows cripple a young couple's relationship. Varied, meticulous and compact, Hass's poetry often returns to the natural world (particularly in Northern California), history and the consolations of art and music.

pending duel

Duel at Dawn: Heroes, Martyrs, and the Rise of Modern Mathematics, Amir Alexander, MA '90, PhD '96; Harvard U. Press, $28.95.

There was a time when mathematical geniuses were not stereotyped as tragic outsiders (Srinivasa Ramanujan and John Nash) or overwhelmed recluses (Alexander Grothendieck and Grigory Perelman). The author suggests that time was before the 1832 duel that killed évariste Galois, an essential figure in the creation of a mathematics that owes less to physical observation and more to imagined universes. Cultural narratives (such as the search for Romantic heroes) shape math just as they do the humanities.

if a tree falls

If a Tree Falls: A Family's Quest to Hear and Be Heard, Jennifer Rosner, PhD '98; Feminist Press, $16.95.

When her first daughter was born deaf, Rosner began coming to terms with a family legacy of silence—one created both by genetic anomaly and cultural mis-apprehension. Threaded through this memoir about parenting two special-needs children (Sophia uses hearing aids; Juliet has a cochlear implant) are Rosner's thoughts about her deaf ancestors' resilience.

bamboo people

Bamboo People, Mitali Perkins, '84; Charlesbridge, $16.95.

A Burmese boy soldier and an ethnic Karenni refugee narrate a thrilling jungle-survival story about war along the Myanmar border. In an unsparing novel for middle-grade readers, Perkins sorts out the boys' complicated feelings about revenge, justice, freedom and loyalty. The title metaphor honors the strength and flexibility that individuals need when their simplest hopes are thwarted by geopolitical hatred.

presumption of guilt
"Each American has the capacity, and indeed the obligation, to find ways to eliminate racial disparities and to create opportunities for police and all citizens to mutually respect each other."

Charles Ogletree, '75, MA '75, in
The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Race, Class and Crime in America; Palgrave MacMillan, $25

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