books – On Wisconsin For UW-Madison Alumni and Friends Mon, 25 Mar 2019 17:14:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Marvels of Cartooning Mon, 27 Aug 2018 17:33:27 +0000 Jeff Butler looks over students' drawing in a classroom

Andy Manis

Just like the superheroes he creates, artist Jeff Butler x’18 provided powerful inspiration when he led a workshop on drawing cartoon characters in July at One Alumni Place.

Butler, whose past jobs included illustrating the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, leads courses in the graphic design and illustration program at Madison College. He’s also returned to campus to complete his degree 36 years after leaving to pursue his career.

Butler began the Wisconsin Alumni Association event by detailing how he turned a childhood obsession with comic books into a career. Participants then tried exercises such as drawing the Statue of Liberty with their eyes closed. As the class concentrated on simple strategies to draw figures and other lessons, the room grew quiet, punctuated only by Butler’s delighted laughter and comments of “Wow,” and “Awesome!” as he examined their work.

“It was wonderful to see Badgers of all ages who came out to learn more about Jeff’s story and share in his talents,” says McKenzie Glynn-Zdrale ’00, the Alumni Park and Place program director. “It was a fun night for everyone.”

Len Mormino ’91 attended the workshop with his daughter Sophia, an aspiring artist of 13. Mormino had planned to spend the time working on his laptop, but he was drawn into participating. “I was glad I did it,” he says, adding that he enjoyed watching Sophia find the inspiration and confidence she needed through the workshop. Her takeaway message, he says, was, “Stick with your art, and you can grow it into unpredictably great things.”

One Alumni Place is the visitor center for the new Alumni Park. See for more information and a schedule of events.

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Scary Story Mon, 27 Aug 2018 17:33:26 +0000 Illustrated cover of book, "Don't Look Behind You!"

The UW’s Science Hall inspired the spooky setting for a onetime professor’s book.

Almost 75 years ago, the preoccupations of World War II left UW professor Samuel Rogers with an acute case of writer’s block.

Creepy inspiration struck when this leading scholar of the French novelist Honoré de Balzac — and a respected writer — got to thinking “what a lugubrious place Science Hall was.” The result was Don’t Look Behind You!, a novel that came to a terrifying end with “someone being chased by a homicidal maniac up through the stairs of Science Hall,” Rogers explained in a UW Archives oral history about his years in Madison.

Anyone who’s opened the heavy oak doors of the Romanesque Revival building, climbed the winding staircase — past the exposed brick walls bearing the ghostly signatures of students from long ago — to a tiny landing on the top floor where a pair of locked doors seem to lead nowhere, can appreciate his impulse.

In the 1920s, when Rogers began teaching at the UW, Science Hall housed the university’s anatomy department. First-year medical students and the cadavers they worked on jointly occupied a series of windowless rooms on the fourth and fifth floors — a fact that no doubt further inflamed his imagination.

In the summer of 1943, he crafted a Hitchcock-style psychological thriller set in a fictional Midwestern university town with lakes and many twisting paths through the woods. For a would-be victim, he fashioned a fetching nursing student named Daphne.

As possible suspects for the psychotic killer, he stocked a faculty lounge with maladjusted characters, including a professor way too immersed in his studies of abnormal psychology. After a series of frightful walks through dark woods, the ending comes as promised: Daphne is chased up the stairs to the upper reaches of Science Hall.

The tale caught the attention of Alfred Hitchcock himself, and the director bought the rights to turn it into a television script for his eponymous NBC drama. The 1962 episode starred a Hitchcock favorite, Vera Miles (who played Janet Leigh’s sister in Psycho), and remained quite faithful to the book. As for Rogers, Don’t Look Behind You! sold well enough to encourage him to write two more mysteries while continuing to serve on the UW faculty until his retirement in 1960.

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Misdemeanorland Mon, 27 Aug 2018 17:33:10 +0000 Illustrated cover of book, "Misdemeanorland"By the early 1990s, misdemeanor arrests began to outpace felony arrests in New York. Now its most common criminal-justice encounters are for misdemeanors — not more serious felonies — and the most common outcome is not prison, according to Issa Kohler-Hausmann ’00. Kohler-Hausmann, author of Misdemeanorland: Criminal Courts and Social Control in an Age of Broken Windows Policing, an associate professor of law and sociology at Yale University, asserts in her book that this rise in misdemeanor arrests is largely due to the broken windows policing model, which contends that more serious crimes will be avoided if police enforce sanctions for low-level offenses.

