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Baruch Faculty Books Make a Splash

--English, History, Sociology Profs Publish Acclaimed Works--

You may have earned an A in your early American history course and you may never miss a History Channel documentary, but in Carol Berkin’s Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence, even the most ardent American history buff is sure to encounter persons, events, and themes previously unfamiliar. Revolutionary Mothers de-romanticizes the American Revolution and shows how women of diverse backgrounds experienced the years 1775–1783.

That the nation could not have emerged without the sacrifices of thousands of brave women is made clear. Revolutionary Mothers introduces the reader to the women who boycotted British goods’ who wrote pro-separation propaganda, who organized and participated in fundraising drives for the patriot army, and who acted as the unofficial quartermaster corps for both patriot and loyalist armies (the ragtag groups known as “camp followers”). We also meet Native American women, who wielded considerable political and diplomatic power within the large confederacies of Indian nations, the third party to the war. The stories of loyalist women, many of whom were exiled at the war’s conclusion, are told with admiration and empathy.

Since Berkin is not only a skilled historian and pioneering scholar but also a master storyteller, one of the greatest delights of Revolutionary Mothers is individual women’s histories. What reader could forget enslaved African Mammy Kate? Mammy Kate rescued her master, patriot Stephen Heard (later Georgia state governor), from imprisonment and sure execution. Mammy Kate rode 50 miles to the Fort Cornwallis prison and offered her services to the British as a laundress. Over the course of several weeks, she became known and well regarded. She then asked if she could do prisoner Heard’s laundry. When, one day, she left Heard’s prison cell with her tall laundry basket on the top of her head, no one suspected that she carried her master curled up inside.

A history book for general audiences, Revolutionary Mothers is the culmination of over 30 years of research and teaching. Berkin describes it as supporting a theme she has been developing throughout her career: “that there are many revolutions within this single Revolution.”

Berkin is professor of history at Baruch and the CUNY Graduate Center. A prolific author, she is perhaps one of the most recognizable of American historians, having appeared as a commentator in over 20 television documentaries on PBS and A&E, among other channels.

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David Reynolds, Distinguished Professor of English, is about to embark on a whirlwind publicity tour for his new book, John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights. Just published by Alfred Knopf, Reynolds’s 500-page opus has already been lauded in The New York Times (Sunday, April 17, 2005), The New Yorker (April 25, 2005) and The Atlantic Monthly
(May, 2005). A radio blitz begins with Fresh Air on WNYC AM and FM on Wednesday, April 19, and continues for the next month.

Professor Reynolds’ book dramatically alters the prevalent 20th century view of Brown as a demented and damned figure whose bloody assault on Harper’s Ferry was a blot on American history. Examining John Brown with post-9/11 eyes, Reynolds ponders
the ways in which he resembles—and differs—from notorious 20th century figures such as Timothy McVeigh and even Osama Bin Laden. Reynolds argues that, for Brown, the institution of slavery was more than an abomination, it was “an ongoing war against enslaved blacks.” A fierce opponent of slavery all his life, Brown acted only after concluding that the Abolitionists and their tactics of nonresistance and persuasion had failed.

Reynolds takes great pains to rehabilitate Brown from his undeserved reputation as a dangerous crackpot He points out that Brown was a serious student of guerrilla warfare and slave revolts. And, as recent events in Afghanistan and elsewhere have shown, his ideas of deploying a small band of men for targeted military actions, followed by quick retreats into caves and mountains of the South, was not as far-fetched as it was made to appear. Borrowing the notion of the “good terrorist” from the novelist Doris Lessing, Reynolds forcefully and compellingly depicts a courageous man who was neither Christ-like martyr nor insane criminal. Additional information on John Brown, Abolitionist can be found here.

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Associate Professor Charles Riley of Baruch's English Department has two recent books to his credit. Late last year he published The Jazz Age in France, to positive reviews and continuing coverage in such venues as The New York Times, Forbes online, The San Francisco Chronicle, and National Public Radio, with an appearance scheduled for PBS as well. Published by the distinguished art house Harry N. Abrams, The Jazz Age in France is one of nine books Riley has written on aesthetics and art. It covers the mythic period of what Gertrude Stein famously named the lost generation, which included such figures as Hemingway, Dos Passos, Dorothy Parker, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Stravinsky, Picasso, Cocteau, Man Ray, Lger, Balanchine, Diaghilev, Eric Satie and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The era also gave us the defining Jazz Age look of the photographs of Jacques-Henri Lartigue and the early, groundbreaking collaboration of guitarist Django Rheinhart with violinist Stefan Grapelli, along with the beginning of the jazz diaspora of American black musicians to more enlightened European cities, a movement to which Riley dedicates a separate chapter. In all the book is a wide ranging examination of the aesthetic and cultural milieu that allowed such artistic innovation to be born and thrive. Meanwhile, not half a year later, Riley now has another book just published, Disability and the Media:  Prescriptions for Change, from the University Press of New England. Analyzing how the media depicts people with disabilities, the book draws on Riley's experience working on behalf of and writing about the disabled.

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Dave King has been teaching in the Baruch College English Department for 5 years, one of   53 adjunct lecturers who toil in obscurity. Well, no more.

Little, Brown has just published his first novel, The Ha-Ha, to extravagant reviews. A whirlwind book tour and contracts with foreign publishers in Japan, Israel and Germany have ensued.   The novel, described by one admirer as wonderfully accomplished and achingly full of heart, is inspired in part by King's older brother who was autistic.   Prior to publishing The Ha-Hathe strange-sounding title derives from English landscape gardeningKing worked at just about everything. He was variously a florist, bartender, cab driver and photographer's assistant. His first career was as a painter.   For a time, he and a partner produced murals and trompe- l'oeil decorations for clients that included Barbara Walters and Richard Nixon.

How has his life change since the publication of his book? Not a great deal, says King, though he admits all the hoopla is fun in ways I hadn't foreseen. I worked on it pretty much in isolation for seven years. The Ha-Ha went to a second printing three days before its official publication date of Jan. 11, 2004 and it's already required reading at places like Bennington, Brown and Columbia.   King, who calls himself a writing wonk, expects to be back at Baruch teaching freshmen composition soon. But who can tell for sure? Warner Brothers just bought the movie rights.

For additional information, go to the King's web site:

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Angela Anselmo , Director of Baruch's SEEK program and her sister Alma Rubal-Lopez, a professor at Brooklyn College have co-authored On Becoming Nuyoricans, a history of their personal and intellectual odyssey from the projects of the South Bronx to academic prominence. Part autobiography, part reflection on culture, curricula and pedagogy, the book details their uneasy relationship to both Puerto Rican and mainstream American culture.

Growing up as Nuyoricans, both girls struggled with conflicting cultural values to forge an identity and a sense of belonging in world that consistently defined them as outsiders. Among the questions they attempt to answer is why, against popular expectations for Puerto Rican girls in the 1950s and 60s, they both excelled academically, when so many of their peers fell by the wayside. Angela dropped out of Barnard because of an acute sense of not belonging in a world of privilege, but completed her undergraduate degree at City College. Both women eventually obtained Ph.Ds in Bilingual Developmental Psychology from Yeshiva University.

On Becoming Nuyoricans is published by Peter Lang as part of the series Counterpoints: Studies in the Postmodern Theory of Education.

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