New Book Releases from Faculty and Alumni
Nothing to See Here
By Kevin Wilson (Ecco/HarperCollins)
KEVIN WILSON, ’04 graduate of the UF creative writing program MFA@FLA, is lighting up the literary world with a new novel involving spontaneous combustion.
Nothing to See Here, released October 29, has earned rave reviews for its hilarious, surreal take on childrearing. In the book, narrator Lillian is a go-nowhere millennial who once took the fall for her well-off boarding school roommate after drugs were found in their dorm.
Years later, the friend, now married to a fast-rising politician, reaches out with an offer for Lillian to work as a nanny to her 10-year-old twin stepchildren — who, it turns out, literally burst into flames when they’re upset. Lillian, while skeptical, takes the chance to escape her dreary home life and soon finds herself deeply entangled in this complicated family.
Told in deadpan prose, Nothing to See Here has delighted reviewers with its peculiar sensibility and moving story. A giddy notice in The New York Times Book Review called the book “wholly original” and “perfect.”
“You’re laughing so hard you don’t even realize that you’ve suddenly caught fire,” Taffy Brodesser-Akner wrote in the review. The Washington Post’s write-up, meanwhile, said, “Paradoxically light and melancholy, it hews to the border of fantasy but stays in the land of realism.”
Potentially introducing the book to a wider audience, Jenna Bush Hager selected it as the November pick for the Today show’s book club, saying, “I don’t think any book has touched me about parenthood as much as Nothing to See Here.”
Wilson told Today that he has been long been obsessed with the idea of spontaneous combustion — and it would often come to mind when his own children would have tantrums.
“I started thinking about, ‘Oh, well, what would it be like if you had to take care of a kid who actually burst into flames?’” he said. “The novel just kind of spiraled out of that.”
The novel is the third from Wilson, who is an associate professor of English at Sewanee: The University of the South. He has also published two short story collections. His 2011 debut novel, The Family Fang, became a 2015 film starring Nicole Kidman, Jason Bateman and Christopher Walken. It appears that won’t be the last time his work makes it to the big screen: Deadline reported in November that a movie adaptation of Nothing to See Here is already in the works after the screen rights were purchased at auction.
The Body in Question
By Jill Ciment (Pantheon)
In her latest novel, The Body in Question, English and MFA@FLA professor JILL CIMENT devises a complicated romance under unusual circumstances.
The story follows two jurors as they embark on an affair while sequestered for a high-profile criminal trial. In a move that reflects the unorthodox setting, the pair are referred to by their jury numbers, C-2 and F-17. Their precarious relationship adds tension to an already fraught trial that has drawn media attention and spectators: The jury must decide the fate of a teenage girl with developmental delays who has been accused of murdering her toddler brother.
The novel is a gripping account of modern conflict, romance and tragedy. Kirkus called the book “an honest, mature look at life and love” that “adds to a growing body of evidence leading to a decisive verdict: Ciment is an author well worth reading.”
A gushing review in The New York Times Book Review stated, “Ciment writes with a mordant intelligence and, refreshingly, doesn’t belabor topics that in someone else’s novel might take up many pages.”
The author of several books and short stories, Ciment has received numerous grants and awards that include a National Endowment for the Arts Japan Fellowship Prize and a Guggenheim fellowship.
Her 2009 novel, Heroic Measures, a finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize, was adapted into the film 5 Flights Up, starring Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman. Ciment also published a memoir, Half a Life, in 1996. Along with her career as an author, Ciment teaches graduate and undergraduate creative writing workshops at UF, using her expertise to prepare the next generation of writers.
Women at Work in Twenty-First-Century European Cinema
By Barbara Mennel (University of Illinois Press)
Associate Professor of German, Rothman Chair and Director of the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere BARBARA MENNEL’S latest release explores the films of the 21st century through feminist critique. Women at Work focuses on the role of women in the workplace as portrayed by modern European cinema, taking into consideration the varying perspectives present in these movies and their impact on culture.
Through this investigation, Mennel finds the intersection between gender politics, socioeconomic disparities and entertainment. In her analysis, she addresses how a mix of forward thinking and regressive messages in modern workplace films combine with — and influence — the political, cultural and social thought of today. Mennel holds a joint appointment in the German Studies section in Languages, Literatures and Cultures and the Department of English. To read more about Mennel and the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, click here.
Oldest City: The History of Saint Augustine
Edited by Susan R. Parker
(St. Augustine Historical Society)
The latest release by the St. Augustine Historical Society, Oldest City: The History of Saint Augustine, is a comprehensive recounting of one of Florida’s most historic locales. The book, produced by several UF and CLAS alumni and dedicated to the late UF historian MICHAEL GANNON, begins with the story of the area’s original Native American tribes up until the arrival of the city’s founder, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, in 1565. The chronicle then traces the growth of the city over nearly 500 years. Spanning from St. Augustine’s inception as a Spanish colony to the tourist destination the city is today, Oldest City provides an extensive look at Florida’s past and the ways it affects our present.
One Lark, One Horse
By Michael Hofmann
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The most recent release from English professor and poet MICHAEL HOFMANN, One Lark, One Horse is full of the dynamic and thoughtful poetry for which he is known. His new work explores life in the modern world, providing relatable commentary on universal struggles and experiences.
The collection, Hofmann’s first in 20 years, has earned widespread praise. The LA Review of Books said that the “prodigious” work “heralds the return of one of British poetry’s most brilliant talents,” adding that Hofmann “attains a higher level of formal inventiveness and variety than in his previous volumes.”