Photo of Issa Kohler-Hausmann

Issa Kohler-Hausmann Sam Hollenshead

In Misdemeanorland, Kohler-Hausmann offers a look at the people whose lives are surveilled by New York City’s lower criminal courts, drawing upon fieldwork, interviews, and analysis. She argues that, under broken windows policing, lower courts have mostly adopted a managerial role in which monitoring and control outside of the courtroom dominate. Although media attention often falls on felony convictions and mass incarceration, Kohler-Hausmann points out that a significant number of people are subjected to police hassle and court scrutiny, even though about half of these cases lead to some form of dismissal.

Kohler-Hausmann writes: “I conclude by arguing that the study of mass misdemeanors — like that of mass incarceration — ultimately points out larger political questions about what role we, as a democratic society, will countenance for criminal justice in establishing social order.”

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Lake Invaders Mon, 27 Aug 2018 17:33:09 +0000 Graphical illustration of the United States showing the spread of zebra mussels through the Great Lakes

Map: Bergserg/Istock; Illustration By Danielle Lawry

“It would be hard to design a better invasive species delivery system than the Great Lakes overseas freighter,” journalist Dan Egan writes in The Death and Life of the Great Lakes — this year’s selection for Go Big Read, UW–Madison’s common reading program. Egan’s page-turning narrative details how zebra and quagga mussels native to the Caspian Sea came to wreak environmental havoc: disrupting the aquatic food chain, fueling deadly algae blooms, and clogging intake pipes. Their “front door” to the Great Lakes is the St. Lawrence Seaway, which, beginning in 1959, gave ships from around the world access to 8,000 miles of U.S. and Canadian interior coastline. As freighters travel along the system of locks, they take on cargo and empty ballast tanks of water picked up in foreign ports — releasing small plants and animals from the ocean along with it. Invasive species have also sneaked out the “back door” of the Great Lakes, by way of the Chicago canal linked to the Mississippi River basin. Quagga mussels, called “the STD of the sea,” have found their way west to Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States.

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Digital Library Wed, 23 May 2018 14:24:06 +0000 The UW Libraries house more than 10 million paper volumes (i.e., “books”), and they add more than 60,000 each year. But demand for digital resources is growing even faster. Over the last decade, the number of downloads of digital book chapters has shot up: in 2017, there were 33 times as many downloads as in 2007. Last year, the UW Libraries’ info labs (which check out laptops, iPads, and other digital resources) were used 368,569 times — an average of more than 1,000 visits a day. The library’s own website (which includes access to the digital catalog) was UW–Madison’s second-most-popular site, after

Infographic showing statistics of how often the UW-Madison Digital Library resources are used

Illustration: Danielle Lawry

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Empowering Mothers Wed, 23 May 2018 14:24:06 +0000 Book cover showing closeup of woman's face, title that reads "Infamous Mothers"

Infamous Mothers: Women Who’ve Gone Through the Belly of Hell … and Brought Something Good Back is a coffee-table book that features 20 intergenerational caretakers who have overcome personal hurdles and now make a difference in their communities. Its publication gives stigmatized mothers a way to tell their own stories and demonstrate their intrinsic value, challenging and adding complexity to stereotypes about teen mothers, mothers who abused drugs, mothers who engaged in sex work, and mothers who have survived domestic abuse or sexual trauma.

The book is part of a business called Infamous Mothers, founded by Sagashus Levingston MA’09, PhDx’16, herself a mother of six. Her startup — which also trains businesses and offers workshops, classes, and public speaking — strives to empower mothers.

“I don’t just talk about the importance of more mothers — especially marginalized ones — becoming CEOs, doctors, scientists, business owners, etc. I talk about strategies to make it happen,” Levingston writes on her website. “Equally important, I talk about what’s at stake if we don’t.”

