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From haunted hotels to hip-hop history

Five new titles by Northwestern authors worth a read during winter break
Books highlighted this year are “Denied: Women, Sports, and the Contradictions of Identity,” by Michelle Manno; “Don’t Sweat the Technique,” by Melissa Foster; “The Heart’s Knowledge: Science and Empathy in the Art of Dario Robleto,” edited by Michael Metzger; “Trace Evidence,” by Charif Shanahan; and “Extended Stay,” by Juan Martinez. Northwestern Now staff photo

Whether shopping for others or looking for book suggestions for yourself to read over winter recess, there are a wide range of titles with Northwestern origins to consider.

Here, Northwestern Now highlights five books published in 2023 that you may want to check out. 

Trace Evidence

Tin House, 2023
By Charif Shanahan, assistant professor of English and creative writing, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Longlisted for the 2023 National Book Award for Poetry, Shanahan’s second collection of poems meditates on the intricacies of mixed-race identity, queer desire, time, mortality and the legacies of anti-Blackness in the U.S. and abroad. In the central poem “On the Overnight from Agadir,” Shanahan — who was born in the Bronx to an Irish American father and a Moroccan mother — chronicles his survival after a harrowing bus accident in his mother’s native country, and ruminates on home, belonging and the mysteries of fate.

“I’m writing as a way to work against our separateness, by demonstrating the effects of that separateness,” Shanahan told the Paris Review. “I believe the lyric poem can take you to languagelessness…and that we can be unified in or even by that ‘silence.’” 

Don’t Sweat the Technique

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2023
By Melissa Foster, Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished Professor of Instruction, School of Communication

A voice specialist, theatre artist and educator, Foster offers up a history and a training manual for aspiring hip-hop performers. Incorporating insights from dozens of MCs, including Common and Queen Latifah, Foster explores the birth of the genre and its impact on culture. She also includes performance exercises to improve breath support and vocal health, as well as storytelling and mic techniques.

“I wanted to write a book that gave care and attention to hip-hop and rap — a book that celebrates and demystifies the form,” Foster said. “It's a book for anyone who wants to know more about this ascendant cultural phenomenon.” 

Extended Stay

University of Arizona Press, 2023
By Juan Martinez, associate professor of English and director of the English major in writing, Weinberg

“Extended Stay” tells the story of Columbian siblings Alvaro and Carmen, who flee to the U.S. after the rest of their family is brutally murdered by terrorists. Alvaro finds work at a rundown Las Vegas hotel, which seems to feed off the secrets of its guests, each with something to hide. After trying to outrun his traumatic memories, Alvaro may need to face them head-on if the siblings are to survive.

“The wonderful thing about horror is as long as you deliver on the blood and gore, people are willing to consider what the real consequences are of pain and suffering in the world, both existential and cultural,” Martinez said.

Denied: Women, Sports, and the Contradictions of Identity

NYU Press, 2023
By Michelle Manno, assistant provost for diversity and inclusion, Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion

A former college athlete and manager of a women’s basketball team, Manno examines how race, gender and sexuality shape the experiences of women athletes. Highlighting pros like Brittney Griner, Serena Williams and Gabby Douglas, “Denied” shows the unique balancing act required of women athletes, especially Black women athletes, who must operate within an institution that was not made for them.

“I hope athletes come away with new ways of understanding their experiences, and coaches find motivation to create more inclusive spaces for their players to thrive not only as athletes, but as their full authentic selves,” Manno said.

The Heart’s Knowledge: Science and Empathy in the Art of Dario Robleto

Edited by Michael Metzger, Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts, The Block Museum of Art
Published by The Block Museum of Art, 2023

The extraordinary work of artist Dario Robleto extends from the pulses and brainwaves of the human body to the faintest interstellar glimmers from the edges of our observable universe. As McCormick School of Engineering’s first artist-at-large, Robleto spent five years engaging with cross-disciplinary researchers. His time culminated in an exhibition at The Block Museum. “The Heart’s Knowledge” is an engaging and accessible companion to the artist’s wide-ranging works, featuring essays by many artists and academics.

“Robleto’s research is as deep as any scholar, but takes the form of beautiful, intricate objects that invite sustained contemplation,” said editor and exhibition curator Michael Metzger.