Connecticut College Magazine · Fall 2012


Jennifer Evans '06 trains Dillon, a capuchin monkey, how to be an assistant and companion to individuals with disabilities. Photo courtesy of Helping Hands.

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The latest reads from Connecticut College faculty and alumni

by Phoebe Hall

Sick from Freedom
By Jim Downs
2012, Oxford University Press, $29.95
Downs, an assistant professor of history at the College, has garnered media attention across the U.S. and in Europe with his new book, which documents the deaths of hundreds of thousands of former slaves following the Emancipation Proclamation. Downs uncovers a smallpox epidemic that spread in the wake of the Civil War and was exacerbated by a lack of medical care, malnutrition, extreme poverty and poor living conditions.

The health crisis prompted the federal government to create the country's first national health care system. At the height of the epidemic, the Medical Division of the Freedmen's Bureau built and operated 40 hospitals throughout the South. But an exact death toll is difficult to pin down, Downs says, due to shoddy record keeping in black hospitals. “No one talked about black bodies,” he says.

“Sick From Freedom” was reviewed not only in national newspapers such as the New York Times, but also international media, including The Guardian and The Daily Mail in London and news outlets in Greece and Czech Republic. Steven Hahn, the 2004 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for history, wrote that Downs' book is “a fresh and ambitious account of the Civil War era that not only interrogates the transition from slavery to freedom in new and unsettling ways, but also invites us to rethink the geographical dimensions of Reconstruction.” Read more

The Aaron/Q'uo Dialogues
By Barbara Brodsky-Rothbart '64 and Carla L. Rueckert
2011, North Atlantic Books, $24.95
Brodsky, who teaches meditation, and Rueckert co-channel a conversation between their spiritual guides and share their teachings on living with more compassion and awareness.

Dear Teen Me
Co-edited by E. Kristin Anderson (Emily Morse '05)
November 2012, Zest Books, $14.99
In this Junior Library Guild selection, young adult authors (including Morse) write letters to their teenage selves with advice on everything from love and proms to anorexia and child abuse. The book is based on the popular blog

Healthy Herbs: Fact versus Fiction
By Myrna Chandler Goldstein '70 and Mark A. Goldstein
2012, Greenwood, $58
The authors examine health claims associated with popular herbs, from açaí to watercress, condensing clinical findings as well as the history of use to help readers make informed decisions.

Imperfect Heroes
By D.J. Kelley '76
2012, Aviva Publishing, $24.95
When Chris Osborne's wife leaves him, he turns to online dating — and finds himself embroiled in a thrilling web of romantic opportunities. Through all his comic misadventures, he never loses hope.

Silly Ghosts
By Janet Lawler '74
2011, Jumping Jack Press, $19.95
The friendly ghouls and Lawler's simple rhymes make this “haunted pop-up book” a spooky good time for the littlest trick-or-treaters.

The Food and Cooking of Scandinavia
By Judith H. Dern '71, et al.
2011, Lorenz Books, $35
Dern, who has lived and traveled extensively in Scandinavia, and her co-authors explore the cuisine of Sweden, Norway and Denmark in this beautifully illustrated book featuring 150 authentic recipes.

Animal Programs in Prison
By Gennifer Furst '97
2011, FirstForumPress, $59.95
Furst, an associate professor of sociology at William Paterson University of New Jersey, examines the growing practice of incorporating animals into prison programming and connects this trend with research on how humans benefit from interacting with animals in many different settings.

Furst identifies eight kinds of prison animal programs: visitations to prisons by companion animals, wildlife rehabilitation, livestock care, pet adoption by prisoners, service animal socialization and training, vocational training in animal care, community service, and programs that combine two or more approaches. While recognizing that some of these initiatives may be seen as “coddling” lawbreakers, Furst believes that animal programs have the potential to transform some inmates' lives and reduce recidivism. “Having inmates and animals help each other in a symbiotic relationship, regardless of the motivation for establishing such a program, makes it possible to achieve a win-win-win situation,” she writes.

Written for criminal justice scholars and practitioners, Furst's book reviews the history of prison programming and its connection to societal trends and events. One chilling example is the creation of enormous prison farms in the post-Civil War South, where black prisoners cared for farm animals and raised crops under brutal conditions. “These plantations were hardly transformed from places were slaves were once kept — they simply became prison farms where the same people, now called convicts, were kept and put to work, which some argued was actually good for them,” she writes.

Reproductive Justice
Edited by Joan C. Chrisler
2012, Praeger, $58
In this collection of essays, Chrisler, the Class of '43 Professor of Psychology, challenges Western assumptions that women have power over their own bodies and the ability to choose what happens to them.
“The book takes a global view of reproductive justice … as women's rights and ability to exercise those rights and to access needed health, counseling and educational services vary greatly between (and even within) countries,” Chrisler says.

Essay topics include abortion, infertility, sex trafficking and female infanticide. As editor, Chrisler outlined the book, sought experts to write original chapters, and wrote the introduction and afterword, in which she urges readers to know their rights and take action.

Chrisler, who joined the Connecticut College faculty in 1987, has studied reproductive justice for 30 years. In addition to her scholarly work, she is a longtime activist with reproductive rights organizations and is regularly consulted by media on issues related to women's health and psychology, including body image, eating disorders, menstruation and menopause, as well as reproductive justice.

In June, the New York State Psychological Association selected Chrisler to receive the 2012 Margaret Floy Washburn Award, in recognition of her significant contributions to areas of feminist concern. Read more.

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