Levingston’s book and business were inspired by her doctoral dissertation, “Infamous Mothers: Bad Moms Doing Extraordinary Things.”

The book, which concludes with a study guide, is marketed for use in university coursework. “For me, that is my way of getting back into academia — for the books to end up there, and for me to do speaking on campuses,” she told the Wisconsin State Journal in October.

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Hoopes Sisters Illustrations Thu, 22 Feb 2018 19:12:36 +0000 Susan Barribeau ’77, MA’91 had no time to waste when she came across a listing for 25 sketchbooks that had belonged to Margaret and Florence Hoopes. She recognized their names immediately.

It was 2008, and Barribeau — then the new English-language humanities librarian and literary-collections curator for UW–Madison Libraries — had struck gold. She knew the sisters as one of her favorite illustrating teams through her personal interest in collecting readers from the early 20th century. Some of their work appeared in the Alice and Jerry children’s books, similar to the well-known Dick and Jane series.

Barribeau acquired the set before anyone else could claim it, thinking the sketches would be a fitting addition to the William B. Cairns Collection of American Women Writers 1650–1940, housed in Special Collections in Memorial Library.

The sketchbooks contain a range of the sisters’ work starting around the 1920s. The artists, who lived together in Philadelphia, often practiced drawing using neighborhood children for models, and they included thorough notes with their sketches.

But this acquisition was just the beginning.

In 2012, Barribeau received an email from the owner of the Hoopes’ former house, saying that a box owned by the sisters was still sitting in the attic. Barribeau visited the home and retrieved the box — which held the sisters’ correspondence with publishers such as Row, Peterson, and Company and Houghton Mifflin Company — for the UW’s collection. While there, she also met a neighbor who knew one of the sisters.

“It was a series of odd things, which then continued with people contacting me through the years about this collection,” Barribeau says.

She has since met relatives — some of whom live in Madison — who have come to Special Collections to see the work. During one of their visits, they revealed a UW connection: although the sisters never married, their brother did, and one of his daughters married the late Saul Epstein, who was a physics professor at the university.

The Hoopes collection continues to expand beyond Barribeau’s expectations. Just when she thinks, “Okay, now I have them all,” she says, “I keep finding new series or new publications.”

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Emma Straub MFA’08 Thu, 22 Feb 2018 19:12:36 +0000 Emma Straub stands in front of storefront sign that reads "Books Are Magic."

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times/Redux

A Store Grows In Brooklyn

The planning took months. For a brief moment, when emotions ran high, they almost called it off. But when the big day arrived, it was glorious. Some might even say magical.

“The opening itself felt very much like a wedding,” says best-selling novelist Emma Straub MFA’08, owner of Books Are Magic, a New York City bookstore. “All of a sudden, the doors were open, and people could come in, and we just hugged everyone.”

Straub and her husband, artist Michael Fusco-Straub, opened Books Are Magic this summer, near their home in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood. The store is designed to welcome everyone from families to the literary community — and the stock is pointedly curated.

“My goal when we opened was to be a feminist, female-author- centric bookstore,” Straub says. “I want to be a loudspeaker for women writers and other marginalized writers, writers who are often not taken seriously or not given space on a bookstore shelf.”

The store carries Straub’s own New York Times best sellers — 2016’s Modern Lovers and 2014’s The Vacationers — as well as her 2012 Wisconsin-influenced debut novel, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures. Alumni will recognize a Madison flavor in her 2011 collection, Other People We Married; she wrote many of the short stories while in the UW’s creative writing program.

At UW–Madison, Straub was delighted to study with author Lorrie Moore, whom she describes as “one of my favorites of all time.” As a graduate, she’s the latest in a line of distinguished alumni that includes her parents, Susan Bitker Straub ’66, a literary advocate, and Peter Straub ’65, a best-selling horror novelist.

The bookstore is younger than Straub’s two preschool-aged sons, but no less demanding of attention. Her husband serves as the store’s first responder (think leaky roofs or shoplifters); Straub hosts dozens of fellow authors for events, and she’s hiring booksellers so she can devote time to writing her next novel.

Straub says they had just started planning for Books Are Magic during the November 2016 election season. Amid the national mood of political strife, the couple wondered if their timing was right.

