Learn about new and notable titles from two GSAS alumnae. For more books, see the July 2017 reading list.
World War II and its aftermath shook up everything, ending the Depression, undermining colonialism, igniting the Cold War, and extruding international bodies like the UN and IMF. Sarah Fishman (PhD ’87, history) analyzes another long-wave change catalyzed by the war. From Vichy to the Sexual Revolution: Gender and Family Life in Postwar France (Oxford University Press, 2017) recounts the profound cultural changes taking place in France during and after WWII. She draws on two main sources: case files of the juvenile courts and advice columns from magazines like Marie Claire and Elle. The Vichy government insisted that women confine themselves to marriage and motherhood. With the Liberation, the nation recoiled from Vichy’s conservative values, granting women the vote in 1944. (Women also found new educational and work opportunities.) By the 1950s, prosperity emerged as a new factor transforming family life and gender roles. The ideas of Sigmund Freud, Simone de Beauvoir, and Alfred Kinsey challenged old assumptions. Rising divorce rates, increased access to contraception, and the first oblique references to homosexuality suggested new paths opening for French women and French families.
Fair Sun (David R. Godine, 2017) is a poetry collection by Susan Barba (AM ’00, Near Eastern languages and civilizations, PhD ’06, comparative literature), Barba often invokes nature, sometimes with dark undertones:
How close they are to one another,
the garden, the fire pit, the dark groves,
. . . the golden orbs of apricots,
the darkness of the dirt that feeds them.
“Andranik,” a dialog between a young girl and her immigrant grandfather (who survived the Armenian genocide), is particularly haunting. Language and history separate the two. Her English is fluent; his, a three-legged race, tied to a stranger. Still, his memories phosphoresce—like old bones on a moonless night—lighting the darkness:
[Torkom and I.] Like brothers . . . all the time together. . . .
[The Turks] want to make fun. They [set out] two guns . . . In one . . . live bullet. In one . . . no bullet. . . . They say, “Go get a gun.” . . . And ordered [us], shoot. I shoot and killed Torkom. . . .
So. . . . They make enjoy.