Category Archives: Author Essay

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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Helping Students Navigate the New Career Marketplace

4980_citrin_james_mby James M. Citrin, author of The Career Playbook: Essential Advice for Today’s Aspiring Young Professionals (Crown Business, April 2015)

The career marketplace for new graduates and millennials (the approximately 82 million people born between 1981 and about 2000) has never been more competitive, unstructured, and difficult to navigate.

For every appealing entry-level professional position in a given industry, there are dozens, often hundreds, and sometimes thousands of candidates. The acceptance rates at today’s most competitive colleges and universities—Stanford and Harvard—are roughly 5%; very long odds. But the number of applicants who receive job offers from today’s most prestigious and largest companies is even tougher—often 1 to 2%. Continue reading

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How to “Create Value in the World” with Zero to One

9780804139298By Blake Masters, co-author of Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (Crown Business, September 2014)

What important truth do very few people agree with you on? It sounds like an easy question. It isn’t. Wrestle with it for a few moments and you may be tempted to give up, but don’t. Every great business—indeed, every way in which the future will be different and better than the present—is rooted in a good answer to this question. Contrarian truths may be hard to find, but in a world in which so much of what we do is to simply repeat what’s been done before, creating new value means thinking from first principles, not following the crowd. Continue reading

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The Internet Society: How Our Online Lives Reveal Who We Really Are

9780345812582By Christian Rudder, author of Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) (Crown, September 2014)

My fellow first-years and I were the first incoming class at Harvard to get official email addresses from the school. I remember thinking, what nerd is going to send me an electronic letter? Who wouldn’t just call me? What is this garbage? It was 1993. That fall, I used my roommate’s Mosaic browser to look up guitar tab for a Steve Miller song and then, my curiosity about “The Joker” well satisfied, pretty much forgot about the Internet. Continue reading

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Girls as Boys: Disguising Identity & Changing Gender in Afghanistan

9780307952493By Jenny Nordberg, author of The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan (Crown, September 2014)

Bacha posh, the practice of dressing a girl like a boy, offers a window into a system of severe gender apartheid—a system that exists not only in Afghanistan, but in many countries where women are oppressed. The Underground Girls of Kabul is about disguising oneself to survive in such a place.

Resistance to this kind of patriarchy has occurred throughout history when women were excluded from education and unable to freely choose who they married, or whether to have children. Many girls and women beyond Afghanistan, and in our own history, have had to pretend to be boys and men to reach for rights that society dictated were not theirs.

I wanted this book to be urgent. Because I am, frankly, angry that my own education did not include a conversation about why women have historically been seen as less valuable and less important than men—nor where these ideas come from. It was always presented as an accepted, unexamined fact. In my book, I’ve searched for the roots of these beliefs, in religion, biology and culture. Continue reading

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Being Both : Reflections on Interfaith Relationships and the Spiritual Selves of Students

Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith FamilyBy Susan Katz Miller, author of Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family (Beacon Press, October 2014.)

Arriving at college, students plunge into interfaith and intercultural engagement, tagging along with new friends to mass or Hillel or a Holi celebration. Sometimes these friendships transcend invisible boundaries to become deeper interfaith relationships. And sometimes, whether or not institutions and family approve, those relationships include dating, and love.

And so it was that last fall, a Muslim student dating a Christian went to a college chaplain for guidance. The chaplain realized that she had no real training in pastoral counseling for interfaith relationships. So she invited me to campus for a Brown Bag on interfaith dating, and an evening conversation on interfaith families. In an extraordinary collaboration, the campus Hillel (Jewish students), Newman Association (Catholic students), Muslim Students Association, religious studies department, and library all co-sponsored the visit.

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Human Nature During War: An Essay by Anthony Marra

9780770436421By Anthony Marra, author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Hogarth 2014)

My interest in Chechnya began when I was in college. I spent a semester of my junior year in St. Petersburg, where I lived down the street from a Russian military academy. Sixteen- and seventeen-year-old cadets, dressed in sky-blue uniforms, marched in formation around the neighborhood each afternoon. Several blocks away, outside a metro station, men a few years older than the cadets gathered to panhandle at rush hour. These men also wore military uniforms, though theirs weren’t as clean or so neatly pressed. A number had lost their legs and wore hemmed trousers. These men were Russian veterans of the Chechen conflict that the cadets might one day join. When the cadets marched passed, they stared at the veterans as if peering into their own uncertain futures, while the veterans looked back with pity. Continue reading

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