Arts & Culture


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Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood
James Baldwin
Duke University Press, $22.95

“Music all up and down this street, TJ runs it every day.” So begins a reissue of Baldwin’s vibrant “child’s story for adults” that follows four-year-old TJ, his friends, and the people they run into during a day in their life in 1970s Harlem. The book, originally published in 1976, had been long out of print when it was rediscovered in Baldwin’s papers at the Beinecke by a Yale undergraduate, Nicholas Boggs ’97 (now an assistant professor of English at New York University). Illustrated by the late French artist Yoran Cazac, the book tackles poverty, racism, police brutality, and alcohol and drug addiction, all without polemic.


These Truths: A History of the United States
Jill Lepore ’95PhD
W. W. Norton, $39.95

“The American experiment rests on three political ideas—‘these truths,’ Thomas Jefferson called them—political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people,” writes historian Lepore. Her sweeping new telling of the American story, from Columbus through Trump, is a brilliant, thoroughly readable examination of the “nature of the past”—a “stirring, terrifying, inspiring, troubling, earth-shaking epic.” It also explores Alexander Hamilton’s fundamental question: will we govern ourselves by “reflection and choice” or by “accident and force”?


Cheating: Ethics in Everyday Life
Deborah L. Rhode ’74, ’77JD
Oxford University Press, $27.95

Almost everybody cheats, from US presidents to preschoolers who filch school supplies. But Americans “appear to be worrying about it less,” writes Rhode, a legal ethicist at Stanford. She addresses the causes, costs (which she estimates at $1 trillion in this country alone), and possible ways to counter “cultures of dishonesty.” Some areas on her list: sports, organizations, taxes, academia, copyright infringement, insurance and mortgage, and, of course, marriage.


Every Day Is Extra
John Kerry ’66
Simon and Schuster, $35

Over a long and distinguished career, Kerry has remained “an optimist because of the people I’ve met and what life has taught me.” This book is a memoir of a wide-ranging life: Secretary of State, US Senator, Vietnam War hero, and Democratic presidential nominee, among other accomplishments. Kerry has worked, he writes, to avoid ever wasting “the gift of an extra day by sitting on the sidelines indifferent to a problem.” The journey continues: characteristically, Kerry’s last word in the book is “onward.”


On Desperate Ground: The Marines at the Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle
Hampton Sides ’84
Doubleday, $30

“War,” said historian Barbara Tuchman, “is the unfolding of miscalculations.” This is a history of the pivotal battle for control of North Korea’s Chosin Reservoir, which took place in the subzero winter of 1950. Sides tells a gripping story of the grit, heroism, and ingenuity of the US soldiers—try to imagine building a critical bridge and ballasting it with corpses—in their all-out fight against overwhelming Chinese forces. He also covers the near-disastrous hubris of General Douglas MacArthur and his surrogate, Major General Edward Almond, who declared at one point that the Chinese didn’t pose a problem because “there aren’t two Chinese divisions in the whole of North Korea!” He was seriously mistaken.


The Dependents: A Novel
Katharine Dion ’02
Little, Brown, $26

At first, when Gene Ash is tasked with writing a eulogy for his wife of half a century, all he can come up with is this: something definite was lost. Through his bittersweet but utterly honest examination of the life they’d made together, Gene, who considers himself an “irritable old man,” reconciles with his estranged daughter and transcends “everything contained in the warped bundle above his heart: sorrow, fear, regret, diminished hope, irritation, disappointment.”

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