Summer Reading

Whether you're looking for a good book to tuck into your suitcase or traveling no farther than your favorite armchair, SF State alumni and faculty offer plenty of page-turners to choose from, plus some new releases of the musical kind.


Cover image from "The Mercy Papers"

In "The Mercy Papers" (Scribner, '09), a memoir of the three week's before her mother's death, Robin Romm (M.F.A., '05) describes with unflinching honesty what it's like to lose someone you love. Barb, our hospice nurse ? she's building a boat to sail my mother out. She has no interest in my mother's life, the thoughts she had, the cases she won, her family. Barb will build the boat of morphine and pillows and then I will have no mother...

 An Argentine Love Story"

"Tango: An Argentine Love Story" (Seal Press, '08) by Camille Cusumano (M.A., '78) chronicles the author's transformative stay in South America following a painful breakup. Only in dancing tango do I find that meditative space of solace, where times stops, where I stop measuring and weighing my self-worth against the other woman or anyone because in tango there is no Self -- there is just that boundless oneness...

Cover image from "The Middle Place"

Kelly Corrigan (M.A., '97) discovered a malignant lump in her breast. Then she discovered her beloved father had cancer. "The Middle Place" (Hyperion, '08) takes readers on the rollercoaster ride that followed. ?I feel my selves pulling me -- frantic child clawing her way out of the doctor's office, then composed adult, competent and steady. This is it. I've finally been slung out of the society of the naïve and untested.

Cover image from "A Year And A Day"

Michael Corrigan (B.A., '67; M.A., '69) recorded his thoughts in the days that followed his wife's death. "A Year and a Day" (Idaho State University Press, '08) is his journal through the grieving process. It's a cliché when spoken aloud, but everything one once thought secure shatters, the love of one's life disappears, the light suddenly grown dark. Even a statement like 'It was the call that changed my life' sounds so banal and familiar ... not a cliché if it happens to you.


Cover image from "Doctor Olaf Van Schuler's Brain"

In "Doctor Olaf Van Schuler's Brain" (Algonquin, '08), Kirsten Menger-Anderson (M.A., '02) introduces readers to a long line of peculiar physicians who span 12 generations of science and a transforming New York City. He might have escaped undiscovered had he not carried the corpse to his home, where he decided to slice open the skull. A human brain, a brain that actually housed a soul, would further his studies. He would make up for the man's untimely death by naming his cure for [him].

Cover image from "The Love We All Wait For"

"The Love We All Wait For" (Komenar Publishing, '08) by Lee Doyle (B.A., '89), a coming-of-age story set in Salinas Valley, focuses on the life of Sheila O' Connor following her father's death in a train accident. A crescent moon blinked in the gap in the curtain. The chimes tinkled. But no sound came from the pomegranate tree, or the train, now long gone, past Greenfield, soon to pass through King City, then leave the valley entirely.

Cover image from "The Tricking of Freyda"

In "The Tricking of Freya" (St. Martin's Press, '09) by Christina Sunley (M.A., '93) the granddaughter of a famous Icelandic poet, obsessed with a family secret, falls under the spell of her troubled but charming aunt. You want a bit of Birdie? Try this...Birdie in a skirted turquoise swimsuit and cat-eye sunglasses...Birdie compares you, kindly, to an egret as you stride the beach, your legs long and skinny as stilts, your wispy white-blonde hair tufting in the wind, your eyes a blue so light they startle.


Cover image from "America & Other Poems"

Leza Lowitz (M.A., '88) and Shogo Oketani bring the voice of Japanese poet Ayukawa Nobuo into English in "America & Other Poems" (Kaya Press, '08). Nobuo was a founding member of Arechi (Waste Land), a poetry movement influenced by T.S. Eliot that stressed the need to look honestly at one's country. It was the fall of 1942. / Farewell! We will never meet again. / And whether we live or die, our future is dark. So, one by one, each of us disappeared from the town at night, / laughing at the way we carried our rifles on our shoulders.

 An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great"

"From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great" (Persea Books, '09) edited by Associate Professor of Creative Writing Camille T. Dungy, Matt O' Donnell and Jeffrey Thomson, offers more than 175 contemporary poems culled from the archives of the From the Fishouse Web site -- some in print, others recorded on an accompanying CD. For a sample, visit

Cover image from "Of This World"

"Of This World: New and Selected Poems" (Copper Canyon Press, '09) spans the 40-year writing career of Joseph Stroud (B.A., '66; M.A., '68). I want to tell you the story of that winter / in Madrid where I lived in a room / with no windows, where I lived / with the death of my father, carrying it / everywhere? / as if it were an object, a book written / in a luminous language I could not read. / ...I didn't know that those / cobbled streets would someday / lead to here, to this quietude, / this blessing, to my father / within me.


