Twilight in Hazard: An Appalachian Reckoning by Alan Maimon ’95 (Melville House)
For six years in the early 2000s, until the paper closed the bureau, Maimon was based in Hazard, Kentucky, as the regional correspondent for the Louisville Courier-Journal. He was tasked with covering an area about the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined and the stories he reported on, and revisits here, included the wildfire of the opioid epidemic, the falling away of the coal industry, and the continual grind of economic marginalization throughout eastern Kentucky. The result is an engrossing, character-driven look at a part of Appalachia that much of the country continues to misunderstand.
The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan ’00 (Simon & Schuster)
In this vivid, dystopian vision of present-day Philadelphia we meet Frida, an insomnia-plagued mom with an 18-month-old daughter, Harriet, and a fresh academic job. Divorced from her husband, Frida leaves Harriet alone “one very bad day” to scoot into work and grab a file. The neighbors hear the baby’s cries, Child Protective Services intervenes, and Harriet is sent to live with her father and his new girlfriend. A family court judge soon decides that Frida must be parceled off to a reform school with other bad mothers where they are forced, among other things, to practice their maternal skills on robot babies. A dark, propulsive look at both mothering and the notion of “flawless” parenting.
Now Comes Good Sailing: Writers Reflect on Henry David Thoreau edited by Andrew Blauner ’86 (Princeton University Press)
While you won’t find much of Henry David Thoreau himself in this collection, you will find 27 novelists, poets, critics, and one cartoonist circling his work and teasing out the ways his writing has looped, sometimes surprisingly, through their lives. The list includes Lauren Groff’s tale of rereading Walden after fleeing Florida for New Hampshire during the pandemic and Pico Iyer’s account of how Thoreau gave him a window into Japan. You’ll also find work by Jennifer Finney Boylan, A.O. Scott, Mona Simpson, Gerald Early, and Sandra Boynton. An intriguing compilation that could lead you to hunt down your own copy of Walden.