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Middle School Matters: The 10 Skills Kids Need to Thrive in Middle School and Beyond—and How Parents Can Help

Phyllis Fagell (MSJ98)

As a school counselor and frequent contributor to The Washington Post and other national publications, Fagell brings a voice of authority to her first book, “Middle School Matters: The 10 Skills Kids Need to Thrive in Middle School and Beyond—and How Parents Can Help.”

Middle school is often written off as an uncomfortable rite of passage. Based on her many years working in schools, professional counselor Fagell sees these years instead as a critical stage that parents can’t afford to ignore. Though the transition from childhood to adolescence can be tough for kids, this time of rapid physical, intellectual, moral, social, and emotional change is a unique opportunity to proactively build character and confidence. In “Middle School Matters,” Fagell helps parents use their child’s middle school years as a low-stakes training ground to teach kids the key skills they’ll need to thrive now and in the future, including making good friend choices, negotiating conflict, regulating their own emotions, being their own advocates, and more. To answer parents’ most common questions and struggles with middle school-aged children, Fagell combines her professional and personal expertise with stories and advice from prominent psychologists, doctors, parents, educators, and middle schoolers themselves.

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War Football: World War I and the Birth of the NFL

Chris Serb, MSJ95

Serb’s new book “War Football” is about the military origins of professional football, through the network of army, navy, and marine training bases that sponsored the sport during World War I as both a training tool and a diversion for trainees during their hours of liberty. In the process, so-called “war football” created the first true all-star teams in the sport; raised millions of dollars for the war effort; and broke down longstanding barriers to professionalism, all while featuring top-flight, high-quality football. Within two years of the Armistice the NFL was born, featuring more than 240 War Football veterans (including 7 Hall of Famers, one of whom, Paddy Driscoll, played college football at Northwestern) as professional football pioneers.

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The Human Spirit Under Siege

George Baum (BSJ55, MSJ66)

Ethnic cleansing. Genocide. Anti-Semitism. The Holocaust. Homophobia. Racism. All are seeds of crimes against humanity. Each continues occurring almost daily all over the world. There seems to be no end to the mind-bending numbers of humans under siege.

George A. Baum, a retired 20th century Chicago television journalist, views his new book,”The Human Spirit Under Siege,” as a chronicle of events that led to his incarceration in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, contrasting his experience to the world we live in now, when masses of humanity are recording their plight on their cell phones for everyone to witness.

The author was born the same year that Hitler became Chancellor in Nazi Germany. This book describes how their lives intersected a number of times in the following decade, culminating in the author’s three years in the concentration camp Therezienstadt  (Terezín in Czech) and in the disintegration of his family. The 15 Episodes of “The Human Spirit Under Siege” are a personal account observed through childhood memories, and brought into realities of the 21st century.
Two surveys in Canada and the U.S. taken in the past year, show an alarming ignorance of the Holocaust among 18 to 34 year olds. Just about half who took the survey couldn’t come up with the name of even one concentration camp.

Tim Kaiser, the Deputy Director of the Levine Institute of Holocaust Education at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., put it this way: “We recognize that, as Holocaust educators…we still have a lot of work to do.”

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 Sandblast

Al Pessin (BSJ76)

After nearly 40 years in journalism, Pessin will publish his first novel, “Sandblast,” in March 2020. When the plane carrying the U.S. defense secretary is blown out of the sky, Pentagon Covert Ops runner Bridget Davenport comes up with a plan: infiltrate the Taliban, find the terrorist mastermind, and at all costs thwart his next plot – an attack more devastating than 9/11. But what American could possibly do that? Enter Army Lieutenant Faraz Abdallah, son of Afghan immigrants. His heritage and language skills make him the ideal candidate, but he’s fresh out of ROTC and no one knows whether he can do the job. When Faraz is forced to become a terrorist Bridget must convince the president and the top brass not to pull the plug. NYT bestselling author Richard Castle says, “Al Pessin escorts you through thrills and chaos…This guy knows his stuff.”

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Voice with No Echo

Suzanne Chazin (MSJ82)

In Chazin’s gripping new mystery, “Voice with No Echo,” a long-buried family secret and a chance encounter with an estranged sibling force police detective Jimmy Vega to confront his deepest fears…

It’s spring in Lake Holly, New York, a time of hope and renewal. But not for immigrants in this picturesque upstate town. Raids and deportations are on the rise, spurring fear throughout the community.

