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American OZ: An Astonishing Year Inside Traveling Carnivals at State Fairs & Festivals: Hitchhiking From California to New York, Alaska to Mexico

Michael Sean Comerford (MSJ83)

American OZ is a rollicking, gritty, adventurous story of life in the secretive subculture of traveling carnivals. You’ll never see your state fair or street fest the same way again.

Michael Sean Comerford writes a bold, inspiring true story of a year working behind the scenes with the colorful characters and legends of carnivals.

It’s a new classic American road story as he hitchhikes to shows in California, New Jersey, New York, Chicago, Alaska, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, and Florida where he works in a freak show. He travels to the lawless foothills of Mexico to see the new face of the American carny.Learn about their hidden world among us. The deeper you read the more you’ll see. A #1 Amazon bestseller, it’s available everywhere books are sold, including audiobooks.

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We Once Were Gazelles

Michael Chacko Daniels (MSJ68)

In this coming of age novel set in 1950s Bombay, Michael Chacko Daniels explores both an India that was cosmopolitan, and the slow rise in exclusionary politics in the country, through the life of a Malayali Syrian Christian boy growing up at that time.

Jug Suraiya, author and former associate editor of the Times of India, writes in the Foreword: “Michael Chacko Daniels has been compared favorably with transcultural writers . . . In narrating the stories of Paul Paulose, his two sisters, and their parents in flashback and flash-forward sequences, he not only vividly evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of a long-ago Bombay, but does so in an idiom which owes as much to the Maximum City of the past as to his Kerala heritage and his American influences.

The result is a compelling amalgam of humor, social satire, nostalgia, and verbal legerdemain of no little virtuosity, with many passages lending themselves to being read aloud in the best oral tradition of storytelling. The illustrations, by Rukmini Chakravarty, imbue the work with the visual immediacy of a graphic novel. In all, the book in its nimble elegance resembles the gazelles of its title. You’ll enjoy reading it as much as the author has obviously enjoyed writing it.”

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Seven Springs: A Memoir

By Ellen Blum Barish (MSJ94)

One afternoon in the spring of 1972, a Mack truck sped through a residential intersection of Philadelphia and collided with a station wagon carrying a young girl and her friend on a ride home from school. The accident shattered the girl’s realities and a blanket of silence fell over them until they reconnected at their 20th high school reunion. That conversation set Ellen Blum Barish on a 20-year journey, reflected in seven springs, that reunited her to her past, her self, and what she now understands as faith.

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Pulitzer’s Gold: A Century of Public Service Journalism

By Roy Harris (BSJ68, MSJ71)

Pulitzer’s Gold: A Century of Public Service Journalism (Columbia U. Press, 2016) tells “the real inside story of the most serious journalism of the last century,” as Bob Woodward puts it, in a way that creates “a brilliant portrait of America.” Its fascinating backstories of how Pulitzer Prize-winning stories were unearthed and produced include not only well-know cases like the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team investigation of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, and the Washington Post’s Watergate disclosures, but lesser-known exposes over 100 years of great reportiing.

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The Nirvana Effect

By Brian Pinkerton (MSJ89)

Society is sheltered indoors. The economy is in ruins. People spend their lives addicted to a breakthrough virtual reality technology, desperate for escapism in a troubled world. The Nirvana Effect has taken over.

Aaron and Clarissa are members of a subculture of realists who resist the lure of a fake utopia. They watch in horror as the technology spreads across the country with willing participants who easily forgo their freedoms for false pleasures. When the young couple discovers a plot to enforce compliance for mind control, the battle for free will begins. What started as a playful diversion turns deadly. The future of the human race is at stake.

The Nirvana Effect is a 2021 release from Flame Tree Press/Simon & Schuster. Brian Pinkerton is the author of 10 novels in the thriller, science-fiction and horror genres, including the USA Today bestseller Abducted. He lives in Wilmette, Illinois.

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THE HASIDIC REBBE’S SON – A Becks Ruchinsky Mystery

By Joan Lipinsky Cochran (BSJ75)

Boca Raton reporter Becks Ruchinsky is surprised when her son, Gabe, brings a frightened young man home from college and asks her to hide him. Menachem left his Hasidic community under mysterious circumstances and fears being kidnapped. Grateful to the young man for befriending her son, whose Asperger’s makes friendships difficult, Becks takes in the boy. Six days later, he’s found floating in a canal.