“When the election happened, we thought, ‘Oh, God, no, the world is falling apart. We can’t open a bookstore; it’s too risky,’ ” she recalls. “That was for, like, three hours, and then we realized, ‘No, this is exactly why we need a bookstore.’ It’s even more important now.”

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A Civil Rights Pioneer Wed, 21 Feb 2018 16:54:02 +0000 "Justice for All" book cover

The influence of Lloyd Barbee LLB’56, a civil rights leader and lawyer in the 1960s and ’70s, lives on through Justice for All: Selected Writings of Lloyd A. Barbee, which was edited by Barbee’s daughter and civil rights lawyer Daphne Barbee-Wooten ’75. The book includes a foreword by Wisconsin congresswoman Gwen Moore of Milwaukee, who describes Barbee’s lasting impact on the state and the nation.

Barbee, who died in 2002, frequently signed his correspondence with “Justice for All,” a principle he carried out day to day. An attorney who is most remembered for the case that desegregated Milwaukee Public Schools in the 1970s, he defended prisoners, protestors, the poor, and Wisconsin college students who were expelled after pushing the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh to offer black-history courses.

Daphne Barbee-Wooten holding up black and white photo of Lloyd Barbee.

Daphne Barbee-Wooten Kathy Borkowski

Barbee was the only African American in the Wisconsin legislature from 1965 to 1977, and he advocated for fair housing, criminal-justice reform, equal employment opportunities, women’s rights, gay rights, and equal access to quality education.

The selected writings detail Barbee’s experiences during the civil rights movement and the challenges he faced while legislating. In the book’s introduction, Barbee-Wooten says that growing up as his child was like “riding a wave of history.” She writes, “By introducing and compiling this book, I am proudly fulfilling his goal and dream to share his thoughts and philosophy with all.”

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Ladee Hubbard Wed, 21 Feb 2018 16:53:42 +0000 Portrait of Ladee Hubbard standing against vine-covered wall

Paula Burch-Celentano

At home in New Orleans, Ladee Hubbard MFA’14 was booked. She had a full-time job as an adjunct lecturer in Africana Studies at Tulane University, a growing family, and a super-powerful calling: to write a novel. Sight unseen, Hubbard moved to Wisconsin with her three children — the youngest then just four months old — for UW–Madison’s creative writing program, where the award-winning author transformed one of her short stories into her debut novel, The Talented Ribkins. Inspired in part by a 1903 essay by W.E.B. DuBois, “The Talented Tenth,” Hubbard’s book tells the story of an African American family with a catalog of superpowers (think fire-breathing, super strength, telekinesis) and a generations-long fight for social justice.

Tell us about the moment [last fall] when you were a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers, and the crowd applauded your mention of W.E.B. DuBois, the sociologist who wrote “The Talented Tenth.”

A lot of times I have to explain the reference to people. I think he’s not as well-known as I feel he needs to be. I was happy that people were acknowledging his role. He’s a towering figure in American history. He was not just an African American figure, but really, he’s such an important thinker.

How did your University of Wisconsin experience influence this novel?

I knew I needed to go somewhere and focus, because I have a lot of other responsibilities here in New Orleans. I didn’t have much of [the book] written until I got there, beyond the first draft. If you really want to write a book, you’re going to have to make some changes if you want it to actually happen. I just really wanted to have a chance to immerse myself in writing.

What are you hearing from readers of The Talented Ribkins ?

It’s been really gratifying that so many people seem to connect with what I was trying to accomplish with it, because there is a lot going on in the book. It talks about the family dynamic a lot, which I think you can certainly extend to how people interact with each other when they do have a connection. We are one people, in a sense.

What do you hope readers will take away from the novel’s themes of politics, history, freedom, and movement?

I talk about self-love a lot and learning to love yourself — also, in the face of all these obstacles, the value of just trying to do the best that you can with what you’ve been given. What I personally find so heroic about [Johnny the Great, a central character in the book who has a gift for making maps of places he’s never seen] is that he keeps trying. I think that’s really important, trying to find new paths — not getting stuck on one way of seeing things, either, but not being afraid to keep trying to make things better.

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