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BLOOMBERG PRESS, 2011 / First, the good news: the world need not go hungry. According to Alan Bjerga, former Minnesota farm-boy-turned-agricultural journalist for Bloomberg News, there is plenty of corn, rice, bananas, and tomatoes to feed us all at decent prices. Plus, increasingly better-educated farmers will grow bigger yields in the future.
The problem, Bjerga says, is that the system that provides us food—a basic human necessity—has been uprooted by an artificial whirlwind of crop markets dominated by speculators.
Based on extensive data-mining and interviews with players tiny and huge—from the United Nations to the coffee-farm cooperative Ethiopia, Bjerga unearths evidence that is as reassuring as it is provocative. With vivid images, he makes this massively researched account a page-turner.
His conclusion is both grounded and ambitious: fairer, global markets can be to everyone's advantage, he believes, if we start "connecting the farmers in places most harmed by hunger to the markets that can end it. Growing food more efficiently in more places creates more sources of food to replace lost production elsewhere. Growing it sustainably conserves scarce water and land. Growing it profitably ends poverty. Growing it for everyone ends unrest." The challenge to feed our endless appetites is, indeed, everyone's.
Bjerga was interviewed by Giovanna Dell'Orto, assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Read the interview.
Bjerga, M.A. '98, mass communication, covers food and agriculture for Bloomberg News. An award-winning journalist, in 2010 Bjerga was president of the National Press Club and the North American Agricultural Journalists. Reviewer Giovanna Dell'Orto, Ph.D. '04, mass communication, a former reporter, is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
CREATESPACE, 2012 / Retired Madison, Wisc., Police Chief David Couper guides us through his career as a progressive law enforcement leader during years of American social upheaval. This was also a time of breakthroughs, as social scientists brought academic rigor to the seminal studies of policing. Couper, always the innovator, tested those new paradigms in the crucible of the American street and campus. These were also years of advancement in technology and management theory, but Couper continually comes back to the most important asset of any police agency—its men and women. He reminds us that the effective executive will first be a "servant leader," concerned with the selection, empowerment, recognition, and continuous development of those people in direct service to the community.
Couper writes this self-reflective book from his current calling as an Episcopal priest, a calling that may share many of the same challenges and rewards as policing. Recommended for anyone interested in leadership or in urban social problems.
Couper, B.A. '68, Russian, and M.A '70, sociology, is an Episcopal priest and retired police chief. Reviewer Gregory S. Hestness, B.A. '85, sociology, is Assistant Vice President and Chief of Police at the University of Minnesota.
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA PRESS, 2010 / In the century between 1880 and 1980, American rural areas dramatically bled populations until those who lived on farms represented less than three percent. What has been lost in this transformation is keenly observed in Rush City native Gayla Marty's debut memoir, which details a childhood of hard work and sacrifice—but also of daily interaction with animals, weather, plants, and ancestral stories. In the '50s, two sisters married two farmer brothers, who lived in two farmhouses next to a barn. Marty's narrative of the growing families and farm carries almost King Lear weight—although here no child wants to or can afford to inherit. In the '80s farm crisis, her uncle's joy is sapped; what saves him, and Marty, is the word, divine and otherwise.
Marty, M.F.A. ' 97, works in communications at the University of Minnesota. Reviewer Terri Sutton is staff for the English department.
NORTHERN CLAY CENTER, 2011 / Michael Simon is one of the major ceramic artists who emerged from the U of M art department under the tutelage of Warren MacKenzie in the early 1970s. This thoughtfully edited retrospective provides a rich and intimate entry into his creative life. Opening with an essay by MacKenzie, it focuses on a beautifully photographed portfolio of Simon's work arranged by functional form, includes a chronology and personal essay as well as Simon's commentary about individual pieces, which provides insights into the evolution of the work.
Those familiar with our Mingei-sota (Japanese-influenced) artists may recognize familial relationships: a strong and sensitive commitment to clay itself, to the eloquence of shape and to essential connections between form and function. I was particularly interested in his distinctive approach to combining form and surface decoration. "The painting must carry the expression implied in the shape," he writes. For those pieces he thinks may grow stronger with surface embellishment, he chooses from his lexicon of animal and plants, seeming to stretch the images over the outer surface or inscribing them within an inner curve. What emerges is a remarkable marriage of two kinds of form, each made more emphatic by the other. It is wonderful to be allowed entrance so deep into the creative process, as we are with this book.
Michael Simon, B.F.A. '70, lives in Athens, Ga. Reviewer Joyce Lyon is a CLA associate professor of drawing and painting.
GRAYWOLF PRESS, 2011 / Hallie is married to Carl; they have two talented adult daughters, a home in the culture-rich Twin Cities, and a beloved summer house in Wisconsin that tethers them all to nature—the Caddis Wood of the title. She has her poetry—and a past love. He has a celebrated career as an architect—and a degenerative disease. In this novel, which shuttles between perspectives and between past and present, Rockcastle traces the long arc of a marriage: refulgent birth and devotion, hurt, confusion and jealousy, the plodding times, submission and acceptance, and finally the radical embrace that defines profound married love.
Rockcastle, M.F.A. '80, English, heads Graduate & Interdisciplinary Programs at Hamline University, and directs its creative writing program. Reviewer Mary Pattock is the editor of Reach.
COFFEE HOUSE PRESS, 2011 / It's the voice of a wanderer, hyper-aware of his own complicated embodiment, that inhabits Ed Bok Lee's second book of poetry. "Maybe everyone's veins are embued," he writes, "with a certain historical color of light." In this case, one wonders that the poet's veins have not been so permeated, so saturated, with pain that he has lost his capacity to speak. But no, where we think the voice must black out from trauma is where these poems gain their ethical drive. The pain—inherited from Lee's Korean War-immigrant parents and witnessed on the streets of South Minneapolis—is needed to reorganize the political body. The poems document and bear witness—not out of want, as Lee writes in "Poetry is a Sickness," but through "what flaws flower from rust."
Ed Bok Lee, B.A. '94, English, is a writer, teacher, and performer. Reviewer Christine Friedlander is an M.F.A. candidate in poetry and a graduate instructor of English.
GRAYWOLF PRESS, 2011 / Jim Moore has keen eyes to draw the span of the world into himself and construct such dazzling moments as appear in this collection. These fragmented poems, with their precise images, continue the tradition of Sappho, Basho, William Carlos Williams, and H.D. Each a breath. A packet of Polaroids. A slip of humor. As in the opening poem, "Love in the Ruins," with its ephemeral glimpses—of a now-departed mother, an exchange of knowing silence, a warrior's gratitude, an observation on writing, spring. One can imagine the poet's twinkling smile punctuating the quintet, and this is how to read this delicate and clever collection: with a wry grin and the sort of kindness that comes from old friends. The only disappointment is that the reading is over too soon.
Moore, B.A. '67, English, author of six previous collections of poetry, teaches at Hamline University, Saint Paul, and The Colorado College, Colorado Springs. Reviewer Molly Sutton Kiefer is an M.F.A. candidate.