Police insist Menachem’s drowning was an accident but Becks isn’t buying. Her investigation takes her from the gritty underworld of the South Beach night club scene to secretive Hasidic communities in Miami and New York. With the help of her ex-gangster father and a nosy Hasidic shopkeeper, Becks discovers the leader of a cult-like religious community is subverting rabbinic law to conceal ugly truths. As she uncovers layer upon layer of lies and deceptions, Becks discovers her son’s life may depend on her ability to unearth these secrets.

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Gospelbound: Living with Resolute Hope in an Anxious Age

By Collin Hansen BSJ03

As the pressures of health warnings, economic turmoil, and partisan politics continue to rise, Christians aren’t widely known as living for the common good. But there’s another story unfolding too—if you know where to look. In Gospelbound: Living with Resolute Hope in an Anxious Age (Multnomah), veteran journalists Collin Hansen (BSJ ’03) and Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra (MSJ ’05) counter these growing fears with a robust message of resolute hope for anyone hungry for good news. Join these leaders from The Gospel Coalition—one of the largest religion websites in the world—in exploring profound stories of Christians who are quietly changing the world in the name of Jesus, from the wild world of digital media to the stories of ancient saints and unsung contemporary activists on the frontiers of justice and mercy. You haven’t heard the whole story. And that’s good news.

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The School I Deserve

Jo Napolitano (BSJ98) “The School I Deserve,” (Beacon Press, April 20, 2021), follows six young refugees as they fight for the right to attend public school in the swing state of Pennsylvania just weeks before Trump’s election. The ACLU and Education Law Center brought the case before a conservative Republican judge whose ruling would leave them breathless. The students are unforgettable, including 18-year-old Khadidja Issa, who lived in a refugee camp for 12 years before coming to America in 2015. Khadidja arrived to the States penniless with just a sixth grade education. The school district bet against her — having no idea what this child would do for a chance at a better life. No longer on the run, she was finally prepared to fight.

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How Could You Do This? 50 Years of Property-Tax-Base Sharing in Minnesota

Paul Gilje (BSJ59, MSJ60)

The book highlights the half-century history of the drama in Minnesota’s property tax-base sharing law–more popularly known as the metropolitan fiscal disparities law– that began in 1968 with extensive controversy, and extends to the present day. The drama began in a Citizens League committee where the possibility of tax-base sharing first surfaced. It continued in a three-year battle in the Minnesota Legislature, followed by three lengthy, but ultimately unsuccessful, challenges in the Minnesota state courts.

The drama then shifted to efforts to weaken the law’s provisions, which with one notable exception involving the Mall of America, were unsuccessful. In the 1990s drama extended to Minnesota’s Iron Range, where similar tax-base sharing was enacted. Discussion, with more drama possible, has continued in Minnesota and in other states to the present day. The book contains meticulous documentation, with more than 300 footnotes.

The Center for Policy Design(CPD) is publishing the book to help illustrate the importance of highlighting system change in public policy, as advocated by Walter McClure, founder and president of the CPD. McClure’s objective, as quoted in a foreword to the book: “Systems and organizations tend to behave the way they’re structured and rewarded to behave. If you don’t like the way they’re behaving, you probably ought to change the way they’re structured and rewarded.”

Tax-base sharing adjusts the system within which municipalities compete with one another for tax base. Traditionally “winner-take-all,” the system enacted in 1971 still favors the winners, but not by quite as much. Without the law a 13-to-1 ratio in per capita commercial-industrial value would prevail today between the wealthiest and poorest municipalities over 9,000 population in the Twin Cities metro area. With the law the difference is reduced to 6-to-1.

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The Kindest Lie

Nancy Johnson (BSJ93 – CAS93)

It’s 2008, and the rise of Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated Black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to—and was forced to give up—when she was a teenager.

She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past. Returning home, Ruth discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. While her family is happy to see her, they remind her of the painful sacrifices they made to give her a shot at a better future—like the comfortable middle-class life she now enjoys.

Determined, Ruth begins digging into the past. As she uncovers burning secrets her family desperately wants to hide, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. When a traumatic incident strains the town’s already scorching racial tensions, Ruth and Midnight find themselves on a collision course that could upend both their lives.

The Kindest Lie examines the heartbreaking divide between Black and white communities and plumbs the emotional depths of the struggles faced by ordinary Americans in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Capturing the profound racial injustices and class inequalities roiling society, Nancy Johnson’s debut novel offers an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.

Purchase on Amazon.