Return to the Reich
Eric Lichtblau ’87
Lichtblau is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who spent fifteen years as a New York Times reporter in Washington, D.C. In this work of nonfiction, he tells the harrowing story of Freddy Mayer, a Jew who escaped Nazi Germany with his family at age sixteen. While the U.S. Armed Forces rejected him as an “enemy alien” when he tried to enlist after Pearl Harbor, he later joined the OSS (the precursor to the CIA) and went back to his native country on a spy mission, gathering invaluable intelligence but eventually being captured and tortured. In a starred review, Kirkus calls the book “an enthralling page-turner” in which Lichtblau “delivers the goods, shining a bright spotlight on a truly unique character: Mayer was aggressive [and] ingenious, and often disregarded the rules, to great effect.”
The Near and Far
Jody Bolz ’71, MFA ’73
A student of famed poet A.R. Ammons on the Hill, Bolz taught at George Washington University for more than two decades and was the longtime editor of Poet Lore, America’s oldest poetry journal. Her latest collection (as its back cover notes) “reckons with love’s central bewilderments: the distance within intimacy, the dangers of safety, the rupturing and renewing effects of time.” As Bolz writes in a poem entitled “Driving Home in Two Cars,” in which the narrator follows a vehicle carrying her husband and children: “I gun the engine, round three curves / and nearly rear-end them. / Out of breath, we start again. Not porch lights, not nightlights, / just taillights: still I train / my half-sad love on these red points.”
The Speed of Falling Objects
Nancy Richardson Fischer ’88
In what School Library Journal praises as “a shining star among young adult survivalist stories,” Fischer’s latest YA novel follows a high school junior who has not only endured her parents’ bitter split, but who lost an eye in a childhood accident and has long been bullied over it. When her absent father, a reality TV star, invites her to join him for an episode of his survivalist show—along with a handsome teen movie idol—she’s thrilled. But after their small plane crashes in the Amazon, the travelers truly struggle to stay alive. Says Booklist: “Fischer has created a sympathetic, believably flawed, and satisfyingly strong heroine whose emotional journey is as compelling as the physical hardships of the rain forest.”
In his second children’s book, the Vet professor tells the real-life tale of a Midwesterner named Joe Seliga, a legendary craftsman who hand-made more than 600 canoes from wood and canvas during his lifetime. “In a land of water and stone, where rugged miners in candlestick hats filled railcars with Minnesota ore,” Radcliffe writes, “there lived a boy who loved canoes and wood more than trains and steel.” Radcliffe, himself an avid paddler, has used one of Seliga’s canoes since childhood; he had the opportunity to meet Seliga before his death in 2005 at age ninety-four. Radcliffe’s previous book—The Hornless Rhinoceros, which described the plight of animals being hunted to extinction in Indonesia—was short-listed for the Green Earth Book Award.
Dare to See
Katie Brown ’85
A lifestyle guru and DIY expert, the former art history major is known for offering affordable and practical approaches to cooking, decorating, and other domestic arts on Lifetime’s “Next Door with Katie Brown” and PBS’s “Katie Brown Workshop.” She has published several books on those topics, but her latest has a different focus: what its subtitle terms “Discovering God in the Everyday.” The book comprises some thirty personal essays—each preceded by a Bible verse—in which Brown contemplates a divine presence in such varied experiences as swapping childhood Halloween costumes with her sister, attending Cornell, mourning a family member’s death during the AIDS epidemic, buying a home for her aging parents, and being struck by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting.
The Cactus Plot
Vicky Bovee Ramakka ’70
Set in the Four Corners region of the Southwest—where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet—this mystery novel is subtitled “Murder in the High Desert.” Its protagonist is a seasonal employee for the federal Bureau of Land Management, a young woman fresh out of grad school. She expects to spend the summer surveying the endangered San Juan cactus, a plant that (as Ramakka writes) is so popular among collectors, it’s “notorious for being loved almost to extinction.” Instead, she finds herself in mortal danger while investigating a series of seemingly unconnected deaths that all prove to be related to botany, her area of expertise. The book is the debut novel for Ramakka, a CALS alum and retired academic writer who grew up in Upstate New York but has spent much of her adult life in the West.
To purchase these books and others by Cornellians, or to submit your book for possible mention in Cornell Alumni Magazine, go to cornellalumnimagazine.com/authors.