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Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Series

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Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Series

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Accidental Activists

Mark Phariss, Vic Holmes, and Their Fight for Marriage Equality in Texas

David Collins

In early 2013 same-sex marriage was legal in only ten states and the District of Columbia. That year the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor appeared to open the door to marriage equality. In Texas, Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, together for sixteen years and deeply in love, wondered why no one had stepped across the threshold to challenge their state’s 2005 constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. They agreed to join a lawsuit being put together by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLD. Two years later—after tense battles in the Federal District Court for the Western District of Texas and in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, after sitting through oral arguments at the Supreme Court of the United States in Obergefell v. Hodges—they won the right to marry deep in the heart of Texas. But the road they traveled was never easy. Accidental Activists is the deeply moving story of two men who struggled to achieve the dignity of which Justice Anthony Kennedy spoke in a series of Supreme Court decisions that recognized the “personhood,” the essential humanity of gays and lesbians. Author David Collins tells Mark and Vic’s story in the context of legal and social history and explains the complex legal issues and developments surrounding same-sex marriage in layman’s terms.

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Finish Forty and Home

The Untold World War II Story of B-24s in the Pacific

Phil Scearce

During the early years of World War II in the Pacific theatre, against overwhelming odds, young American airmen flew the longest and most perilous bombing missions of the war. They faced determined Japanese fighters without fighter escort, relentless anti-aircraft fire with no deviations from target, and thousands of miles of over-water flying with no alternative landing sites. Finish Forty and Home is the true story of the men and missions of the 11th Bombardment Group as it fought alone and unheralded in the South Central Pacific, while America had its eyes on the war in Europe. After bombing Nauru, the squadron moves on to bomb Wake Island, Tarawa, and finally Iwo Jima. These missions bring American forces closer and closer to the Japanese home islands and precede the critical American invasions of Tarawa and Iwo Jima. The 42nd Squadron’s losses through 1943 were staggering: 50 out of 110 airmen killed. “Finish Forty and Home is a treasure: poignant, thrilling, and illuminating.”—Laura Hillenbrand, best-selling author of Unbroken and Seabiscuit

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Life with a Superhero

Raising Michael Who Has Down Syndrome

Kathryn U. Hulings

Over twenty years ago, in a small Israeli town, a desperate mother told a remarkable lie. She told her friends and family that her newborn child had died. That lie became the catalyst for the unfolding truth of the adoption of that same baby—Michael —who is, in fact, very much alive and now twenty-two years old. He also has Down syndrome. When Kathryn Hulings adopted Michael as an infant, she could not have known that he would save her life when she became gravely ill and was left forever physically compromised. Her story delights in how Michael’s life and hers, while both marked by difference and challenge, are forever intertwined in celebration and laughter. With candor and a sense of humor, Life With a Superhero wraps itself around the raucous joy of Michael’s existence with his four older siblings who play hard and love big; how Kathryn and her husband, Jim, utilize unconventional techniques in raising kids; the romance between Michael and his fiancée, Casey; the power of dance in Michael's life as an equalizing and enthralling force; the staggering potential and creativity of those who are differently-abled; and the mind-blowing politics of how Kathryn navigated school systems and societal attitudes that at times fought to keep Michael excluded from the lives of kids deemed “normal.” No other books about the parenting experience outline what to do when, say, a child runs across the roof of a tri-level house pretending he can fly, or shows up in a 7th grade social studies class dressed like Spiderman, or calls 911 when his girlfriend breaks his heart. But, as Michael’s mom, Kathryn has been trying to figure how to be a mother in just such circumstances—sometimes with success, sometimes with dismal failure—for over two decades.