An accomplished author, poet and translator, Hofmann has received honors including a Cholmondeley Award, an Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize and a PEN/Book-of-the-Month Translation Prize. Hofmann teaches graduate and undergraduate courses at UF.
Bringing Jessie Home: A Story of Canine Rescue, Human Redemption
By Dorothy Weik Smiljanich (Independently published)
In this heartwarming story, alumna DOROTHY WEIK SMILJANICH (English ’69, MA ’71) recounts her real-life experience with Jessie, the dog who unexpectedly entered her life and quickly made a home for herself. After taking Jessie in as a stray, Smiljanich and her family go on a series of adventures with their new pooch, learning valuable lessons along the way. Through thoughtful musings and detailed description, Smiljanich captures the special bond between dogs and their human companions.
Disasters in Paradise: Natural Hazards, Social Vulnerability, and Development Decisions
Edited by Amanda D. Concha-Holmes and Anthony Oliver-Smith (Lexington Books)
In this new collection, anthropologists AMANDA CONCHA-HOLMES and ANTHONY OLIVER-SMITH present works that offer insight into the dangers Florida faces as a result of our changing planet. Known as “ground zero” for climate change in the U.S., the state is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. This danger is deeply rooted in historical and cultural practices, which in turn affect public policy and actions in the private sector. Presented through ethnographic case studies, the book reveals how the combination of natural occurrences, social practices and official policies have altered the state’s climate, increasing the risk of hurricanes, floods, forest fires and other kinds of disasters.
Concha-Holmes received her PhD in anthropology from UF, and Oliver-Smith is a professor emeritus of anthropology. The book’s contributors include several UF alumni.
Campaigns of Knowledge: U.S. Pedagogies of Colonialism and Occupation in the Philippines and Japan
By Malini Johar Schueller (Temple University Press)
In her new book, English professor MALINI JOHAR SCHUELLER juxtaposes the school system instituted in the Philippines in 1898 with educational reforms imposed in occupied Japan to reveal how the United States has used schooling to strengthen its empire. Both systems, she argues, aimed to produce knowledgeable subjects who were nonetheless amenable to the United States’ imperial power. The work, supported by the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, continues Schueller’s longtime study of colonialism, imperialism and race.
Adventures in Franchise Ownership: 4 Pillars to Strengthen, Protect and Grow Your Business
By Christy Wilson Delk
In 1996, CHRISTY WILSON DELK (psychology ’80) risked it all to purchase a franchise. Through years of hard work, the alumna’s business flourished, allowing her to later sell it for a substantial profit. In Adventures in Franchise Ownership, Delk recounts her experience as a business owner, imparting the lessons she has learned to readers. She details her “Four Pillars of Successful Franchise Ownership” to help would-be franchisees run their prospective businesses efficiently and successfully. Delk’s guidance, along with advice from other successful franchisees, assists readers in making their experience owning a business both profitable and enjoyable. In addition to her work as a writer and speaker, Delk works as an adjunct professor of business at Rollins College.
Living on Automatic: How Emotional Conditioning Shapes Our Lives and Relationships
by Homer B. Martin, MD and Christine B. L. Adams, MD
Have you ever wondered what causes problems in your most important relationships, whether it be with your children, in marriages or even while dating? Living in Automatic: How Emotional Conditioning Shapes Our Lives and Relationships aims to provide you with a deeper understanding of yourself and others to help you improve relationships and lead a richer life.
Cowritten by psychiatrists CHRISTINE B.L. ADAMS ’76 and Homer B. Martin, Living in Automatic explores how we can often have difficulty with relationships later in life due to our emotional conditioning during childhood. This book draws upon the authors’ combined 80 years of experience treating patients to help readers break the emotional patterns that are passed from generation to generation and create healthier relationships.
The book has been honored with a gold medal in the Psychology/Mental Health category at the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards.
Hãy nhay cùng em – Dance with me
By Andrea Hoa Pham and Lola Haskins
(Danang Publishing House)
ANDREA HOA PHAM, professor of Vietnamese language and linguistics, teamed up with Gainesville resident and poet Lola Haskins for a new bilingual poetry collection. In a “conversation between cultures,” each author shared her poems with the other, with Pham translating Haskins’ work into Vietnamese and Haskins adapting the feelings and imagery of Pham’s poems into English free verse. The result highlights the differences in poetic conventions between the languages while finding ways to bridge the divide. Along with writing poetry, Pham researches Vietnamese phonology and has previously studied gender and language, language change and second language acquisition.
Fishing, Gone?: Saving the Ocean through Sportfishing
By Sid Dobrin (Texas A&M University Press)
For English professor and department chair SID DOBRIN, saltwater fishing is more than just a hobby. Those who enjoy the ocean’s bounty for sport, he believes, have a responsibility to be mindful of its fate in the face of economic and environmental challenges. In his new book Fishing, Gone?, Dobrin calls for sustainable fishing practices that don’t simply reflect the interests of commercial harvesters. As the chair of the American Sportfishing Association’s Advocacy Committee, Dobrin believes that, with a new approach, anglers can help preserve the joys of saltwater fishing for generations to come. Doug Olander, the editor of Sport Fishing magazine, called the book “a thoughtful and provocative amalgamation of all things fish and fishing — saltwater-angling lore, politics, wisdom, and existential meditations. Dobrin’s work is completely unlike any fishing book I’ve ever read.” Along with his work as a professor, Dobrin founded UF’s Trace Innovation Initiative.