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The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath

A Novel

Finalist, 2015 Midwest Book Award
Chicago Book Review Best Book of 2015


Set in the frozen wasteland of Midwestern academia, The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath introduces Wilson A. Lavender, father of three, instructor of women’s studies, and self-proclaimed genius who is beginning to think he knows nothing about women. He spends much of his time in his office not working on his dissertation, a creative piece titled “The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath.” A sober alcoholic, he also spends much of his time not drinking, until he hooks up with his office mate, Alice Cherry, an undercover stripper who introduces him to “the buffer”—the chemical solution to his woes.

Wilson’s wife, Katie, is an anxious hippie, genuine earth mother, and recent PhD with no plans other than to read People magazine, eat chocolate, and seduce her young neighbor—a community college student who has built a bar in his garage. Intelligent and funny, Katie is haunted by a violent childhood. Her husband’s “tortured genius” both exhausts and amuses her.

The Lavenders’ stagnant world is roiled when Katie’s pregnant sister, January, moves in. Obsessed with her lost love, ’80s rocker Stevie Flame, January is on a quest to reconnect with her glittery, big-haired past. A free spirit to the point of using other people’s toothbrushes without asking, she drives Wilson crazy.

Exploring the landscape of family life, troubled relationships, dreams of the future, and nightmares of the past, Knutsen has conjured a literary gem filled with humor and sorrow, Aqua Net and Scooby-Doo, diapers and benzodiazepines—all the detritus and horror and beauty of modern life.

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Making Martyrs East and West

Canonization in the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches

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Making Moros

Imperial Historicism and American Military Rule in the Philippines' Muslim South

Making Moros offers a unique look at the colonization of Muslim subjects during the early years of American rule in the southern Philippines. Hawkins argues that the ethnological discovery, organization, and subsequent colonial engineering of Moros was highly contingent on developing notions of time, history, and evolution, which ultimately superseded simplistic notions about race. He also argues that this process was highly collaborative, with Moros participating, informing, guiding, and even investing in their configuration as modern subjects. Drawing on a wealth of archival sources from both the United States and the Philippines, Making Moros presents a series of compelling episodes and gripping evidence to demonstrate its thesis. Readers will find themselves with an uncommon understanding of the Philippines’ Muslim South beyond its usual tangential place as a mere subset of American empire.

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Malvina, or the Heart's Intuition

Haunted by the larger-than-life shadow of his father, a scientist who may have helped develop the atomic bomb, twenty-nine-year-old Eliot Barnes, Jr., is an apple that’s fallen far from the tree. Saddled with a useless degree in literature, caged in a rundown apartment he can’t afford, and embittered by his failure to live up to the future’s promise, Barnes, who dreams of a corner office—an aerie roost high above the city, working with the higher-ups—begrudgingly accepts a job as an elevator man in a downtown Chicago skyscraper. Thus begins a profound but comedic meditation on failure in this life, how one comes to terms with not achieving one’s dreams, the nature and origin of such dreams, and, fittingly, the meaning of the American dream itself.

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Memoir of a Gulag Actress

In an abridged translation that retains the grace and passion of the original, Klots and Ufberg present the stunning memoir of a young woman who became an actress in the Gulag. Tamara Petkevich had a relatively privileged childhood in the beautiful, impoverished Petrograd of the Soviet regime’s early years, but when her father—a fervent believer in the Communist ideal-was arrested, 17-year- old Tamara was branded a “daughter of the enemy of the people.” She kept up a search for her father while struggling to support her mother and two sisters, finish school, and enter university. Shortly before the Russian outbreak of World War II, Petkevich was forced to quit school, and against her better judgment, she married an exiled man whom she had met in the lines at the information bureau of the NKVD (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs). Her mother and one sister perished in the Nazi siege of Leningrad, and Petkevich was herself arrested. With cinematic detail, Petkevich relates her attempts to defend herself against absurd charges of having a connection to the Leningrad terrorist center, counter-revolutionary propaganda, and anti-Semitism that resulted in a sentence of seven years’ hard labor in the Gulag. While Petkevich became a professional actress in her own right years after her release from the Gulag, she learned her craft on the stages of the camps scattered across the northern Komi Republic. The existence of prisoner theaters and troupes of political prisoners such as the one Petkevich joined is a little-known fact of Gulag life. Petkevich’s depiction not only provides a unique firsthand account of this world-within-a-world but also testifies to the power of art to literally save lives. As Petkevich moves from one form of hardship to another, she retains her desire to live and her ability to love. More than a firsthand record of atrocities committed in Stalinist Russia, Memoir of a Gulag Actress is an invaluable source of information on the daily life and culture of the Soviet Union at the time. Russian literature about the Gulag remains vastly underrepresented in the United States, and Petkevich’s unforgettable memoir will go a long way toward filling this gap. Supplemented with photographs from the author’s personal archive, Petkevich’s story will be of great interest to general readers while providing an important resource for historians, political scientists, and students of Russian culture and history.

