Up into the sky!
“There is a way to be good again,” Khaled Hosseini ’88 wrote nearly a decade ago in his first novel, The Kite Runner. A tale of friendship and betrayal, violence and cruelty—and, ultimately, redemption—set against the backdrop of the Afghan civil war and the rise of the Taliban, that book has sold millions of copies worldwide and became an international sensation. Now Hosseini has teamed up with artists Fabio Celoni and Mirka Andolfo to adapt the story into a graphic novel. Published in the U.S. by Riverhead in 2011, this visually rich retelling seems a natural fit for a plot that soars from intimate to epic. Plus it gives Hosseini, a professed fan of Marvel and DC comics (Daredevil, Spider-Man, Iron Man) as a boy—before he moved on to Watchmen and the Dark Knight series—a slot on the bookshelf alongside some of his favorite novels (“graphic or not,” he says): Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Art Spiegelman’s Maus. Steven Boyd Saum
White sheets, dark Past
What does it mean to be a true American? That question has animated more than one political movement over the years—and not just in the past. In the case of the 1920s-era Ku Klux Klan, a revival of a movement that first flourished immediately after the Civil War, “one hundred percent American” meant: white, native born, and Protestant.
Many historians have long thought that “New Era” Klan members who were magnetized by this view were uneducated, rural malcontents who lived outside the cultural mainstream. But as Thomas R. Pegram ’78 shows in One Hundred Percent American: The Rebirth and Decline of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s (Rowman and Littlefield, 2011), the moneyed, educated elites haven’t been quite right in the way they often dismissed the Klan—as a monolithic force of hate that offered its constituents a comforting unitary black-and-white explanation of a more complicated, multi-hued reality. Recent scholarship has overturned both of these outlooks, and a signal virtue of Pegram’s book is how he draws on remarkable, locally focused scholarship to write, as he says, “a new comprehensive portrait of the New Era Invisible Empire that recognizes the diversity of the Klan movement while charting the shared patterns that determined the organization’s rise and fall.”
That portrait, which thoughtfully probes the Invisible Empire’s mania for policing the boundaries of racial and cultural identity, its use of violence, its collaboration with state and federal authorities to enforce the era’s prohibition laws, its unusual advocacy of universal public education standards, and its national political ambitions, offers many surprises. According to Pegram, a professor of history at Loyola University Maryland, careful research shows that hooded-empire violence was more often visited upon straying white Protestants than on blacks, Catholics, or immigrants. Its recruiting efforts relied on remarkably sophisticated use of modern mass marketing techniques. Its members were mostly middle class, drawn to the organization because it “promised fellowship, commercial ties, sociability, and a community to its restricted membership.” It allied itself with progressive education advocates like the National Education Association in an unsuccessful bid to create a U.S. cabinet-level Department of Education, because it believed that a national education policy was the best way to inculcate its values among Protestants and eliminate Catholic parochial schools. It mobilized millions of members to elect state and local representatives friendly to its program.
But the Klan was riven with contradictions. The organization’s drive for national power caused it to “drift dangerously away from the grassroots political concerns that remained the anchor of hooded political power in the 1920s.” Although it won elections, it proved incapable of passing meaningful legislation. Corruption and the use of violence, especially in the South and Southwest, deflated its appeal. By the late 1920s, the Klan was a shadow of its once formidable self.
History is always an imperfect mirror to the present. But One Hundred Percent American gives cause for serious reflection because, as its author writes, “the American profile is now broader than the native-born Protestant characteristics defended by the Invisible Empire, but disagreement over the nature of American identity persists into our time.” Alden Mudge
Failure Is Impossible
“Papa took my brothers hiking, but not me,” laments young Bessie. “It’s not ladylike,” one of her brothers chides. The year is 1896, and things are about to take a mighty turn for the 10-year old narrator of Marching with Aunt Susan (Peachtree, 2011), by Claire Rudolf Murphy ’73. Yes, Bessie is stuck at home in Berkeley helping her mother prepare for tea. But the
ladies who visit are coming for the suffrage tea, and today’s guest of honor is Susan B. Anthony—who is leading the campaign to give women the vote in California. Anthony informs Bessie, who’s smart as a whip, that when she was a girl, “My teacher thought only boys were smart enough to learn long division.” Having sipped the elixir of change, young Bessie is part of the campaign to amend California’s constitution and give women the vote—and, she hopes, help transform the world. She visits a factory where young girls labor at sewing in a dark room; she attends rallies and carries a banner in marches—and she gets pelted with eggs.
The tale for children Murphy tells here, beautifully illustrated by Stacey Schuett, draws from research into the papers of Bessie Keith Smith, who was 10 years old that summer—and who learned a lesson
about persistence. When California men voted on the issue of women’s suffrage in November 1896, they defeated the amendment 137,099 to 110,355. Susan B. Anthony died 10 years later. California women only got the vote in 1911; and women across the nation were enfranchised with the 19th Amendment in 1920. As for little Bessie, initially denied the chance to go hiking, arduous journeys lay in her future. Murphy writes in a postscript: “For many years, Bessie, her father, and her brothers took month-long mountain hikes and snowshoe trips in the Sierra Nevada mountains, sometimes up to 300 miles.” Steven Boyd Saum
Love, American Muslim style
Out since Valentine’s Day (no accident, that), Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women (Soft Skull Press, 2012), is an anthology like no other. Twenty-five women share tales of love and courtship, romance and sex—which also makes this an exploration of the tensions between generations and the restrictive mores of parents and communities—and daughters who have to find their own way in the wider world. Huda Al-Marashi ’98 contributes “Otherwise Engaged,” an excerpt from a longer piece; it’s a tale, told with tenderness and warmth, of a young Iraqi couple and their families navigating rules of clan and caste. Of the stories as a whole, Reza Aslan ’95, the author of No God but God, assesses: “A beautiful collection that reminds us all not only of the diversity of the American Muslim community, but the universality of the human condition, especially when it comes to something as magical and complicated as love.” Steven Boyd Saum
And also note…
Bob Dougherty ’48 shares author credit on Images of America: Woodside (Arcadia, 2011), a collection of historical snapshots that tell the story of this quaint community south of San Francisco. Woodside prides itself on not having a stoplight; the one-time logging community is also home to the likes of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, and Buck’s tavern is renowned for being the place where many a venture capital deal has been sealed. Before that—and ere it was a 19th-century retreat for wealthy city-folk, including coffee baron James S. Folger—it was home to Mexican and Spanish settlers—and, before them all, the Ohlone people.
Mark Stiving MBA ’92 has spent 15 years helping companies implement value-based pricing strategies. He brings that acumen to bear in Impact Pricing: Your Blueprint for Driving Profits (Entrepreneur Press, 2011).
John Hall ’61 survived melanoma, and now the 71-year-old shares his regimen and holistic approach in Beating Cancer Can Be Fun (AuthorHouse, 2011). Hall is a family therapist in Roseville, Calif. Jon Teel ’12