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Saving Ben

A Father's Story of Autism

Dan E. Burns

Each year thousands of children are diagnosed with autism, a devastating neurological disorder that profoundly affects a person’s language and social development. Saving Ben is the story of one family coping with autism, told from the viewpoint of a father struggling to understand his son’s strange behavior and rescue him from a downward spiral. “Take him home, love him, and save your money for his institutionalization when he turns twenty-one.” That was the best advice his doctor could offer in 1990 when three-year-old Ben was diagnosed with autism. Saving Ben tells the story of Ben’s regression as an infant into the world of autism and his journey toward recovery as a young adult. His father, Dan Burns, puts the reader in the passenger’s seat as he struggles with medical service providers, the school system, extended family, and his own limitations in his efforts to pull Ben out of his darkening world. Ben, now 21 years old, is a work in progress. The full force and fury of the autism storm have passed. Using new biomedical treatments, repair work is underway. Saving Ben is a story of Ben’s journey toward recovery, and a family’s story of loss, grief, and healing. “Keep the faith, never give up.” These are the lessons of the author’s miraculous journey, saving Ben.

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See Sam Run

A Mother's Story of Autism

Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

Thousands of children are diagnosed with autism each year, with a rate of occurrence of 1 in 150 births, compared to 5 per 10,000 just two decades ago. This astounding escalation has professionals scrambling to explain why the devastating neurological disorder, which profoundly affects a person’s language and social development, is on the rise. Are we simply getting better at diagnosing autism, or is a modern health crisis unfolding before us?

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Shoot the Conductor

Too Close to Monteux, Szell, and Ormandy

Anshel Brusilow and Robin Underdahl

Anshel Brusilow was born in 1928 and raised in Philadelphia by musical Russian Jewish parents in a neighborhood where practicing your instrument was as normal as hanging out the laundry. By the time he was sixteen he was appearing as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He also met Pierre Monteux at sixteen, when Monteux accepted him into his summer conducting school. Under George Szell, Brusilow was associate concertmaster at the Cleveland Orchestra until Ormandy snatched him away to make him concertmaster in Philadelphia, where he remained from 1959 to 1966. Ormandy and Brusilow had a father-son relationship, but Brusilow could not resist conducting, to Ormandy's great displeasure. By the time he was forty, Brusilow had sold his violin and formed his own chamber orchestra in Philadelphia with more than a hundred performances per year. For three years he was conductor of the Dallas Symphony, until he went on to shape the orchestral programs at Southern Methodist University and the University of North Texas. Brusilow played with or conducted many top-tier classical musicians, and he has opinions about each and every one. He also made many recordings. Co-written with Robin Underdahl, his memoir is a fascinating and unique view of American classical music during an important era, as well as an inspiring story of a working-class immigrant child making good in a tough arena.

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William & Rosalie

A Holocaust Testimony

William and Rosalie Schiff and Craig Hanley

William & Rosalie is the gripping and heartfelt account of two young Jewish people from Poland who survive six different German slave and prison camps throughout the Holocaust. In 1941, newlyweds William and Rosalie Schiff are forcibly separated and sent on their individual odysseys through a surreal maze of hate. Terror in the Krakow ghetto, sadistic SS death games, cruel human medical experiments, eyewitness accounts of brutal murders of men, women, children, and even infants, and the menace of rape in occupied Poland make William & Rosalie an unusually explicit view of the chaos that World War II unleashed on the Jewish people. The lovers’ story begins in Krakow’s ancient neighborhood of Kazimierz, after the Germans occupy western Poland. A year later they marry in the ghetto; by 1942 deportations have wasted both families. After Rosalie is saved by Oskar Schindler, the husband and wife end up at the Plaszow work camp under Amon Goeth, the bestial commandant played by Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List. While Rosalie is on “heaven patrol” removing bodies from the camp, William is working in the factories. But when Rosalie is shipped by train to a different factory camp, William sneaks into a boxcar to follow, and he ends up at Auschwitz instead. Craig Hanley powerfully narrates the struggle of the couple to stay alive and find each other at war’s end. Now in their eighties, William and Rosalie come to terms in this book with the loss of their families and years of torture at the hands of Nazi captors. Unique among memoirs from this era, the book connects directly to the present day. The Schiffs’ ongoing and highly effective campaign against prejudice and discrimination is a heroic culmination of two lives scarred beyond belief by racism. William & Rosalie artfully combines biography with timely lessons on the nature of mass hate, a stubborn phenomenon that continues to endanger every life on Earth.

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