Category Archives: Author Essay

What makes Unfair an ideal first year experience selection?

9780770437763A checklist from Adam Benforado on what makes his Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Justice (Crown, June 2015) ideal for common reading:

√ Student Engagement.   It’s impossible to choose a book that all students will find interesting and relevant, but Unfair comes awfully close. Crime and the responses to crime define our lives—the paths we walk, the rules we follow, the taxes we pay, the shows we watch. And there is something about criminal law stories that hold us by the edge of our seat. The cases I explore have all the drama of Law & Order or CSI episodes, but they’re real and they raise compelling questions: What could lead an otherwise upstanding attorney to conceal a critical piece of evidence from the other side? Why would a person confess to a crime she didn’t commit when under no physical duress? Is it possible to tell whether someone is guilty by looking at a scan of his brain? The answers from psychology and neuroscience are often just as riveting. Continue reading

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A Father Speaks Out About His Transgender Daughter & Their Family Journey

9780812995411By Wayne Maines, father of Nicole Maines.  The Maines family is the focus of Amy Ellis Nutt’s Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family (Random House, October 2015)

Recently I had the opportunity to speak at Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Maine. Before the lecture I spent an hour walking around their beautiful campus, thinking about how to frame my discussion about equality, harassment and my family without getting too emotional. I was concerned that breaking into tears might distract from my message, which acknowledges that we have indeed come far these past five years, but further stresses that there is still a great deal of work to be done.

I am the proud father of identical twins: one is a boy and one is a girl. My beautiful daughter Nicole is transgender. This talk was important to me, a chance to meet with senior staff, middle management and students and have a conversation about transgender rights in schools. Continue reading

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“Genius” Grant Winner Matthew Desmond on Eviction, Poverty and Profit in the American City

9780553447439By Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown, March 2016)

Request an advanced reader’s copy: email rhacademic@penguinrandomhouse.com with your name, college and course information.

I began this project because I wanted to write a different kind of book about poverty in America. Instead of focusing exclusively on poor people or poor places, I began searching for a process that involved poor and well-off people alike. Eviction—the forced removal of families from their homes—was such a process. Little did I know, at the outset, how immense this problem was, or how devastating its consequences. Continue reading

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The Hidden Opportunities of Rejection

9780804141383By Jia Jang, author of Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection (Harmony, April 2015)

We all fear rejection, no matter where we are in our lives. Some of us get used to it eventually, and some of us never lose the fear. Yet for college students, after they leave the protective comfort of their families, rejections start to have a real impact on their lives. Whether it’s social rejections within peer groups, romantic rejections from dates, or career rejections from potential employers, the experience of rejection can all leave long-lasting pain and effect. Continue reading

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The Power of Facing Uncertainty

169051_holmes_jamieBy Jamie Holmes, author of Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing (Crown, 2015)

One of my favorite college professors once offered a bit of wisdom. The best moments in life, he told me, are those where you’re so challenged and engaged that you can feel your capacities growing in real time. In my own life, these periods—some of the most precious—have also been the most overwhelming and bizarre: moving to the south side of Chicago, being thrown into a German school at 11, or teaching high school in Romania. It always felt that I wasn’t so much living these experiences, as that they were somehow invading my life, disputing the way I saw the world, and changing me forever. For many students, freshman year feels that way. It certainly did for me. Continue reading

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Author Ron Suskind reflects on A Hope in the Unseen: a common reading classic, now more relevant than ever

9780767901260By Ron Suskind, author of A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League (Broadway Books, 1999)

Two decades ago, I went to the toughest school  I could find in America. It happened to be in my hometown, Washington, DC, where I was the national affairs reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Bill Clinton was President, an economic boom was beginning, and despite the OJ Simpson verdict and Rodney King’s plea to “just get along,” there was reasoned  optimism that progress in race relations was underway, slow but steady, with a growing African-American middle class and opportunities borne of affirmative action. I found a young man, a big dreamer with a dad in jail and a struggling mom, and followed him, his family, and an ensemble of characters, several of them white and privileged, for four years. The yield-a Pulitzer  Prize­ winning series and then best-selling book, A Hope in the Unseen-were works that I hoped would last, and they did. Like The Other Wes Moore or Bryan Stevenson‘s Just Mercy, Hope was a favorite of the common reading experience and went on to sell a half-million copies. Continue reading

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Each Of Us Is More Than The Worst Thing We’ve Ever Done: Just Mercy With Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson -- credit Nina SubinBy Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel & Grau, October 2014)

My grandmother was the daughter of people who were enslaved in Caroline County, Virginia. She was born in the 1880s, her parents in the 1840s, and the legacy of slavery very much shaped her and the things she would say to me. When I visited my grandmother, she would hug me so tightly I could barely breathe. After a little while, she would ask me, “Bryan, do you still feel me hugging you?” If I said yes, she’d let me be; if I said no, she would assault me again. I said no a lot because it made me happy to be wrapped in her formidable arms. She never tired of pulling me to her. “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close,” she told me all the time. Continue reading

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