Finding your voice

piccoloInformed by her 40+ years of experience as an educator and guidance counselor, Boston College alumna Cynthia Daigle Xenakis has written a book that teaches kids ages 9-12 how to deal with bullying through self-confidence, empathy, and the power of a strong voice. Piccolo & the Big Ol’ Cat tells the story of fifth-grader Monique Abbott, who starts at a new school after her family moves to another town. Monique, who has a stutter, becomes the target of bullying. Inspired by her dog, Piccolo, and her aunt’s cat, Bertha, Monique develops a campaign that helps her and other students stand up to bullies. Xenakis has dedicated her career to helping students navigate relational aggression/bullying and hopes Monique’s story serves as inspiration to students who have experienced bullying. Xenakis earned a B.A. and a M.Ed. from the Lynch School of Education and Human Development.

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Spotlight on overlooked books

b-side booksWriters Elizabeth Graver and Carlo Rotella, both professors in the English Department, have contributed essays to the new book B-Side Books: Essays on Forgotten Favorites (Columbia University Press, 2021). Edited by John Plotz of Brandeis University, B-Side Books pays homage to underappreciated published works. The contributors—writers, scholars and critics—offer essays highlighting the virtues of a particular overlooked novel, poetry collection, or memoir that is a personal favorite of theirs. Graver’s essay is on Edward P. Jones’s short story collection, All Aunt Hagar’s Children. She “thinks it is the miniaturization of Edward Jones’s short stories that makes them sublime. She praises the way he carves out space and time for even the minorest of minor characters to have ‘a story; in one sentence, we glimpse its comedy, its force, its cosmic arc.'” Rotella’s essay is on Charles Portis’s novel Gringos. Rotella “worships the way [Portis’s] ‘prose can carry, with no apparent effort, such a charge of complex feeling—at once funny and sad, mock epic and genuinely stirring.'” Read reviews in the Washington Post and Arts Fuse.

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The end of religious empires and the rise of the modern state

Coping with Defeat: Sunni Islam, Roman Catholicism, and the Modern State (Princeton University Press, 2021), a new book by Boston College Professor of Political Science Jonathan Laurence, explores the surprising similarities in the rise and fall of the Islamic and Catholic political-religious empires in the face of the modern state. Drawing on interviews, site visits, and archival research in Turkey, North Africa, and Western Europe, Laurence demonstrates how, over hundreds of years, both Sunni and Catholic authorities experienced three major upheavals and displacements―religious reformation, the rise of the nation-state, and mass migration. Catholic institutions eventually accepted the state’s political jurisdiction and embraced transnational spiritual leadership as their central mission. According to Laurence, an analogous process is unfolding across the Sunni Muslim world in the 21st century. Read more on BC News.

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Freedom Freed by Hope

Freed by hopeHope. Is it only for moments of despair or can hope free imagination, enlarge desires, and rehabilitate a zest for life? Jesuit priest Alberto Munaiz, S.J., a graduate of the BC School of Theology and Ministry, looks at how hope contributes to forming a mentally healthy and mature identity in his new book, Freedom Freed by Hope: A Conversation with Johann B. Metz and William F. Lynch on the ‘Identity Crisis’ in the West (Peter Lang GmbH, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften, 2021). The book, an outgrowth of Fr. Munaiz’s STL thesis, applies an interdisciplinary perspective (psychology, sociology, neuroscience, philosophy, theology) to the topic. Pope Francis wrote the book’s preface. Fr. Munáiz holds a master’s degree in engineering from Vigo University (Spain), a master’s degree in pedagogy from the University of Salamanca, a bachelor’s degree in theology from the Pontifical University Comillas (Madrid), a diploma in pastoral psychology from UNINPSI (Psychosocial Intervention Unit, Madrid), and a diploma in practicum of spiritual direction (Berkeley, California),

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Pandemic parenting

parenting in the pandemicEducation professors from across the country who have been parenting school-aged kids during COVID contributed first-person essays for a new book, co-edited by Lynch School of Education and Human Development Professor Rebecca Lowenhaupt and George Theoharis of Syracuse University. According to Lowenhaupt, the essays in Parenting in the Pandemic: The Collision of School, Work, and Life at Home (Information Age Publishing, 2021) provide powerful, painful, and joyous perspectives of education professors faced with the reality of schooling their own children in their homes during a global pandemic. The essays capture the upheaval as the professors confront practical (and impractical) aspects of long-held theories about what school could be, see up close the pedagogy their children endure online, and watch education policy go awry—all while trying to maintain their careers at the same time. The following Lynch School faculty contributed to the volume: Kristen Bottema-Beutel, Vincent Cho, Racquel Muñiz, Gabrielle Oliveira, Patrick Proctor, and Martin Scanlan. Lowenhaupt also contributed an essay, titled “A New Process of Living.”