Tensions reach the boiling point when the district attorney’s beautiful young bride is found hanging in her flooded basement, an apparent victim of suicide. But is she, wonders Vega? If so, where is her undocumented immigrant maid? Is she a missing witness, afraid to come forward? Or an accessory to murder?

Vega gets more help than he bargained for when Immigration and Customs Enforcement sends an investigator to help find—and likely deport—the maid. It’s Vega’s half-sister Michelle, the child who caused his father to leave his mother. Now an ICE agent, Michelle tangles with Vega and his girlfriend, immigrant activist, Adele Figueroa. The law is the law, Michelle reminds Vega. And yet, his heart tells him he needs to dig deeper, not just into the case but into his past, to a childhood terror only Michelle can unlock.

While Vega searches for the demon from his youth, he discovers one uncomfortably close by, erecting a scheme of monstrous proportions. It’s a race against the clock with lives on the line. And a choice Vega never thought he’d have to make: Obey the law. Or obey his conscience. There’s no margin for error…

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Newcomers: Gentrification And Its Discontents

Matthew L. Schuerman (MSJ94)

In “Newcomers: Gentrification and Its Discontents,” Schuerman recounts the past sixty years of gentrification, starting when it was still a counter-cultural phenomenon, and continuing to the present day, when it has taken on the dimension of a culture war. Through intimate accounts of the central figures of the movement, as well as detailed explorations of policy decisions, “Newcomers” reinvigorates the debate over gentrification’s pros and cons with objectivity, grace, and wit. He focuses on three cities—New York, Chicago, and San Francisco—but the stories he tells resonate throughout the country. Gentrification, Schuerman argues, is not primarily a cause of urban ills, but a symptom of something larger: the transition from a manufacturing economy to an information-based one. Real estate developers and marketers were quick to take advantage of the trend, while local and national leaders failed to treat it seriously. Kirkus Reviews said: “The author humanizes the community transformations so that readers who have never set foot in those locales—and even those who know them personally—fully comprehend the dynamics involved.”

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Life Is Short & So Am I

Ian Douglass  (MSJ06)

“Life is Short & So Am I” is the story of a boy who fell in love with wrestling before he was able to walk. Born with achondroplasia, a condition that causes disproportionate dwarfism, Dylan Postl had endured multiple surgeries by the age of 12. And yet, he held on to the dream that he would one day become a professional wrestler. Ignoring the naysayers and against doctors’ recommendations, Dylan began training in his teens, and he soon began appearing on local independent shows. Before he turned 20, he was signed by the world leader in sports-entertainment, WWE, to play the role of Irish grappler Finlay’s feisty sidekick, Hornswoggle, and remained a firm fixture in the company for a full decade.

While most of Dylan’s adult life has been spent in the wild world of the wrestling industry, Life Is Short is more than a story of a little person’s journey through a world of giants; it’s a memoir of elation and anguish, triumph and disappointment, and of how an endlessly positive outlook combined with the unwavering support of family and friends helped him become a success in his industry and a loving, responsible father. It’s a story about a man who still loves wrestling — but loves his family above all else.

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The Legendary Harry Caray: Baseball’s Greatest Salesman

Don Zminda (BSJ70)

In “The Legendary Harry Caray: Baseball’s Greatest Salesman,” Zminda delivers the first full-length biography of Caray since the broadcaster’s death in 1998. It includes details of Caray’s orphaned childhood, his 25 years as the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals, his tempestuous 12 years broadcasting games for the Chicago White Sox, and the 16 years he broadcast for the Chicago Cubs while also becoming a nationally-known celebrity. Interviews with significant figures from Caray’s life are woven throughout, from his widow Dutchie and grandson Chip to broadcasters Bob Costas, Thom Brennaman, Dewayne Staats, Pat Hughes, and more.

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The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle

Kevin Salwen (BSJ79) and Kent Alexander

Salwen and Alexander present a harrowing and comprehensive chronicling of the terrorist bombing at the 1996 Olympic Games and the security guard caught in the middle. On July 27, 1996, a former cop turned security guard named Richard Jewell spotted a suspicious bag in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park at the 1996 Summer Games. Inside was a bomb, the largest of its kind in FBI and ATF history. Minutes later, the bomb remotely detonated by the attacker into a crowd of  50,000 people. While the explosion killed one person and wounded 111, the death toll could have been far worse if not for Jewell, who alerted authorities and helped evacuate the area. While the games played on, the pressure mounted to find the bomber responsible. Within three days, Jewell went from the hero to the FBI’s main suspect and his identity was released by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a false accusation that forever changed his life and let the true bomber roam free to commit more bombings.