 The Story of the First Japanese American Jockey in the United States"

"Kokomo Joe: The Story of the First Japanese American Jockey in the United States" (University of Nebraska Press, '09) by John Christgau (B.A., '58) follows the rise of Yoshio "Kokomo Joe" Kobuki, who burst like a comet onto the American horse-racing scene in the summer of 1941 only to have his American dream ambushed by forces beyond his control.

Cover image from "Art Work"

Between 1850 and 1880, thousands of women, forced by financial panics and the civil war to become self-supporting, moved to New York City to become artists. "Art Work" (University of Pennsylvania Press, '08) by April F. Masten (B.A., '81) explores this forgotten chapter in American art history.

Cover image from "Crossword Puzzler's Handbook"

If you can name the French actress who played Une Femme (five letters) and know a three-lettered word for swerve, grab the Saturday crossword puzzle. If you're stumped, grab "The Crossword Puzzler's Handbook" (Cider Mill Press, '08) by Richard Showstack (M.A., '75).

Cover image from "Creative Recovery"

How many rock stars, poets and painters have struggled with drug or alcohol addiction? "It's as if nature turbocharged some of its creatures and then failed to give them a braking system," writes therapist Eric Maisel (M.A., '81; M.S., '87) and Susan Raeburn (M.A., '74) in "Creative Recovery" (Shambala, '08), a book that offers a braking system.

Cover image from "Reframing Screen Performance"

With studies of performances by actors including Anjelica Huston and John Cusack and a look at the accomplishments of directors like Robert Altman and Orson Welles, "Reframing Screen Performance" (University of Michigan Press, '08) by Cynthia Baron (M.A., '90) and Sharon Marie Carnicke examines acting as one of cinema's essential aspects.

Cover image from "Cross-Cultural Selling for Dummies"

Do you know how your customers across the globe want to be greeted or when they consider a deal is truly closed? Clear up the confusion and get your business on track with "Cross-Cultural Selling for Dummies" (Wiley Publishing, '08) by Michael Soon Lee (B.A., '74).

Photo/Art Collections

Cover image from "Historic Photos of Honolulu"

If a trip to the islands isn't in your budget this summer, consider taking a photographic tour courtesy of Clifford Kapono (B.A., '74) and his new book, "Historic Photos of Honolulu" (Turner, '09).

 A History"

"Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970" (Stanford Press, '08), edited by Professor of Art Mark Johnson, Gordon H. Chang and Paul Karlstrom, uncovers the extraordinary work of numerous Asian American artists, and offers richly informed interpretations of a long-neglected art history.

Cover image from "Crossword Puzzler's Handbook"

Charles L. Robinson (B.A., '57; M.S., '72) has photographed some of jazz's greatest musicians, from Julian Cannonball Adderley to Joe Zawinul. Flipping through Robinson's collection of images, "Jazz Idiom: Blueprints, Stills and Frames" (Heyday/Baytree Books, '08) with "poetic takes and riffs" by Al Young, is the next best thing to hearing these legends jam.

Also Worth Noting

Album cover image from "Tough Guys"

"Tough Guys" (International Center for the Arts, '08), the critically acclaimed jazz CD from SF State's Generations Band, represents four eras of jazz greats: Jazz Studies Lecturer Andrew Speight (alto sax), Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Jimmy Cobb (drums), Marcus Belgrave (trumpet), Ray Drummond (bass) and the late Ronnie Mathews (piano), whose work represents his final recorded performance. The band was brought together by the University's International Center for the Arts to mentor small jazz combos.

Album cover image from "You Don't Know Jacq"

"You Don't Know Jacq" (Ruby Star Records, '08), the latest release from singer Jacqui Naylor (B.S., '91), showcases her signature "acoustic smashing" technique (e.g. singing the Rodgers & Hart classic "My Funny Valentine" over AC/DC's "Back in Black"), offers a bossa nova take on REM's "Losing My Religion," a gospel-flavored version of The Bee Gees' "How Deep is Your Love," as well as the jazz standards expected from those who do know Jacq.