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The humor of Zazoo

Boston College alumna Leslie Bilodeau Placzek has written a book titled The Audacious Adventures of Zazoo Plazz: Part-Time Superhero, Full-Time Mom, a humorous collection of vignettes that capture the quirky imagination of her alter ego, Zazoo Plazz. The stories follow Zazoo from her childhood in Connecticut to her mid-life as a wife, mother, and career woman. Placzek says she hopes her stories honor the superhero in all women. In an interview with the Journal Inquirer in Connecticut, Placzek said her book is timely given the pandemic. “Both humor and nostalgia play an important role during tough times, strengthening our immune system, and reminding us we came through trying times before, with the help of our communities and loved ones.” You can follow Placzek on Facebook.

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At God’s right hand

D. Clint Burnett, who earned a Ph.D. in biblical studies from Boston College, has published Christ’s Enthronement at God’s Right Hand and Its Greco-Roman Cultural Context (De Gruyter | 2021). From the publisher: “Psalm 110:1 is the most referenced Old Testament verse among the documents that make up the New Testament. While most scholars have focused on why the earliest Christians fixated on this verse, little attention has been paid to why Ps 110:1 and its application to Jesus’s exaltation became so widespread in early Christianity. Burnett’s study shows that the Greco-Roman practices of temple and throne sharing contributed to the widespread Christian use of Ps 110:1.” Burnett is a New Testament scholar who teaches at Johnson University in Tennessee. His previous book is Studying the New Testament Through Inscriptions: An Introduction (Hendrickson, 2020).

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Holistic nursing

Boston College graduate Mary A. Blaszko Helming, a board-certified advanced holistic nurse, is one of the editors of the eighth edition of Dossey & Keegan’s Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice (Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2021). Helming, professor emerita of nursing at Quinnipiac University, has been a family nurse practitioner for 40 years, specializing in family and internal medicine practice, urgent care, and student/occupational health. The first edition of Dossey and Keegan’s Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice, a comprehensive textbook based on key concepts of holistic nursing, was published in 1988. The other editors of this eighth edition are: Deborah A. Shields, Karen M. Avino, and William E. Rosa. The text focuses on theories, research, and evidence-based/evidence-informed practices supporting holistic nursing as a recognized nursing specialty. Dossey & Keegan’s Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice carries the American Holistic Nurses Association Seal of Distinction.

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Father and son

My Good SonMy Good Son, a new book by Boston College alumna Yang Huang, is winner of the University of New Orleans Publishing Lab Prize. In the novel, Huang explores both the deep power and the profound burdens of parental love through the story of Mr. Cai, a tailor in post-Tiananmen China, and his only son Feng. Like many of his generation, Mr. Cai’s most fervent desire is for his son to succeed. He manages to get Feng to pass his entrance exams, and turns to an American customer, Jude, to sponsor his studies in the States. This scheme, hatched between the older Chinese man and a handsome gay American ex-pat, exposes readers to the parallels and differences of American and Chinese cultures—father-son relationships, familial expectations, sexuality, social mobility, and privilege. Huang grew up in China’s Jiangsu province and participated in the 1989 student uprisings. She graduated with an M.A. in English from Boston College. Her other works include in My Old Faithful (winner of the Juniper Prize for fiction) and Living Treasures (winner of the Nautilus Book Award silver medal in fiction). Learn more in this Q&A with the author (scroll down).

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Catherine the Great, a Dutch Golden Age masterpiece, and a shipwreck

In 1771, a merchant ship out of Amsterdam, Vrouw Maria, crashed off the stormy Finnish coast, taking her historic cargo to the depths of the Baltic Sea. The vessel was delivering a dozen Dutch masterpiece paintings—including The Nursery by Rembrandt’s student Gerrit Dou—to Catherine the Great. The Tsarina’s Lost Treasure (Simon & Schuster | Pegasus Books, 2020), a new book by Boston College scholar Gerald Easter and travel writer Mara Vorhees, combines art, history, and maritime mystery into a gripping tale of the loss and recovery of Vrouw Maria. Easter is a professor of political science who teaches and writes about Russian/East European politics and history. The book was highlighted by Smithsonian magazine. An excerpt was published by the Daily Beast.

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