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Since the late 1960s, American film and video makers of all genres have been fascinated with themes of self and identity. Though the documentary form is most often used to capture the lives of others, Jim Lane turns his lens on those media makers who document their own lives and identities. He looks at the ways in which autobiographical documentaries—including Roger and Me, Sherman’s March, and Silverlake Life—raise weighty questions about American cultural life. What is the role of women in society? What does it mean to die from AIDS? How do race and class play out in our personal lives? What does it mean to be a member of a family? Examining the history, diversity, and theoretical underpinnings of this increasingly popular documentary form, Lane tracks a fundamental transformation of notions of both autobiography and documentary.
The Enduring Dream of Self-Sufficiency in Modern America
For many, “going back to the land” brings to mind the 1960s and 1970s—hippie communes and the Summer of Love, The Whole Earth Catalog and Mother Earth News. More recently, the movement has reemerged in a new enthusiasm for locally produced food and more sustainable energy paths. But these latest back-to-the-landers are part of a much larger story. Americans have been dreaming of returning to the land ever since they started to leave it. In Back to the Land, Dona Brown explores the history of this recurring impulse.
A Jew on the Bayou
Jennifer Anne Moses left behind a comfortable life in the upper echelons of East Coast Jewish society to move with her husband and children to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Searching for connection to her surroundings, she decided to volunteer at an AIDS hospice. But as she encountered a culture populated by French Catholics and Evangelical Christians, African Americans and Cajuns, altruistic nurses and nuns, ex-cons, street-walkers, impoverished AIDS patients, and healers of all stripes, she found she had embarked on an unexpected journey of profound self-discovery.
In a keenly observed memoir that embraces both pathos and humor, Moses takes us into a world that is strange and sad but also suffused with the holy. As witness to dire poverty and extreme adversity, Moses discovers a deeper commitment to her own faith—Judaism that asks not for blind belief, but rather daily commitment. She recounts the challenges of taking on a life committed to God in a postmodern world that has little use for the divine. Telling her story of redemption with an honesty that goes right for the guts, she leaves the reader with new hope.
Outstanding Book, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Best Books for Regional Special Interests, selected by the Public Library Association
Incredible Tales of a Modern Bulgarian
Open this book and you are in Door County, Wisconsin, strolling down Coot Lake Road—a one-lane, dead-end gravel track just a few miles from Baileys Harbor and the Lake Michigan shore. Along the way you meet George and Helen O’Malley, who are growing old gracefully. Russell, their brave and empathetic golden retriever, wags hello and offers you a paw to shake.
The Olsons and the Berges live just down the road. Bump Olson is the local septic tank pumper and birdwatcher extraordinaire, and Hans Berge, MD, PhD, was at one time the only Norwegian psychiatrist in Chicago—or so he says. In a cottage out by the highway, you may spot Lloyd Barnes, ex–Tennessee state trooper, hound fancier, and local man of mystery. Uncle Petter Sorenson, visiting from Grand Forks, takes the polar bear plunge at Jacksonport. Around the neighborhood you’ll meet Deputy Doug, the flirtatious cellist Debbie Dombrowski, and Italian import Rosa Zamboni.
Dave Crehore’s sketches of life on the Door peninsula also expound on:
• the delights of codfish pizza
• how to insult Canadians
• what to expect at your fiftieth high school reunion
• how to lose a school board election
• the prevention of creeping old-fogyism
• Marilyn, a buxom eight-pound smallmouth bass
• and what goes on in the winter, when no one is there.
Contemporary Wisconsin Fiction
Three Decades of Dance Writing
American Women's Autobiographical Writing, 1819–1919
The life narratives in this collection are by ethnically diverse women of energy and ambition—some well known, some forgotten over generations—who confronted barriers of gender, class, race, and sexual difference as they pursued or adapted to adventurous new lives in a rapidly changing America. The engaging selections—from captivity narratives to letters, manifestos, criminal confessions, and childhood sketches—span a hundred years in which women increasingly asserted themselves publicly. Some rose to positions of prominence as writers, activists, and artists; some sought education or wrote to support themselves and their families; some transgressed social norms in search of new possibilities. Each woman’s story is strikingly individual, yet the brief narratives in this anthology collectively chart bold new visions of women’s agency.
Lives of Urban Street Criminals
As the incidence of violent crime rises in the United States, so does the public demand for a solution. But what will work?
Mark S. Fleisher has spent years among inmates in jails and prisons and on the streets with thieves, gang members, addicts, and life-long criminals in Seattle and other cities across the country. In Beggars and Thieves, he writes about how and why they become and remain offenders, and about the actual role of jails and prisons in efforts to deter crime and rehabilitate criminals. Fleisher shows, with wrenching firsthand accounts, that parents who are addicts, abusers, and criminals beget irreversibly damaged children who become addicts, abusers, and criminals. Further, Fleisher contends that many well-intentioned educational and vocational training programs are wasted because they are offered too late to help. And, he provides sobering evidence that many youthful and adult offenders find themselves better off in prison—with work to do, medical care, a clean place to sleep, regular meals, and stable social ties—than they are in America’s cities.
Fleisher calls for anti-crime policies that are bold, practical, and absolutely imperative. He prescribes life terms for violent offenders, but in prisons structured as work communities, where privileges are earned through work in expanded, productive industries that reduce the financial burden of incarceration on the public. But most important, he argues that the only way to prevent street crime, cut prison growth, and reduce the waste of money and human lives is to permanently remove brutalized children from criminal, addicted, and violent parents.
Escaping his ghosts, AIDS widower David Masiello accepts a one-year position at a Western medical clinic in Beijing. Lonely but excited, he sets out to explore the city—both its bustling street life and its clandestine gay subculture.
David chronicles his adventures in China as he wrestles with cultural dislocation, loneliness, and sexual and spiritual longing. After a series of both comic and poignant encounters with gay Chinese men, he meets Bosheng, a handsome young artist. Though the attraction is strong, a difficult courtship ensues, during which Bosheng returns to his ancestral village to marry the girl his parents have chosen for him. Eventually, and quite unexpectedly, David and Bosheng reconnect and share an idyllic spring together. As the year ends, David must decide whether to say goodbye or face the uncertainties of a long-distance relationship.
Gambone’s novel is peopled with a host of wonderfully memorable characters: Owen, David’s forthright best friend back home; Auntie Chen, the clinic’s office mom, who wants to fix David up with a girlfriend; Stewart, David’s Beijing roommate, a graduate student doing research on Peking opera; Jiantao and Guoyang, two lovers who lecture David on the fleeting quality of American romance; and Tyson, the Australian doctor with a Chinese girlfriend, who hopes to teach David that love doesn’t need any explanations or justifications.