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Minotaur

French Military Justice and the Aeronoult-Rousset Affair

On February 11, 1912, an estimated 120,000 people in Paris participated in a ceremony that was at once moving and macabre: a public procession to Père Lachaise cemetery, where the remains of a soldier named Albert Aernoult were incinerated following a series of angry speeches denouncing the circumstances of his death. This ceremony occurred at a pivotal point in the “Aernoult-Rousset Afair,” a tumultuous, three-year agitation over the practice of French military justice labeled by contemporaries a “proletarian Dreyfus Affair.” Aernoult had died on July 2, 1909, in one of the French Army’s Algerian penal camps, allegedly at the hands of his officers. His death came to the attention of the public through the intervention of a fellow prisoner, a career criminal named Émile Rousset, who had provoked prosecution in a military court in order to launch his own “J’Accuse” against camp officers. Rousset’s charges had seemed to be bearing fruit, until he himself was indicted for murder in September 1911. At that point, the entire Affair took on a new intensity—an intensity reflected in the massive turnout at Aernoult’s funeral. Military prosecutors, convinced that Rousset was a predator with a genius for gaming France’s military-justice system, built a powerful case against him. His supporters, for their part, campaigned in the legislature, in the press, in court, and on the street, using the interlocked Aernoult and Rousset cases to shine a very public light on the “judicial minotaur” that was, in their view, the military jurisdiction. Cerullo’s lively, suspenseful account of this dramatic story, which has never been fully told, will become the standard. Minotaur will interest historians of modern France; military historians; students of military justice; legal scholars; and general readers of modern European history.

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Model Airplanes are Decadent and Depraved

The Glue-Sniffing Epidemic of the 1960s

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Modern Occultism in Late Imperial Russia

Modern Occultism in Late Imperial Russia traces the history of occult thought and practice from its origins in private salons to its popularity in turn-of-the-century mass culture. In lucid prose, Julia Mannherz examines the ferocious public debates of the 1870s on higher dimensional mathematics and the workings of séance phenomena, discusses the world of cheap instruction manuals and popular occult journals, and looks at haunted houses, which brought together the rural settings and the urban masses that obsessed over them. In addition, Mannherz looks at reactions of Russian Orthodox theologians to the occult.

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The Most Dangerous German Agent in America

The Many Lives of Louis N. Hammerling

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A Most Uncertain Crusade

The United States, the United Nations, and Human Rights, 1941-1953

Rowland Brucken

A Most Uncertain Crusade traces and analyzes the emergence of human rights as both an international concern and as a controversial domestic issue for U.S. policy makers during and after World War II. Historian Brucken focuses on officials in the State Department, at the United Nations, and within certain domestic non-governmental organizations, and explains why, after issuing wartime declarations that called for the definition and enforcement of international human rights standards, the U.S. government refused to ratify the first U.N. treaties that fulfilled those twin purposes. The Truman and Eisenhower administrations worked to weaken the scope and enforcement mechanisms of early human rights agreements, and gradually withdrew support for Senate ratification. A small but influential group of isolationist–oriented senators, led by John Bricker (R-OH), warned that the treaties would bring about socialism, destroy white supremacy, and eviscerate the Bill of Rights. At the U.N., a growing bloc of developing nations demanded the inclusion of economic guarantees, support for decolonization, and strong enforcement measures, all of which Washington opposed.

Prior to World War II, international law considered the protection of individual rights to fall largely under the jurisdiction of national governments. Alarmed by fascist tyranny and guided by a Wilsonian vision of global cooperation in pursuit of human rights, President Roosevelt issued the Four Freedoms and the Atlantic Charter. Behind the scenes, the State Department planners carefully considered how an international organization could best protect those guarantees. Their work paid off at the 1945 San Francisco Conference, which vested the U.N. with an unprecedented opportunity to define and protect the human rights of individuals.

After two years of negotiations, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously approved its first human rights treaty, the Genocide Convention. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), led by Eleanor Roosevelt, drafted the nonbinding Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Subsequent efforts to craft an enforceable covenant of individual rights, though, bogged down quickly. A deadlock occurred as western nations, communist states, and developing countries disagreed on the inclusion of economic and social guarantees, the right of self-determination, and plans for implementation.

Meanwhile, a coalition of groups within the United States doubted the wisdom of American accession to any human rights treaties. Led by the American Bar Association and Senator Bricker, opponents proclaimed that ratification would lead to a U.N. led tyrannical world socialistic government. The backlash caused President Eisenhower to withdraw from the covenant drafting process. Brucken shows how the American human rights policy had come full circle: Eisenhower, like Roosevelt, issued statements that merely celebrated western values of freedom and democracy, criticized human rights records of other countries while at the same time postponed efforts to have the U.N. codify and enforce a list of binding rights due in part to America’s own human rights violations.

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